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In pencil and paper games and computer and video games, an item is an object within the game world that can be collected by a player or, occasionally, a non-player character. These items are sometimes called pick-ups.
Items are most often beneficial to the player character, but some games contain detrimental items, such as cursed pieces of armor that confers a negative bonus to the wearer, and cannot be removed until the curse itself is lifted; the means to do this may be costly or require a special item. Some items may also be of absolutely no value to the player. Items are especially prevalent in role-playing games, as they are usually necessary for the completion of quests or to advance through the story.
Types of items
Items often come in various types and in most games where items are collected, they are sorted by these types. In RPGs, an item inventory is a common UI feature where one can view all the items that have been collected thus far. Often, these are sorted by categories, such as "equipment" or "Potions." In other game genres, the items may take effect as soon as they are obtained.
Items in platform games
1-ups or continues give the player character "extra lives" and allow them to continue after being killed. 1-ups usually come in the form of the main character's face (or the text "1UP," though this is less common in modern games.) In some games, they can also be obtained in Special Stages and by collecting a large number of minor treasure items (i.e., collect 100 rings in Sonic games to gain one extra life.), by finishing levels in a certain amount of time, or by getting a certain number of points.
Treasure such as coins, rings, gems or jewelry are another common item. These are often used to determine the player's score. In some games, particularly those with an overworld map, players can take these items to a shop-like place and exchange them for new abilities or equipment. Usually, such treasure items are found in small quantities as one progresses through a level. However, by exploring, players can often find secret areas containing a large number of them.
In some platformers, particularly those with a hit counter such as the Kirby games, medicine, food or energy containers are found, which give the player extra health or defensive ability. These are normally very rare, so as to make the player watch their hit counter carefully. In some games, such as the Sonic series, the treasure items (rings) double as a method of enabling extra hits.
Quest items (also known as plot items or key items) are required to complete several games or stages. In platformers, these are not always required, but may be optional goals to get a better ending. The Sonic the Hedgehog series has a recurring side goal being the collection of the Chaos Emeralds.
Items in adventure games
Often in adventure games there are many puzzles that need to be completed in order for the player to advance through the dungeons or levels. Usually, this can be done through the use of specific items gathered while exploring the dungeon. This is a very common element in the Legend of Zelda series, where items like the Hookshot are necessary to pass specific obstacles, or games like the Metroid series, where items like the Gravity Suit or Power Bombs are required to pass to another area. Other important items for navigating puzzles are bombs, which can open new paths, and the boomerang, which can retrieve items from a great distance. In Minecraft, items range from weapons to tools to miscellaneous things like music discs or spawn eggs. While no items are required for completion of puzzles or to access certain areas, they are mandatory for progression in the game and for defeating the bosses.
Another generic item needed to progress through dungeons in adventure games is the key. Sometimes there can be several keys within a dungeon, or just one skeleton key which is good enough to open all locked doors.
Items in shooting games
Items in shooter games are not as common as in other genres, however, they still play a major role in the gameplay. The most common items are the health pack, similar to a potion in RPGs, and the Ammunition pack, a generic box of ammo that will work with whatever gun the player character has equipped at that time. Sometimes, in games with large amounts of different weapons, there will also be specialized ammo packs, like napalm canisters or Rockets/Grenades for Rocket and Grenade Launchers, respectively.
Rarely, new weapons can be obtained, normally from defeated enemy soldiers but also from machines or robots depending on the game's setting. Generally, more powerful weapons (such as the aforementioned Rocket Launchers and flamethrowers) tend to be found later in the game. In some games that cross genres, like Twisted Metal, the weapons come in the form of powerups that have very limited duration.
Items in fighting games
In fighting games, items are far less common, however they still appear in many titles. In wrestling games, things like folding chairs and other innocuous items are often used as makeshift weapons, sometimes with a limited number of "uses" before the item breaks. In the Super Smash Brothers series, items play an important role in the combat, and the timely arrival of a certain item, like invincibility or the hammer, can completely alter the course of the fight.
A set is a group of items with similar properties that, when combined, give an overall set bonus. Typically, these bonuses are added when there are two or more pieces of the set equipped, and each subsequent bonus stacks with the one before it.