I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seems that compelling gameplay can usually be boiled down to a few base verbs. Collect is the first one that I thought of, so let’s start there.
Collect is a very simple concept: Get everything that you can, and keep getting better stuff when it’s available.
You can see this in most RPGs and MMOs. Gotta get that epic gear/fire sword. It’s also visible in things like FPSs. Find the next better weapon, find ammo for it, find an upgrade to it. Collect was used to make Crackdown incredibly addictive, to the point where just the sound of the collectable (orbs) can get fans riled up.
But collect has taken on an even subtler role. With the introduction of achievements on the 360, collect has become a meta-game. Now, even games with a low number of Collect actions, still allow you to Collect! The idea of achievements has spread through all of gameing now, and almost no new games are released without this Collect meta-game.
It seems that some gamers are more susceptible to the Collect frenzy than others.