Paul Barnett’s Two Top Ten Games. And Mine Too.

He does rant a bit, bless him.

Barnett’s been on about this to me, and has taken it to the wider world in his regular-youtube-talkyisms. He’s been debating the idea of canon – as in games everyone should know about/play – with his peers. And this is causing him all sorts of issues, regarding the nature of those recommendations. And… oh, I’ll let him explain it:

To paraphrase for those who don’t want to watch video… well, his problem with creating a list was that it felt that it could become navel-gazing nonsense a bit too easily. Just obscure references for the sake of showing off – which, I suspect, he’s right, and mine certianly will be. To work his way around the conundrum, he’s made two lists. The first is 10 historicaly significant games. You don’t have to go off and play them, but you should know why they changed everything. Secondly, ten games you should be playing right now. As in, what’s neat and nifty and should be fucked around with this month and totally ripped off – in other words, while some are great, others really should just be experienced to think about. This is a list for designers, remember.

Guitar Hero
The Sims
Resident Evil
Brain Age
Wii Sports

(For this listPaul’s implicitly taking the “If it didn’t actually shake people up, it didn’t change anything position. As in, the first RTS being Herzog Zwei is a lovely answer in a trivia quiz, but it doesn’t matter for something like this. It requires to be influential or popular or both. Herzog Zwei was none of them, so fails. Similarly, Doom over Wolfenstein – sure, Wolfenstein was a success. Doom was WORLD CHANGING.

He’s also taking series as a whole in some cases. Which is madness, frankly. Paul!)

And here’s his list of what he think is worth playing today…

World of Goo
Mirrror’s Edge
Rock Band 2
Metal Gear Solid 4
Street Fighter IV
Gears of War 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Left 4 Dead
Chrono trigger (On the DS)
Fallout 3

Which he admits has a play-by date of… well, pretty much immediately. That’s the point. This is transistory. The former list is canon. The latter list is pop. Both are important.

And here’s mine. Off the top of my head.

Little Wars: Yeah, I’m already trying to cheat, but I’d argue this is anti-navel gazing. At no point did Mr Barnett say “videogame”, and re-integrating and re-examining into the bigger picture is important. Little Wars was the first set of wargame rules actually published. They were published by HG Wells. Perhaps in a real way, it’s the beginning of the modern games industry. Look at the full title: “Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books.” The implication being, adults can play this shit. And if more designers considered themselves explicitly in a line which starts with someone of HG Wells’ stature, it’ll probably be good for their self-image.

Dungeons & Dragons: I’d personally put aside the whole mechanic/setting/world-building stuff, as clearly influential as it was. What’s important about D&D is that it popularised the idea of a non-competitive game, where one participant wasn’t actually trying to win. Because if it wanted to win, it’d be able to win automatically. The DM and the computer/designer are fundamentally identical in a philosophical basis – they have all the power. They’re trying to do something else than just win – they’re trying to create a matrix of choices which entertain. This was new. And this is what most single-player (and a co-operative) videogames are structured around.

Doom: Yeah, Barnett’s right here. Supercharging the shareware model, and re-inventing the idea of people being able to just code and game and become hyper-rich relatively overnight.

Half-life: I’d disagree with Paul – it invented just as much as Goldeneye, just in different places. Its radical first-person-only-or-death approach was enormously influential. When I was in FEAR 2 presentations, and they were talking about how they decided that going FP-only was the brave new approach for them, it was one of the moments which made me dread playing a game that was fully 10 years behind the cutting edge of thought in the genre. People are *still* catching up with Half-life. It was quite the thing.

Desktop Tower Defence: I was at Develop last year, when the designer and developer of DTD told people how much money he made from doing this. You could see the entire room of work-jaded devs suddenly wonder whether they could make a crack at doing similar. If you want a counter-point

Singstar: I’d go for this over Guitar Hero, just to have a different choice than Paul’s. Seeing why Singstar worked so brilliantly in the UK market compared to previous games of the ilk is something that’s well worth considering. It remains the first social game that actually operated.

World of Warcraft: You don’t even need to like it. I’m tempted to make it a dual one – as “Play EQ and then play WoW” and work out why, despite being so similar games, one is so much more populist. Maybe EQ2 to make it fairer. Shame you can’t re-set it so it was the game they played on launch.

Robotron: Or ROBOMOTHERFUCKINGTRON! as it’s known around my way. To paraphrase Larkin, to some, it says nothing. To others, it leaves nothing to be said.

Planescape: Torment: It changed nothing. Even Chris Avellone in interviews seems to back away from the game, implying that it’s approach was deeply misjudged – even wrong. How can something this right be wrong?

Wii-Sports: You know, back when Edge were starting they used to talk about Killer-apps a lot. Something that sells systems, by force of its own existence. More than any other game in recent times, Wii Sports was one. That it was completely unlike a killer-app most trad-designers would ever think of says much.


Blush: Both for the game, the fact they did it in two months and they plan to do another five. Think about that model. It sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Tabula Rasa: You can’t. Which is a point really worth thinking about.

Bow Street Runner: I hadn’t played this flash-adventure online until recently, because I’m doing some work for the developer… but Christ! It’s the sort of thing which makes you rethink what these sort of flash-games can be, and what part they can play in the future of the medium. (The re-invention of the adventure for a new audience – here and on the Wii – is another trend worth playing around with).

Empire Total War: Some designers think less is more. Sometimes it is. What about when more is more?

Spelunky: Could this approach profit your game? It couldn’t hurt considering it…

Triangle Wizard: And another one.

Halo Wars: Entertaining console-take on the RTS, worth thinking about in terms of design and stuff but – really – the big thing for designers? Play it and realise that no matter how many critically-adored multimillion selling games you make, it may not make a shred of difference.

Dawn of War 2 A useful case-study of a developer responding to what they think are the signs of the time. Compare and contrast to the Company of Heroes. Compare and contrast the single to multiplayer – and can you think of a game whose SP and MP are as divorced from one another as they are here.

Far Cry 2: Perhaps you can file this next to DoW2. How much can a sequel alter from a prequel without alienating people? How did the really quite radical approach of Far Cry 2 actually work out? Do you like shooting Zebra?

Space Giraffe: Does the whole SFX-lead approach thing work? Or rather, does it actually matter. Play it on both FULL ON mode and more gentile one to see how that differs. And as a thought-game, what would you change about it?

And… that’ll do for now. If I start thinking too hard, I’ll be here all day. Lists break me, because I don’t really believe in them. They’re just a sampling, y’know?

And you know where this going now: what about you? What do you think should be the canon for designers? And what do you think they SHOULD play?


  1. ImperialCreed says:

    You made reference to Herzog Zwei, but I was really shocked that Barnett didn’t put Dune 2 on his list. It was the first definitive RTS game and was wildly popular. It created the genre for heavens sake and the formula it laid down has been iterated over what must be nearly two decades. In terms of historical significance I’d rate it higher than Starfox, for example.

  2. Meat Circus says:

    I’m disappointingly unsurprised at the pedestrian nature of Mr Barnett’s list.

  3. Still annoyed says:

    “As in, the first RTS being Herzog Zwei” – it wasn’t, though. There were several real-time strategy games before that. But of course, they were mostly made in Britain/Europe, so they don’t count.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, the pre-history of the RTS is something that interests me too. But when people say “RTS” they’re talking about certain genre conventions – and Herzog had the majority of them, apparently. I’ve tried, and can’t get anything which does.

    Not that it takes anything away from them, of course.


  5. Meat Circus says:

    Also, to reiterate, the RPS Forum Hivemind done this first, and we clearly done this better.

    link to

    So squish.

  6. cHeal says:

    I think the wii Fit was a far greater killer app than wii sports tbh. It was what finally convinced me to get a wii. It’s one of those pieces of software which just works.

  7. GibletHead2000 says:

    I’m tempted to say Elite of course, but only because it changed *my* expectations for gaming. I don’t think it actually had that much effect on the rest of the population, hardcore enthusiasts aside, as evidenced by the fact that the best game that involves flying a spaceship was released 10 years ago now.

  8. Heliocentric says:

    A canon list of 10 games is never enough, a pop list of as many as 10 has probably too large and not really honest, what do you really play on a daily basis? I have 20 games I’ll never uninstall and will play for a few hours every month. But these games are canon that are simply still playable.

    What are the games that you hurry home to play and wonder what to do next time you play?

    My pop:
    If you are making an RTS the canon is massive, mostly to learn what not to do. Coh teaches you little because it lacks those elements, contrast Coh with the others.

    I fear that stealth games will following assassins creed and metal gear solid 4, when splinter cell chaos theory has already got it fight.

    For Driving games play Grid, and then add a rewind feature to your game… But make it longer than Grid’s.

    For strategic-action play both Natural selection and Project reality, both differ and contrast but together they offer worlds with meaningful choices.

    For mmo, play games that are not MMO’s, Lego star wars as a starting point, you can work together with friends, get rapid rewards but all players are equal and no bloody grinding.

    For anything, play everything, seriously go download every demo you on filefront. Forget reviews just go play things, reviews tell you how to spend money and time, not how to create art.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    “10 has probably too large and not really honest, what do you really play on a daily basis? ”

    That’s not what the list is about. It’s not about what you’re playing on a daily basis. It’s what you’re recommending to fellow creative directors that they should play right now. This is a different question.


  10. Heliocentric says:

    If you don’t desire to play it. Then its a false recommendation in my mind. Stuff like that is canon to me, relics no matter the age.

  11. ImperialCreed says:

    I’ll do the obvious thing and suggest Deus Ex.

    It’s utterly brilliant, but no developer since has really taken the strong ideas within it and run with them. That’s a big problem for something I’d want to call canon, because at least with other games you could reasonably mention its clear that they’ve been learned from, or copied, or just ripped off. The influence of something like Dune 2 is readily apparent, but it’s hard to see what Deus Ex did outside of itself. No one seems to have learned from it.

    Gillen mentions the Fear 2 devs harping on about how committed they were to first person, as if it was the new hip thing. If we’re only now really catching up with Half-Life, how long are we going to have to wait until someone has a proper go at doing another Deus Ex? (The prequel might, who knows.)

  12. Heliocentric says:

    What i mean is, i understand what you are saying, and i disagree. Or maybe its your pop list, to alien to my tastes and thus seeming to educate in a way i don’t agree with.

    Unless you are holding these titles to be observed for their failings as much as their success but then… almost anything qualifies.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Helio: Whatabout something I’ve played which I’ve no sedire to play any more? I mean, I haven’t replayed Portal. You haven’t? You should totally play it. Is that a false recommendation?

    The latter list is “Stuff you guys should play – I played recently, and think you’d get ideas from it”. The former is “Here are games that you should know about and why they’re important”.


  14. Cunzy1 1 says:

    Starfox seems like a weird choice. Umm that’s it.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    Okay… I’m too focus on the progressive experience(multiplayer sandbox etc). I avoided finishing stalker just so i could get backed into a shed by a pack of wild dogs preying they’d go away.

    But… I played portal about 5 times, and map packs (mostly terrible)

    I find a beautiful ugliness in the soviet bloc games and other development niches which get so much “wrong” but if they were using world of warcraft, halo or something as a modern contrast they would never have made what they did.

    I think that as long as you are saying to the developers “look at these games they are important, but please god… don’t remake it it exists!”

  16. Anthony Damiani says:

    It’s not a terrible list– but it is pretty Nintendo-focused.
    Pokemon, WII sports, Starfox, Golden-Eye, Brain Age, Zelda. These were all Nintendo console-exclusives, right?
    The Sims and Doom were PC titles. If I’m right, only Guitar Hero and Resident Evil were multiplatform, or available on any of the Playstation or Xbox consoles.

    No RPGs. No platformers. No RTS. No fighting games. No arcade titles. Do some genres need representatives in the canon?

    Honestly, I would expect at least passing familiarity with Space Invaders, Pong and Pac-Man– but they’re so small, it hardly seems right giving any individual one of them them a list slot.

  17. phil says:

    Agreed, Starfox 64 is infinitely better and I seem to recall it was the first home game that vibrated, and by God, few have vibrated better.

    Speaking of Nintendo, it’s strange there’s no love for Mario – in terms of lessons for developers he seems a textbook case of leveraging a popular character into a global brand. In fact I think he IS a textbook case, in Japan at least.

  18. Noc says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about DnD lately, and I think it’s also important for a couple other reasons. Namely because the ways people play it illustrate pretty clearly the myriad of directions people approach games from.

    You’ve got the casual and the hardcore players, who own between zero and fifty of the sourcebooks and who devote a proportionately similar amount of attention to the rules. As far as I believe, the decision of when and when not to invoke rules is unique to tabletop games, and the extent to which a player chooses to deal with them says a lot about how they’re approaching the game.

    You’ve got the sandboxers, the gamers, and metagamers. The sandboxers use the game as an excuse to have fun with the toys they’re given (either in terms of roleplaying an interesting character, or dicking around with the shiny weapons and spells they’re given). The gamers devote their energy to confronting the in-game task at hand; they’re “playing the game,” and trying to succeed at the goals they’ve been given or created for themselves. The meta-gamers, meanwhile, play the numbers game layered over the whole thing; while a sandboxer will pursue a quest because it’s interesting, and a gamer will pursue a quest because it’s a quest, the metagamer pursues the quest because it comes with a loot and XP reward.

    You’ve got the immersive and anti-immersive players, who treat the hypothetical world created by the game with varying levels of respect and seriousness.

    All of these varying axis of player approach come up all the time in other games, as well; you see a lot of this in discussions over design choices, and achievements and unlockables and whatnot. But the way these approaches differ gets really obvious when the players themselves are in full control of how the game runs.

    And that’s just on the player’s end. There’s a whole other side to this, with the Dungeon Mastering and the different philosophies of content creation. The DMs who actively try and kill their players, the ones who tend to let them do what they want, and give them what they’ll have the most fun with; the DMswho build complex, detailed settings and realistically plot how the players’ actions manipulate them, and ones who keep the setting vague and adaptable, and make up on the spot what needs creating to suit the player’s needs. And the DMs who try to craft a heavily narrative, cinematic campaign, versus the ones who let the player’s actions speak for themselves. And on, and on.

    There’s not much that’s really different about DnD, as opposed to other games. But the system of pen and paper and a bunch of folks sitting around a table in someone’s basement, munching on cheetoes while they figure out what’s supposed to be happening, means that a lot of the goings-on of game-player-designer interaction are a lot more transparent than they are in other media.

    And I think that’s really interesting.

  19. Nick says:

    Yeah.. what did Starfox do exactly that was so great? I’m curious..

    Doom was eventually released on multiple platforms as well… even the snes got it.

  20. Schmung says:

    I guess my question is – what did Starfox do better than X-Wing/Tie Fighter? I’ve never played it, so I honestly can’t answer, but I’d be interested to hear what other have to say on the matter.

  21. Ginger Yellow says:

    Another point about Dune II: despite being the first ever modern RTS (shut it, Herzog), it was also eminently playable on console. I spent many, many hours with it on my Megadrive. How did developers forget how to make console RTSes? Not that I really care now I have a PC.

  22. Gap Gen says:

    The question: “What should you give to a non-gamer to play?” was a good question, too – I believe one of the podcasts with Barnett covered that? It’s a fundamentally different question to what the best game is – I love Alpha Centauri, but it’s dense and impenetrable to even someone who’s played Civ. Something like Beyond Good and Evil demonstrates what games *are* and what they *can be* at the same time quite well, while being more accessible than most games. I might be proven wrong, though.

  23. Noc says:

    Schmung: Starfox has absolutely nothing to do with X-Wing/Tie-Fighter, despite the superficial similarity of both involving space ships and lasers.

    Starfox is essentially a side/top-scrolling shmup ported into 3-D. The original is . . . a bit unplayable, to modern eyes (I have tried. It’s awful), so I’m not entirely sure how good it was in the days of yore, when its shiny polygons were new. I’m also not sure if it was the first of its kind, or not. But Starfox 64 was pretty good; I played the hell out of it, when I was a kid.

    X-Wing/Tie-Fighter/X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter were really good too. But I don’t really consider them and Starfox to be in the same genre.

  24. Dick Dastardly says:

    Fun fact: seeing the wonderful Doom (which I’d played at a freind’s house) on shelves for a fiver while I was still used to paying upwards of £15 for Atari ST titles was precisely and absolutely what made me decide to switch to PC Gaming. This was the future, thought I, and it was cheap!

  25. Homunculus says:

    I submit Freespace 2 for the panel’s approval, as instruction to future generations regarding how to unwittingly murder an entire genre in style.

  26. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I really don’t like a lot of those games, although I will admit to having played almost everything mentioned.

    MGS4 is my biggest NO from either of those lists. I found myself going outside for a cigarette and making tea and toast for most of it as it was about 90% cut scenes – I like to watch movies and play games, I did not enjoy this attempt to hybridise the two formats at all.

    MGS on the PS: that I loved.

  27. Matt says:

    I agree on Spelunky. It’s the epoch changing harbinger of the nascent Rougepunk movement. A new wave that everyone either needs to start riding or be left in pitiful game 1.0 obsolescence.

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    I think Roguepunk is starting to amuse me too much not to use.


  29. Taillefer says:

    I think Thief makes an excellent example of design. Not because I want every game to concentrate on stealth, but it’s one of the best demonstrations on how to design and implement your in-game systems: light, sound, AI, etc. to enhance the choice of gameplay. On top of that, of course, you have the atmosphere, interaction, level design, architecture, in-game fluff, style…

    I’ve only played two from each of Paul’s lists, but most of Kieron’s. Therefore, Mr Gillen must have better taste, obviously.

  30. Malgate says:

    @Matt, ahh Spelunky, despite the difficulty I have in getting past a few levels in it I still find it hard to stop playing it. It’s just the combination of short levels, fast play and relentless difficulty that make me so compelled.

    Also @Gapgen, I actually know what game to give a non-gamer. Get them Peggle. It’s the exactly right balance of fun, competitiveness, luck and simple controls that make it accessible to almost everyone. You might think World of Goo was also a good choice, I know for a fact that it isn’t. Nor is any kind of FPS, no matter how simple it might seem.

  31. Tei says:

    Re: “He’s been debating the idea of canon – as in games everyone should know about/play”

    L4D is one, Planetside other… a TCG/MMORTS game like Saga or another one. A “Strategic FPS” like Tremulous or Natural Selection. BF2 on a 64 players server.Desktop Turret Defense

    All the classic… Diablo2, Baldurs2, Doom2, KOTOR,.. IF the guy has not played then before.
    I will not chose any console game, because I don’t know that world, other than God of War, Mario Galaxy, Wii Tennis, and some Atari 2600 games. Good stuff but skypable. Maybe “Tanks” and “God of War” less skipable.

  32. Schmung says:

    Noc : cheers for the clarification – I only ever saw it running on demo machines in shops.

    Kobzon mentions Tetris which I think really can’t be overlooked. It’s instantly accessible and hugely addictive and serves as an excellent introduction to computer games. Lemmings was brought up in the thread on the forums and with good reason IMO.

    I never liked the MGS/Resi games because there always seemed to be this massive obstacle of making the bloke to what you actually wanted him to do. The limitations it places on your interaction with the world always really, really frustrated me and the fact that it made things that should be simple to do very, very fiddly just put me off. I could never quite overcome the prejudice and play them for more than ten minutes, so I may be overlooking something, but to my mind they’re a violation of one of the basics of game design – the controls seem there to hamper your ability to do stuff, not enhance it.

  33. CdrJameson says:

    Settlers of Catan.

  34. Tei says:

    Obviusly M.U.L.E. (that is based on Setttlers of Catan.)

  35. Dave says:

    Singstar over Guitar Hero? Really?

    Maybe the UK is a very different place than America, but I know zero people who have played Singstar, or at least who have ever talked about it. Whereas I know only a handful of people who haven’t played either Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

  36. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dave: It is a UK versus US thing. I probably should have stressed that.


  37. Lu-Tze says:

    @Noc: I think what interests me most about DnD as a reference point for gaming is the asymmetry of the experience from each side. The end goal of the player and the DM can be sympathetic or antagonistic, but the mechanics by which they achieve that goal are utterly different.

    Savage : Battle for Newerth arguably tried to produce this kind of experience (and in for what I can remember it’s the only game that springs to mind that has). If there was any one reason for the failure it’s because unlike a pen and paper RPG, you weren’t in a room with a group of friends, you were being given orders by a 13 year old with aspirations of being Napoleon. You pretty much had to get along for it to work, and it put a lot of onus for the team’s success on one person.

    I think Left4Dead could’ve achieved that if they’d had a further multiplayer mode where someone could be the Director. With some RCON commands, you can kind of get the same effect, but not as much as having a full UI for it would have. Being able to position the Special Infected, deciding when to use your single Tank spawn, where you will stick the witch and so on. A refilling bar for your horde spawns. It could work, and it would be very much a computer game manifestation of the Dungeons and Dragons formula.

    There’s plenty of other cases where you could mash together genres to create interesting co-op/competitive experiences. Imagine Nethack meets Splinter Cell, one person knocking out camera feeds, getting door codes and other such computer wizardry whilst their teammate is pulling some stealth action out of the bag, your only connection your radio and the CCTV feed.

    I’d say it’s not been done because you are, essentially, making two games for the price of one. It’s far from cost effective, and balancing that kind of experience just sounds horrific.

  38. Gap Gen says:

    Malgate: Yeah, I thought of Peggle, but I think the point is partly to explain why games are important. Peggle is accessible and fun, but it doesn’t really advance the medium much. Then again, it depends on what you want to get out of the exercise.

  39. AndrewC says:

    Games being accessible and fun to non-gamers could be seen as a HUGE advancement in the medium.

  40. Noc says:

    Hmm. At the risk of quibbling, I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of DnD being an asymmetrical game. Specifically, I don’t think the roll of the DM is (necessarily) that of a player. Rather, he’s the designer; he’s the one making the game, for the players to play through.

    This sort of asymmetrical game would be really cool, actually. With a group of people getting together to play Baldur’s Gate . . . while the other guy plays Dungeon Keeper. Sort of like Savage, only one team is wholly composed of players, and the commander controls the other side.

    The reason I don’t think DnD is this, though, is that the DM isn’t playing a game. He doesn’t have limits to work within, and isn’t trying to defeat the players; if he wanted to, PC’s are really rather fragile things, and can be done away with in a multitude of gruesome and totally unfair ways. He’s not playing a game. . . he’s trying to design one.

    Whether he designs the game to be brutally and oppressively difficult or cakewalk easy (or if he tries to find that perfect balance of just-difficult-enough to offer a fulfilling challenge) is his perogative . . . but there’s still a bit of difference between designing a game and playing one.

    It’s not out of the question for the DM to give himself a set of rules, and then make a game for himself trying to direct things within them. Or even to give a player the opportunity to do the directing, and play the part of the villain the protagonists efforts are frustrating. The game is open-ended enough that there are tons of ways to fashion interesting asymmetrical gameplay out of it . . . but I don’t quite agree that the DM/player dynamic is that to begin with.

  41. Gap Gen says:

    Well, Spider Solitaire is accessible. It’s not difficult to make simple games accessible. I guess the question is whether or not you view games-as-art as being important or worthy of expounding to non-gamers.

    I guess if nothing else, Peggle is a good starting point for simple game mechanics (in the same way that Snakes & Ladders has no skill element at all but teaches children the basics of board games). Once you’ve nailed someone with that, you could move them on to games like Portal or whatever that require more skills than pointing a mouse in the right direction.

    Of course, someone might disagree and say that Peggle has as much artistic merit as other games, but that’s a separate debate. And I’d disagree that Peggle has as much to teach us about the human condition as Portal, say.

  42. Tei says:

    “Games being accessible and fun to non-gamers could be seen as a HUGE advancement in the medium.”


    An putting a Joystick in cars. I can’t drive a car to save my life. Make me a car that as just 1 button and a direcction joystick.

  43. Tim James says:

    I don’t understand why no one ever mentions Quake or QuakeWorld in these stupid lists. It’s like they remember Doom and then all of a sudden millions of gamers are playing competitive deathmatch over the Internet. Gee, what happened in between that might be a little WORLD CHANGING?

    I suppose it’s somewhat irrelevant for designers right now since the concept is so ubiquitous, so I’ll give him that.

  44. Lu-Tze says:

    @Noc : His goal might be to deliver a great story, to test the players to their limit, but in general it’s to create an enjoyable memorable experience. Sure, they aren’t a traditional “player” but ultimately they have a goal, some game mechanics by which they can achieve it, and they are there to HAVE FUN. And they do this in real time, feeding off the player (not to mention knowing them, and how they like to play), rather than precreating the experience. To me, it still feels like the kind of activity that is defined by “playing”, it’s just one not represented in video games.

    If two people are both “playing” the same game, but their goals and mechanics are separate (even to the point where their measure of success and failure is totally unrelated) then I would say that the game is asymmetric. That said, the examples that I then gave do have completely related success and failure, being antagonistic and sympathetic respectively.

    My terminology could be completely up the whoopity here, and I i’m happy to be corrected or given the right words. Regardless, both the type of play I used as examples and the interplay of player and DM in DnD are largely unrepresented in video games.

  45. Malgate says:

    @Gap Gen, I wouldn’t take anyone straight from Peggle to Portal, but now I think I understand what you meant before. You were searching for a game that would demonstrate to a non-gamer exactly what is great and good about gaming, albeit I’m not entirely sure as to what you want to demonstrate as great and good (immersion? involving story? just great fun? unique/precident setting?).

    I suggested Peggle mainly because it’s one of the most accessible games I’ve ever played. I’ve introduced staunch non-gamers to it and they loved it, I tried to introduce them to Half-Life and they were either frustrated by the complicated controls, confused by the 3-D environment or just plain bored as they didn’t know what to do. Some of the best titles ever in terms of other achievements are still highly inaccessible to those who have never used WASD, space and ctrl to move around a 3-D virtual world.

  46. Pags says:

    As Meat said, this same question prompted a lot of soul-searching from the Forum Hivemind. Actually, we should really reincarnate that thread.

  47. alphaxion says:

    this post of mine might be of interest to the “history of RTS” tangent link to


  48. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Barnett’s first list smacks of Nintendo wankery. Zelda, sure. Pokemon? Goldeneye? Starfox? Wii Sports?

    Pokemon was world-crushingly populist but totally uninfluential — it was a self-contained fad that’s thoroughly burned out by now.

    Same thing with Wii Sports: fad, plain and simple. It didn’t hold any weight on its own. Wii Sports was bundled with the console, and the console is what sold. Why? Because it was small and Nintendo, which locked down Japan, and it was simultaneously white, shiny, and hard to find which locked down the Western world (lol Tickle-me-ipod).

    Goldeneye? Great game, sure, but like Kieron said, Half-Life trumps it so badly it’s almost embarrassing.

    Star Fox? Again, great game, but what influence has it had on the industry? I mean when someone says “I want a game like Star Fox,” what is there to recommend? Panzer Dragoon and… Lair? I really don’t know. (Rogue Squadron doesn’t count since it wasn’t on rails like Starfox).

    Here, let me just come out and say it — where is the Mario series? Amazingly popular AND either created, perfected, or legitimized (depending on your level of navel-gazing) both the 2D AND the 3D platformer.

    The revisionist casual bullshit makes me sick. It’s like putting Clive Cussler or Sue Grafton before, oh I don’t know, Joyce or Milton. Yes, hoi polloi read Clive Cussler and Sue Grafton. Yes, Joyce and Milton are Hard and — oh boy, better brace for this one — Not Fun and Immediately Accessible. (Yes, I know this is a predominantly UK site — how is the public school system’s quality over there in jolly old England?)

    But Joyce and Milton carry historical significance, influence, and emotional weight. Do The Sims and Wii Sports Clive Cussler and Sue Grafton do the same?

    Also, Robotron? What? That game’s awful.

  49. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Goddamn lack of edit. Ignore “(Yes, I know this is a predominantly UK site — how is the public school system’s quality over there in jolly old England?),” that was supposed to come after a dig at the American public school system that got edited out.

  50. Quirk says:

    I never quite got on with Paradise Lost. I have sympathies with Pococurante’s take on it in Candide. However, I remember enjoying Samson Agonistes in my late teens, so I’ll give Milton a pass.

    I think you’ve got a great metaphor going though. It’s not just the Joyces that are missing from that list though, it’s the Orwells and Hemingways. It’s a largely modern and faddish list with a heavy dose of gimmickry. (Brain Trainer? Pokemon? Come on!) Were it just a list of great games of the past, it would be a failure. To have it carry the added burden of historical significance turns it into some form of twisted joke.