Mitchell Chapman: Gaming world records lose luster

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PITTSFIELD — Ever want a world record? With prestige, potential brand deals, and fame, a world record can come with much allure. Since 1955, Guinness and its famous book of world records has been the leading authority on general world records and since 1981, Twin Galaxies has been the authority on video game world records. Think high scores, fastest time completing a certain game, as well as specialized records tailored for certain games. If the video game record is worthy of existing — and even if its not — chances are it's on twingalalaxies.com.

It crowned the "King of Kong," Billy Mitchell, the former highest-scoring player in the world at "Donkey Kong" and the subject of a 2007 documentary that launched his fame into the stratosphere, and it uncrowned him when it was found that he did not use an authentic original game cabinet to achieve his score. And it's been partnered with Guinness since 2015, with its high scores appearing in the yearly "Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition" long before that.

TWO USELESS RECORDS

Its also perhaps the easiest place to get an official, Guinness-approved world record, speaking as someone who holds two useless world records through Twin Galaxies, mostly because of the sheer number of them. To put this into perspective, Guinness has roughly 400,000 world records in its database, about 4,000 of which make it into its annual print publication, and Twin Galaxies has the potential to far exceed it, as the Apple App store alone offered 811,911 gaming apps in 2018, according to Statista, and each one of those games might have multiple records, with "Angry Birds" having the most records of any game on the site, sitting with over 20,000 different world records.

Pre-order culture and the rise of game companies selling multiple special editions of the same game on the same platform have made gaming world records even more complicated, as it has opened room for multiple different versions of the same record. And gaming world records were already complicated enough to navigate, as since the 1980s, the industry has experienced a technological revolution and a creative renaissance, with the number of major home consoles increasing from the lonely Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, to today's three-way competition between the Nintendo Switch, XBox One and the PlayStation 4. Since then, handhelds like the Nintendo 3DS and PC Gaming have also entered the mix as serious places to play games. Take into account that the number of games per platform has increased from hundreds to thousands of titles (the Nintendo Entertainment System had a library of 680 games compared to the XBox One's still-growing library of nearly 2,000 games) and all these factors contribute to the same overarching trend in gaming world records: inundation.

It is not uncommon for people to hold hundreds or even thousands of Twin Galaxies world records, which are by an extension of their partnership with Guinness, Guinness world records. It must also be said that Guinness has experienced natural inundation of its own in the last two decades, as the internet has broken down barriers of access and has connected many that otherwise might not have been able to submit world record attempts.

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Guinness is also a company that needs to sell world record books to stay afloat. In fact, Guinness makes about 70 percent of its revenue from publishing and other media, according to The Guardian. This is why Guinness has seen the need to add the obscure and weird world records that have dominated its publications in recent years — because in a connected, globalized world, very few world records are special anymore, and even if they are, readers might have already heard of them through news outlets by the time the yearly book comes out. In 2019, Guinness's book of world records is essentially a book full of old news, and to keep people coming back to print, they need to find ways to keep it interesting.

IT'S STILL COOL

This is also why they saw the need to partner with Twin Galaxies, and why Guinness has published a gaming edition of their world records book: to keep things interesting in order to keep people coming back, while diversifying their revenue streams and giving credence to a particular subsection of the world records scene. And while it can be said that Twin Galaxies by association has watered down the value world records have, its partnership with Guinness has also inspired a new era of quality control to the Twin Galaxies database and have empowered a new generation of gamers to reach for the stars.

The diminishing returns of gaming world records and world records in general was inevitable, as the world population increased with the number of possible records, but all that doesn't mean they're still not cool to get. If you earn one, you can still get a certificate saying that you're the best at the world at something. It just means that, with some digging, just about anyone else can get a world record, too.

Through inundation has sprung inclusivity, though in the arena of world records, adversity is welcome as it adds value to the records earned. Without it, world records lack any sense of worth or accomplishment.

Mitchell Chapman is a page designer/copy editor at The Eagle and a freelance writer.


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