Last weekend I was sitting and playing Geometry Wars ³ with my six year old daughter when I realized something. No matter how young or old, such a simple mechanic is so unbelievably easy to learn yet nearly impossible to master.
As we took turns picking different game modes and rule sets, it became evident as to why so many people always have and most likely always will love the arcade shooter genre of video games. Be it omnidirectional, vertical or horizontal scrolling, using one of countless configurations of joysticks, buttons and knobs.
Each time she saw her score grow higher and higher with each pixelated explosion, I saw that glimmer in her eyes as her smile grew ever wider. It was the same effect of that digitized numeric voodoo that kept so many of us mesmerized and pumping quarter after quarter into the arcade cabinets; the hunt for the high score. No matter how unattainable it may seem, even to a six year old, that primal need to continue and chase the highest possible numeric sequence attainable, the elusive “High Score” still exists.
After watching my daughter play for a while, I can definitely say that I understand the allure of the arcade shooter and why it transcends generation. The whole gameplay mechanic thrives and hinges on that as I said, “primal need” to do better, to be the best. And with arcade shooters there’s always that constant numeric reminder that you can do better, you can have a higher score, you can accumulate many more points than you have now or ever had before. The satisfaction that comes along with not only watching your score grow ever higher, and seeing your name (or initials) on the leaderboard, maybe not the top spot, but THERE, that’s you up there. The sense of accomplishment that comes along with seeing your name listed up there among the best, telling everyone that YOU are one of the best. After witnessing this firsthand while my daughter played and with each round grew more and more proud that she was getting closer to my score, I saw for myself through the eyes of a six year old, the timeless allure of an arcade shooter.