Have you ever noticed when you play a video game, you never use your big weapons? Austin has been playing Bioshock lately, in a fit of nostalgia for 2007, and he’s been holding on to his grenades or rockets or whatever in a pattern that is very familiar to me. I’ve done the same sort of hoarding. The thought process is something like “well, I don’t quite need to use this powerful resource now, and I might need to use it some time in the future, and I don’t know when I’ll get more of it, so I had better save it.”

This is a common human behavior, even outside games. I have some half-remembered anecdote in my head about people on the Pitcairn Islands hoarding eggs well past the time when they had turned into little sulphur-bombs because they were rare and valuable, and just having them was a symbol of status as much as anything. There are pathological cases, of course, like the Collyer brothers. But I’m here to talk about game design, so let’s move our focus there.

Wickham Market Iron Age Coin Hoard

I want this many! Via portableantiquities on Flickr.

A lot of modern games have what Macklin calls a coin trick. This is an economy of points of some sort that are valuable to the participants in some way usually to do with control over the randomness in the narrative. And often times, players treat these points like Pitcairn Islanders treat eggs. Any time you feel like you can survive without spending them, you don’t.

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