Above: Paging Matthew Gallant.
After my first session with Geometry Wars 2*, I was astonished to find that I'd taken over the top spots on all six leaderboards. Maybe, I thought, I had some preternatural ability at this game. At long last, I'd found the one thing I was put on this earth to do -- the one thing I could do so well, I could rightly call myself the baddest man alive.
I probably don't need to mention that, at the time, only two people on my friends list were actually playing GW2. And, no, I didn't really think I was some sort of top-down shooting savant. The lack of competition suited me just fine. When I mentioned, both on Twitter and on a message board, that I was perched comfortably atop my leaderboards, naturally I ignited some competitive fires and received several friend requests. In short order, I'd been put in my rightful place.
Now, one of the fun things about Geometry Wars 2 is that your score seems to increase exponentially as you pick up multipliers. Destroying any given enemy is worth more points the deeper you progress into a game. As more and more foes show up, the faster your score ratchets up. It takes about as long to go from 0 to 100,000 points as it does to get from there to 1,000,000.
Even so -- I cannot freaking believe these scores. People are insane.
My top score in Evolved mode, which is the classic style, is a shade over 9,000,000. As of my last session, the number-one player on my leaderboards had clocked a cool 33,000,000. That was on Friday. I expect to see 9 digits when I log on later tonight, now that people have had a whole weekend to grind me into pulp beneath their shoes.
I had still been pretty competitive in Pacifism mode, with over 14,000,000 points. According to commenters on a related MTV Multiplayer post, at least one videogame Chuck Yeager has already broken 1,000,000,000 points. If your eyes glaze over at the sight of so many zeroes, as mine do, that's a billion.
Here's the surprising thing: this is killing me. I really enjoyed occupying the top spot of a randomly selected subset of geometric warriors. It was easy enough to ignore the little numbers indicating my place in the entire Geometry Wars hierarchy, as long as the large-print friends list looked so tasty. Now? My fallibility has been confirmed.
I have long insisted that high scores and head-to-head gameplay don't interest me. I'm a tourist. I play games to participate in a narrative, to travel through new worlds and partake in innovative interactive experiences. High scores are a relic of a bygone era.
I'll just admit it now: I say those things because I'm not very good at video games. Or, at least, the gulf in ability between me and the best players is so vast as to be untraversable. Usually, I like to think I'm at peace with this. It shouldn't affect my enjoyment of a game. The strange thing is that in this case, it's making it more fun. Geometry Wars 2 would probably be a blast on its own, to some degree, but the emphasis on competing high scores is what makes it impossible to put down, even for a hopeless case like me. I don't expect I'll get the top spots back any time soon -- okay, or ever -- but I'll be damned if I don't claw my way up at least a little bit.
Or I could delete everyone off my friends list, buy a big foam finger, and parade around shouting "I'm number 1!" But what use is it if no one can see?
*Can we clear this up? Is it Geometry Wars 2 Retro Evolved, or is it Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2? Or can we just call it Geometry Wars 2 and leave it at that?