Personal growth is the new High Score

What makes Wii Sports such a deliciously entertaining and addictive experience for me isn’t so much the fact it’s been designed specifically to bring out the best in the Wiimote, the fact my own personal Mii is on screen or even that is allows me to get decent scores in sports that I would never be able to achieve in real life, like breaking that elusive 100 point barrier in bowling or actually hitting a ball in baseball. These are all good reasons to like the title in itself, but what really swings it for me, no pun intended, is the personal growth charts.

I am not quite sure which game brought it first, possibly Sim City or some such, but I distinctly remember liking it in the DS title “Brain Age”. Rather than keep track of your best performance in the way the old high-score did it charts your development, or lack thereof, over the whole time period that you’ve been playing. Now in Brain Age it is pretty much required, but to find it also a part of Wii Sports is great! Why judge or remember me on the best score I have ever achieved, or the latest score I managed, when I can see how well I’ve played over the last month? Anybody can have a good day and “accidentally” bowl a perfect score, but if that is a mere blip on their overall chart, as opposed to a steady and ongoing climb, it makes life a lot more bearable for the losers.

Also it gives a long-term aim to the whole experience. Why should I play a game every day, even for just a short period, if only my best ever scores count? If it is part of an on-going measurement of my skills I am more likely to invest my time and effort into a quick daily whirl. The idea of a graph showing personal growth is, to me, the best thing to happen to games in a long time. I want to see it in every title produed from now on.

Now hang on, you may say, it fits perfectly well for sports titles or other non-game products that need to chart personal achievement, but what about your quick fix games? When I said I want it in every title I meant every title! And why not? It doesn’t take much to implement and can add so much to the experience. And I’m not talking about individual achievements, I'm talking general game proficiency. Take these examples:

Tetris – a daily chart of average line clearance and scores. Don’t save only my high score, save every score! Then show me in a chart how well I’ve been playing. Ah, I see last week I had my highest ever score, but since then I’ve been playing like a cow.
Zelda – Keep a chart of my time spent, a week, on play sessions. How many rupees did I collect last week, how many did I spend? How many times did I die? I see it took me two weeks to reach the 50% mark in the overall story but only 1 week for the last half.
Animal Forest/Crossing – How many letters did I send or receive. How much did I walk? How much did I spend compared to this time last month?
FPS games – How has my accuracy improved? Have I become more or less profligate with ammo? How much damage did I take or deal this week?
RTS games – How much did I build? Or destroy? How many game sessions did I win last week as opposed to the week before? What units did I rely on most?
RPG games – How much did I grind? How quickly have my levels increased? What happened to my kill rate since I equipped the Androgynous Mantle of +5 charisma? Which weapons did I use most?
Life sims – How quickly did my circle of friends increase? How much money is my personal avatar worth in the game world compared to last month? How popular am I with the virtual girls since I installed that hot tub? How much of my life have I been wasting on this game over the last few months?

Then there is cross referencing. I see I have been playing this RTS game with 75% efficiency and success, as opposed to that FPS game, which I only managed to clear with 50% proficiency. Maybe FPS games aren’t my strong point. I see I have spent more time on Mario Galaxies than on Zelda, but only in the first week. My aim in Red Steel is a lot better than in Metroid or Call of Duty. The possibilities are endless.

And with internet connections and friends lists this opens up a whole new level of competition. Import your friend’s stats for Wii sports and ghost them onto your own. He may be as good as you but it took you a few days to reach that level rather than two weeks. He may have trounced you in that baseball game but it was an obvious lucky streak, compared to his recent dire performance.

Maybe it’s the secret and until now surprisingly well-hidden statistician within me but these little graphs open up more in the game than anything else. It used to be that any n of N collection mechanism had me hooked until I reached a 100%, no matter how tedious and boring it got. But with these graphs I feel the drive to see an upwards trend, and I want to see my performance over the entire time I have invested in the game. I should start a “performance graphs in games now!” campaign, akin to UK:Resistance’s excellent Blue Sky campaign. Statisfy me! Pun intended.


  1. I'm a total yes man in this case. good points!

  2. Yes, it's unfortunate that the Wii sports graphs are limited to only the training sessions. I like playing the exhibition matches but there is no score-keeping for those at all, except for the golf handicap. Some kind of performance graph would have been welcome!

  3. Really nice idea, your explanation reminds me on Blizzards Battle Net
    Player Profiles.

  4. I totally agree and would like to subscribe to your magazine or newsletter. Oh wait! Looks like I already did...

    On the other hand, seeing just how much of my life I've lost to Zuma (yeah, I still play it at least once a week) would probably send me into a never ending shame-spiral.

  5. There's already a system that does this, and allows you to compare scores across the internet - the Xbox360.

    I actually don't like this idea though. I simply don't want to know how much of my life has been wasted collecting Rupees... :D

  6. We're recording a lot of "best of" data... I guess it wouldn't be too hard to attach time/date data to each one, and recording it somewhere.

    I'll do what I can, because it's obviously a good idea...

    but it's a bunch of work for a 2 man army - all the graph viz and functionality. Highly desireable, but still has to go on the 'luxury' list.

  7. This makes mad sense to me because I keep wondering why my roommate loves to replay oldschool games that he's already beaten.

    As someone who came up on PC RPGs, it seems like there's just no point to a game once you've beaten it, because you know what happens. I look at games as a story-type thing where you keep playing to find the new level, or see what happens.

    My friend, whose experience is entirely console-driven, will just pull out some game he's beaten fifty times in the twenty years he's owned an NES and beat it again in an afternoon because it's fun. If I had some sort of comparison going on, to make it seem like I was doing something DIFFERENT this time, by doing it faster, or doing it while losing less hit-points, replaying stuff would make sense to me.