I am overburdened

Without the quotation marks, that looks like the title of an existentialist venting post. Well, it’s not, although the gods know I have no shortage of material for that. This is about the omnipresent problem of inventory space in MMOs.

The two MMOs I’m on, TESO and GW2, have done a fabulous job of bringing out the pack rat in me. Most of my in-game gold has been sunk in bag and bank upgrades, chasing the elusive dream of having enough space to hold all the interesting and potentially useful loot I collect on my journey. And there’s the rub: ‘interesting’ and ‘potentially’.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Let’s see, what’s behind the decisions to store or scrap certain bits out of that vast shiny tide?

1. “I might need this later”

The bleaker the diagnosis of altitis, the worse the hoarding. Mine is stage 2 or 3 (that’s the number of active alts I usually roll), which is enough to overwhelm inventories when the unusable shinies start hitting the floor.

Rarely, this factor also comes into play when a usable but much higher-level shiny drops. Each drop is one more slot in the bank booked for up to the next few months. The net result? More often than not, resentment towards my own alts.

In TESO, for instance, my bank became so cluttered with runes I never intended my main to use, that I created an alt specifically for taking ownership of them all – picking a class and faction I hadn’t tried yet. And then found I couldn’t bring myself to level her. Not with her inventory already jam-packed in the starting zone. (Which also turned all the equipment I had stashed away for her higher levels into so many white elephants.) She now serves as nothing but a mule – a very far cry from the content-discoverer she was intended to be.

At least ArenaNet curbs altitis on F2P accounts by allowing only two characters. Add a separate bank for crafting materials (which even allows remote deposits) and a more brutal approach to evaluating alt equipment, and my GW2 hoarding experience has thus far been considerably superior to my TESO one. Chalk that up as something else GW2 does right, eh?

2. “This might be worth something”

I don’t play the auction house. To reap any real returns out of it, one typically has to be prepared to sink time into things I would rather be doing for a real-world job. (Not that I analyze market trends for a living, thank God.) But it’s hard to resist the feeling that someone else might find a shiny I just picked up valuable.

This is a problem exclusive to TESO, given GW2’s unfortunate F2P limitations on trading. My TESO bank is more than half full of bits and pieces from item sets (and some uniques too) – sets I’m hoping to complete and pawn off. Which, given the game’s itemization system, is probably not the best of ideas.

The root of such behavior goes down to a game’s gold sinks. I don’t know what GW2’s is yet, but TESO’s seems to be buying more inventory and bank slots (and repairs after those delightful dungeon fails). It’s not so much a vicious cycle as it is finger-plugging holes in a dam. Buy more space to store more stuff until the next time you need to buy more space to store more stuff. But eh, at least it’s better than Hellgate: London‘s astronomically expensive and laughably weak zone-wide buffs.

3. “I can’t bear to toss this”

Sentiment. Perhaps the one culprit I actually stand up for when it comes to overflowing bags.

We all see MMOs differently. But I’m sure a lot of us have attachments strong enough to the virtual worlds we roam in, for keepsakes to be a thing. Whether those keepsakes are related to personal achievements, or social experiences, or simply cosmetics.

In Defiance, I held on to Nolan’s assault rifle, the one he bequeathed to my ark hunter at the end of the first Episode Mission arc (even after figuring out that his story about it having ‘saved his life many times’ was just so much BS). In WoW and LoTRO, all my characters had a corner in their vaults reserved for items crafted for them by helpful Samaritans – and another for ‘meaningful’ loot, such as Tirion Fordring’s warhammer or Elrond’s charge to the defenders of the North. All of it, outgrown and useless from a gameplay perspective – and irreplaceable from mine.

Even if the pixels we hoard out of nostalgia will never be seen by anyone but ourselves, I think the mere act is some testament to a game’s ability to immerse us – as human beings as well as players. Or perhaps a testament to how we, as gamers, can be inclined to immerse ourselves at the expense of more tangible gameplay advantages.

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