Back when the XBox 360 was first announced and discussed, the big new feature of this generation (and indeed, one of my favorite parts of the XBox 360) was the addition of Achievements. I have always loved to have a measure for 100% completing the games I own, and so a single unified system that allows me to compare my progress with friends provides me with more entertainment than it probably should. But while some Achievements will motivate me, or give me an excuse to replay games, they don't do it as much as one of the less popular new features: leaderboards.
Certainly, leaderboards aren't really anything new. I can recall spending hours in the arcade playing Street Fighter II
, Sunset Riders
, and Cruisin' USA
. Of course, playing the games was inherently rewarding, but one of the things that kept me going was the desire to knock AAA out of the number one spot and replace it with DEX. Indeed, only two things could get me to stop playing some of these games back in the day; either I would succeed in grabbing the top spot, or I would run out of quarters.
Really, bringing leaderboards to XBox Live and PSN was just the next logical step in an age-old video game tradition. But with the good points, they also brought some not-so-good ones.
My main beef with worldwide leaderboards is that no matter what, there is some ultra-caffeinated twelve-year-old with no job somewhere who will post a ridiculously unattainable score/time, putting the normal player somewhere around 60,000th place on popular games. However, this issue can be bypassed by using only your friends leaderboards. I get indescribable pleasure seeing my Gamertag at number one on my list, and aside from some of the superhuman gamers
on my list, I can be found there relatively frequently.
Another issue I have are the fact that leaderboards are a requirement
. While the leaderboards are great for inherently competitive games like Geometry Wars
or Pac-Man: Championship Edition
, they are at best shoehorned or at worst completely out of place in games like Bioshock
. Of course, the remedy for this is to just not pay attention to those leaderboards.
However, despite the shortcomings of leaderboards on this generation of consoles, they probably keep me coming back to games more than any other feature, when they're done right. Most recently, I have been playing the crap out of Bionic Commando: Rearmed
, and although I still haven't finished the main game, I have nearly completed all of the Challenge Rooms.
But just because I've completed them doesn't mean I won't ever play them again. Even after beating one for the first time, I will check its individual leaderboard to see how I stack up against my friends. If I'm in the top spot, I will gloat to myself, but if I'm down a few notches, I'll immediately load up the level again and shoot for a better time. If that's not *instant* replay, then I don't know what is.
The madness extends even further. Last Saturday Chad had a party at his place, and late in the night Chad opened up BC:R
to get help with a particular Challenge Room. After showing him how it's done, I noticed that I beat my old time, but on his
Gamertag! We passed the controller around and got through several of the Challenge Rooms, and all the while I asked to check the leaderboards so I could note which times I had to go back and best. And then, after leaving his apartment and getting home at 5:30 in the morning, I stayed up for another two hours under the guise of being dehydrated and having to drink lots of water. Really, I just needed an excuse to beat the times and solidify my position on the leaderboards.
Am I alone in this, or does your gaming thrive on the juice of the online leaderboards? Do you relish the friendly competition, or turn in disgust at the blatant comparison of e-peens?