Up For Debate - High Score Chasing

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Sep 20, 2015 4:00 PM
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Before DLC and outpost takeovers and gritty storylines, games were a purer, more focused affair. Arcades and gaming machines of the 70’s and 80’s were, on the whole, about one thing and one thing only - score chasing. High scores are synonymous with gaming. It’s the one thing a total non-gamer knows to ask a gamer when they see them playing a game - “Looks good, what's your high score?

Pac-Man; Defender; Arkanoid; Tetris; Donkey Kong. Games build around boundless potential for scores, where no artificial ceiling could cap the skills of the best players. With the steady loss of arcades worldwide, we’ve seen a similar decline in high-score chasing games. There’s still plenty out there, but it’s not a must-have feature these days.

Recently I, like millions of others, have been playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I’d forgotten entirely about Kojima’s penchant for high-scores and was surprised to see a detailed breakdown of my performance following the first mission. The best rank is an S. After a painfully long prologue I’d gotten a B. There was no way I wanted to go through all that again to improve my rank, but the completionist inside me craved that all-important S rank.

This is a feeling that didn’t go away with my entire time with MGS 5. It felt like it was judging me on my particular style of play, rather than letting me play the way I wanted. Non-lethal, silent and swift runs are the key to a major score. Why then does it offer me one of the greatest selection of weapons I’ve ever seen in a game? Why let me call in an airstrike? The latter is incredibly fun by the way, but using it is punished with a lower score - why not just a monetary impact?

It got me to thinking just what games benefit from high scores, and which don’t. If you saw high-score credits roll at the end of level in Half-Life 2 or a scene in The Last of Us you’d probably be affronted, so how is it we think it’s okay in a similarly cinematic adventure like MGS 5.

I’m of the opinion that games stripped of narrative and ‘endings’ are the ones that typically warrant high-scores. In this respect it’s like it’s very own genre. That said, action games like Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengance also benefit from high-score chasing despite the fixed-length levels. In these games it’s about perfecting your skills and besting the limitations imposed by the developers.

When and where do you think high scores should be used in games? Should high scores be used in every game? And do high scores keep you coming back to a game long after you’d normally have stopped playing?

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12:15 Sep-21-2015

if (!deepEngrosingStory || !multipleWaysToPlay)
{
highscoreIsOk = true;
}


;-P

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11:00 Sep-22-2015

lol. I see what you did there :P

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10:28 Sep-21-2015

'Painfully long prologue'...I enjoyed it:/
It would however be good to have greater scores for blowing sh*t up, when my stealth goes tits up I'd like to think I could still get some points with a less subtle approach. I am yet to get above an A, but then again i've only got to -mission10 I think

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03:04 Sep-21-2015

I think games have evolved beyond getting highscores, its a nice feature, but it is not what drives me to keep playing a game (modern ones anyways)

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10:29 Sep-21-2015

Likewise, i'm in it for the fun rather that thinking too hard about how my score is going to turn out

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23:11 Sep-20-2015

I love higher scores at harder levels

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19:29 Sep-20-2015

I kinda like to...show my dominance by getting high scores. In some cases high score chasing has made me spent more time with a game, for example in Hotline Miami, i just had to get that A+ score on every level. Was challenging, but in the end felt satisfying :)

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17:01 Sep-20-2015

Personally speaking, I think going for high score is all well and good, but it's the low-score runs that really impress me most. I remember awhile back seeing a YT video from the guy who finished Super Mario Bros. with only 500 points, which is pretty damn ridiculous. In a lot of ways that takes a crap-ton more skill and practice than it does to just grind your way to the top. There are plenty of other examples of low-score runs too, so it's catching on.

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16:58 Sep-20-2015

well the only purpose of highscores is to challenge other people and friends to beat it

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05:53 Sep-21-2015

And yourself too. It can be a sign of how much you have improved at a game, when you see you beat your previous high score.

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16:10 Sep-20-2015

I believe it is somewhat related to the quality of the game. If you enjoy the game and appreciate the effort placed into the game then the user feels obliged and comfortable with searching for something more.

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| 60FPS, Ultra, 4k
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| 60FPS, High, 1080p
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