Top 10 Video Games
In compiling a list of the top ten video games for 2008, we were pleased to notice the diversity of games mentioned by staffers and community members. While this list is as contestable as any, it includes a number of “casual games,” which are too frequently left out in greatest hits roundups. While Grand Theft Auto IV and several other well-known franchises populate this listing, we were struck by the inclusion of not only Rock Band 2, but Little Big World, Lexulous (formerly Scrabulous), and Spore — all games which have hit an audience outside the set of core consumers for video games. According to recent numbers from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 53% of all Americans age 18 or older play video games with some regularity, as do some 97% of American teenagers1. Gaming is approaching ubiquity among the younger generations, and becoming commonplace even among the oldest generations. The mixed-genre nature of most of the video game lists submitted to Flow is reflective of the growing diversity of games, and, perhaps of the people who play them.
- Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar North launched the fourth generation of their highly successful Grand Theft Auto series with Grand Theft Auto IV, the first console game in the GTA series to feature an online multiplayer mode. The game has become one of the most critically and commercially successful games in history, setting single day and sevens day sales records. And, while GTA remains a flashpoint for moral guardians, it’s usually at least as smart as it is violent.
Grand Theft Auto IV
- Fallout 3
Widely compared to 2007’s BioShock, the role-playing game Fallout 3 backons players into a monstrous world rendered in exquisite, horrifying detail. Billed as “America’s first choice in post nuclear simulation,” the game is set in 2277, two centuries after the nuclear war that devastated the planet, and 36 years after Fallout 2. The not-so-subtle nods to classic Cold War paranoia and culture create an aesthetic that’s somewhere between sinister and nostalgic.
- Rock Band 2
The second game in the Rock Band series presents some key refinements over the first game, and continues to be so generally appealing as to make all those expensive peripherals seem worth it.
Rock Band 2
- Gears of War 2
An action movie of a video game, Gears of War 2 offers one of the best examples of the first-person shooter genre, building on the success of the series’s first installment with a deeper plot, richer characters and additional modes of play.
Gears of War 2
- Little Big Planet
The charming graphic environment of a href=”http://www.littlebigplanet.com”>Little Big Planet, filled with nods to a culture of handicrafts, masks what is perhaps the most innovative game released last year. The game contains a powerful suite of content creation tools open to users, many of whom have created levels of surprising sophistication.
Little Big Planet
- Dead Space
Put simply, Dead Space puts players on a spaceship full of zombies. The game is steeped in sci-fi: The living dead on the ship are the result of an alien microbe that reanimates the dead, protagonist Isaac Clarke is named for Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and throughout, the game draws heavily on thematic elements from Solaris. While much of the gameplay of Dead Space is standard, the story elements are a standout, probably owing at least in part to the involvement of Warren Ellis.
A web-based version of classic word game Scrabble, Scrabulous allowed play via a number of outlets, including the social networking site Facebook. Originally launched in 2005, Scrabulous was nearly killed dead in 2008 by copyright infringement lawsuits. But, following a ruling that they retained the right to post the game online but not the right to use any Scrabble-derived names, creators Rajat Agarwalla and Jayant Agarwalla re-launched the popular game as Lexulous in September.
- Wii Sports
While originally launched in 2005, Wii Sports became the best-selling game of all time in 2008, which is no surprise, considering that its become ubiquitous everywhere from college dorms to retirement communities. Intended to reach a potential audience of people who had not played video games before, the success of the game has been multifold, not only roping in a previously untapped consumer market, but also helping to make the Wii a must-have item.
- Fold ItFold.It
Inviting visitors to “solve puzzles for science,” the Fold.It site harnesses players’ creative energies for the task of helping predict protein structures. Eventually, the games’ designers hope to use the game to work towards research into cures for HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and various cancers. While the game is still in beta, and scientists may or may not ultimately decide that human players are better than computerized ones, the concept represents a fascinating approach to research and an interesting exploration of productive applications of “play.”
Truly massive in scope, Spore is a single-player online metaverse game that lets players build a species, which begins as a single-cell organism, then develops into intelligent life, and eventually becomes a complex civilization with a penchant for interplanetary travel. While the game demands a certain amount of creativity on the part of players, the most interesting aspect of the game is its mass scale – a casual game taken to seductive extremes.
- Honorable Mention:
The compulsively playable licensed game is full of clever graphics and engaging animated sequences that make it appealing for adults and children alike, while the mix of puzzles, platforming, and combat provides lots of opportunities for collaborative play. Or, as Flow columnist Jonathan Gray put it: “The Lego series are wonderful, some of the only games with cut sequences worth watching.”
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- http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1048/video-games-adults-are-players-too [↩]