The greatest video game ever


Every so often, social media comes up with a great question.

Not great by any standard or wide-ranging definition of great, mind you. Not great questions as in fantastic and brilliant and mind-bogglingly wonderful. But great as in meaningful to some and timely.

Perhaps meaningful for a single person. Perhaps for a group. Something that connects and potentially generates conversation, answers, and occasionally both.

On Twitter, someone is asking other writers about favorite books and authors.

On Facebook, a person on the road is looking for restaurant recommendations.

On another, a friend is reaching out for a reputable contractor to do some emergency home repairs.

See? Not great stupendous. Just… well… great.

And the crazy thing is that people respond.

This morning a simple, utterly silly, and yet I suppose qualifying as great question got me thinking. For hours.

There was no reason the concept should have connected with me, sparking curiosity and plenty of memories. No reason I should have given it more than either a passing glance or impulse thought. But think about it I have, and I’m not sure it has an answer.

The question at hand was this: Name the greatest video game ever.

(See? I told you. Not exactly a great question by handy definitions.)

The problem for me… and source of ongoing pondering…. comes from how to approach the question.

Is it something where a universal agreement is needed? Or—hey, this is a social media debate—are we looking more toward personal feelings?

Chances are good that if we are considering all-time games, somewhat emotionless in our approach, the classics come to mind: Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Tetris and such. The titles we all know and recognize as the beginning of it all. Arguments made for Super Mario Bros. for literally bringing it home. Defenses lined up for how Duck Hunt and The Legend of Zelda contributed to what is now routine.

Building from there, we’ll find a batch of people that will point to sales charts and free download statistics. Discussions might take place on the importance of availability and gaming platform options.

And all of this is looking to generate some way of measuring and quantifying what might not be measurable or quantifiable… still, it’s the question… greatness.

Which leads us to the personal.

As kids, our house was home to an Intellivision system. Some friends had Atari. A smattering of others were occasionally spotted. And we all added to our collections of titles, playing the latest and greatest at the appropriate house.

I mastered playing the two-player baseball game on my own, basically by controlling the team at bat with my feet. To this day, I still recall the edge-of-the-seat games played with one friend, where the scoring of a single run often decided the winner. My sisters seldom played the sports titles with me, meaning games of Snafu and Sea Battle were the norm against them.

I can recall a neighborhood house that was home to a Radio Shack computer. I believe it was the TRS-80 model, and we often played Polaris. Later, when the Tandy computer craze arrived at our house, some of the thrills of gaming involved the struggles with games that played using cassette players. Yes, video gaming on tape recorders. (Top that memory.)

Greatness of video games will almost certainly never find Astrosmash or Utopia on any list unless nostalgia and deep thought are being applied. (And yet the t-shirts and civilization-building that followed would support either getting at least a mention.)

One of the biggest problems with Intellivision was the controllers. They were so unique in design that honestly no current style compares. Makes it next to impossible to enjoy any classic video game collection for the system, since the games aren’t even close to capturing the playing style.

In college, I remember getting addicted to Xybots. To this day, every so often I glance around to check and see what kind of availability might exist to find a version that will play at home. (And then talk myself out of purchasing it.)

The point simply comes back to this: Do you want to find an answer (which means creating some sort of top ten list, with the hope being that most people will nod at those included while debating the order)? Or, do you want to search out for the connections the games have made with people and why certain titles have specific impacts?

The reality, for video games or anything else, is that there quite likely is no answer that works for the questions of greatest. (But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to ask.)


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