Video Game Canon

A little over a year ago the NY Times and various other media outlets and blogs reported on Henry Lowood, Warren Spector, Steve Meretzky, Mario Bittanti, and Christopher Grant's list of the ten most important games of all time.

Many referred to it as the creation of the first video game canon.

Certainly we are all aware of the problems of creating any kind of canon yet I think we all recognize their usefulness as well---if only as the subject of critique.

I am faced with this same dilemma now that I am creating exam reading lists for my Ph.D. exams. One of my professors thought it would be a good idea to have, in addition to the theoretical texts I am reading, a list of objects of study which might include games, films, art works, etc. It's an interesting problem that few others in my department have to grapple with. I am in an English department therefore most of the other students have a readymade canon to draw from given the literary period or genre they study.

Has anyone out there attempted to compile such a list of artifacts they either believe should comprise some kind of canon or, perhaps, simply find most useful in their research?

The only other list I have found is available at Georgia Tech's Literature, Communication, and Culture website. There they have all of the books and cultural artifacts listed which their Ph.D. students can select from to compile exam lists. The games available for selection are: Space War, Pong, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. 3, Mortal Kombat, Doom, Adventure, Zork, Ultima Online, EverQuest, Myst, The Last Express, Civilization, Sim City, The Sims as well as various Interactive Fiction and "Narrative Computational Research Projects" such as Facade. A rather eclectic mix.

My specific interests are in games which deal with race, gender, and power, however, I would enjoy hearing from anyone who has created a list of key texts. I know I am finding it really helpful as a preparatory exercise prior to dissertation writing to try and construct a list of games which I think are important to look at.

UPDATE 5/2/08

With help of microscopiq, I am putting together a preliminary list of games which feature black characters. You can take a look at my list on my blog.

RPG Syllabus

Have you seen The Brainy Gamer site? He's currently putting together a list of RPGs to cover in an upcoming course that he'll be teaching.


I don't know how I feel about capital-C Canons, but compiling focused lists like this seems extremely useful. It's too bad we can't create some sort of database of games and give them searchable attributes to make this process simpler....

The Game Cannon

The best game cannon is definely the one used in Mario games to take shortcuts between levels. Why isn't it on the list?

Seriously though, nice move those guys, good pr and even got some games preserved in some kind of nuclear winter surviving underground archive, thus ensuring that some of humanities most important creations live on for an eon or two.

What I'm much more bored by is the academic gaming canon... you know how it is that only certain games ever get talked about. Or obscure games get covered again and again (Rez anybody?)

Good to see some

Good to see some appreciation for UO. In modern MMORPG times I often think people have forgot about the games that started this all off.

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