Mind Candy

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The most important video games of all time

Posted by mandyf on July 11, 2012

Since Space Wars first came to life at MIT in 1961, video games have become a part of the everyday life of hundreds of millions if not perhaps a couple billion people. We play them, see them advertised everywhere we go, and even wear apparel based in part on characters in some of the more popular games. While many video games come and go, there are several that would have to be considered important in the gaming world. What makes a game important is not the best visual effects, most engaging story, or even necessarily being the most fun to play. It is all about the impact the game made on the gaming world.

While Pong got Atari plenty of press and money from bringing video games to the living room television screen, it was Magnavox that actually pulled that off with the Odyssey system first. The problem is nobody really played Odyssey tennis or anything else. Pong started as an arcade game in 1972 – the first coin operated video game no less – but hit homes in 1975. It wasn’t until 1977 though when the Atari 2600 came out that Pong became an instant sensation. Because Pong showed that home gaming systems could be viable, it is in many regards the most important video game made – although that is often debated.

Windows 3.0 Solitaire merits a mention because once this came bundled on Microsoft systems in 1990 it introduced people to the concept of computer gaming rather than just using their computer to work spreadsheets and word applications. It was hardly a new or novel concept, but it opened the door for more of these basic games to be developed and bundled in future releases because the public responded to Solitaire so positively.

Whether you love it or hate it, Farmville opened up the door to using online socially based games that compelled people to reciprocate. The concept is simple, the game is actually very boring, but it demonstrated that when asked to send a cow or water a crop by friend, people tend to do so. In doing so people became addicted to the monotony and encouraged more of their friends to come play and send gifts creating the first video game to actually be used as a primary marketing tool. The genius behind it all is that Zynga Games never actually had to market Farmville to even a fraction of the percent most games are – they let the gamers do it for them.

The Sims changed everything in 2000 when it hit the shelves. Instead of driving speeding cars, killing aliens, or gobbling up dots, gamers controlled the lives of virtual people. They determined how they dressed, when they ate and slept, and even who they socialized with. It took the Sim City concept of building a faceless society and narrowed it down to a defined social group. It quickly became the most popular game amongst females and spawned a whole new concept in gaming that is still being replicated to this day.

Super Mario Bros. is what basically made Nintendo into Nintendo. Nintendo had other games and they were hardly new to the industry, but they never had a smash hit that overtook the world like the little plumber did. Mario Bros. was not only fun, it was addictive. It to this day has one of the most fiercely loyal fan bases with or without updated versions. Until 2009, it was the best selling video game of all time, and Mario is still considered the most iconic figure in video game history by many.

Finally there is Pac-Man. Pac-Man was so wildly popular it spawned spin off games, a record album, cartoon, clothing line, linen, stuffed animals, and nearly anything that could be created and sold. The game was fun for the time, but what made it important is that it demonstrated that the earning power of a video game was not limited to the quarters it swallowed up. When marketed properly, a game could become a multiple revenue stream earner.

Of course games like Tetris which allowed casual gamers to play with little or no directions needed or Space Invaders and Asteroids were all important games as well, but they never really took gaming to another level. Everyone has an opinion on what was an important game and what was merely something that was out there, but it is hard to argue the above cited games did not change the way the gaming industry grew.


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