(Originally posted on the Qube Media Blog)
High scores started in the arcades. Whilst “Insert Coin” flashed at the bottom of the screen the rest was a leaderboard of the best player with only 3 letters to identify them. Arcades were gaming hubs and being top scorer meant you were the best in the local area.
Those 3 letter names were infamous in friendship groups and you know who you needed to beat. It created a social incentive to want to be better than your friends, play one more time and put more money into the machine.
With modern online gaming the leaderboard is back. You can now see how good you are at the game compared to the rest of the world. But knowing you are 231,321st out of 2 million players isn’t as impressive as being in the top 10 in your local arcade.
Some of the most powerful incentives we have are social ones, and trying to be better than millions of other people will only compel the few. We need to make the leaderboards local and unique to each user. This creates a much higher social incentive and makes players play more to beat their friends.
Games are turning our social circles into personalised leaderboards. Every user has a unique leaderboard that only shows the scores of their friends. Being the best of your ten friends is a lot more compelling than being better than millions of strangers.
The beauty of these modern games is that they can always be connected online. They can always be plugged into our social circles.
This means no one ever needs to play a game in isolation (unless they chose to) it also means you don’t have to play a game with everyone, you can choose to just play with the people that matter to you.
Now when I play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook the game is constantly reminding me of how I am doing compared to my friends. I don’t know if I am the best player in the world, I don’t even know if I am in the top million, but it doesn’t matter.
What I do know is that (for a short while) I had the highest score ofall my friends and it was great, but my high score just encouraged others to play until they beat it.
This is just the first step -- soon games will go beyond reflecting your social circles scores. They will start using our social circles to make our games more personalised and unique to us. Our experiences will be used to enhance other peoples' games and we are starting to see the beginning of this with games like Spore using our friends' creations in our game to make our experience matter just that little bit more. I expect a whole lot more of this over the coming years.
Now I must go and get the top score again on Bejeweled!