08 September 2003
October's (print) edition of The Edge plots the development of persistent public identities in arcade gaming.
Initially, a 'hi-score' was simply a measure of the player's performance against the machine. In 1978, Star Fire was the first coin-op to incorporate entry of a three-letter signature onto a hi-score table. This pitted players against each other but the score table was reset as soon as the machine was switched off. In 1980, a pinball designer came up with Defender, which incorporated a pinball-style battery back-up memory system to store an 'All-Time Greatest' hi-score table alongside the volatile 'Today's Greatest' list:
Now the classier players could see their scores dominate on an individual machine, in a particular arcade. Non-resetting hi-score tables brought a strange kind of social order to the chirruping chaos of amusement arcades. Localised cults of personality flourished around games, arcades, even towns.
So it's no surprise that online play is now turning to score-based ranking systems:
The beauty of an online hi-score table is, the minute you get a hi-score, you can check your ranking on many levels - among your friends, nationally, internationally...
Microsoft seems to be deploying its Passport thinking in allowing Xbox Live players to have a global identity across all games. When players sign up for the service, they choose a Gamertag that becomes their name in every Live game and buddy list. But because it's Microsoft, it's a closed service.
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