Keith Stuart has written an article over at The Guardian titled "The five things you need to know to get better at videogames". The article is transparently aimed at newcomers, and is deliberately written to be accommodating and vague. You can check it out over here.
What caught my eye was the footnote, written in italics:
Certain games are great for teaching the rules and conventions of design. If you want to get better at all games, play Tetris, Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter, Quake and Gran Turismo
Which is a pretty solid list, though I'm not sure if that's currently the most approachable list for someone new to the medium. A lot of those games are now pretty old, and their modern iterations are relatively convoluted. It got me thinking about the games I've sunk the most time into, and which games I'd recommend to someone who was looking to expand their understanding of videogame design. I'd probably swap out Gran Turismo for Forza, with it's racing lines and simplified UI, and Street Fighter can be very intimidating as oppose to something like Super Smash Brothers - though obviously there are arguments to be made for both.
I also keep forgetting that, objectively, these games aren't being recommended because they'd be enjoyed, but because they would teach you the most. It's also in no way suggesting that these games are the only games that should be played. I'm interpreting this as a masterclass; they may not be the most approachable, or enjoyable, but they do the best job of demonstrating the scope and fundamental design principles of the videogame spectrum. Whenever I think "They should add a jrpg to the list" or "Metal Gear Solid should be in there somewhere" I realise that the core elements of each, exploration and narrative, pattern development and inventory management, are already covered on the existing list.
Can anyone think of a better combination of games that could better demonstrate each of these core principles (as laid out in the article):
- Designers want you to explore
- Patterns are there to be broken
- Everything is telegraphed
- Spatial awareness is more important than speed
- Asset management is more important than raw skill