When top scores used to be good enough

Besides save slots or passwords, the next best thing you’re likely to remember in a NES or Game Boy game is the Top Score. You know, the number where it took months of nonstop practice to take over the top spot, where it was previously occupied by the ever dreadful AAA.

That score meant everything to us when we were kids. As much as our parents tried to convince us that “It’s just a number,” that five or six-digit score singlehandedly sum up our gaming skills and our childhood.

Not only was that score something we were proud of, but it was also something we can brag about with our classmates at schools. Top scores were our original bragging rights.

Then slowly the bragging rights evolved to more than high scores, but to what we were able to find and collect in videogames. Things like the invisibility cloak from Zelda: Link to the Past, or breeding a gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII.

Back then, we could easily visit our friends’ house after school or during our days off. But as we grow older, friends fall apart, cousins move away, and life in general gets in the way. In turn, we’re no longer able to easily show off our gaming achievements the way we did in the schoolyard.

Up till now, Nintendo has been taking the old school approach. You can collect everything to your heart’s content with Nintendo games ranging from Animal Crossing to Pokemon to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but everything you collect lives locally in your console. You can show off your house in Animal Crossing whenever your friend comes over, but there’s also a sense of pride and self-satisfaction by just roaming the town by yourself

Meanwhile, everyone else in the videogame industry has moved on. XBOX, PS3 and now even Apple has brought that idea of collecting in-game achievements to the online world in a leaderboard format. And because your collection is now broadcasted to the entire world (or at least to your friends on your friend list), the basis of collecting something is no longer focused on what you have, but on what you don’t. The self-satisfaction we used to get from our collection has become something of this desire, this need, for instant and constant approval.

I was playing Sim City 2000 again for the first time in years yesterday and ended up staying up all night. I was hooked at playing the game because unlike CityVille, I didn’t have to worry how my city was in relation to those of my facebook friends. I didn’t have to stress about getting the fancy skyscrapers before they would because I have nothing else to compare to. Instead, I was immersed on making my city as best I could. And really, shouldn’t that be the point?

Trust me, I’m thankful for what technology has brought us in the year 2011, but I just wish we can be satisfied with the things we do have instead of constantly yearning for more. You know, the days when reaching the top score was good enough.

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