I Shop (In Games), Therefore I Am

Image by Flickr user   londoninflames
Image by Flickr user londoninflames

While I wouldn’t call it a “problem,” I have a bit of as shopping habit. In games. And before you start I’m with a “women and shopping” bit, just you hush. But…well, it is kind of bad. Just the other day, I spent over an hour in Grand Theft Auto V driving my character to different clothing stores in the game, trying on different stuff, and buying whatever I though looked good. I had no idea if my character was going to need his money in the future, but in that hour, it didn’t matter. I simply had to increase his wardrobe.

I’m a fan of character customization, but this shopping thing goes beyond that. Sure, if I’m going to spend a bunch of time with a character, I want him or her to look as good as possible. But in most cases, the clothing or armor you’re asked or made to buy are necessities. In GTA V, it isn’t (unless you need something for a specific mission). But every now and again, I get that spending itch that I simply must satisfy. And it doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a mission or out exploring. Once that thought worms its way into my mind, that “maybe Trevor needs as need pair of pants” train of thought, I can’t let go if it.

I recently started playing Sleeping Dogs, in which I experienced a slightly different example of the same problem. After completing a couple missions and gathering a little cash, I spent an entire session just visiting stores, clothing and otherwise. I had already been made to buy a new outfit, but it just wasn’t enough. As soon as I saw the little shirt icons all over the city, I couldn’t resist, even though I didn’t have much cause to buy anything. However, while perusing through the game’s many menus, I saw that articles of clothing were among the many things you could collect. What was the prize, I wondered? Was there anything like that in GTA V? Hmmm…my mind wandered…

Thing is, in games like GTA V and Sleeping Dogs, money is really easy to come by…lots of money. The amounts vary of course, but in both games you can make a pretty penny off of just side missions.  So spending some coin on some new duds doesn’t always feel like it’s going to break the bank. And with the more side quests comes the promise of more money. There’s not it much to gain by hoarding your cash, so the games offer lots of opportunity to spend, spend, spend!

After going through decades of games where spending money wasn’t an option or where you were forced to be very frugal in your habits, there’s something decadent about being able to buy virtual items like there’s no tomorrow. And as I alluded to, my habits aren’t limited to clothes (though they are my preferred vice). In the Mass Effect games, you could collect items for your personal cabin like ship models and fish. I hardly ever visited my quarters in those games, and if I did, I never lingered about looking at all my stuff. In Mass Effect 2, I made a good effort with the fish, but the funny thing about live animals is that they tend to die if you forget to feed them. I didn’t make the same mistake in Mass Effect 3. Even now in Sleeping Dogs, I’m faced with multiple options to make my apartment look nicer; and I want so badly to get that new mattress and some air conditioning. But the more expensive something is, the more hesitant I am about purchasing it, obviously. So instead, I just go by a couple extra shirts. In Red Dead Redemption, a game where money was scarce, I got swept up in purchasing horses. (And then I developed an unfortunate gambling habit as I tried to keep my funds up.)

The only silver lining here us that my spending sprees in games don’t translate to real life, otherwise I’d be in serious trouble. But is there a habit/mild addiction in games that you just can’t quit?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. duckofindeed says:

    I’m pretty wasteful in “Animal Crossing” now. I have so much money, and my house is all paid off, so I can just buy whatever, and sometimes I’m too lazy to check if my character already owns something, so I buy it because I have so much spare money. Then, at Redd’s shop, I’ll just buy any painting he has whether the museum has it or not because I’m not about to run back to town, check the museum and see if it’ there, and if not, run back to the city and buy the painting, only to run back to town again and give it to the museum. I am wasteful that way.

    I’m cheap in all other games, though. I usually go through games without buying anything, and I let my characters die because I’m not going to waste a potion on them that I may need even more later. “Animal Crossing” is the only exception.


    1. cary says:

      I’m a bit chintzy too when it comes to using power-ups and other special items on characters, because, like you said, you just never know what you’re going to need later on. And I’ve hit that “too much money” point in some games where I end up buying anything and everything just because I can. The Fable games were like that. In Fable 2, I became so “rich” that eventually purchasing stuff lost all meaning. Boy, it sure would have been nice if some of that virtual currency could have been turned into real money…


  2. ezrawexler says:

    This is a really interesting videogame topic… I just finished playing Zelda Ocarina of Time, and last month Zelda Wind Waker, and in both of them I found there was nothing worth spending my money on. At least not until the very end of huge game when I needed a few red or green potions, or in wind Waker had to pay that jerk Tinkle to translate my maps ( after I got him out of prison too!) I finished GTA5 without ever having spent more than the plot required of me, and I always hired the cheapest man for missions… I did spend ever penny I had in Dark Souls making weapons and armour. And I needed every cent in Dragon’s Crown just to get anywhere.


    1. cary says:

      Thanks! It’s interesting how some games demand that players use money, while others make it totally optional. Like you did with GTA V, I went through one playthrough of GTA IV without spending a dime on Niko except for a couple clothing pieces that were required. Everything he needed was available for free somewhere! And I had the same experience with Wind Waker – nothing spent EXCEPT on map translation. (Tingle was kind of a jerk, wasn’t he?) But more often than not, I’ll spend whenever I have the chance. Can’t do it in real life, so mind as well live vicariously through games! 🙂


      1. ezrawexler says:

        I just started giving animal crossing a second chance after a short 1st chance when it came out. That game is over the top in the spend every cent you have department!


  3. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    There’s nothing like collecting money in games; and nothing quite like shopping in games either, which has become something of a bad habit for me. After spending time with lots of game where “money” was scarce or doesn’t exist at all, I’ll take a good shopping spree in Los Santos, Hong Kong, or Albion anyday. In this article I wrote for United We Game, I expound upon these and related thoughts (all the while wishing that my real bank account looked 1/5th as bloated as my many game “bank accounts”).


  4. simpleek says:

    I’m the same way! I’m good with managing my real life finances, but sometimes I can’t help but feel a little frugal with the digital money in games. Once I have safely collected a good amount of money in the games I play, I tend to go on shopping sprees. It was bad in Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I bought as much as I could. And if a game gives me the option to buy clothes so I can change my character’s outfit, then I’m in trouble. I did this a lot for Saints Row 2 and 3. I would spend more time trying clothes on than doing actual missions sometimes!


    1. cary says:

      Oh I remember going nuts in DA and ME, especially ME cause I just wanted all the best armor! Recently, I spent almost an entire GTA V session visiting all the stores making wacky purchases just because! I think I wish I could do that in real life, which will probably never happen, so why not give it a go in a virtual world where currency is plentiful? But usually, until I end up hitting some big jackpot in a game, I try to keep my wallet under control. *Try* Sometimes the call to shop, though, is pretty irresistible. 🙂


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