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Hunters & Gatherers in the Age of Gaming

WALLY-3Everyone knows the Where’s Wally? books (Where’s Waldo in the US & Canada). It drove some of us crazy constantly searching for globetrotter Wally with his trademark nerd glasses, red-and-white striped pullover and woolly bobble hat, and his uncanny ability to be expertly hiding where no one thought he would be; while other people were able to devote themselves happily to the task for hours on end, enjoying the discovery of thousands of other silly images while on the search.

These days, the main objective with our favourite games remains the same- to master the game until we’ve completed it by defeating the final boss. The end credits appear on the screen and you lean back feeling satisfied. But was that really it? Aren’t there any other story-lines, treasure chests, Easter eggs to be discovered, or other achievements to be made? If you take a look at the game statistics, you can see if you have missed something fun, like a side challenge or alternative game opportunities, which makes some people start the game all over again.

I like to refer to these two groups of players as “hunters” and “gatherers.” I belong to the former category, the hunters – those who rush through the game as fast as they possibly can. Upgrade weapons? Higher level character?  Who cares if the battle against the big boss takes half an hour instead of ten minutes?  The main thing is: I’ve done it! When my husband watches me gaming, he often throws his hands in the air in horror. I hear remarks like “You didn’t search that cave,” or “There’s probably hidden treasure over there” at regular intervals, followed by sighs of resignation.

The situation isn’t any better the other way round. When I watch him play, I can happily take a nap for a few hours with the knowledge that when I wake up, he will hardly have moved from the spot. He explores every corner of the map, searches every trash can, talks to every NPC, and accepts/completes every side quest. Pure torture.

As representatives of both “hunters” and “gatherers,” we can admit that there are advantages to both sides. My husband and I are unbeatable in co-op mode, just like hunters and gatherers were a perfect combination many thousands of years ago. While I’m jumping about chopping up one opponent after another, he uses the time to search for hidden objects or coins.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are people who started their gaming career as hunters but then developed into gatherers so they could enjoy experiencing every last detail of their games. Or gatherers who get sick of poking around looking for an ordinary torch in the darkest corners of the scariest horror games.

lfmc070923_hunters-gatherers_2007.09.23It’s definitely a good idea to think outside the box. How about a compromise? “Gatherers” could leave lost swords lying there where they found them more often, and to even things out a little, “hunters” could occasionally ask themselves whether they were missing out on part of the great gaming experience.

I’d just like to close with a question: are you hunters or gatherers?

Yvonne Z.

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Talk Back

Posted on December 11, 2013

An excellent analysis. One of my favorite games of all time (and I’m SERIOUSLY dating myself here, but I don’t care) was the original Pool of Radiance series. It came on several floppy disks and rocked a whopping 16 colors. You could hunt. But you could also gather, milling around aimlessly and waiting for wandering monsters. You could venture out into the countryside and walk around until you encountered a randomly-place hidden lair. And there were other finds as well.

I must have played that game for hundreds of hours, seeing how high up I could level my characters. I got a cleric up to 42nd level (and these are Dungeons and Dragons levels, mind you, not much more liberal WoW levels). Of course, in an actual tabletop D&D game, that character would have retired and become part of the NPC milieu at half that number of levels, if not before. But I didn’t care.

I think the best games cater to both styles. Again, great post. Game on!

Geneva Hopwood
Posted on December 11, 2013

This one made me laugh! Definitely relatable to my own life. I’m a gatherer, while my boyfriend is usually a hunter.

When I like a game I don’t want the experience to end, so I stall as long as possible by leveling or doing side quests that the hunters in my life would likely find monotonous. I like to take my time and become a part of the game’s world, rather than sprinting through it. But I definitely see the advantages of the other side. 🙂

Ellen Brenner
Posted on December 11, 2013

Love this analysis! And I am most decidedly in the gatherer camp. 🙂

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