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.