Game canon: the 10 most important games

The word canon is one that has had a chilling effect on me, lately. When I hear the word I get the sneaking suspicion that it’s part of a question, like “describe elements of the Canadian literary canon”, and that my answer will determine whether I live or die by swift beheading. ProTip: don’t be an English major.

That very word was thrown about at GDC by one Harry Lowood, curator of the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford, when he announced that he and other industry professionals had created what they called a “game canon”, a list of the ten most important video games of all time. But this is no ordinary list, mind you — this is a canon. Harry Lowood and his cohorts have set out to establish a list of games that ought to be preserved the way that the Library of Congress manages the National Film Registry, effectively ushering these games into the VIP section of cultural and historical significance. But they’re games, and games can’t be historically significant, can they?

Well, maybe. From the Times:

Mr. Lowood and the four members of his committee — the game designers Warren Spector and Steve Meretzky; Matteo Bittanti, an academic researcher; and Christopher Grant, a game journalist — announced their list of the 10 most important video games of all time: 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) and Sensible World of Soccer (1994).

Undoubtedly you’ve got objections and additions for this list, and that’s natural. Lists of “Best ____ Games Ever Made” are more or less made to piss people off. These titles, on the other hand, were selected for the ways in which they’ve spawned entire genres or changed the way we look at game design. It’s an intriguing selection — never thought I’d see Sensible Soccer on anybody else’s list — and it makes you think: what other titles have changed the course of gaming? What else ought to be on this list?

Canons, after all, are constantly added to, updated, revised. Should the world ever recognize gaming as having any sort of cultural worth, I’m sure the game canon will be no different. Hit up the comments and tell us what you’d like to see in such a list and why.

[Via NY Times

Aaron Linde