Decided to take the difficult step of listing what I feel were my most worthwhile gaming experiences of the past 10 years. (Inspired by the top 12 list compiled by Gamasutra)
All the games on this list had to fit several criteria: a) I had to have played it all the way through. Indeed, most of these I’ve played multiple times. b) They had to have changed my life in some way. Either in the “ah, I wish I could make that” inspirational kind of way. Or by virtue of having added some meaning to my existence and stuck with me even though I played them long ago… (games can do that.) So…
10. Neverwinter Nights (played 2002-2004)
The only RPG in 10 years that I’ve played all the way through, multiple times, obsessively. (And all the official expansion packs, plus many adventures that were created in the player community.) I got very involved with this game. I became fascinated by how it was made, the character design, how the authoring tools worked, how its multiplayer worked. I guess this was the first game-with-an-editor I really looked to for insight of how big games are put together. The minimal GUI, that right click radial menu, sweet design decisions. NWN and A Tale in The Desert were big for me in imagining how navigation could work for The Endless Forest.
9. Shadow of Memories (played 2001)
A “choose your own adventure” type story with the character going backwards and forwards through time to figure out his own murder. One of the more complex plots of any game I played the last 10 years, actually. One of the only games I’ve ever played multiple times just to find out what all the alternate endings were. I wish there were more games like THIS… now, today, with contemporary graphics and less cut scenes. sigh.
8. Kessen II (played 2002)
At the time I was totally blown away by the aesthetics of this one. Kind of a cheesy plot (even if it is _based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms) but still, very engaging. I remember that I loved the over the top character design and the magic effects when spellcasting. I wanted to think up a game that needed such elaborate stuff as that! And while it is an RTS, it wasn’t so very much of an RTS to turn me off. I enjoyed winning the game and then starting it over playing from the “bad guy” point of view. But yeah, for me it was all about the particle effects!
7. there is no number 7. I WOULD put The Path here… but that would just be weird 😉 … Gotta admit though, I love it best and the game changed my life more than any other…
6. Silent Hill 3 (played 2003)
SH3 was one of those games I anticipated for months, scouring game sites for screenshots and shaky conference videos. Every time I found something new, it showed me how beautiful game graphics could be. Amazing character design and even the plot worked… maybe a bit too much. The main character of Heather was truly unique. A teenage girl. The soundtrack was absolutely perfect blend of mall pop and creepy Yamaoka standards. I credit this game with, what is for me, the scariest and eeriest put-down-the-controller-and-back-away moment in gaming. (I’m not gonna spoil it for you… have a “Making of” video instead.)
5. Black & White (played 2001-2002)
Peter Molyneux is an idiot for having listened to critics of this game. It is the most amazing game he has ever made. He had such an awe-inspiring team of programers and the freedom to execute some unique ideas! For all the flaws, it’s a work of genius. I lost entire days! Lost in being a god over those little worlds. The zooming in to see the tiny details and then backing out and being the master of all I surveyed! Training my animal to mimic me. Miracles! No other game swept me away like that. And you bet it influenced us a wee bit when making the ABIOGENESIS feature in The Endless Forest. Biggest disappointment of the decade was when Black & White 2 turned out to be completely different and more of an RTS than a god game.
4. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (played 2004)
ah man… I just love love lovelove love this game <3 <3 <3
3. Animal Crossing (played 2004-ongoing)
The whole family played this game for a solid year on Gamecube. It was the must-have reason I bought a Nintendo DS. We got it for the Wii and it is STILL the only game we play with any regularity. Relaxing, bonding, creative. I admire it for actually trying to trigger nostalgia, and succeeding! Memories of my AC town on a sunny fall afternoon with the cicadas chirping and I, at the waterfall, fishing for Coelacanth… If we ever make a simulation game, this will be the reason why.
2. Silent Hill 2 (played 2001)
I can credit this game as the reason why when Michael suggested we should try our hand at making video games, I said YES absolutely. Before playing SH2 I had no idea a game could get to me like that. SH2 didn’t seem to make any concessions; confusing, ruthless, imperfect. I wanted to make something like that. YES.
This, is my #1 favorite cutscene in any game, ever.
1. Ico (played 2002)
We were working on the scenario of 8 and making the first demos. Michael found a news item on some game site about Ico. We were astounded at the description, in that it had a lot in common with our designs for 8. We kept the game on our radar and bought it the day it came out. Like no other game played this decade, with Ico I was moved, I was inspired to tears of joy and sorrow. If you ask me, THIS is Fumito Ueda’s masterpiece. When seeing a character’s idle motion carries with it so much meaning. When I long to go back to the sundrenched grassy knoll just to chase the birds. To hold Yorda’s hand, listen to the waterfall and stare at the view. When I cannot wait to meet the “boss” because I know it is the coolest moment in the game. It has to be my favorite game of the decade.
Now look at this list.
Isn’t it odd that the games I loved most were all in the years 2001-2004. And nothing after 2004.
I guess the “Next Gen” has been a total disaster for the gamer in me. There has not been one game that’s really done it for me since 2004! A few have tried to worm their way under my skin. I could list the short stint I did in Guild Wars or the myriad DS games I played (like the Phoenix Wright series or Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!) that I thoroughly enjoyed. I regret that I couldn’t play Portal… I bet I would have liked that one. I’ve played some great indie games lately too. And on PS3 there’s been smaller games like flOw and Flower, and my Game of The Year is Noby Noby Boy. That one, yes, I found it refreshing!
Perhaps I’ve gotten harder to please as I get more analytical about what goes on in the industry or maybe it’s, as Michael believes, that creativity has lost ground to technology and pandering for cash. I have gotten older, my interests have changed, I am busier maybe. Loads of reasons why I have not found the joy in many games lately…. still its too bad. I miss the good old days.
Six of these years we’ve been making games, hardly a surprise that I had more fun with games before it became my “job” so to speak. I guess because I could take things more for granted, and everything seemed so much more like magic. I’m of course hoping that in this shiny new decade I will find games that have that certain something, and I can game, once again, like its 2002.