100 Games to Know!

PAX East is one of several conventions under the PAX brand, all of which are dedicated to gaming. Created by the folks behind the popular webcomic Penny Arcade, PAX East has become a premier destination for video games, board game creators, and gaming enthusiasts from all walks of life.

One of the panels this year featured prolific puzzler and game creator Mike Selinker, author of The Maze of Games and creator of numerous popular board games and card games, including Unspeakable Words, Pathfinder, and many others.

He hosted a panel entitled 100 Games You Absolutely, Positively Must Know How to Play, and over the course of the hour-long event he ran down 100 board games, card games, and video games that he considers to be essential knowledge for every game fan and game designer.

He stressed that this was not a list of the 100 best, the 100 most important, or the 100 most fun games, and that virtually every person’s opinion would vary.

And then he laid out a fantastic list of games in many styles and formats:

  • Tabletop RPGs (Dungeons & Dragons, Fiasco)
  • Electronic RPGs (The Legend of Zelda, The Secret of Monkey Island)
  • Deduction Games (Clue, Mafia)
  • Tile Games (Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Settlers of Catan)
  • Tabletop puzzle games (Scrabble, Boggle)
  • Electronic puzzle games (Myst, Bejeweled, Portal, You Don’t Know Jack)
  • Platformers (Super Mario Bros. 3, Katamari Damacy, Limbo, Braid)
  • Simulators (Madden NFL, Starcraft, FarmVille, Minecraft)
  • Traditional card games (Fluxx, Gloom, Uno)
  • Deck-construction games (Magic: The Gathering)
  • Electronic action games (Mario Kart 64, Halo, Plants vs. Zombies)
  • Rhythm games (Dance Dance Revolution, Rock Band)
  • Strategy board games (Ticket to Ride, Pandemic)
  • Tabletop war games (Stratego, Axis & Allies)
  • Open world video games (Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft)
  • Creative tabletop games (Cards Against Humanity)

Several favorites of mine made the cut — like Mafia, a brilliantly simple murder mystery card game requiring nothing more than a deck of cards — and he had excellent reasons for including every game and excluding others.

Although plenty of worthy games didn’t get mentioned, I can’t come up with any game styles that Selinker missed, nor can I come up with any particular games that were egregiously excluded. I love Qwirkle, Timeline, and Castellan, for instance, but I feel like each of those gaming styles were well represented.

[He was careful to cover his bases.]

Can you think of any that the keen eye of Selinker missed, my fellow puzzlers? Let me know!

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Puzzles and games: A community of hobbyists

A friend of the blog passed along a fascinating article analyzing the current gaming market.

The piece encompasses console games, PC games, mobile games, and MMOs (massive multiplayer online games, like World of Warcraft), and not only categorizes different types of gaming experiences, but predicts the future of the gaming business as a whole.

From the article:

“The concept of one true gamer community will be less feasible as evergreen hobbies grow in popularity. Instead, we have a crazy mixing bowl of diverse, separate, long-term communities. Few will share the same values or goals. Few players will consider themselves having anything in common with players of a different game.

Social organizations such as PAX will still promote common ground, much like the Olympics promotes common ground between athletes. But day-to-day cross-pollination will be rare.”

And his conclusion is one that rings true for puzzle-games particularly:

“The shift comes from realizing that individual digital hobbies will soon to be the default play pattern.”

Puzzles and puzzle games are famously singular endeavors. Crosswords and Sudoku puzzles hardly lend themselves to group play (unless you’re asking for help), and often the only “interaction” comes in tournaments or other forms of competition wherein individuals are pitted against each other in isolation.

The expansion of puzzles and puzzle-games into the mobile market (tablets, smartphones, etc.) has helped solidify this. Whether it’s Angry Birds or our own Classic Word Search iBook, puzzle-solving games remain something of a solitary hobby.

(The big exception to the rule here is, of course, Words With Friends and other Scrabble variants.)

But the similarities between the PuzzleNation community and the gaming community don’t end there.

We too have our “grinders” (those who enjoy one particular game to the exclusion of others, posting impressive monthly scores) and our “aficionados” (those who dabble in all kinds of puzzles, peppering the scoreboards with their name across numerous puzzle variants).

You know, the line separating puzzles and puzzle-games is a tenuous one, and while I’ve spent a good deal of time myself parsing out the differences between the two, it’s always nice to be reminded how much puzzlers and gamers have in common. We’re two very enthusiastic communities with a lot of overlap.

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