I’ve been playing a lot of XBox Live Arcade games recently. There’s something about the design and creativity that’s happening in that space that is so much more appealing than the large-scale commercial projects right now. I think that several larger projects have lost their way in terms of playability and game design, instead focusing on voice acting, graphics, and loose franchise tie-ins. The Arcade games just seem to have an intrinsic playability and simple game design that makes them intrinsically addictive in a sort of “Tetris” or “PacMan” way; the unique element that has kept those games popular throughout the decades.
Arcade games also award achievements and gamer-points, even if they are typically much smaller in value than their commercial counterparts (more on this topic coming in a separate post). Achievements are basically milestones to strive for in gameplay such as uncovering a particular secret area or beating all of the bosses in a games. They give you something to work on after you’ve consumed the bulk of the game’s initial material. Usually when a game has been completed and the achievements checked off, there is little reason to return beyond the nostalgia or enjoyment of replaying parts of the experience. However, last night I caught the seed of another motivation for dusting off some of the old favorites; that of leaderboards.
Leaderboards are basically a world ranking list of all players that have posted a score for a particular game. Once you have finished all of the in-game goals and checked off all of the achievements, you can start to focus on how your score compares to other players around the world. I’ve been aware of the existence of the leaderboards since I began playing, however I’ve never really paid them too much attention because I was already ranked 174,000th or something and couldn’t seem to crack the l33t (read elite) boundaries of gamers who apparently did little else with their time. Last night, however, I finally broke that boundary and it left with me a hankering to perhaps pursue competing on the leaderboards further.
I downloaded a new Arcade game called GripShift. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I highly recommend taking a look. The premise of the game is to guide a stunt car around a variety of tracks either as part of a race or in the highly addictive “Challenge” mode. In challenge mode there are three objectives: reach the finish line in a target time, collect all of the gold stars littered around the track, and find the hidden GS symbol. You receive bronze, silver, and gold rewards for the time challenge and stars challenge and the respective time you took for fast lap, stars, and collecting the GS symbol determine your overall ranking.
There were a couple of levels that I enjoyed so much that I kept on trying to get faster and faster times for each of the three objectives. After a few hundred runs through, I felt pretty happy with my times and on a whim decided to see how I stacked up against the rest of the world. I fully expected to see that I was the millionth slowest (as usual) and sat back in complete disbelief to discover I was ranked 3rd. THIRD! In the world! Woohoo! I’m sure that I’ll be knocked out of the top five and even the top hundred within a few days as the game gains popularity. For now though, I’m basking in the glory of placing third in a world ranking list on XBox Live Arcade. These are the good times.
The screenshot below is a little fuzzy (as you can see I still play on a standard CRT TV). My XBox Live gamertag is Purplekilt and despite the fuzziness you can make it out in the image. I’m still not sure how the two people in front of me got the GS symbol in 18 seconds instead of 20, but I’ll probably be working on improving that tonight!