A friend recently posted this wonderful list of “34 Video Game Levels That You Must Play Before You Die” on my facebook wall, pardon, timeline, asking me how many of the 34 “essential stages of video game history” I had played. I scrolled through, and my answer was: none.
Well, I watched my brother play the entire Half Life II, does that count? I didn’t know the original Zelda, but I played Link’s Awakening on the SNES when I was 19 and realised I could just buy a SNES on Ebay, therefore fulfilling a childhood dream, does that count? I knew all the levels of the Gameboy’s Super Mario Land II – 6 Golden Coins off by heart with all secrets, does that count?
It’s great that some people had a really great time playing these games as children. There may even be well enough reasons to believe that they mark “history” more than any other games. Then again, it’s only a BuzzFeed list that someone put together and highly subjective, as are most lists of “essentials”.
So why do we care? Do we seek confirmation that we have the “nerd cred”? If so, I really have to bring up something that’s been bugging me since my childhood: Consumerism. We didn’t have tons of money when I grew up, and what we had went in cool, long camping trips or cheap skiing holidays, and not in expensive electronic entertainment. It’s funny: Today, when I tell people we went skiing in Switzerland every year, they call me out on being some kind of snob. No matter how often I emphasize that we really did it the “cheapest” way possible and saved money at every corner to make it possible, they think we must have been posh or whatever. I had lots of friends who didn’t go on holidays but had (among other stuff, such as expensive clothes etc.) video game consoles at home – and naturally I envied them!
Of course I was really lucky to have sensible parents – in the end I wouldn’t trade my holiday memories for anything. But of course I was also jealous as hell! I specifically remember hanging out with one friend of mine only so I could play on her SNES, even though I hated her guts. (Didn’t we all have that friend?)
That’s the reason I resent people making this big deal out of console games or having the “authentic” nostalgic feeling about certain games. It’s great if you have that feeling and those memories! But please remember, there are those of us who just didn’t have the means to join the club “authentically” early. Also, as I know now, it’s just not the same when you try to join the club later. My SNES is currently on the attic. 😦
That’s for consoles. I missed out, isn’t going to change, moving on. What I did have was a great older brother. And he was into computers! He had jobs (zomg!), and could afford buying new graphics cards, monitors and games, and lucky me inherited big time every time he upgraded! I would never have turned into the gamer I am now without him fuelling my growing addiction. He spent hours setting up proper networks inside our house or building new computers for me and my dad’s home office. It was awesome. And he always knew people who had friends, who knew people… well, in the end, I collected two big wooden boxes full of games that I never bought or got cheap. So you can see how playing PC games always was “it” for me, and always will be the source of my gaming nostalgia! 
So I made my own list. There’s nothing essential about it, and if anyone ever read this blog, I would certainly welcome feedback on it. As it stands, it’s simply a list of all games I could remember that shaped my experience as a gamer. Looking over it now, it says a lot about my taste (strategy! building!) and the time I “grew up” in – meaning that you can already see the coming wave of sequels to what games already considered classics. 😉 Actually, I think I might make a serial of this, and take a look at some of the games that fascinated me in more detail.
This list is probably not complete. Also, a note on the release dates: I usually only played the games a lot later than when they came out. (This should be obvious once you take into account that I was born in ’86!) So ordering this list by dates is weird to me, since I may have played really old games way later than newer games. I think I “consciously” started playing games around ’98 at the earliest – before that I might have started them (I knew my way around DOS pretty early I think), clicked randomly at stuff and liked it, but I wasn’t really sure what the heck I was doing. The only game I can remember my brother playing when I was very young was Day of the Tentacle. 🙂
Monkey Island II: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991)
Legend of Kyrandia I – III (1992 – 1994)
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993)
Day of the Tentacle (1993)
Gabriel Knight I (1993) & II (1995)
Der Planer (1994)
King’s Quest VII (1994)
Transport Tycoon (1994)
Jazz Jackrabbit (1994)
Sim City 2000 (1994)
Crappy Arcade Clones from a cheap shareware CD (1995??)
The Settlers II (1996)
Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996)
Civilization II (1996) and all sequels
MicroMachines v3 (1997)
Age of Empires I (1997) & II (1999)
Anno 1602 (1998) and all sequels
Caesar III (1998)
Dungeon Keeper II (1999)
Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Diablo II (2000)
Age of Wonders (2000)
The Sims I (2000)
Black & White I (2001)
Age of Mythology (2002)
Warcraft III (2002)
Phew! Making this list was actually more fun that I thought – I really think I’ll write something up for most of these, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Stay tuned 😀
1. Actually, in addition to that, I never had my own TV in my room as many of my friends did. I never got into watching TV in a big way because doing that meant hanging out with my parents on the couch watching their stuff. I love my parents, but I was also a teenager, so spending most of my time in my room I guess was natural enough 😉