Why Are Scores in Video Games Mega Huge?

By Xah Lee. Date:

Have you ever noticed that the score in games are usually bizarrely huge?

Instead of one to a hundred, it's usually millions and billions.

This is so in pinball games, video games, online games. They are not just huge, but grows exponentially. A rookie would start with thousands, a average player gets millions, while a expert has a score of gazillions.

bejeweled flame gem explode
Pinball and Bejeweled.

From a mathematician's mind, the scoring system should be a accurate indication of your skill in the game, and linear too. If you plot the scores from beginners to expert players, it should look like a straight line going uphill. So, you'd think, that game designers, who are usually nerdy engineering types, would strive for such a perfect design of scoring system.

So, why are video game scores this bloated 9 or 10 digits figures?

Answer: $money$.

You see, it's from the psychology of human animals. You feel much better when your score is 1000 instead of 100. And when you hit jackpot or executed a skilled maneuver, weird elation sprung forth when you see your number skyrocket with wild sound effects. Ding Ding Ding, YOU won mega million points! Therefore, the starting point is 1000, not 1, and award points are in terms of the mega or giga or 2x 3x instead of a reasonable fixed amount.

But what does $money$ have to do with this?

You see, game makers, from large to small, for the most part, are commercial endeavors and enterprises. They learned, when the scoring system contributes to pleasure, people put more money in.

I then wondered, why don't these idiotic scores use astronomical numbers then? Say, start with 1000000000, and experts have scores like 1000000000000000000000. A short reflection shows that, of course, when the numbers gets incomprehensible, it lost its effect. It has to be in the range of millions and billions, no larger.