The Canonization of Video Games

The Canonization of Video Games

Now, I dont usually post much on here, and I'm afraid this may drop like a lead balloon, but I read an interesting article here, calling for the canonisation of video games. I'm currently studying a literature degree, and my mind is constantly asking what books should be studied, for what reason and why, basically what places a work of literature in the literary canon.

So I got thinking, what game would you place in video game canon, and more importantly why? It could be Tetris or Angry Birds, so long as you give reasons why it deserves to be in the canon.

So far I'm thinking of aspects such as core gameplay, genres e.g. RPGs and Pokemon Adventures and Zelda, maybe graphics if a game is doing something really special e.g. Ocarina of Time and Mairo 64 moving to 3D, or something totally different like Joust, and how thats changing what a video game is (moving away from the video!) Hopefully this is more than just a best of list, but its able to highlight what certain games are able to do well regarding certain aspects, and not just all rounders, which is what a best of list is closer to. I don't want to pick a set of rules as to what is required to be met, but I want to keep this as an open ended list up for discussion from anybody.

So pick your favourites, what tried to break boundaries, what had a good concept but failed to deliver and what is changing the industry for the better. Pick your mainstream blockbusters, or your favourite indies, whatever goes, so long as it has reason! eg. You might choose angry birds, and reason that while it may not be groundbreaking for core gameplay element, its object is to kill 5 minutes on the train, highlight its ability to jump in and out on a mobile platform and ease of access, something that might not translate with say a Skyrim hours on end epic on a mobile device.

So to get the ball rolling, my entry is...

The Walking Dead


For me, this really expanded what a video game is. I played it on the ipad and it was almost an interactive comic. I played it with a controller on the mac and it was still a video game, but showed how a game can be less 'how many zombie head shots can you get' and allowed me to play the game in my head augmented bu a controller. It was engaging, full of twists and turns just as much as a fighting fantasy book, and hinted that everything I did could change the course of the game. Whether or not it does change the entire game doesn't matter in my mind as its all about the experience. It got me talking to my friends about my outcomes and adventures like old school playground discussions of epic pokemon battles. What the user experienced was a world they could take full control of as if they wrote their own story (how much they're in control is irrelevant in my opinion, as so long as it suggests enough to believe you are). This and for so many other reasons is why I think it deserves its place.

(Although I actually believe Heavy Rain to be a better game at what its aiming to achieve, with multiple characters and perma death adding another layer, the fact that The Walking Dead can be played on almost any platform earns its place in the canon over heavy rain for me. So many times i've tried recommending Heavy Rain to xbox owners, only to be disillusioned at its ps3 exclusivity. Although in hindsight, it probably doesn't make The Walking Dead a better game being more accessible)

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