Inventarium. Principles of Video Games. An essay on Items.

A paper on Items and their prevalence in Video Games across numerous, popular franchises.

Outer Heaven.

Any gamer with their needed, daily dose of gaming in 1987 is undoubtedly reminiscent of this setting of Hideo Kojima’s critically and commercially acclaimed Metal Gear. Transfixed with amazement, awe and unbridled enthusiasm to their Nintendo Entertainment System gaming rig, players enjoyed the first installment of what would become a series of action-adventure stealth video games that would arise to sell thirty million copies worldwide by 2015. A pioneer of the stealth game genre. Unique. Original. Without doubt. However, there is one of many constituent elements that is not exclusive to Metal Gear but common in video games throughout the ever evolving and becoming Gameverse: Items.

Handgun in hand, Solid Snake’s primary instrument of offense throughout a significant portion of the game, a tool of destruction it is, but it is not so, as a manifest creation of battle, exclusive to the Metal Gear franchise alone. Whether swords, arm cannons or dragon slaying blades, many games feature one or more Weapon Items a player wields in life or death combat. In The Legend of Zelda, the acquisition of a Wooden Sword in a cave is the first action a player can take before embarking on the quest to save Princess Zelda for without it the hero Link cannot inflict harm on the bosses that protect the pieces of an omnipotent, sacred relic known as the Triforce of Wisdom. Likewise, in Metroid, the protagonist Samus Aran is equipped with an Arm Cannon that is used to best foes ranging from helpless Zoomers to the powerful, ever thinking Mother Brain. Similarly, in Final Fantasy, players find the Dragon Sword in the Dwarf Cave, a powerful, pricey blade also known as Wyrmkiller, a blade that is forged with the intent of the slaying of mighty Dragons that soar in the firmament and often rain fire from their maws upon the earth.

Once acquired, a Bomb Blast Suit can protect Snake from a phenomenon of wind on the roof of the fortress. Garbed in a military vest, a hazardous environment suit or armor seemingly wrought with the heart of them that some worship as gods, most players’ characters are clad in some type of Armor Item or protective material. Doom features Security Armor which absorbs one third of all damage, until depleted and thereafter death may be imminent if the player sustains continued damage. In a similar way, Half Life, aspects the Hazardous Environment Suit that theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman dons to protect him from the ramifications of inter-dimensional war as he battles a variety of hostile sentient entities ranging from aliens from the dimension known as Xen to Marines of the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit. The Elder Scrolls: IV: Oblivion demonstrates no exception to the utilization of armor, as powerful, supernatural entities that inhabit the planes of Oblivion, of whom gates the player seeks to keep shut, the Daedra feature the name of their kind in description of armor with the highest armor rating in the game and its add-ons.

Metal Gear features no 1UPs or the acquisition of extra lives but this type of item which allows a player to continue after being killed can be witnessed in numerous games as, for example, a mass of thoughtfully placed rings collectable throughout a challenging level, bricks that can be broken by the cranium of a plumber or posited in a region of a robot masters lair anyone would find a challenging task at acquiring. Sonic the Hedgehog, features Extra Lives that are awarded after the collection of one hundred rings as Sonic attempts to thwart Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik’s plan to rule the world. Super Mario Brothers shares a similarity, as Mario and Luigi adventure to save Princess Toadstool, breaking bricks that contain mushrooms, the defeat of several enemies in a row with a Koopa Shell, or the acquiring of one hundred coins awards the player an additional life. In Mega Man, should the player fail in his goal to defeat Dr. Wily and succumb to death, victory could have possibly been realized had an Extra Life been acquired.

Deeper infiltration into Outer Heaven requires the use of one to eight Access Cards, critical Quest Items (also a Key Item) that must be procured for completion of the game. Metal Gear is not alone in the use of such a type of item. A drop of a colorful arc, golden equilateral triangle or darkened, mystical orbs are examples of Quest Items that games after games feature in their own particular manner which is distinctive in nature to the video games story in question. Dragon Warrior prominently requires the use of a Rainbow Drop to create the Rainbow Bridge which enables the player, assuming the role of a descendant of Erdrick, to reach the Dragonlord’s Castle and bring an end to his tyranny. In a similar way of use of item critical for completion of a game, The Legend of Zelda requires the player to retrieve eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom which then enables him to enter the final dungeon and rescue the Princess. The Light Warriors of Final Fantasy possess four darkened, elemental Orbs of which its light must be restored to successfully complete the game and save the world from its seemingly imminent destruction.     

Cigarette’s are Snakes addiction, an Item that surely causes cancer and such objects that are almost in nature malevolent such as an axe titled as if the property of demons, shotguns that harm the shooter when fired and a ring that bites: Cursed Items are prevalent in many Video Games. Golden Sun, allows the player to acquire and wield the Demon Axe but must also wear the Cleric’s Ring or there is a possibility that s/he will be incapable of acting in a given turn. Borderlands 2, showcases Captain Blade’s Orphan Maker that deals a small amount of damage to the wielder every time it is fired as they adventure on planet Pandora as Vault Hunters. Planescape: Torment examples a Cursed Item a players character may find during his quest to reclaim memories of his former lives, created by a mage obsessed with losing her magic items should she become incapacitated or asleep, a ring that once clad on one’s finger cannot be removed is one of her creations.

Should Snake sustain damage during his infiltration of Outer Heaven, rations can be consumed that will replenish his health meter, preventing the onset of death throes. Medicines, otherwise known as, are items that facilitate the restoration of vitality and come in many varieties such as the milk of a nipple, energy balls left after the vanquishing of an enemy and a well roasted chicken, items such as these are a common staple of video games. A Milk Jug replenishes lost health sustained from battling numerous monstrosities as one ascends Dragon Keep, in quest of destroying the Black Orb the Dark Lord Drokmar Possesses in Magic Sword. Samus Aran, in Metroid, can refill her energy meter by absorbing energy balls that defeated creatures leave behind or succumb to death should her energy deplete to zero, consequently halting her from thwarting the Space Pirates plans of galactic domination they envision, for as they believe that by exploiting the Metroid parasitic organism they will realize such power, surely will their attempts. In like manner, Streets of Rage tells the story of three cops determined to restore peace to a city that has become one steeped in violence and crime, should the players characters suffer wounds, a Roast Chicken if discovered fills the player characters life gauge.

A grappling hook, gravity defying suit and a colored gem are examples of Puzzle Items featured in games forthcoming detail. In Metal Gear, although not riddled with puzzles, there is an item that is notably needed requiring simple logic, becoming of any type of puzzle, in its use; the Oxygen Tank, so that Snake may progress deeper into Outer Heaven. In The Legend of Zelda series, as Link endures his Quest, the Hookshot he must acquire as it is needed to pass certain obstacles, differing from game to game throughout the series, such as the river leading to the Village of Outcasts in A Link to the Past. The Gravity Suit, in Metroid, is an upgrade to the protagonists Power Suit, enabling her to negate the gravitational effects of outer-space such as zero gravity and move submerged in fluid unhindered by the resistance and pressure it would normally exert, thus enabling Samus Aran to pass through an area which is critical for the completion of the game. In Resident Evil, notable for its intricate puzzle solving gameplay, the acquisition of a Blue Gem is needed to acquire an item from the Statue of the Tiger and the only way this gem can be found is to come to understanding that a statue must be pushed into the dining room from a floor above when once done, it will shatter and reveal the blue, precious stone.

A key that activates a circular device with crosses, a magical pendant and a key to a nightstand will be exampled to show how Item Keys are a type of item a player seeks to acquire to further along the adventure of a video game. In Metal Gear, these items are known as Access Cards and in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, as players play Dracula driven on a quest to defeat Satan, the Dungeon Key enables the player to unlock Dungeon Keyholes and acquire a handsome 2000 XP. In Chrono Trigger, a key in the form of a technology that survived the Fall of Zeal, the Pendant, unlocks Sealed Doors and Sealed Chests placed throughout the shifting continuum in play. In like manner, as the player embarks on a quest, and many a side, to prevent the “Mythic Dawn” from opening the gates to a realm known as “Oblivion”, In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion the Arch-Mages Key enables the player to access his Night Stand in his quarters at the Arcane University in the Imperial City, a container safe for long-term storage.

Shotgun shells, rockets and projectile rounds sharing a titular word from a hell realm in my Godchild franchise, ammunition is featured in numerous games from first person shooters to roleplaying games. Snake, in a Metal Gear game entitled Peacewalker, can use supply markers and acquire supply boxes of extra ammunition. Certainly Ammunition Items are not only found in Metal Gear games. Fallout 3 features 12 gauge shotgun shells that are used by weapons such as the Double-barrel shotgun and The Kneecapper, empowering the player as s/he embarks on a quest to track down their father believed to be located somewhere in the ruins of Washington D.C., also known as the Capital Wasteland. And in Mass Effect, as the player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, whose job it is to save the world from the genocidal, mechanical race of aliens known as Reapers, Shredder Rounds are effective against organic targets, as they sheer apart for maximum damage.

From the dawn of the Video Game Industry and throughout the ongoing Gaming Ages, the idea of Items emerged and now persists, becoming a staple of these electronic games that have seized the attention of children, adults and elders. Although not an all inclusive list; Action-adventure Stealth Video Games, Platformers, First Person Shooters and Roleplaying Games are but a few of the genres where one can witness the phenomenon of objects within the game world that serve functions for the player, ranging from weapons to ammunition. Solid Snake, cigarette burning and gun in hand, examples the idea of what an Item in a Video Game really is: a signature element that expresses a work of art quintessentially.

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