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

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Jordan Mechner, creator/designer, Prince of Persia (1988) and creator/writer, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2001)

Ico. [Note: Ico wasn’t on the list of nominated games.] This 2001 PlayStation 2 game is a real work of art. It creates a powerful atmosphere of loneliness and vulnerability, and a human, emotional bond with the princess character, Yorda, whom the player must protect. This relationship is built through gameplay, sound and music, and sensitive attention to detail in the animation and AI that most games don’t bother with. All those little touches add up to a believable game world. Ico‘s coherence and integrity were a huge inspiration to me and the team in creating Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Greg Zeschuk, co-founder of BioWare, co-creator of Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises

Tetris. [Note: Tetris wasn’t on the list of nominated games.] It defined video games for so many people, people who weren’t already playing them in some other way. It’s so approachable but complex at the same time and still holds the power to keep you captive.

Doom. There were other first-person shooters before it but the success of this title is a seminal moment that changed gaming. The way that the guys at id Software created atmosphere to fuel the way people played was a big leap in the craft of making games.

Super Mario 64. It showed what you could do in a 3D environment and felt incredibly freeing. Really, it brought the idea of adventure to a new scale. Games today owe a lot to this one.

Raph Koster, VP of Creative Design, Playdom; designer, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies

M.U.L.E. It offered a deep, entertaining multiplayer experience that was also non-violent, and profoundly social. It requires a kind of strategy that remained unique, too. There was a whimsy there, too, that was forward-looking. And all of this in 1983. The underpinning philosophy provided a template that we lost and are now just rediscovering for the mass market.

Tim Schafer, President/CEO of Double Fine Productions; creator, Psychonauts, Brutal Legend

Super Mario 64.  We take it for granted now, but it wasn’t so long ago that this game let players really explore a 3D environment for the first time. It was just as important that it was also filled with fun, inventive gameplay ideas and wasn’t just because they could do it.

Ico. From top to bottom, it’s just a work of art. The way it looked, the way it created a bond between the player and the Yorda character and, man, that ending.

Okami. From the minute it starts, you’re dropped into this beautiful, captivating world that you want to interact with.

Katamari Damacy. It’s not just that the way you play this game is crazy, but it all happens in this crazy, bat-s**t world, too. Once you play, you don’t ever forget it.

Marty O’Donnell, Bungie; composer, Halo franchise

Ico. Thinking that Yorda was dead was a heartbreaker. I cried at what I thought was the ending and then again when I got the real ending. One of my co-workers just turned the game off when the credits started rolling and came in the next day wondering what all the fuss was about. We all told him, “Tonight, when you get back to your place, just let the credits roll. Turn off the phone and close the laptop. He thanked us all the next day.”

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