The first generation of home-console video games began sometime around 1972. Within five years the console market pretty much crashed; mainly due to the overwhelming number of Pong clones. However, by 1978 Taito had released Space Invaders which ushered in the golden age of video games (titles like PacMan, Dig Dug, Qbert, Pole Position, etc). Space Invaders is considered by many as the first “killer app”. Not only did it cause a 100-yen coin shortage in Japan and gross $2 billion dollars in quarters by 1982; its influence revolutionized the game industry.
These ten games influenced me; and certainly helped in transforming me into the geek I am today. They are listed in the order in which they were played.
Wizard (1983, Commodore 64) – This was a bizarre Donkey Kong-style game. Instead of controlling a helpless, jumping plumber (with an occasional limited-use hammer) you controlled a wizard with various spells at your disposal. Spells included fire, ice, and teleport. Instead of killing a barrel-tossing ape you had to grab a key that unlocked a door elsewhere. It was fun… but it was also the first game I had ever played that allowed me to construct my own levels. At age seven I’m sure I likened this to Legos from the future.
Archon: Light and Dark (1983, Commodore 64) – It was almost like a battle chess RPG. There was no story, but every single piece had different abilities and weaknesses. Because of how the battle system worked there was an off-chance that a pawn could defeat a stronger piece. Some of the more interesting pieces included the phoenix, the shape shifter, and the golem. Oh, the hours I spent playing this game!
Mario Bros. (1984, Apple II) – The entire Mario franchise (beginning with Donkey Kong) was created by a man who admittedly had zero interest in video games until he had played Space Invaders. While Space Invaders never had an influential effect on me, Mario sure did. Also, outside of playing Oregon Trail and Number Munchers at my elementary school, this game marks my first real hands on experience with an Apple Computer.
Crossroads II: Pandemonium (1988, Commodore 64) – A hectic, fast-paced, multiplayer maze game with an amazingly advanced AI (amazing, for 1988). This game truly impressed me because the twelve different enemies each responded in different ways to the player as well as to each other. Some enemies had alliances with each other while others were hated by everyone. Some would team up to hunt you down. For a game that looked like little more than a densely populated version of PacMan… it had a lot more to offer.
Simon’s Quest (1988, Tiger Electronics) – My first handheld video game was Tiger Electronics’ version of this legendary Castelvania title. I took this thing everywhere! My mom even started playing it. Nintendo released the GameBoy a year later, which pretty much signaled the beginning of the end for Tiger, but my appetite for portable games had already been whetted… on an LCD pocket game.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (Macintosh, 1992) – This is one of those point and click interactive adventures; however, it had this rich, branching, choose your own adventure style of story. I’m pretty sure it was the first game I had ever played that unfolded like a book or movie. I was hooked and ended up purchasing many similarly styled games (The Dig, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, etc…).
Myst (Macintosh, 1993) – Who didn’t play this game? Seriously. One of my high school teachers introduced me to this puzzle game (that doesn’t look like a classic puzzle game). I was so proud of myself for beating it – all without the help of the internet (still in relative infancy). I even enjoyed the game enough to buy the book; which was a prequel to the game’s story. The game’s successor, Riven, was also fun… but didn’t have the same impact on me as the original.
Metal Gear: Solid (1998, PlayStation) – This game changed my mind that action games were nothing but mindless run ‘n’ gun adventures. This had a very intelligent counter-terrorism story and actually required thought to survive. The enemy AI was over-the-top smart and the graphics were pretty incredible, too. My wife has referred to the entire series as a ‘man-soap opera’.
Final Fantasy VIII (1999, PlayStation) –This game is solely responsible for piquing my interest in RPGs. It has an incredibly intricate story that spans four CDs. There’s no possible way I could explain it here – but let’s just say it begins with a government takeover and, through various plot twists, ends with you defeating a witch from the future that wants to collapse time into a single moment. First game I ever pre-ordered.
Mercenaries (2005, PS2) – Sandbox games, like Grand Theft Auto, certainly interested me… but with Mecenaries there was a turning point. Maybe it was based in my morales; because the GTA series featured the antics of lawless thugs while Mercenaries’ story seemed closer to heroism. Regardless, this game made me truly appreciate the open-world/sandbox genre; rather than just take a passing interest.
I have not owned every system; nor have I played every game. Please don’t write me to say, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention [insert title here]!” Do feel free to name any video game that changed your life in the comment section below.