Prince. Kenny Rogers. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Tetris. Names all synonymous with glory and acclaim. All from varying walks of life, creeds and programs. What’s Izen’s point you may be wondering? Will he stop b.s.ing ? I have decided, yes.
Since 2015, Rochester, NY has been home to a gathering of legends one could contend is among the most influential and revered of the modern era – The Video Game Hall of Fame (audible gasping allowed). Each year since, earth’s mightiest have assembled to select a choice few representatives that have shaped generations of art , technology and pop culture. Not every title is worthy, and so to reach Gaming Olympus four categories have been chosen as the template for which warriors are judged: Icon Status, Longevity, Geographical Reach and Influence The 12 chosen to fight for their place amongst the greats are:
Guitar Hero (2005/Playstation 2)
The game that granted the average joe rockstar status in under five minutes. Activision’s answer to it’s eastern counterpart Guitar Freak, Guitar Hero took the mid 2000’s by storm introducing arcade style gameplay for home consoles through realistic guitars constructed as controllers and accessible gameplay for all ages. A simplistic take on the intricacies of playing an actual instrument, fans fell in love with the rush of being transported from reality and left to unleash their inner star. The franchise spawned numerous sequels with a never ending stream of updated songs that gave each game a modern age leg to stand on. Unfortunately for the hardcore heroes, Guitar Hero remains a toddler compared to other candidates in both longevity and icon status. With terms such as “iconic” and “legendary” tossed around so loosely, the luster and shine of the word “icon” is diminishing. While the franchise managed to carve out its own profitable niche (Activision’s first $1 billion dollar franchise), there were next to no competitors to really challenge the giant. Without any other notable studios throwing their hat in the mix, the franchise sat comfortably on cruise control without ever needing to adapt or improve upon previous titles. Aside from revenue, is there any other criteria to realistically gauge a game in a niche genre when there isn’t a “second place” to compare to?
Microsoft Flight Simulator (1982 / P.C
I will never fully appreciate job simulator titles, and I’ve come to terms with it as well as many others. Since its inception, the hyper-realistic simulator has been transporting millions into the pilot’s seat of every type of aircraft. With a new title released as recently as 2020 with over two million units sold in its first four months, consumers are still clamoring for the product. Longevity? Check. Icon Status? Check. Although it may check off the necessary boxes, streaming numbers for the game have plummeted and do not represent the same popularity that its sales indicated. The problem is the same as others of niche genres, there’s no competition to measure it against. The idea in itself was a unique and innovative one, but since it’s introduction there haven’t been any ground breaking evolutions or any long lasting ripple effects throughout the world of video games. A fun game? Debatable. Profitable? It still can be. Hall of Fame inductee? Maybe in a hall of fame simulator.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1985/P.C.)
Do you know where Carmen Sandiego won’t be? Not in anyone’s top 50 favorite video games and there lies the dilemma for ole’ Sandiego. Now, I won’t underestimate the longevity of mystery exploration, point and click problem solving games. There is still a part of my gaming childhood that holds Pajama Sam games highly. Since it’s first appearance in classrooms across the U.S in 1985, the franchise has gone on to release over 20 titles along with having its own game show, animated and television series, musical and even having one day in the year bestowed as National Carmen Sandiego Day and becoming a recognizable staple of gaming lore. It’s unfortunate that the rise in popularity came during a more primitive era for video games. Educational games targeting children cannot hope to compete with the rapid advancements in technology allowing parents financial accessibility by playing a five hour loop of Little Einsteins free from Youtube. It didn’t do much in terms of revolutionizing the genre, as the core has always remained the same and the formula is stale. For a game to be held to the same iconic standard as World of Warcraft, or the longevity of The Legend of Zelda, then it can’t be a question of “if”.
Call of Duty (2003/P.C.)
Is there anything that honestly needs to be said here in it’s defense? *Sigh* Alright then. To make this simple, here are just a few of the franchises feats:
- 18 titles released
- 5 titles in the top 50 highest selling games All Time
- 100 million downloads on mobile
- 4 titles selling over 30 million copies each ( With it’s recent 2021 title eclipsing 5 million downloads its first weekend)
- Over 255 million units sold to date
- Competitive gaming market worth over 10 million USD
The infamous first person shooter has gripped consumers since the release of it’s Modern Warfare title in 2007. For any franchise video game franchise established in the 21st century to attain notoriety on the scale of Call of Duty is almost inconceivable. Longevity is no question with annual releases. Icon Status? There is no human being walking the earth who’s had access to the internet in the last 20 years that wouldn’t recognize the name. International sales have been just as strong with sales revenue in the hundreds of millions outside of the U.S. A competitive scene that generates millions in revenue from sponsors such as Red Bull and ESPN. Almost two decades of absolute dominance with no end in sight. How can this titan of the industry be denied any longer? For those who must know, I do buy Call of Duty every year but I’ve clearly remained impartial…right?
Portal (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows.)
My dark horse in the race and far and away the single best gaming experience of any candidate. Portal pushed the boundaries of how genres could blend together by fusing the compelling narrative of an RPG (Role Playing Game) with memorable characters all the while puzzle platforming served as the heart and soul of gameplay. Yes, I did indeed say a PUZZLE SOLVING GAME has a compelling narrative. Unique and innovative controls allowed the creativity of players to exceed boundaries no other game of it’s kind has even dreamt of. Each level gifting you with yet another 5-40 minutes of engaging, tactical planning that would lead up to that moment of sweet satisfaction at emerging triumphant over each obstacle. The inclusion of couch cooperative play only enhanced the gameplay’s entertainment factor one hundred fold. With the title being a product of gaming publisher Valve, the game’s longevity is near infinite with P.C. ports being the quintessential fountain of youth for any game. Ask ten different people what their most memorable element of Portal was, and you’ll receive ten different answers. With the title having received numerous awards for most compelling villain, best new game, best new game mechanics and ranked in IGN’s Top 50 Video Games of All Time to name a few, there is something to say about the true influence of quality over quantity in a market that is dominated by never-ending sequels and microtransactions. Portal perfectly emulates a once in a generation artistic creation that grasps perfection.
Bias and favoritism aside, when Tetris is officially held to the same acclaim as games like Tomb Raider it only enforces the the variety of what constitutes as a hall of fame worthy selection.