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The Ten Best Years

June 27th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

Next Gen has an interesting story on what they see as the ten greatest years of gaming. I won’t spoil their story by listing the punchline here. You can click on your own. Warning: It’s been Slashdotted.

Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh proceeds chronologically, freeing him from the burden of ranking all these years in some sort of hierarchy. The story itself, however, is very console heavy, especially once we get past the 1970s. The PC isn’t absent but it’s a footnote. Lip service is paid to the shareware boom in the early nineties and the boom of 3D in the mid-nineties, but even here there is a concentration on the contribution of shooters to the industry. The story would be better sold as “ten years of platform wars”.

Mostly devoid of non-business commentary, Waugh cites the division between “technologists” and those who want games to be more culturally significant as being in 2001. This split is certainly older than 2001, so I wonder why that topic is raised at all, especially in that year.

There is a risk inherent in any list of this sort, especially if you focus on the games, like I would. Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden once wrote that everyone’s golden age is when they were twelve, when things are fresh and new. The golden age of baseball for me is the mid-80s, for example (Schmidt, Ripken, Hershiser) and there’s something to that when I think of my best gaming years.

I think of 1990-91 when some of dorm mates got seriously into computer gaming and I discovered the glories of F-19 Stealth Fighter, Civilization and Wing Commander. A great year, to be sure, (I still think of years as determined by the school calendar) but primarily because it was my first deep introduction to the hobby.

I think of 1996 when I first had near complete control over a PC of my own, meaning I could game for as long as my new wife would let me. Also the year of Civilization II, by the way; a game that almost completely consumed me.

I think of 2000, when I began writing for a now defunct website (on a volunteer basis). People started sending me games – good and bad – but I thought it was just cool to have a small audience interested in my opinion. And here I am now blogging for (at most) a few dozen regulars and, more importantly, reaching a larger throng through Computer Games, Games Radar and Strategy Zone Online – all of whom pay. Imagine that. It’s also the year that I went out and bought Europa Universalis on release day.

Of course, with some research I could make an objective case for a lot of events with no personal connection. The founding of Electronic Arts. The bundling of game software with new PCs. The last wargame sold at EB. I could just point to a list of good games released in any given year, but this would be inevitably colored by the way that those games fit into my life at that time.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • oldciver

    ack! I dont think they mentioned a single game ive played (other than the circa 1982 arcade games). Since I dont play consoles or FPS.

    I even find Qt3 frustrating to read, since its so dominated by forms of gaming im not really interested in.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Well, I played Doom. And Myst. And some of those old arcade games. But yeah, Waugh’s best years of gaming don’t speak to me.

  • gatmog

    I agree that Waugh took the wrong approach for this subject. Glossing over certain genres or esoterica because they never contributed to the industry machine. Neglecting to mention what attracted people to games in the first place. Focusing on the tangibles because they can be memorized and are beyond reproach.

    I didn’t mind that the article focused on consoles – arcade gaming is the reason games made such huge strides in the late 70s and early 80s, after all. The problem with the article is that it’s too business focused. I don’t enjoy reading these retellings of industry history. Everyone’s heard these stories countless times before; nothing has changed.

    How about the 10 years of gaming that influenced the medium, or the way gamers think? The arcade gamers of old didn’t care about 3D or move-quality presentation – they didn’t even know it would be possible.

  • steve

    In the article’s defense, NextGen is a business/trade publication, not a consumer one. So a focus on business makes sense.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    But even the business focus is erratic. 1982 is focused on the console boom, but entirely misses the creation of Electronic Arts. When it does deal with business, it’s almost entirely in the sense of winners and losers with little perspective on why someone is winning or losing. (Maybe you can’t do that by singling out years, but if this is a business story…)

    And the title, sadly, is “greatest years in gaming”, so I think it’s reasonable to expect more games.

    It’s not like Next Gen doesn’t talk about games as fun experiences. There is even a summer preview section.