Video Game Hall of Fame honorees: a brief history of gaming in six titles

From 'Space Invaders' to 'Grand Theft Auto III,' this year's inductees into the Video Game Hall of fame represent the evolution of gaming.

Bethany Mosher/The Strong museum/AP
The Strong museum in Rochester, N.Y., honored the 2016 inductees to the World Video Game Hall of Fame on Thursday. From top left, clockwise, the newest inductees are 'Grand Theft Auto III,' 'Space Invaders,' 'Sonic the Hedgehog,' 'The Sims,' 'The Legend of Zelda,' and 'The Oregon Trail.'

One game invited players to make a virtual pioneer trip west, unless, of course, they died of dysentery. Another let players create complex domestic dramas with a series of characters, while a third let players zap marching aliens with dot lasers.

Now, “The Oregon Trail,” “The Sims” and “Space Invaders” are among six games inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. 

Along with “Grand Theft Auto III,” “Sonic the Hedgehog," and “The Legend of Zelda,” the games were honored for their lasting influence on gaming and pop culture at an event Thursday at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

The diverse range of inductees encompasses a variety of technological breakthroughs and subjects spanning four decades of gaming. The museum says it wants to recognize games of all types in its selections, including arcade, console, computer, hand-held, and mobile games.

This year’s honorees each invited players into diverse worlds. “Space Invaders” wasn’t the first shooter game when it was introduced in Japan in 1978, but it sparked a passion for arcade games and a host of imitators, Jeremy Saucier, assistant director of the museum’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games, told the Associated Press.

When it was released in 2001, “Grand Theft Auto III,” was also revolutionary, though for different reasons, Mr. Saucier said. It was the first 3-D open-ended game, with players moving freely through a gritty, often violent urban environment, equipped with flamethrowers and assault rifles.

“By providing players with a license to do virtually anything they wanted to do on foot or behind the wheel, 'Grand Theft Auto III' renewed debates about the role of games and violence in society while it signaled video games aren't just for kids," Saucier said.

While it sparked a still-contentious debate about violence in gaming, the game became a model for other “sandbox style” video games that allowed players to move independently through a complex virtual world. By 2008, it had sold 14.5 million copies.

The inductees were chosen from 15 finalists, while there were thousands of other nominations form around the world. Some of the finalists included "John Madden Football," ''Elite," ''Final Fantasy," ''Minecraft," ''Nurburgring," ''Pokemon Red and Green," ''Sid Meier's Civilization," ''Street Fighter II," and "Tomb Raider."

The Strong, which opened in 1982 to display a variety of dolls and toys collected by a Rochester woman named Margaret Strong, has grown to encompass the National Museum of Play and the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Last year, it opened the World Video Game Hall of Fame to recognize a variety of electronic games. To be honored in the Hall of Fame, a game has to have had sustained popularity, and to have influenced the video game industry and society.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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