BOOK INSPIRATION BY:
“1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die”
Edited by Tony Mott
Preface by Peter Molyneux
This was a great compilation book for video gamers – extracting a top list of 1001 Video Games that span gaming history from 1971 – present. Although it is a great reference, with some excellent choices throughout… the short articles on each game ranges in quality and accuracy. Sometimes they don’t even get some basic details correct, and that’s frustrating for us Hardcore gamers.
Still, there’s no way this book shouldn’t be part of any videogame player’s library for reference and discovery. I certainly plan to read the entire book and get my shot at playing every single game in there. Many I’ve played – many I have not, but I look forward to someday checking off every game as part of my bucket list.
From a video game history perspective, this book is naturally going to omit many things. First of all – old games that are important in gaming history, are not necessarily great to play. I’m thinking Computer Space as an example here. Also, there are many well-known, or important games that are just going to be left off the list as they trim down a huge list to the Top 1001. However… this 1001 was an inspiration to build my own list of all-time “Videogame Greats” at my own website – VGHchannel.org. My take on it though, is not to limit the number of games, but to simply continue adding games as I play them and enjoy the best ones.
When I began reading this book, I noticed I was getting frustrated with some of the reviews being wildly “over-the-top” or inaccurate. Since I’ll be running in parallel with the chronological nature of the book – I thought it’d be fun to write up fresh comments about each individual review as I played each game.
So, for the record… here are the comments I had while reading through this TOME of quality games:
#1 – OREGON TRAIL (1971) – JT
They put this in the book first, with a release date of 1971. That’s just plain dumb, and many people were surprised by this first entry. The game they’re describing in this review (and the one most people think of for “Oregon Trail”) is the 1985 Apple II release. The skeleton of a game in 1971 was nothing like that at all. If you could play it at all, it was through a terminal and teletype machine – hardly a video game. OREGON TRAIL should be in the list… but place it in 1985, and discuss some of the earlier games as merely developmental steps!
#2 – PONG (1972) -MK
I really hate it when they describe Pong as having “english”. If you’ve ever played any actual racquet sport, or even Billiards, you’ll understand that “english” is spin you purposely place on a ball to affect trajectory and bounce. Ping Pong, especially at high levels of play, has huge amounts of spin… and there is no equivalent in PONG. The only thing happening here is the angle the ball reboounds is affected by the location it hits the Paddle.
BUT, an even more egregious mistake is they describe PONG as having a computer AI opponent. What!?! Obviously they were not playing the original 1972 game, but some kind of port if they were playing a computer opponent. Honestly, not needing an opponent to play against was at least one major factor in the success of future games like Breakout in 1976! This is the kind of error that prompts a project like the one you’re reading right now.
#3 – BREAKOUT (1976) -SP
It mentions how many games were influence by Breakout – including PEGGLE. Really? How did they make that stretch. It’s fine to me to point out some of the closely related games, such as Arkanoid – that’s clearly in the breakout tradition. But to stretch influence beyond the clear connection is to ignore the many genres and other games that have all had their own influence in this great industry. Most games draw inspiration from many sources.
#4 – BOOT HILL (1977) -JRu
The review suggests this as PONG redesigned by a John Wayne fan? Laughable. It doesn’t even feel like a pong game, its a totally different genre, with wildly different rules. This kind of inaccurate portrayal makes me feel like these reviewers are not concerned with the actual games, but in writing up some kind of fan fiction. Sorry, but it just bugs a historian like me.
#5 – COMBAT (1977) -GM -Atari 2600
It is mentioned as a pack-in game… but Pac-Man replaced it in 1982. Still, kudos to the article mentioned “for five years” which was indeed the time it was the bundled game for the 2600. This was a great review – and it IS so true that with great play mechanics and a well-matched opponent the graphics fade into the background.
#6 – SPACE INVADERS (1978) -CD
Good article, however there are no “handful of methods predicting the appearance of the UFO.” The writer got confused… the UFO appears at regular time intervals, the “methods” he’s thinking of are simply those in knowing how to get 300 pts every time you hit the UFO. It all has to do with counting your shots, and when the invaders begin low enough to the ground, you can’t even wait long enough for the first UFO to appear or else you’d be dead.
The other glaring error is they called Galaga a “clone” of Space Invaders. That’s like saying EMINEM is a clone of SIR-MIX-A-LOT because they are in the same genre. Sure, there are similarities — but a clone in the videogame world is a bad thing… a duplicate… yet Galaga is true original – an all-time classic with many of its own innovations!
#7 – ADVENTURE (1979) -CD -Atari 2600
Wow, this one was WAAAAAYYYYY off the mark! First of all the article (in reference to text-adventure games) says that imagination is a dangerous foundation on which to build a business. Really? Ever hear of Infocom? And imagination is a crucial part of game design even today. And have you seen Adventure on the Atari 2600 – yeah, takes a lot of imagination with its blocky graphics. I mean, the dragon looks like a duck… but we use our “imagination” and we still have a great game! What a crazy statement.
Secondly, they say this Atari 2600 games is a PORT of “Colossal Cave Adventure” – the mainframe game by William Crowther & Don Woods. This isn’t even CLOSE to being a port. At best, it might draw some inspiration from CCA… but the Atari 2600 game is a simple graphic-based adventure game. Go here, get key, unlock door, get sword, kill dragon, etc. That’s the limit of their similarities. It was actually a programming feat to get the mainframe “Adventure” ported to a microcomputer in 1979 – and required an external floppy disk for random access loading of all the data it required! So, this is a seriously misguided connection to say the Atari was a PORT of that game – makes me wonder if the reviewer has ever even played an ACTUAL port of Crowther’s Adventure!
Finally, Adventure does have the most widely known “first easter-egg”… but in 2004 an earlier Easter egg was found in Video Whizball, a 1978 game for the Fairchild Channel F system, This easter egg displays programmer Bradley Reid-Selth’s surname on-screen during gameplay.
#8 – ASTEROIDS (1979) -CD
Not all games today are huge productions. The author makes a mischaracterization of today’s gaming landscape, thinking it was much simpler during the days of ASTEROIDS. But there are plenty of single-person productions, and small casual games being produced today.
And how is ASTEROIDS a “sweaty half-hour?” I hate it when people just pound buttons (which is the only way I could see you getting sweaty). ASTEROIDS is not unlimited shot… so your “sweaty” endeavors are just wasted energy!
And finally… you don’t blast rock into “shrapnel”. It’s rock… shrapnel is metal. And there is no “debris” to avoid when breaking apart asteroids… you just have large, middle and small-size asteroids. That’s not debris, its an asteroid of varying size.
#9 – GALAXIAN (1979) -CD
This is the WORST article I think I’ve read so far in this book. Galaxian is a childhood favorite! It’s hard to fully understand it’s allure if you weren’t there when it was new, but I remember it as a fascinating and exciting game. So, the reviewer was shooting barbs unfairly and this can’t go uncorrected!
First, he says Galaxian is an “evolutionary step best forgotten” – that just pisses me off! His gripe is that the shooting is limited to one shot… but so was Space Invaders… Galaga only had two shots, etc. He calls it a limitation, I call it a feature! I think it’s one of those things that makes Galaxian a challenge in that you can’t just spam the fire button, but have to carefully time each shot. A missed shot might mean you die. I love it!
A small gripe is that he mentions “Squadron of fighters” peeling off… but they really don’t. You have individuals that peel off from the group, one at a time. The only “group” is the flagship and 2 escorts — hardly a squadron.
Finally after all his complaining about the single-shot being so limiting, he says Galaxian is worth a credit or two. Then says its only fault is for what hadn’t been invented yet. What in the world? If all you did is play the game once or twice, you’re completely missing out on the fun that is skill development. You actually have to get better at timing shots, dodging and predicting… and the levels have a nice progression of difficulty too. There’s accomplishment in these old games – not just pretty rapid-fire destruction.
I just can’t believe he bashed Galaxian for what it didn’t have. You have to look at all the cool things it did: 4-color graphics, dive-bombing aliens, level progression, music, tension, and my favorite was the added apparent randomness of the galaxians at the end of the level when all remaining ships come at you – they start to weeble wobble around, especially as they have to make multiple passes. CLASSIC game! At LEAST it was on this list… even if it was horribly maligned in the article.
#10 – LUNAR LANDER (1979) -CD
This game is “tainted with education”. What!?! I don’t see the game pausing to teach you physics formulas such as acceleration or gravity. Sure, it has some decent real-world physics in a time that wasn’t a common occurrence — but it’s still an arcade game through and through.
Next he says you’re “onboard” an Apollo Mission… which is dumb, because you’re totally on the outside looking at the side of your Lunar Lander. It’s also suggested this game was an early pioneer in the “quirks of game possibilities the industry is only now embracing.” Another ridiculous statement. Early on in videogame history there were many examples of unique, wild ideas. Many genres were created and strange ideas tried. If anything, the landscape in the 5 years after Lunar Lander was far more varied than it was for many years after. Just feels like grasping at flowerful speech!
And that’s a good start. I don’t expect this page to be done anytime soon either. Will continue adding as I continue playing games and making videos.