I’ve said several times that I’m not exactly experienced about electronic gamer culture. I’ve never played a modern MMOG, for example, and I don’t hang out on any computer gamer forums or such. I’ve read some computer gaming web comics, but even those seem a bit like outsider stuff to me – I’m sure that if I were 15, the PvP stuff, jokes about shared multiplayer game space, stories about ultra-long game sessions, control pads getting melted on the thumbs and so on would feel relevant, but as it is, I can only appreciate that culture in a patronizing manner.
As the regular reader (yeah, right) might notice, I’ve added some links to several classic computer games in the blogroll. My criteria of choice was to list as many significant games as I could free-associate in fifteen minutes (half and hour at this point, and my brother Jari helped me go through the history), limiting myself to games on which I can get passionate about their historical significance for game design. These are all games I’ve played exhaustively myself, and all important games historically speaking, but the interesting thing for me was the clear emphasis my internal landscape puts on games from, roughly, 1985 to 1995. This is also the period when I played computer games most actively (considering around two years of latency for the games to reach the young Eero, anyway), so the simplest explanation is that I’m just listing games that I know intimately and am nostalgic about. The other explanation is that this was a golden age of computer game design, during which many crucial advances and much artistry was evident. Considering the implications of the first explanation, I of course think that this is the case, and later games have simply been duller in comparison. Others have to decide for themselves how subjective my judgement in this is, especially when I really haven’t played games like Metal Gear Solid, Sims, Grand Theft Auto (actually, I played the first game of the series, the top-down one), Tomb Raider, World of Warcraft or the other games-of-the-month the kids gush about (says he dismissively).
Be that as it may, all games on my list are worthy of a strong recommendation. For those of you who aren’t that familiar with computer game history, or even those who are, if there’re any games on my list that you haven’t tried out – do so. They’re worth it as games, and they can definitely be linked into some rather central currents of historical development in the computer game industry. It might be rather illustrative that even while I know that I haven’t got a clue about the game design of the last ten years, I still am in my heart confident that nobody’s really invented anything in the meantime, and I can design a quality game without paying attention to anything done since Alpha Centauri. So either these games on my list are really hot stuff, or I’m a crazy elitist fuckhead.
Oh, also: as I mentioned, Jari helped me shift through the gaming history. We encountered some games I haven’t played which he strongly recommended, so I’m starting another list for stuff I need to sample. I have a bad habit of forgetting recommendations I’d really like to follow up on (not just games, but books and movies and such as well). Hopefully a public wall of shame helps me focus my reading/playing list. I’ll add other stuff, like comics, to this when I remember what I should be reading.