We’re the good guys. We find lost dogs. We clear out cellars. We save worlds. We grab anything that’s not nailed down. If it is nailed down, we go looking for a hammer. Yeah, we’re the good guys.

Before we crawled out of the dungeons into the sunlight, we were picking up everything that came our way. RPGs and adventure games taught us that items were important, even critical. So when we finally reached the surface, and found real buildings to enter, we were well-trained to keep right on taking stuff, wherever we found it.

How many times, in how many games, have we waltzed through the door into someone’s home and picked up whatever we could find? It doesn’t matter what class we are; thief or fighter or mage, we go poking around for any sort of treasure.

Naturally, we have our rationalizations for doing this. “It’s only a game!” is one. Why bother about thievery, when the world is virtual? It’s all make-believe, so lets grab what we can.

Then there’s: “The designers wouldn’t put that stuff here if they didn’t want us to have it. So we have every right to take what we want!”. Gamers have always been excellent mind readers, especially when it benefits them.

Perhaps the number one justification, though, is: “I’m here to save the world, and I need this more than you do. Just think, this handful of gold is going towards making the world a better place for everyone! Besides, I’m broke and need to buy that chainmail armor”.

There’s nothing like an RPG to bring out the greedy child in all of us. Of course, the games make it easy for us to rationalize our thefts. Traditionally, we begin with no cash and little equipment. How can we survive without some good stuff? So we scrounge up what we can, where we can. As long as we’re not caught, what does it matter?

And often, no one seems to mind. We snoop around in their closets, desks, barrels, boxes, and chests, with nary an outraged cry from the homeowner. We help ourselves while they stand there, apparently oblivious to our actions. Who could ignore such an incentive?

Yes, it would certainly seem that the developers are inviting us, even egging us on, to be “thieves in a good cause”. After all, what good will it do anyone to keep their stuff if Foozle takes over the world?

I have pondered on occasion why designers allow this. Is it meant as a “roleplaying mechanism”, whereby we can “play honest” if we choose, virtuously ignoring those little whispers of “take me, take me”?

Perhaps they mean it as a way of making the world seem “more real”, having all sorts of items that can be picked up besides the usual post-combat treasures.

Or are they, indeed, really telling us that “it’s okay to grab what isn’t yours so long as you’re not caught”? Are we, in fact, virtual thieves at heart? I haven’t decided which it is myself. While you think about it, would you mind looking the other way? I can get fifty gold for that nifty goblet of yours…