New Video Game Hall of Fame shines a spotlight on older games

The first six inductees to the World Video Game Hall of Fame have been announced. Why haven't these classic games been recognized sooner?

Photo Courtesy of The Strong®, Rochester, New York
The first inductees to the Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY.

Pong, Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Doom, and World of Warcraft were selected as the first six inductees into the brand new World Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York on Thursday. 

Induction was based primarily on four factors: icon status, longevity, geographical reach, and influence. An international selection advisory committee made recommendations based on a pool of nominations submitted by the public, and the finalists were ultimately determined by an internal selection committee. 

Chris Grant, Editor-in-Chief of Polygon, an online gaming publication, was one of 23 journalists, scholars, and other video game experts who made up the selection advisory committee. Mr. Grant believes the creation of the Hall of Fame was long overdue.

“I think video games historically have not received a sort of recognition anywhere near the kind of broad audience acceptance of video games. They haven’t gotten the sort of museum level recognition that they deserve,” Grant says in an interview with the Monitor. “ I think we don’t have a lot of fluency, both in the academic and the broader cultural sense, in the merit of video games.”

Some efforts have been made in recent years to celebrate the cultural significance of gaming, such as an exhibition at the Smithsonian entitled "The Art of Video Games."

Grant was also involved in the creation of Game Canon, a list of games for under consideration for preservation in the Library of Congress, similar to the National Film Registry. Game Canon was started in 2007 by a fellow advisory committee member, Henry Lowood, who is Curator for History of Science & Technology Collections and Film & Media Collections in the Stanford University Libraries. However, Grant says, many historically important games have been largely forgotten by the modern video game audience. 

“While video games are popular, we don’t often talk about the games that have come before or what their merit or cultural significance is," Grant explains. "We’re just onto the next game.”

One game with particular cultural significance, according to Grant, is Doom, which he calls "the most important video game ever made." Doom, released in 1993, was one of the first wave of first-person shooter games and was one of the first games for which users could design their own levels. 

For some, the potential inclusion of Doom is controversial, however. Anti-video game activist Jack Thompson says that violent video games are not something that should be celebrated. 

"If you’re going to have a Hall of Fame and you're leaving morality out of the decision of who’s included, then the most violent games ever are going to wind up being in the Hall of Fame because they're the most successful," Thompson says in a Monitor interview. "It's only a matter of time before Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty and Halo are in there. Obviously if they put Doom in there, morality is not playing a role in their selection process." 

Thompson filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents of three children killed in the Heath High School shooting in 1997 claiming that Doom, among other violent video games, was responsible for the tragedy. 

Ultimately, according to Grant, the goal of the Hall of Fame is to "shine a spotlight" on some of the older games, such as Doom, that laid the foundation for well-known contemporary games. He would like to see more people go back and revisit those old games, and "spend time with them in a way they haven’t before." 

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