(My) Computer Game History

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.

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4 Responses to “(My) Computer Game History”

  1. More Computer Game History « Game Design is about Structure Says:

    […] a guy who can’t leave a job unfinished). Now that I’ve expanded my list of “essential games” to an unwieldy length, I can perhaps forget the whole thing, secure in the knowledge that […]

  2. Michael Says:

    Thanks for the list. I’m a classic gamer as well having played about half of the items listed at the time of release, as well as in the recent past thanks to eBay (got a nice collection I’m working on- takes up most of a closet now).

    I wanted to pipe in about World of Warcraft. I swore it off for a long time, as I do with most modern and popular games. Then I gave it a try last year (using a 14-day trial) and I loved it. I recently got a real account (yeah, it’s a bit pricey, but I play it exclusively now), as did my girlfriend. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play with her, and with the members of the guild we joined. They are often older than us, and the fact that there are many non-thirteen year-olds is probably the reason I still play.

    I’ve tried many other MMO’s this year, and they’re mostly crap, with LOTR Online being the closest to being ‘playable’. Nobody seems to have that sense of game design you mention. Everything looks like a rip-off of WoW, and poorly done at that (especially LOTRO, which felt the same to me, but less intuitive with sloppy graphics). None come with a fully designed world, a plot that sucks you in and a variety of options that keeps one immersed in the game.

  3. Eero Tuovinen Says:

    Nice to hear that WoW is working for folks, Michael. my brother Markku also plays it, and is apparently having a good time. I really should try the game at some point myself, but my “grind-game burnout” (of which I’ll write at some other time) has so far stopped me. I simply can’t stand the thought of another game predicated solely on task repetition for experience points this decade.

  4. markkutuovinen Says:

    Well, I quit WoW just yesterday (Sep 27), since it started feeling like “more of the same”, so your information is slightly outdated. And I mean quit: I cancelled my subscription, deleted my characters and uninstalled the client. And now I’m free! Free!

    There’s no nagging feeling: check the AH; go quest for a couple of hours to get another level; chat with your acquaintances; do something for your guild…


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