The Gamer’s Primer

by Steve Bowler on July 15, 2008 · 15 comments

in design,general,nitpicking

Maybe it’s the old coot in me, but this preview comment by Richard Mitchell from Xbox360fanboy regarding his hands on playthrough of the Fallout3 presser just made the hair on my neck stand up and immediately put me off:

Some things must be made clear. One, I played Bethesda’s Fallout 3 today. Two, I have never played a Fallout title before, so I can’t judge it based on the merits of the series.

Points in advance for Richard’s honesty here, but come on. While I can appreciate getting an impartial review from someone who isn’t familiar with the series, how can someone have a career in games journalism and not have played “one of the classics” like Fallout? Don’t get me wrong, there are obviously so many classics that it’s unlikely that any one person could have played all of them, but I’ve been noticing that as our industry rapidly expands, there’s quite a few people who are entering the ranks who simply lack the bona fides to be in the trenches. Much like an experienced vet, I don’t want to share my fox hole with the noob, and it irks me (possibly unfairly) that there’s young’ins being brought into the fold who haven’t been given a proper primer.

When I was at the GDC Games Design Workshop, during the “make a card game out of a classic video game” exercise, we were instructed to pick games that were so popular “everyone at the table should have played them or be familiar with them.” As I recall, Street Fighter was on the table as an option, and of the ten people at the table who were there to take a grueling two day boot camp on game design, only two of us (myself included) had played at least one version of Street Fighter. Take a look at this list. Pardon my French, but there are forty three fucking versions of Street Fighter there. If you haven’t played one of them at some point in your lifetime, even for just ten minutes, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably should if you desire a career in the games industry, be it production, development, or journalism.

I don’t care if you’re only making web games, or phone games, or FPSs. There’s a whole gamut of games out there that you should have played, or should be playing. Broadening your taste in genres will only make you a stronger designer. Occasionally I can be stumped by a specific game (usually a sequel), but for the most part, I like to think that I’ve got at least one of the classics for each genre under my belt. If I had to make a list of what I consider a proper gamer’s primer, it might look something like…this:

  • US RPG: Elder Scrolls, Baldur’s Gate. Bonus points: Wizardry, Ultima (NOT online).
  • JRPG: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger
  • Sci-Fi RPG: Mass Effect, Fallout, KotoR
  • Fighter: Street Fighter, Tekken, Soul Caliber, Virtua Fighter
  • FPS: DOOM, Marathon, Quake, Counter-Strike, Battlefield
  • ConsoleFPS: Halo, Call of Duty, Rainbow6
  • Adventure: Any SCuMM Engine game
  • MMO: Ultima, Everquest, WoW
  • MFPS: WWIIO, Planetside
  • Combat Flight Sims: X-Wing/Tie, Wing Commander, (I know I’m missing some here)
  • Casual/Puzzle: Sims, any Maxis game, any PopCap game, Portal
  • Shmup: 1941, Robotron/SmashTV, Time Pilot, Ikaruga
  • Driving: GT, Burnout, Need For Speed (older)
  • Car Combat: Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8
  • Mech Combat: Mechwarrior (old and console), Virtua On, Battletech Center
  • Skateboarding: 720, Tony Hawk, Skate
  • Sports: Madden, NBAJams, Tecmo Bowl. Extra credit: Arch Rivals, Pigskin.
  • Platformers: Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot
  • Action Adventure: Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania
  • Roguelike: Nethack, Dwarf Fortress
  • RTS: Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Dune, Warcraft
  • Turn Based Strategy: Final Fantasy Tactics, X-COM, Advance Wars
  • 4X: Civilization, Age of Orion, Galactic Civilizations 2
  • Stealth: Metal Gear, Thief, Splinter Cell. Ultra bonus points: Wolfenstein (the original ancient Apple][ one).

Okay, I’m exhausting myself trying to come up with this list. Obviously, I’m engaging in an excercise of futility, but I don’t mind fanning some fanboy flames here.

What have I missed? Entire genres? Classics that can’t go without making it on the list?

Update: Added a bunch of category suggestions based on comments or oversights due to my lack of sleep when posting the original list. I imagine if given enough time this list could become something a bit like the AFI Top 100 Films.

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