Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Important? Yes. Most Important? Not Really.

(or: This One Goes to Eleven)

Some smart and important people in the field of gaming have created a list of the ten most important video games of all time. Some of the list is in fact important, but others are kind of odd. Here's the list in no particular order;

  • Spacewar!
  • Star Raiders
  • Zork
  • Tetris
  • SimCity
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Civilization I/II
  • Doom
  • Warcraft Series
  • Sensible World of Soccer

There is no real contention with the first two titles on the list; Spacewar! is without a doubt the most important video game of all time. Forget Pong, forget Asteroids, Spacewar! was the first video game ever and everything else followed. Star Raiders isn't a game I have personally played, but I think it has its place as the progenitor of just about every 3D space combat game.

It's the third spot where I start to have problems with the list. I have no problem with Zork as an important game, but not as one of the most important games. Zork does represent the origins of modern adventure games, but it doesn't hold this distinction on its own. Roberta Williams' Mystery House was developed at about the same time and included graphics, an adventure game first. Zork and Mystery House both were inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure, the first adventure game.

Tetris. I can't argue with Tetris. I don't even want to argue with Tetris.

SimCity is another one of those games I don't have a problem with. There's a logical progression from SimCity to other "god" games and even further genres.

Christopher Grant cites Super Mario Bros. 3 as being important for its nonlinear play and ability to move backwards. That's all well and good, but Metroid allows players to move backwards and is equally nonlinear, as is Zelda. The question is whether or not the non-linearity of a game is sufficent to warrant an addition to the list. Mario 3 was hardly a masterpiece of nonlinear gaming as it only really allowed the player to decide which levels to skip, either via a warp whistsle (much like the warp zones in the origional Super Mario Bros.) or through different paths that often only eschewed optional levels. Non-linearity is not as important as Grant would have us believe. With that I submit that as a system seller and innovative game, the original Super Mario Bros. fits the list better.

I'll allow a Civilization game on the list, but only one Civ game. That game is Civilization II. The original Civ was a great game, but Civ II solidified the genre and paved the way for Alpha Centauri and Europa Universalis.

I'm almost sick of seeing Doom on these kinds of lists. Doom is important because of the inclusion of deathmatch, but that didn't really play out until both Quake and increased Internet connectivity. The honor here should instead go to Wolfenstein 3D as first great first person shooter.

I'm not sure why Warcraft gets to enter the list as a series. Is it to include World of Warcraft? WoW is an important game as far as MMOs go, but in gaming as a whole it is too early to tell if it is one of the most important games. The first Warcraft is, however, an important game since it strengthened the real-time strategy genre and began the series that has carried Blizzard to this day.

I haven't played Sensible World of Soccer but I get the sense that the game was somewhat buggy and required a patch a year later. In the same year as the patch Sensible World of Soccer 95-96 was released and is described as the game the developers wanted to release. The Sensible Soccer series followed a formula that is similar to the Madden series where successive versions included minor tweaks and roster updates. The American in me wants to throw out soccer in favor of a "real" football game; Tecmo Super Bowl the first game to license all of the NFL teams, and a game that in terms of game play still stands the test of time. The hardcore gamer in me wants to eschew sports games all together and include an RPG instead; Rogue the granddaddy of them all. Ah hell, we'll just expand the list to eleven.

After all of that here is my new and improved list;

  • Spacewar!
  • Star Raiders
  • Colossal Cave Adventure
  • Tetris
  • SimCity
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Civilization II
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
  • Tecmo Super Bowl
  • Rogue

If anything it is clear that ten is not enough. Ten a year maybe, but ten most important period? Fat chance.

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