I was listening to the Talk Radar podcast from June 11, and they had a wickedly funny riff on the collection of thermoses in Alan Wake.

I admit that I haven't played that game, but one of the strengths of the game many reviews have mentioned is the strong atmosphere and story, immersing you in the story in such a way that you feel you *are* Alan Wake.  One review I read of the game mentioned that one of the problems with the game is that this immersion disappears every time you find one of the many thermoses you're tasked with finding (I assume for an achievement or something) as you try to figure out what is going on in this sleepy Oregon town.  It seriously is hilarious if you get a chance to listen to it (the Talk Radar riff, I mean).

Since I haven't played the game, I can't comment on this specific thermos, but it does bring to mind a question: should story-driven games have collectible tasks like this?

A perfect example of this for me is the Assassin's Creed games.  I loved the glyphs in Assassin's Creed 2 that gave you pieces of a "secret history" video, but I liked them because it added to the story, even if it was peripheral.  But the flags in the first game?  The feathers in the second game?  Sure, the feathers will make Ezio's mother snap out of her catatonic grief state, but there's no real in-game reason for them.  I'm soaking up this wonderful Italian history, but oh yeah, I have to find 100 feathers too?  Give me a break.  It's not as egregious as the thermos-quest, but that may be because Alan Wake is even more story-oriented than the Assassin's Creed games.

I think I know the ultimate reason these things are included in games like this:  to make sure you explore every inch of the game world, and maybe to give you something to do after you've finished the story.  But is it worth taking the gamer out of the story to do that?

Can you imagine having to track down 100 little computer chips in all the worlds you visit in Mass Effect?  The story in that game is so enriching that it would seriously p*ss me off if you had to also do a hokey collection quest like this.

What are your thoughts on collecting stuff in games?  Is it annoying?  Just another way they can create an achievement or trophy without having to actually think of something?

Do you find it takes you out of the story?