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In with a bullet at number 57: Outcast

PC Gamer have lobbed their annual Top 100 Games EVER online and… no, don’t groan, at least too much. PC Gamer have been doing this Top 100 every year for over a decade, before the actual list-malaise took over our whole society (Personally, I want to do an article which lists the Top 100 Top 100s ever). Since it’s actually a yearly event, it tends to stress different things than most one-offs Top 100s – basically, the ebbing affections of the writers staff. If you want a picture of where PC Gamer’s head are at circa 2006, it’s a fascinating picture.

Avuncular editor Ross Atherton explains it so…

“At this meeting we will devise a list of the Top 100 Games 2007, and its order. This list is to reflect the games we love, games which we would gladly play today. Argue for the inclusion of your babies – not at the expense of other games, but in support of your favourites, telling us why. Whether released in 2007 or 1987, if you love it and honestly want to play it right now, its inclusion is valid.”

100-51 is here while you’ll find 50-1 here. All four of RPS were involved in the process, which involved a delightful afternoon sitting around, talking games and shouting “PEGGLE!” far too often. I won’t spoil the results for you, but suffice to say you’ll disagree with most of it, which is how it should be. A good list is meant to be the start of a debate, not the end of one.

Which brings me to Edge’s Top 100 which, by those criteria, is a pretty good list. More under the cut, including gleeful bitchery.

Oooh, shiny. 5th colour treatment. Embossing. Velcro. Straps. Probably.

As you can see, like everything connected to Edge, it’s a handsome volume. Inside, it’s lavishly designed. It’s got 100 short essays written by some of the smarter minds in games journalism on each of the entrants (Meer, Walker and Rossignol all did some). It’s the sort of thing which you can leave lying on your coffee table or sitting in your toilet, and people will read and be entertained. There’s certainly nothing actually wrong with any of the games in it – all of them, certainly, will be someone’s favourite game.

Two things throw me about it, and second of which actually influenced my thinking in terms of wanting to do Rock Paper Shotgun. The first is just how the list was comprised. There was a mass vote of Edge readers, which were compiled and the Top 100 games selected. Then, that Top 100 was taken, and then – basically – arranged by Edge’s staff to create a list (See here for a better explanation of their methodology, plus an option to order one. It is a nice object. I wish I owned one.). Now, that strikes me as absolutely the worst of both worlds. A public vote, will lean towards the most famous games, has the simple strength of being a genuinely democratic reflection of what people like. A group of self-professed Experts deciding a list has no claim to public representation, but has the strength of honesty and an ability to catch stuff which fell through the caps in Advanced Capitalism.

To merge both removes the merits of both. You have a list of all the obvious games, and then have them arranged according to the tastes and prejudices of a tiny group of people.

Its top 10 ended up looking like this:

1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
2. Resident Evil 4
3. Super Mario 64
4. Half Life 2
5. Super Mario World
6. Zelda: A Link to the Past
7. Halo: Combat Evolved
8. Final Fantasy XII
9. Tetris
10. Super Metroid

For the rest, see here.

It’s a Top 10 which, at least to my reading of Edge’s accepted wisdom, they’d tend to gravitate towards. That is, heavily Nintendo centric. One PC game (They’re not talking about the Halo or Res Evil 4 ports, I suspect). One Playstation Game (Ditto for the Res 4, I suspect). 8 Nintendo games. Edge would argue that they’re not biased towards Nintendo games – it’s just that, in terms of classical game design, Nintendo’s really are the best. In the same way that Beatles albums clog up the top 10 of best album charts, Miyamoto games will dominate games’ equivalents. It’s obvious.

(And, no, not all the Nintendo games in the Top 10 were Miyamoto ones or even first-party games. Roll with me, people)

Except, I’m not convinced. Increasingly so. In fact, the telescoping-objective-structure and clockwork-perfect design mechanisms he (and his followers) fills his games with has never moved me, except on an intellectual level. The precision seemed a lie. That I find his fiction-wrappers around the mechanics plain banal doesn’t help, of course, but I suspect it’s more than me. As classically elegant as they are, that classical Nintendo-structure hasn’t really been what’s excited gamers for a generation.

(As opposed to the modern Wii/DS-populism approach)

PC gamers have a bit of a reputation for having a persecution complex. I used to agree, but I’m increasingly suspecting that it isn’t complex at all. They just are being persecuted, until it becomes time to rip them off and rejuvenate other games. Halo’s polish is beautiful and certain design choices elegant beyond belief, but let’s not pretend in terms of content it was anything other than a remix of the previous 5 years progression in the PC shooting genre. Online shooters were a naturally progression when consoles went online, but its infrastructure still rests upon the stuff the PC designers learned. Most obviously, GTA’s popularization of freeform cities absolutely rests upon the accepting of randomness in games – and passing imperfections that always leads to – which has always been central to PC gaming and never had a place in Miyamoto’s worlds.

Except – rather than being repulsed – people seem to like it, and would rather embrace the freedom than lose themselves in Miyamoto’s sterile untouchable landscapes. Rockstar North, fundamentally, don’t know what you’re going to do. Miyamoto does, as there’s one solution and he constructed it.

And, frankly, it’s starting to bore me stiff. That Edge is still arguing that side, failing to realise it’s already lost the battle and the ideas which I loved in PC gaming for all my life have pretty much won, makes me a little sad. Not that there’s anything wrong with them liking what they do – but, as Edge’s position as the industry’s mirror, by doing so it shows that – as a community – their journalists simply aren’t rising to the challenges of the modern world.

Or, in short, perfection is too small a thing for games and there’s nothing intellectually bereft about arguing (say) X-COM is a greater game than Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

And now, off to play Bioshock.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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