Top Game Designers Say What They’d Put Into the Smithsonian

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Nothing entertains more than a good “BEST EVAR!!!!11!!!!1!” argument. Video games have been around more than three decades, making it the latest medium to incite impassioned debate about what example of the form reins supreme over everything else.

More than a month ago, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art announced that the public itself would be able to vote on what to include in their upcoming The Art of Video Games exhibit. Gamers everywhere hammered the dedicated website the Smithsonian set up for voting, promptly crashing it while trying to make sure their favorite games got into the exhibit. Artofvideogames.org got back on its feet, though, and the Smithsonian recently extended the voting deadline by one week, which lets even more folks chime in on the games that they think everyone needs to know about.

More than 3.3 million votes from nearly 110,000 people decided the final; of course, every vote was secret. Nevertheless, you have to wonder how the people who make games themselves chose from the 240 offerings on the ballot. I wondered the same thing and, over the last few weeks, I’ve asked some of video games’ most respected creators which titles deserve to be enshrined in next year’s exhibit. In person and over e-mail, designers and game-makers thought long and hard on their answers and you’ll find them collected here.

Voting in The Art of Video Games ballot was, in a way, like assembling a desert-island list of gameplay experiences vital to understanding just what makes video games so great. When asked about the exhibit, Jordan Mechner, creator of the beloved Prince of Persia franchise, said, “So much press attention is devoted to video games as a business and pop-culture phenomenon: what’s selling, how much money is being made, etc. I think it’s great to focus attention on games as an art form, because that’s what players experience and ultimately it’s what we value and remember.”

So, if you want to know which games the man who saved Duke Nukem Forever from a vaporware fate values or the title that one of the main architects of Gears of War remembers, all you have to do is read on.

Cliff Bleszinski, design director, Epic Games; creator/designer, Gears of War franchise

Super Mario Brothers. There were so many classic Nintendo games, but I’d have to go with the original Super Mario Brothers. Entire generations’ lives were changed just by the time you finished World 1-1.

Limbo. It’s such an exercise in subtlety. At Epic, we’re very on the nose with the kind of games we make, but Limbo asks something of the user. It asks them to put themselves in this world. It asks them to solve puzzles that were just tricky enough. I think your average person can see the visual style of Limbo. They can see the puzzles, and anybody can empathize with a lost boy.

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