At the most recent Game Developers Conference a panel of distinguished figures--game designers Steve Meretzky and Warren Spector, Joystiq editor Christopher Grant, and game scholar Matteo Bittanti--revealed the first 10 games to be listed in the Digital Game Canon:
- Spacewar! (MIT, 1962)
- Star Raiders (Atari, 1979)
- Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (Infocom, 1980)
- Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov, 1985)
- Sim City (Maxis, 1989)
- Super Mario Brothers 3 (Nintendo, 1990)
- Civilisation I/II (MicroProse, 1991-1996)
- DOOM (id, 1993)
- Sensible World of Soccer (Sensible, 1994)
- Warcraft I/II/III (Blizzard, 1994-2003)
Yes, groundbreaking games like Pong (1972) and Adventure (AKA Colossal Cave Adventure, 1976) should have made the list, and the absence of even a single RPG seems an oversight. I also have concerns about the whole notion of canons and their inevitable aesthetic, ideological, and political biases. For what it's worth, I discuss the game canon and these concerns in the next podcast, which will be posted in a day or so. If you're interested in any of these issues, be sure to listen.
Having said all that, I think it's a good list and I'm grateful to the IGDA's game preservation group for working hard to ensure that these games and all their related materials are available to future designers, scholars, and players. It's a noble effort, and no list of 10 games could ever satisfy everyone. Fortunately, this is an ongoing effort, and the list of preserved games will continue to grow.
If you'd like to listen to Spector, Bittanti and the others inducting these games, the IGDA has made the audio files and their accompanying slide presentations available here. You can also download PDF versions of all the presentations with accompanying MP3 files.
Listening to one of the true gaming gods, Steve Meretzky, discuss why Zork and Civilization matter so much is a real treat. Thanks to the IGDA for sharing it with all of us.