When playing RPGs, we’re always on the lookout for “good stuff”. Every chest, crate, sack, or corpse is viewed as a potential treasure trove. And if a Neat Item or two does turn up, we’re thrilled. Why?

Okay, the the thing might be a powerful weapon, new spell, nifty armor, or special potion. It will, in some way, make our characters stronger or more protected. Yet the item doesn’t exist outside the game; it’s completely virtual. So what is the attraction in looting?

It’s certainly a powerful attraction. WoW is really built around that: grinding your way up the levels to ever better equipment. Is it just to take on stronger and stronger enemies?

I don’t think so. Even for the most dedicated fans, that would become boring in time. My belief is that there is a strong acquisitive streak in most of us, and games (some of them, anyway) work on that with the loot system.

Diablo 2 is a prime example. The original game always had something new to find, and the Lord Of Destruction expansion added truckloads of even more stuff. What else are people still playing on Battlenet for, except the drops? Certainly not the story, and the combat is there just to facilitate treasure hunting.

What’s amazing is how we let this “virtual paradise of goodies” take hold. And it isn’t just looting in games. There are MMOGs where people pay real money to “rent” (they don’t really own) clothes, items, furniture, and whatnot. And then there was the time (before the shutdown) when players routinely auctioned off virtual goods on eBay.

It’s really a bizarre thing in the human mind. We know these items don’t exist. Yet we care about them, want them, and go looking for them. Yeah, the desire for material (or immaterial) possessions is quite strong. Without it, I suspect that many games would hold little interest for most players. What do you think?