Sunday, September 18, 2011
Charlie Brooker’s Favourite Videogames
I picked up a copy of Charlie Brooker’s The Hell Of It All from HMV for £2. It’s worth owning this hilarious collection of misanthropic scribblings just for the Gaming Apendix alone. In this section, Brooker lists his favourite videogames of all time. Below are some of his entries:
Asteroids (1979, Atari)
Of all the early monochrome classics, Asteroids was my favourite, because it’s truly bleak. Rather than aliens or robots, your enemies are unthinking lumps of rock that are hurtling through space. Twirling somewhere in the middle of this cluttered void is your tiny, heartbreakingly fragile spaceship, armed only with a feeble electric peashooter. If Asteroids has a message, it’s this: you are insignificant, the universe doesn’t care about you, and you are definitely going to die. Brilliant.
Pac-Man (1980, Namco)
Pac-Man himself may be an ultimately unknowable yellow disc, but his spectral pursuers had proper googly eyes and everything. And nicknames. And blood types. OK, not blood types. But this was one of the first games with identifiable characters, which goes a long way to explaining its success.
Doom (1993, id software)
The king of all first person shooters. Doom represented a huge technological leap forward, with graphics and multiplayer gameplay options that were way ahead of their time, But, most of all, Doom was scary. Really bloody scary. Flickering lights, horrifying monsters, pitch-black rooms and blood-curdling sound design. The snarling bull-like ‘pinky’ beasts that galloped over and bit your face off without warning are the most unsettling enemy in videogame history.
Tekken 2 (1996, Namco)
In 1996 I spent weeks sitting hunched over a PlayStation controller in my living room, fighting flatmates and friends in an uninterrupted Tekken trance. It’s a hypnotic orgy of violence in which martial artists, thugs, robots, wrestlers and pandas knock 10 bells out of each other for no good reason; cue punches, kicks and harrowing acts of cartilage-grinding chiropractic violence that almost made you pity your opponent. Wonderful.
The Grand Theft Auto series (1997-2008, DMA/Rockstar)
Controversial series of ‘sandbox’ games that gift the player an entire city in which to misbehave. It began in 1997 as a cheeky mayhem simulator with a top-down, 2D viewpoint and a ZX Spectrum vibe. In 2001, it graduated to 3D and became an unstoppable block-buster. The sun-kissed San Andreas is my favourite GTA, at least until the next-gen GTA IV arrives in a few weeks. Few Brits realise these games are made in Scotland: we should be far prouder of this stuff than we are.
The Orange Box (2007, Valve)
Must-have compilation containing both Half-Life 2 (the best first-person shooter since Doom) and Portal (one of the most inventive brain-ticklers ever conceived). Playing Half-Life 2 is a bit like starring in a sci-fi horror remake of Die Hard, but better, while Portal is a description-defying 3D puzzle that folds your sense of spatial awareness in on itself. Utterly fantastic.
Super Mario Galaxy (2007, Nintendo)
All the Mario platformers are superb: Galaxy happens to be the most recent. A dizzying, challenging, ingenious romp, it’s like having joy poured into your head via the eyeholes. Anyone who believes videogames to be a mindless waste of time should play this. As surreal and inventive as Python; as much pure entertainment as 100 Tom and Jerry cartoons, it’s a bona fide work of modern genius.