Difference between revisions of "High Score Lists"

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[[Category:Game Element Patterns]]
[[Category:Mechanical Patterns]]
[[Category:Mechanical Patterns]]

Revision as of 14:57, 20 November 2009

High Score lists give players the chance to rank how well the current game sessions were compared to previous game sessions.

High Score Lists are simply records of the results obtained by players during game sessions that are accessible later. This allows players to easily compare how well they did in relation to others or previous times they played. Depending on the gaming platform and the game design, High Score Lists may be be shared and/or public.


The first arcade game to have High Score Lists was Asteroids. The player who achieves a high enough score compared to the other players of the same machine is allowed to enter his initials to be displayed in the High Score List.

Staries and Icy Tower are examples of casual games that have High Score Lists to let gamers compare their current results with previous one, and with ones of others.

Using the pattern

The use of High Score Lists is fairly standardized, with the main design choices being the number of Scores saved in the High Score List and how Handles are supported. Most High Score Lists make use of Handles so that the players can identify their own scores and know that other players can recognize them. Since High Score Lists typically are ordered, they need Tiebreakers or have to be explicitly designed to allow several players with Tied Results to be displayed as completely equal.

Although many High Score Lists use Scores there are other options. Gameplay Statistics (e.g. hit percentage) provide quantifiable values which can be used in place of Scores. Individual Achievements cannot be the basis of High Score Lists due to their boolean nature but collections of them can play the same role as Scores. Several game delivery platforms, e.g. Steam and Xbox Live, provide support for such Achievements-based lists and may even require them for game to be on the platform.

High Score Lists may be designed to remove old values after a certain time period. This can be motivated if large numbers of players use the same list, e.g. in games with global High Score Lists, since very few players will have a chance of making it into the list. Although this can seem to remove the reward for achieving the all-time best score in the game one can avoid this by having an all-time High Score List and a temporary one. For games with Buddy Lists one can also create filtered High Score Lists that only show the Scores of friends, and therefor make the ranks more personal.

Diegetic Aspects

High Score Lists are typically presented outside the gameplay and game world. This does not imply that they cannot be accessible during gameplay since they can be presented in a different section of the game interface or be accessible through Option Interfaces. There are however some example of how to place High Score Lists within the game world. The use of Ghosts in racing games such as Gran Turismo 3 can be seen as a form of High Score Lists that allows players to judge their progress against other performances, as well as their own individual performances, in previous game sessions while playing the game. Another example can be found in the Facebook version of the game Icy Tower, where the highest level a players' friends have reached is indicated by placing the friends Avatars on that level in the player's game.


High Score Lists create Meta Games out of the game by using Trans-Game Information which allows players to have Player Defined Goals such as to beating their own previous score or that of a friend. This is a simply way of encouraging Game Mastery and providing goals to Unwinnable Games. Doing so adds Replayability to the game, as the players have the additional goal of simply performing slightly better than in the previous game sessions. High Score Lists also introduce Competition to otherwise Single-Player Games and are also a way for players to compare and display their Social Statuses.



Player Defined Goals, Meta Games, Replayability, Trans-Game Information, Social Statuses, Tied Results


Unwinnable Games

Instantiated By

Modulated By

Tiebreakers, Single-Player Games

Potentially Conflicting With


An rewrite of the original pattern named High Score Lists in the book 'Patterns in Game Design' (Björk & Holopainen, 2004).


Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.

Icy Tower Facebook game

Official Steam homepage

Wikipedia entry on Steam

Wikipedia entry on Xbox Live

Official Xbox Live homepage