Back in the days when the best video games were in dimly lit arcades, I don’t remember being that big of a fanatic about getting the high score. It was pretty pointless to me. The game would just be turned off and my record would be lost. Even after game makers got creative, adding batteries to store the score, the arcade game wouldn’t be around forever. Eventually the local pizza place, deli or video rental store would replace old games with new ones. My high score would be loaded into a truck or a van, shipped to parts unknown.
Apple’s Game Center, and gaming networks like it, changes things. It makes gaming much more competitive. I first noticed the difference with the PlayStation Network — my first introduction to social gaming. What’s this? I got a virtual trophy? Soon, I could see how well my friends were doing. I could see their trophy counts too. Even if it was someone I didn’t see in years, I could see what games they were playing right now. Social networking entered the realm of video games… and it’s actually pretty cool.
But still remembering the days of my past, I wasn’t too interested in Game Center. As a developer, sure, I like to add new features to my games. But as a player, I wasn’t that excited. I’d rather be making games than playing them. That sentiment changed — at least temporarily — when I played Cut The Rope Lite.
I had played through the lite version of Cut The Rope. After getting three stars on all of the levels, I thought I was done with the game. But something changed — an update would bring new challenges. Achievements and Leaderboards were added via Game Center. Before, I didn’t care about score. Now it mattered. The higher my score, the higher my ranking. There I was, #55 out of 2,005,095 players. It made me feel special. Faced with this new challenge, I was figuring out ways to improve my score. Game Center added replay value to Cut The Rope. Game Center also added personal status and a new level of competition to the game.
However, Game Center wasn’t perfect. While beating over two million players might sound like an amazing feat, the greater challenge was fixing a broken achievement.
Even though I cut three ropes at once — many times over — the related achievement remained closed. The busted Master Finger achievement made my iPhone 4 feel broken. I didn’t like that feeling. My iPhone is supposed to feel shiny, new and with rounded edges — like other Apple products. Eventually, I figured out a solution. I had to uninstall the game and reinstall the game to fix this glitch. It was as if Game Center didn’t process the data related to the achievement.
Also, there’s lots of cheating going on. My top score is 50,680. So clearly a score of more than two-billion seems impossible. Yet, that’s what is necessary to take the top spot. Apparently, no one is policing the leaderboards. Once I realized there was cheating going on, I started losing interest.
So basically, Game Center is off to a good start. It added a lot of fun to my iPhone. When I go shopping for iOS games, I’ll be looking for that Game Center logo. However, with the flagrant cheating and random glitches, Game Center is not all it can be.