Friday, August 3, 2012

1UP.Com's "Essential 100": An Important Canonical Guide of Important Games

 I would like to be one of the hipsters that takes the non-conformist (and purely vocal) stance that I abhor lists of any kind. Indeed, I would like to proudly trumpet my inspired intellectualism and tell the whole world how absolutely careful I am in media analysis. Taking the stance of "I hate lists" would give me an out, a way to avoid conversations and debates that almost never lead anywhere. Saying that lists are pointless is an ultimate act of pacifism in the nerdy community; you can be a conscientious objector when the debate between Star Trek and Star Wars begins. 
 If I said that lists were always silly, I would be lying. When done right, lists are an interesting manner of chronicling important facts or opinions in a way that makes sense. While I hate "Best Video Games Of All-Time" lists (they are useless and seem to exist solely to start flame wars online) there is a definite place for lists and canons in the video game discussion. 
When I saw that 1UP.Com (an awesome video game website that has spawned some of the great video game writers) was compiling a list entitled "The Essential 100"
I was understandably concerned. However, my concerns were quickly put to rest when I read the Number 100 Pick: M.U.L.E.
The Essential 100 isn't 1UP compiling "the best games of all time"; the list is all about highlighting games that changed the video game-scape. Each entry reads like a love letter to a game of the past: 

"There's nothing quite like a non-violent economic simulation to angry up the blood of an '80s gamer kid. That may sound like smartassery, but in at least one case it held to be completely, unironically true. M.U.L.E. is an odd duck: A game of planetary conquest, full of aliens, robots, and even space pirates, where nary a shot is fired. Nevertheless, it's one of the most ruthless, cutthroat, controller-throwing games ever made. Yes, you will be furious at a friend for manipulating the price of food through artificial scarcity. Also, you will completely ace your economics courses because an old video game taught you what artificial scarcity is without you even realizing it." 
 I always commend 1UP's writing quality, but the skill present in this feature is consistently incredible. Every single article beautifully explains why these video games matter- not only as standalone products, but the shoulder's that other games sit on. 
This list is shaping up to be the most carefully thought-out, lovingly composed canon of unique gaming experiences around. I am eagerly anticipating what will be up next. 

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