and some video game
s in which score
s gradually increase
from one game to the next over time.
The earliest pinball games scored in units of 1 and a few hundred was a good score, but
later games multiplied these by one or more factors of 10, such that all scores ended
in one or more zeroes. On these games with mechanical scoring wheels, the zeroes
were often fixed wheels that didn't have any mechanism for turning them.
In the electronic age, score inflation reached astronomical levels. Early electronic
games showed 6-digit scores, but since it was often possible to roll these games
(making the score roll over from the maximum to zero), a seventh digit was later added.
Later, scores increased to make that 7th digit get used more and more often, making it
more and more likely that players could roll these games. Comet bragged at having the
first million-point shot. Later million-point shots became common, and the high scores
on these games were often "all nines" to indicate a rollover. The difference between
this and the earlier mechanical score inflation is that there was no need to add the
zeroes to all awards, so there would still be things that scored in the tens of points; a
single fixed zero at the end of the score somehow became a tradition that almost all
modern pinball games follow.
Williams made some games around 1989-1990 with two 16-digit alphanumeric displays
instead of the 4 7-digit numeric displays formerly used. These displays have
diagonal LED elements, and the games could display scores of ten million and above,
blanking out other players scores if necessary.
Most significantly, though, the games also had enhanced computer power to drive
the displays, and they started using the score displays to print messages
during the game, blanking out all other players' scores in a multi-player game, or even
covering the current player's score briefly, for special displays. One game,
The Machine: Bride of Pinbot, offered a billion point bonus award, but this was
treated as a special thing, and there were separate high score lists for billion and
non-billion games. However, at the time, this was an isolated event, and the other score
inflation was limited to single awards as high as 20 million (Bad Cats).
Soon, dot matrix displays replaced the alphanumeric ones, and score inflation went on a
quickly spiraling path. 9-digit scores including multiple 8-digit bonus awards became
the norm, and 10-digit scores were possible. This increased even further such that
10-digit scores became the norm, with 9-digit bonus awards and even some billion point
awards, while scores with 11 or even 12 digits were possible.
At this point, pinball manufacturers realized these scores were stretching the limits
of players to have any clue how good they were doing, so there was a backlash in which
games returned to 7 and 8-digit scores being typical, but more score inflation