The 10 Most Important Video Games

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Last week a Stanford librarian and a rather distinguished four-member committee released a list of the 10 most important video games of all time, recommending them for enshrinement in the Library of Congress. (Yes, this was last week. What, I was on vacation.) The New York Times has the story here. The list went as follows:

* Spacewar! (1962)
* Star Raiders (1979)
* Zork (1980)
* Tetris (1985)
* SimCity (1989)
* Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
* Civilization I/II (1991)
* Doom (1993)
* Warcraft series (beginning 1994)
* Sensible World of Soccer (1994)

I’ve been looking for a formal announcement that provides a justification for each choice — if there is one, I can’t find it. I think this is a great idea, but it barely scratches the surface, and come on, there are some really bizarre, ludicrously off-base choices on here. (Sensible World of Soccer? Sensible World of Soccer?)

Herewith my top 5 games that should have been on the inaugural top 10 most important video games list.

1. Pong. The game that brought it on home. Totally changed the consumer experience of gaming, from a strange, elusive, expensive pastime that happened in the greasy, sticky corners of seedy commercial establishments to a daily living-room activity.

2. Space Invaders. Not just for the way it popularized the arcade format. This was the Jaws of video games — it created the category of the mega-blockbuster, but it was also deeply atmospheric — its use of soundtrack and pacing to build tension were hugely visceral.

3. Rogue and/or Nethack. Somebody more knowledgeable than me should decide which, but the convergence of D&D and video games to create the ASCII dungeon-crawl genre, which begat so much of what followed, was fundamental. There are some letters are I’m still afraid of.

4. Ultima Online. The first massively multiplayer game that was successful on a mass scale. The innovations this game brought in creating and managing virtual societies and virtual economies laid the foundation for the bigger successes that followed — Everquest, WoW, etc.

5. Dune 2. I don’t know why. I never played it. But all the fanboys are yelling about how it should be on there. And fanboys are never wrong.