What is more invigorating than seeing the worlds “HIGH SCORE!” flash on your screen after playing one of your favorite game? The High Score is what motivates many people to play video games as it gives them a sense of achievement. It makes them feel good! It gives the people what they crave. Competition!
Many games today include this high score system. People will sometimes only play a game because they see that a friend or family member has achieved a High Score within the game, inspiring the competitive drive of people. This competitive drive that people have is apart of human nature. People compete against each other for the thrill and satisfaction of being better than others. At some point in everybody’s life there will be a time where the lust for competition arises. We can not escape this. Sander Van Der Linden talks about how people can even use the idea of competition as motivation to raise awareness or encourage people to support a cause. His article on Psychology Today “The Psychology of Competition” (Linden, 2015) talks about his research into the psychology behind competition, how it effects people and how competition can be used to, in a way, manipulate people into completing tasks.
When creating a Video Game, you must think about the main mechanic of your game. If you game includes a scoring system then why not include a friendly High Score system? A system that other people can look at to see if they are being out shinned by someone. Candy Crush is a great example of High Scores being used to drive players to keep playing. Candy Crush is and has been on top of the “Think Gaming” Top Grossing Games list for years now. Candy Crush implements this idea of a High Score system in more ways then 1. The game has it’s players matching up lines of candy with a set amount of either moves or time before the player looses. Once the player has completed the level, they are given a score in correlation to how well the played the game. The game then shows you how you scored in comparison to your friends. If you are placed at number 1 then it leaves the player feeling good and encourages them to play the next level. Where as if the player is beaten by one of their peers, this can trigger a response in the player to go back and try and out play their friend. In an article written by Jamie Madigan for Edge Magazine “The Psychology Of High Scores” (Madigan, 2012), the author talks about how being on top of the score board makes people feel like they are the smartest in the room or like a “Big fish in a small pond”. This feeling is something that will drive people to keep playing your game to get to the top of the score board.
Another way in which Candy Crush takes advantage of the psychology of High Scores is through it’s use of levels. the levels in the game are displayed in a way that shows the players where they are in comparison to their friends. After I have played the game for a little while, I found myself almost needing to gain a higher score then my friends. The visual that the player is given when browsing though levels is like a ladder system where other players are placed above you. This leaves the player feeling like they need to Compete with their friends and play the game more to gain that top spot. Anybody knows that being number one at something you like, be it a sport, video game, etc, feels good. Being number 1 is achieved by attempting something over and over again until you have the skills to better everyone else. An article from ZenHabits “The only way to become Amazingly Great at something” (Unknown, 2009) explains how people today think that becoming the best or mastering something can be learnt in mere days but then goes on to explain how people become great at something is through years of perseverance and determination. Some people/players may feel the need in the moment to become great at your game but never end up going the full 9 yards. Even if your players don’t stick around to master your game they will have stayed for the competition that getting to the number one spot entitled.
When we play games with friends, there will always be some sort of competition. Even if that competition is to see who looses the lease amount of health or gets the highest amount of kills. Humans will always look for the competition in anything, driving them to be better and keep trying to get to the top. Implementing a High Score system into your game is a great way to keep players wanting to keep playing. I believe that if you can encourage the competitive side in players, they will love your game a whole lot more.
Linden, S. V. D. (2015, June 24). The psychology of competition. Retrieved December 20, 2016, from Psychology Today, : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/socially-relevant/201506/the-psychology-competition
Casual, K. (2016, December 20). Candy Crush saga – Android Apps on Google play. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.king.candycrushsaga&hl=en
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Madigan, J. (2012, July 24). The psychology of high scores in edge magazine. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from THE PSYCHOLOGY OF VIDEO GAMES, http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2012/07/the-psychology-of-high-scores-in-edge-magazine/
Edge. (2009, April 17). Edge on Twitter. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from Twitter, https://twitter.com/edgeonline?lang=en
Unknown, A. (2009, November 4). The only way to become amazingly great at something: Zen habits. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from ZenHabits, https://zenhabits.net/the-only-way-to-become-amazingly-great-at-something/
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Retrieved December 21, 2016, from http://2084arcade.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/high-scores.png
Benjamin Jeffrey Houghton