Twin Galaxies, paying for the privilege

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If you’re the sort of gamer that likes recognition for his achievements, then you know all too well about Twin Galaxies, the “official” scorekeeper for all video games. If you’ve never been to the Twin Galaxies web site or really understand how it works, you’ve maybe seen the wonderful film King of Kong which highlights some of the antics involved to not only get a high score but to get it recognized. Despite what the film portrays, my own experience with Twin Galaxies was easy, painless and free…however that was then and this is now.

Several years ago I successfully captured two video game world records. I had the high score records for Urban Champion and Robocop, both their NES versions. While the achievements were little more than a novelty that didn’t take much effort, it was nonetheless pretty awesome to see my name on the TG web site amongst all the other greats…and it hurt even more when I was bumped off.

The process of getting my scores recorded was simple. I just recorded the game as I played, filled out a form on the TG web site and sent a DVD to a regional judge. Easy and free outside of the cost of postage. I would check the site every week or so to see if my score had made it and eventually that dream came true. I do regret not getting some sort of official certificate that I was #1 in the world (that was extra) but (I assume) my name will remain on record as long as the internet manages to keep up. So while it was easy for me to get my childhood dreams realized, it seems Twin Galaxies is making that a little more difficult now.

Paying the piper

My world records were submitted back in 2009 and 2010, and after I got in for Robocop and Urban Champion I kind of gave up on getting any more. I didn’t pay much attention to TG after that and just assumed things were hunky dory. Well, it seems Twin Galaxies was sold in late 2012 and underwent a few changes. One of the outcomes was a much better web site. The old TG site looked horrible and functioned even worse, it was just bad. But along with a new coat of paint comes new rules to get recognized. Now you have to pay.

What was a free service to get your game score reviewed and approved now costs a little extra, and the price depends on what type of score you’re going after. If you want a quick score reviewed, meaning it took less than 2-hours to achieve, then the fee is $25. Up to 6-hours costs you $60, and if you have a marathon score then you’re looking at $75. But here’s the kicker, just because you pay doesn’t mean your score will get accepted and approved. The price is what they’re now asking to just look at your video.

I understand that TG is a business and that takes resources but charging people just to get a chance to be recognized just can’t help but feel like a sham. While the previous process was long and handled by volunteers, all you had to do was wait and you would eventually get on the leaderboard. By charging gamers you’re now limiting the population before you even get started…it’s like going to college. Those who can afford it will go, those who can’t just won’t bother.

I can tell you that if it would have cost me $25 to get my NES scores reviewed I wouldn’t have bothered. I might be the best in the world but that should be dependent on my gaming skills, not whether I have $75 to get on some list. You know the Hollywood Walk of Fame where actors get their stars on the sidewalk? When I was younger I always thought those were given out to actors that were good…that had earned it, but it turns out they have to pay for it. So any actor that has $25,000 and wants a star can get one, whether society (or some other organization) thinks they’re good or not. It just cheapens the whole thing and thus renders such an accolade pointless. Getting recognized with an award of achievement to be due to passion and commitment, not your ability to pony-up cash.

The old Twin Galaxies might of had its share of problems but at least they had almost no barrier of entry. Most of the people submitting scores were probably like me, just trying to do something fun and see their name at the top. There’s no drama. There’s no cheating. We’re not the King of Kong trying to weasel our way to outdo some cherished, sacred high score. Don’t punish the class for something a few clowns did in the past. There’s other ways to make money, especially when you consider the long term impact this type of thing can make.

But, I guess if you really want to see your name at the top of the Twin Galaxies scoreboard, by all means, play until your fingers bleed and pay your entry fee. You’ll see your name at the top and you can cheer but just know that there’s someone out there that is better than you but isn’t stupid enough to pay $25 for the honor.

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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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