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Stepping Towards the Canon

March 12th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · History, Industry

Many moons ago, I posted about creating a canonical list of video games, using the National Film Registry as a model.

Now we have a first step of a sort. I wanted to hit this talk at GDC but didn’t for some reason. All of the interesting panels are scheduled at the same time.

Anyway, a list of 10 canonical video games has been compiled by Henry Lowood, Steve Meretzky, Warren Spector and Christopher Grant. They are, in chronological order:

Star Raiders
Super Mario Brothers 3
Sid Meier’s Civilization (1 and 2)
The Warcraft series
Sensible World of Soccer

Not a bad list, though I would have thrown in Balance of Power and/or The Legend of Zelda.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Matt

    Have to throw a plug in for Wizardry. I remember spending a few sleepless nights in front of my best friend’s Apple II as we slugged our way down to level 10 and killed off the baddies with the infamous “TILTOWAIT.”

  • Michael A.

    While impressive, BOP is too niche to make it into a “canonical list” for me. One could also question (I think) how much impact BOP has had. I think common to the 10 games listed above, is that they all exemplify the “core” of a “genre” (I assume Starcraft as part of the Warcraft series).

    A good list, IMO – if one has to go into canonical discussions. :-)

  • Alan

    re: canonical
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    If they were going for a “canonical” list, I think they missed the mark. While the games listed there are all notable in some fashion, they are neither best representations of their respective genres, nor are they culturally or technically the most influential games of their eras. Really I suspect this was consensus by committee. Plus, as with all “Top 10” lists, it’s subject to the whims of the creators.

  • hmm

    Though I love SWOS (and am certainly surprised to see it in a US-based list), I’m not sure how influential it was. I mean, it was not the first Sensible Soccer game, and when that series “died”, other football games didn’t really learn from it. Which is why they pretty much all suck, IMO, but that’s another discussion.

  • Michael A.

    Canonical – of or referring to a Canon; a Canon (in one definition – and the one I prefer, YMMV) being an authoritive list; sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works; a criterion or standard of judgement.

    By all those criteria, I think the list does pretty well.

    But the primary object of a canon, IMO, isn’t to reach consensus in any case (which is impossible), but rather to provoke discussion.

  • Troy

    I think BoP qualifies as canonical since it was the first major game to tackle serious contemporary issues and concerns in a “fun” way. It led, in one way or another, to SimEarth and the Serious Games movement. BoP was also a strategy game that wasn’t about war; it was about avoiding war – a path that admittedly too few games have taken.

    If, as the list makers intend, this is only the first of many lists (like the NFR), I suspect we’ll see Crawford’s gem up there before long.

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