When it comes to video games, you’ve likely heard this entreaty a few times. In fact, probably a lot. Or, maybe you’re chuckling because this is your own favorite line. Either way, we can all agree that digital gameplay can be extremely addicting. Think Assassin’s Creed or Fortnite. World of Warcraft or Pokemon. I could go on and on. So, it’s not surprising that avid gamers just need that extra “10 minutes” to…
“…get to the next level”
“…kill boss monster”
“…collect 1 more coin”
“…find the hidden room”
“…detonate the bomb”
“…be the last player standing”
“…WIN THE GAME”
Let’s talk about feelings
For passionate gamers, the thrill of these accomplishments lures them deeper and deeper into their alternate reality. By mastering more elements of the game, they’re rewarded with virtual wealth, which gives them greater power, control, respect, influence, status – you name it. All seductive pursuits which satisfy the intrinsic desire to feel competent and successful. It’s no surprise that video games are explicitly designed to satisfy human needs.
In fact, one of the key tenets of a game is that there is a set of “win” conditions. While these conditions may vary greatly, every game, at its heart, exists to build a sense of victory in the gamer.
For many, the appeal is also social – dedicated players become part of a guild of like-minded avatars. These extreme fans relish not only the collaborative camaraderie of gameplay but its competitive nature as well. They give special meaning to the term, “frenemies…” (Don’t be coy – I know you can relate!) Shared goals and common quests make gamers feel like they matter to others and are contributing to “society.” This sense of relatedness feeds our collective, fundamental desire for interpersonal connections.
Intense emotions feed the need to play
Another psychological need is autonomy, to be in control and make independent decisions. For example, exploration of the unknown, on your own terms, is exciting. As is the ability to “try on different hats” by playing unique roles in the game. Want to be a criminal? Play GTA. Want to be Sith Lord? Try Knights of the Old Republic. How about a hero in the undead army of the Forsaken? Then World of Warcraft is for you. The satisfaction of our own free choice is enticing. And the variety of these in-game emotions are typically greater and much stronger than those actually experienced in real life.
Here’s a fun fact: the human brain has nerve cells called mirror neurons, which enable people to put themselves in a game character’s shoes and feel identical emotions. So, according to research conducted by the Institute for the Future, when that game character kicks butt and saves the world, the player also feels the intensity and glory of the triumph (insert fist pump here). The magnitude of that burst of endorphins sparks the craving for more.
The high of total game immersion, this fervor, is core to the gamer’s identity.
I know that line is in bold letters, but I’m going to repeat myself here as this is muy importante. Hardcore gamers strongly identify with the games they play.
And this, my friends, is the crux of a successful video game collectible.
Yes, I slightly changed gears on you. But if you’re a video game developer or publisher, you want to keep that gameplay yearning burning (ha!) – feed the flame, so-to-speak. Limited editions and actual game artifacts are the perfect way to do just that.
Why people collect things
Let’s contemplate for a moment on exactly why collectors collect. Understanding their motives can drive the type of item they MUST add to their physical collection. My guess is that you probably have a collection of your own. What does it do for you? Why did you buy the specific items in the collection vs. those you didn’t? Psychologists who spend time analyzing such things will tell you collecting can be, in part, motivated by the desire to:
control, possess and bring to order a small part of the world
relive your childhood
connect with a historical period
relax and reduce stress
become more knowledgeable about a key interest
The gamer mentality
OK, I buy some of that. But let’s focus on the motivations that are specific to gamers. Here’s what we have learned about why avid gamers buy collectibles:
Because a beloved game represents a key part of a gamer’s identity, collecting special, game-related items outside of the digital realm shows the rest of the world who they are. Displaying these pieces is a declaration of self and what’s meaningful to them. (Obviously, Minecraft – duh!).
On a related and controversial note, free or lower-priced games have incorporated microtransactions which, at nominal costs, allow players to purchase digital accoutrements. Cosmetic items (skins, badges, belts, hair styles, etc.), for instance, are hugely popular digital “collections” that further self-expression within the game.
Closely related to self-expression is the desire to demonstrate support for the game they’re passionate about. Purchasing an LE means they’re not just any ordinary gamer – they’re a super fan of this particular property.
Since gaming is a highly social activity, players like to share their coveted collectibles online with others who truly understand the significance or “cool factor” of the item. It’s key to being a respected member of the group.
Thrill of the Hunt
To collect rare artifacts or highly sought-after limited editions, the gamer has to do some work. They might need to be one of the first to order online at 3am. Or, they might have to wait for it to appear on eBay. Or, maybe they’re one of the lucky few that scored a find at Comicon. The determination of the search and thrill of the find are reminiscent of actual gameplay.
One upmanship – yes, I made up that word – is a key driver in gaming. So, tying that achievement into a collectible, particularly a highly-desired collectible, yields great reward: prestige of ownership, feelings of superiority, and massive bragging rights! “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! Take THAT!” Which, of course, circles back into acknowledgement and self-expression.
Another side note and deserving of a blog of its own (note to self), is the explosive growth of Esports – colleges now have teams, and ESPN features League of Legends regularly. As Esports mature and become increasingly mainstream, there will be an entirely new class of collectibles awarded for competitive achievement. I’ll tackle that topic another day…
Ultimately, anything that brings the true fun and excitement of digital game play to the physical world feeds the fuel of fandom (how’s that for alliteration?). That’s the filter we apply to all the collectibles we concept and manufacture. Are these items going to make the expansive, in-game world a little more real? How about an app-controlled Claptrap robot or an Alexa-enabled Destiny Ghost? An in-game digital character is now a real-life, hold-in-your-hand, physical artifact. Yes, please! And to take it a step further, many such artifacts can be created as wearables that bring fans together in actual cosplay.
“OMG, I want that!”
The takeaway to all this is that collectibles, like books, movies, art, and games, live or die based on their ability to elicit strong feelings in the hearts of their audiences. As a developer or publisher, when you’re thinking about a new collectible, consider how much your concept truly resonates with gamers’ passion points.
Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5 (and be honest!):
How engaging or interactive is it?
How well does it trigger the powerful emotions of the game experience?
How much will gamers compete for ownership?
How envious will non-owners be?
How likely is it to elicit a visceral “must have” response?
If you aren’t looking at all 5s, you may want to evolve your idea so it truly gives fans what they want. Want to pick our brains? Happy to help. Just give us a shout.
We’ll be with you in about 10 minutes.