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Seminal Games of My Life: Pong

the console war begins!

pong makes my list not for the engaging gameplay, but mererly because it was the first video game i could play at home. and on the television, no less. something that i'm sure is taken for granted these days. i have no specific memories of FTW moments although i'm sure there were. i don't even remember if this had ways to vary up the game. all i remember was fighting over it with my siblings.

and, holy crap, this thing cost $100 (roughly $400 in today's terms). i had no idea how deparate my parents were to give us kids something to do.

pong was video gaming's first beachead in the decades long invasion of the living room.

Seminal Games of My Life: Super Star Trek

another text based game in the early days of video games ... Super Star Trek.

your mission: captain the starship enterprise (-E-) and search and destroy the klingons throughout the galaxy. pretty cool for a kid.

like Zork, this game required access to a mainframe somewhere (at least in the earliest days ... it made its way to 1st gen pcs). luckly, the neighbor next door was a professor at Wash U.

this game required some math, and a bit of patience, but it was satifying to search quandrant after quandrant, tracking down an elusive klingon ship, without warping through a star (*) and proceed to battle with photon torpedoes, phasers, all while managing your shields and energy.

the gaming world would soon graduate beyond green text, but it was a fun game for that era (an era without a lot of games, mind you).

Seminal Games of My Life: Zork

West of House

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

There is a small mailbox here


a character-based terminal connected to a university mainframe, and a kid's imagination, that's all that was needed.

this granddaddy of gaming had no instruction manual, no training course, no obvious goals, no hud, no walkthrough or faq, no guidance what-so-ever. just a command prompt and a blinking cursor. you had to figure it out as you went. very wargames (including the handset phone modem thingy). very hacker. part of the thrill was simply discovering another command you could use. .

the world and the story as it unfolded was filled with all the elements a kid wanted. a great undergound empire, treasures, puzzles, grues, zorkmids, flood control dams, various creatures, and a mysterious thief that appeared randomly to steal your possessions or kill you (or, ultimately, to be killed by you). you could go pretty much anywhere you wanted to (once you found a way there). you returned to places frequently. if you picked up something, moved locations, dropped it and left, it would be there when you returned. a primotive first attempt at an open-world sandbox.

because it was all text, there was no map, no pictures, no video, no nothin'. it all had to be imagined and retained in the mind (with lots of notes and crude maps drawn by the player).

this type of text-based game would continue on mainframes and into early pc games from infocom (a few which appear on my list).

the game is playable online through various emulators.

Seminal Games of My Life: The List

over the past few weeks, i've tried to compile the list of games that made an impact on me and stood the test of time. it wasn't easy. so many games played over my not-so-young life. so many memories. so many revolutions in game type, game play, game tech. i spent quite a lot of time googling and wikipediaing trying to put a name to a game i had long forgotten, or to make sure something special didn't slip through the crack (i'm sure some have). i envy the players of today who will have an exhaustive archive of games played, achievements earned, brag clips saved. i had to rely on my grey matter.

i had no formal rules on what was required to make the cut. i went with my gut. i vetted my reasoning on some with zak. i plan to write about each game in their own separate blog posts, and perhaps that will reveal why they earned a spot on this coveted list.

this is a living document. i reserve the right to change it.

MY SEMINAL GAMES LIST (in semi-chronological order)


super star trek


mattel classic football handheld

slot racer

football (intellivision)


zoo keeper

mario bros.

donkey kong jr.

dragon's lair

the legend of zelda

super mario

ultima series

castle wolfenstein




planetfall series


romance of the three kingdoms

star control

wing commander


unreal tournament

gran tourismo 3

GTA 3 (and series)


halflife (and 2)

diablo 2


deus ex

red faction

medal of honor: allied assault



call of duty: modern warfare

midnight club II

fallout 3

red dead redemption

portal 2