The Scavenger in All of Us
by Brandon Russo on May 14, 2013 at 02:00 PM EST

One of the earliest human means of survival was to scavenge. Scavenging provided almost everything a person had in times of old, and even carried through to later periods of history. People even scavenge certain things today, making it one of the simplest human traits to stay with people. It was a necessity, and the means of doing so was the difference between living a week and living a month. With all this in mind, is scavenging in video games a way to advance, or is it simply a human trait that has yet to leave us from olden times? Do we all have a part of us that remains a scavenger?


For example, let’s consider a game like Fallout 3, or Fallout: New Vegas. These games have deep RPG elements, many characters to meet, a vast world to explore, and a story to delve into. Games such as these have a ton of aspects to them, many of which cannot even be explored without intense searching. One of these traits is random, meaningless items, such as plates and spoons. These are all items that can be picked up and carried around, but they don’t really do anything at all. The player can collect them in bulk and lug them around for a while until they find a merchant to sell to, but they only receive a small amount of money. So what is the reasoning for all of these scattered, useless things?

One idea is the concept of immersion. To be able to pick up almost anything, even a mug, is one way to bring the player deeper into the video game’s universe. The ability to throw stuff around and take things just to take things seems primal, but it is certainly a thought people have while gaming and it proves fun and immersive. If you can see something that you’d be able to take in real life, why not be able to take it in the video game as well? Some people may not even choose to grab it, but the ability to do so proves engaging. There may be more to useless collections, however. Perhaps, there is something instinctual in human nature that inspires us to collect.


Scavenging was one of the most important means of survival, and because it was so important, I believe it still stays with us today. To collect things just because we are able to is intriguing, especially in a post apocalyptic or RPG environment. Sometimes, it provides legitimate help. Fallout 3 provided ways to create weapons out of pencils and toy cars. Borderlands 2 founded itself on the very idea of scavenging. Other times, however, collecting everything provides very little. It presents an interesting look into the way people play video games, as well as the way that human instinct can be incited through video games.

The question I’m inclined to ask is this: Do we pick things up just because the game lets us, or do we see a potential purpose in everything that is around?

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