MaxBarry.com
not as edgy as you'd think

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Wed 23
Jan
2008

My Top Video Games

Max A few nights ago, Jen, Moo (Jen’s brother), and I got to talking about our all-time top computer games. Naturally, this quickly devolved into a bitter, insult-strewn debate about whose top-ranked games were ground-breaking titans of their time (mine), and whose were mindless, derivative trifles (theirs, except where overlapping with mine).

We did settle on the criterion that we should rank games based on the impact they had on us personally. This still left plenty of room for argument. Initially we were going to pick our top 5, but this got pushed out to 10. I still had too many classics left over, so successfully argued for 15, plus an “Honorable Mention.”

Three days later, we were still debating and re-arranging our lists. Clearly this was an important topic for us. In fact, it was surprising how much we cared. Games aren’t usually considered up there with books or movies, but these ones all meant a lot to us. They left a lasting impression and we wanted to give them their due.

So here is the result. My list:

  1. Elite (1984, Commodore 64): My mother bought me this for Christmas when I was about 11. I don’t think I did anything else that year. I never made it to “Elite” status, though. At least, not in the game. Ha ha!
  2. Doom (1993, PC): Ranked this highly for the multiplayer: Jen and I played together. Not competitively. Oh no. Jen lacks that part of the brain that lets you distinguish between reality and a computer game, which means if we play head-to-head, she tries to kill me in real life. We play co-operatively. (Fifteen years of marriage, bud. Fifteen years.)
  3. Shattered World (1990, MUD): A MUD is an online text-based game, usually swords-and-sorcery based. You type in commands, like, “kill goblin”, and read the responses, like, “The goblin dodges your swing. The goblin cleaves your head from your shoulders. You die.” I wrote tons of content for this game when I should have been studying for my marketing degree.
  4. Age of Empires II (1999, PC): I wrestled with the ethics of including a sequel when the original was much more, uh, original. But while Jen and I lost countless hours to both, this is the one we really pounded. Our strategy to defeat the computer-controlled hordes was to pour arrows upon the endless tides of units throwing themselves against our walls until our opponents had consumed every single resource in the game, reducing themselves to small groups of peasants standing around with nothing to do. Then we would ride out and butcher them.
  5. Half-Life (1998, PC): I was roundly ridiculed by Jen and Moo for not fitting HL2 into my list as well, but although it’s an amazing technical achievement, I didn’t really feel it, you know? No, Jen and Moo didn’t buy that, either.
  6. Paradroid (1985, Commodore 64): Ah, brave little 001 droid. I used to get up at 5am to play this before school.
  7. Portal (2007, PC): The only game I’ve played through since Fin was born. Portal is wonderful. I especially love how its story evolves from nowhere.
  8. NetHack (1987, PC): Sadistically difficult game that can strike terror into your heart by revealing a “D”.
  9. Warcraft II (1995, PC): The reason that for about five years there every single game on the shelves was a Real Time Strategy. Zug zug!
  10. Diablo (1996, PC): Diablo II was fantastic, too. But this game I knew I wanted the second the demo loaded.
  11. Unreal Tournament (1999, PC)
  12. Rygar (1986, Arcade)
  13. Battlefield 1942 (2002, PC)
  14. Defender of the Crown (1986, Commodore 64)
  15. Speedball (1988, Commodore Amiga)

Honorable Mention: Half-Life 2.

Obviously the mid-80s were very good to me. For comparison, here is Jen’s list: (1) Battlefield 1942 (2) Age of Empires II (3) Diablo 2 (4) Doom (5) Age of Empires (6) Warcraft 2 (7) Prince of Persia (8) SimCity (9) Railroad Tycoon (10) Carnival [for Colecovision] (11) Diablo (12) Venture [for Colecovision] (13) World of Warcraft (14) Warcraft 3 (15) Pancake [Vtech]. Honorable Mention: LadyBug [for Colecovision].

And Moo’s list: (1) Counter-Strike: Source (2) Team Fortress 2 (3) Runescape (4) Dynasty Warriors [for PlayStation 2] (5) Unreal Tournament (6) Half-Life 2 (7) Warcraft 3 (8) The Sims (9) Diablo , (10) Portal (11) Freelancer (12) Populous (13) Age of Empires II (14) Driver [for PlayStation] (15) Hitman: Blood Money. Honorable Mention: DragonBall Z [for PlayStation 2].

Moo is a teenager, by the way. You might have guessed that already.

Sat 12
Jan
2008

Vote Early, Vote Often

Company Until recently I was a complete unknown in my home country of Australia, while enjoying in the US a level of fame I would characterize as slightly less completely unknown. This gripping irony unfolded last year when I switched local publishers to Scribe, a feisty upstart with the crazy idea of getting me to do some publicity.

So it was that I ended doing a lot of interviews in which I talked about how I did no interviews in Australia, and wasn’t that weird, what with me being slightly less completely unknown in the US and all. Scribe is planning to re-publish Syrup in a few months, and now my publicist is frantic because with that angle exhausted, there’s nothing interesting left about me.

I am now so slightly less completely unknown, in fact, that the State Library of Victoria—that’s my home state—even noticed I had a book published. This is exciting not just because it’s a great way to encourage people to read my book in a way that generates no sales. They’re also running a competition inviting you to vote for your favorite book.

I wasn’t sure it was ethical to ask my readership, the vast majority of whom reside outside Victoria, to vote for me in what seems intended as a purely local poll. But I asked Scribe, and they said, “Hell, yes. See if they can vote multiple times, too.” So I guess it’s okay.

In other local news, I’m doing a reading from Company at Brighton Library on Thursday 31st January 2008 at 6:30pm. I’m also reading my short story A Shade Less Perfect at the launch of The Sleepers Almanac on Wednesday 6th February 2008 at 6pm in the Bella Union Bar at Trades Hall, cnr Victoria and Lygon St, Carlton. Aloud, I mean. I’m not just sitting there, quietly turning the pages. I’m a professional.

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