Data Visualization with LeaderboardsLeaderboards are a visualization of achievement. Their goal is to make comparisons between some player (or item's) ranks. Typically this is a comparison of you against other players, but leaderboards do not require comparisons against others. Single player games, for instance, often will list your current score compared against your previous scores. Whether you compare yourself against yourself or against others, you're doing fundementally the same task - measuring progress. This is a broad statement because implementations of leaderboards can be found not just in arcades, not just in single or multiplayer games, but also in non-games. Reddit.com is a great example of a leaderboard in a non-game context (in other words, gamification). Each post is upvoted, or downvoted into oblivion, and each vote will cause its position on the 'leaderboad' (i.e,. the site) to change. Reddit is a social leaderboard for content. Even if you never post something yourself, you can still affect a post's position.
Leaderboard EffectsLeaderboards serve many purposes, but three powerful ones are:
- Measuring Progress / Achievement: Leaderboards provides a way to visualize your skill progression. As you become a better player, you get higher scores, and you're able to compare it with past performances.
- Status: Many players are motivated to keep playing and improving because seeing your name on a leaderboard provides status. Most players feel pretty good when they see they're better than a bunch of other players.
- Providing a sense of what's possible: In a global, absolute leaderboard, the highest score gives you a sense of what's possible. If you know the best player has 300,000 points and you're 'stuck' at 200,000, you will know it's at least possible to increase your skill to reach that higher score. The caveat here is that if the leaderboard displays cheaters (like pretty much every iOS game center leaderboard I've seen), you completely lose this benefit - and this goes from being a positive to a negative. If the highest score is outside of the realm of possibility, or *everyone* has it, then it's not a realistic measure of potential skill.