Sir Peter Molyneaux, Commander of the British Empire, has dished publicly about what he believes to be the five most innovative games of the past 20 years. I agree with him on all but one.
People like to make fun of Peter because he says outrageously bombastic things about what his games will do, and of course though they’re usually excellent games, they’re unable to deliver on his impossible promises. But speaking personally, I like it when Peter gets excited enough to say crazy things. All it means is that he’s so exuberant about the medium and about what he does that he gets carried away. That’s real, genuine passion. Moreover, I’ve spoken with Peter a few times at various conferences and he’s very friendly and accessible. That scores you points in my book, especially if you’re a God Among Developers with canon as brilliant as Populous, Powermonger, Magic Carpet, The Movies, and Fable under your belt, plus of course the ambitious but… distinctly lacking Black & White series.
His top five most innovative? Here they are, along with a note on whether or not I agree (but I am not Sir Steerpike, Commander of the British Empire, so my opinion really doesn’t matter):
- Dune 2: the Building of a Dynasty: First true RTS. Steerpike-Approved!
- Super Mario 64: Innovator of open world gaming. Steerpike-Approved!
- Tomb Raider: Female protagonist, plus 3D platforming. Steerpike-Approved!
- Halo: Brought first person shooters to consoles. Steerpike-Disapproved!
- World of Warcraft: Brilliant-if-vaguely-unethical use of layered objective/reward systems to magnetize play. Steerpike-Approved!
Halo? Seriously? There’s no game in the universe that’s less innovative than Halo. There’s nothing about Halo that hadn’t been innovated five years earlier on the PC. Halo’s one claim to fame, as Molyneaux notes, is that it made FPS gaming possible with thumbsticks. But I just don’t consider that one of the five most innovative innovations in the last two decades. Besides, Halo’s squishy controls, irritating protagonist, adolescent story and bumptuous puzzle solving mark it as a BAD GAME. Yes, you heard me. Halo and its successors were then, are now, and will always be bad games. Badly designed, badly written, badly put together. Poor controls, poor story, poor camera, poor level design. Bad.
The only reason Halo did as well as it did is because… well, it brought FPS to consoles. Halo was to console gamers what DOOM was to PC gamers. So innovative? No. I’d give Halo’s spot to DOOM, and never lose a night’s sleep.