An Accounting Of Days Lost

Were I to somehow graphically represent the landscape of my life as a gamer, I think what I would find would be large swatches of tillable flatland dominated by an occasional and completely incongruous mountain, sort of like putting a half dozen Mount Everests right in the middle of South Dakota. I have played an absolutely incomprehensible number of video games in my life, but it seems as though the time I invest in a handful of that number dominates my nostalgia. Lost are most of the entirely average games, which I enjoyed for a smattering of hours before dismissing into obscurity, and as I think back on my years I find that there are a few standouts.

How do you judge your favorite all-time video games? Like Rob Gordon of High Fidelity fame, I am happy to rank my memories and feelings into some easily digestible list, and like Nick Hornby's erstwhile, vaguely postmodern anti-hero I do not necessarily do so in an arbitrary way. It may be emotionally inviting to define the best games I've ever played in a gut check response, a list that is ever fluid as the tidal forces of my mood was and wane, but in some kind of empirical analysis, credit must be given to these Dakotan Everests; these games that rise from the plateau and eat away days, weeks, and even months. So, I offer for you the five games that most engrossed and monopolized my gaming days, and invite you to do the same.

Yes, it's a trite exercise, but like many of the games to follow, a simple yet thoroughly enjoyable endeavor.

5) Diablo 2 – Stay A While and Listen – Position five was the most up for grabs for my personal list. From here on out, it's easy to track the dominating titles of my gaming life, but this slot seemed potentially available to any number of options; the last of the second tier perhaps. By putting the restriction on this list that it must be a single game rather than a franchise, the choice became clearer, and Diablo 2 snuck in for the five spot.

Were I to allow franchises instead, this would easily be the domain of Civilization, and I point that out because an honorable mention is warranted.

But, Diablo II and its expansion still seem as inviting now as they did when released, and the truth is that only the very softest of nudges would find me reinstalling the game and leveling up another Sorceress or Necromancer. As much as I may join the chorus that despises Act III and its perpetually annoying pygmy adversaries, this is a game I've played again and again, both online and off. I've been through all three difficulties, felled Mephisto more times than I care to count, enjoyed the silly onslaught of the cow level, and tried dozens of builds.

An addicting and simple experience with limitless replayability.

4) Everquest"”SoW Plz– I remember with some nostalgia my first steps in Qeynos, and the amazing potential of this persistent and three-dimension world laid out before me. Then there was the rat killing, the gnoll killing, the bear killing, killing some skeletons and crocodiles, being killed by giants while killing skeletons and/or crocodiles, and so on and so forth. Why couldn't I quit you Everquest? It's a question that I couldn't answer for, oh, let's say a few hundred hours of playtime.

Credit where credit is due: the game was consistently iconic and laid the groundwork for a successful genre. From the plains of Karana to the Desert of Ro to the Field of Bone to Velious and Luclin, I've spent more time in individual zones of EQ than I have spent in most games. Unbelievably this is a game that continues to survive if not flourish with a new expansion – the 14th I believe – freshly released, and everytime I hear of some new content waiting to be plumbed there is this coppery taste of fresh desire in the back of my mouth.

You never totally fall out of love with your first.

3) World of WarCraft – You Are Not Prepared – Strange as it may seem to some who've known me over the past few years, WoW only ranks as my third most played game of all time. Admittedly that could change over the years, as World of WarCraft draws me inexorably back to its comfortable and familiar bosom time and again.

It is a triumph of MMO design, and the kind of experience that somehow manages to improve with age. The game does so many things consistently right that there's just no good starting point to begin singing its praises. Time is meaningless in the world, and despite the Sisyphean nature of the genre, Blizzard has applied such master touches to the gameplay that it demands acts of Herculean will just to log off for the night.

Coupled with an outstanding community of WoW players born from the site, thus making even the most tedious of quests entertaining, it's easy to pretend like there are no other games on my computer.

2) Counter-Strike –Go! Go! Go! – How many times have I played Dust and Office in my life? So many times that I can imagine easily the architecture of those levels, perhaps could even draw them with my eyes closed.

For as much as the greatness of the WoW community fuels my desire to play that game, the flotsam that made up much of Counter-Strike's public community fueled my desire to play that game and kill them. I was never great at CS, and on the occasions that I played against the truly gifted I was reminded soundly of that fact, but I was good, and more importantly I knew the levels, knew how to squeeze off short accurate shots, and how to not accidentally flash bang my own teammates. Counter-Strike is a game that rewards repetition and practice, and for years it was a consistent outlet for my destructive desires, in frankly unhealthy ways.

And, while much of my time with the game was spent stewing in the fog of fury that can only be born from being AWPed one too many times, it also defined some of my greatest gaming moments: planting the bomb as the last player alive, and then defending it against the four enemies remaining; slowly picking off a handful of enemies to win the match; the lucky grenade that bounces just right to wipe out three enemies; rescuing the last hostage under a hail of bullets, and so on.

1) Subspace/Continuum – I've Taken J12 – This last game will only be vaguely familiar to a select few, but it takes my number one spot by a healthy margin. I played Subspace for something like three-and-a-half years, and virtually nothing else, a bizarre statement of fact considering what a terribly simple game it is. Keyboard controlled spaceships on a flat 2D spacemap engage in combat while collecting power-ups, and yet sometimes it is the most simple of concepts and implementations that attract us the longest.

The beauty of Subspace, or Continuum as it is now known in the small niche of the internet where a few thousand people still play, is hard to describe, in part because it eventually became so player defined that the original game was little more than a concept on which people created new playstyles, new rulesets and new experiences. But, the game mechanics are fundamentally sound, and environments with a sense of momentum make pulling off a particularly squirrely and successful maneuver feel very rewarding. To know the moment of making just the right thrust to slip between obstacles while dropping the perfectly placed bomb which destroys a persistent pursuer is to know joy.

This game came to me in the aftermath of first acquiring consistent and reliable internet access that wasn't paid for by the minute. In this heady environment of unfettered access to the digital ether, this game begged me to play into the wee morning hours, which I was only too happy to oblige.

It is, I admit, trivial this casual journey through addiction and obsession, but these are the games that have defined who I am as a gamer. I see their influence in the games that continue to attract me, and those that do not. The idea that someday one of these games will be usurped by the obsessions yet to come fuels my fire for gaming.

Comments Great pick. "Green up bitches!!!"

5) C&C Red Alert/Warcraft 2 - Cut my teeth on these RTS and was introduced to the concept of a LAN party. Spent a lot of time with KALI and the Westwood matching service that worked really well with my new fangled "dial-up" connection.

4) Diablo 2 - Ditto what everyone else said, this was a great game. I remember taking 3 days off work when this came out.

3) NCAA Football '94/NHL '93 - Caused a least two fistfights that I can remember in my dorm room. Hours of "fun".

2)Pool of Radiance (Gold Box games) - I played everyone of these games to completion, and I beat Pool of Radiance probably 3-4 times. I even played the sucky ones like "Secret of the Silver Blades" and the Buck Rodgers ones. No game and no series gave me as much enjoyment except....

1)Master of Orion 2 - Almost caused me to flunk out of school. Always has been my secret same. I spent days locked in my tiny college bedroom, room living off pizza and coke and playing this crack amung video games. Thinking about it now still makes my stomach hurt a little.

Honorable mention: WoW, Civ 2, Civ 4, Super Street Fighter Turbo, Super Tecmo Bowl, Counterstrike, Wing Commander 2, X-Wing, Anarchy Online.

6. Everquest - "Wut?!" You may cry. "There's only supposed to be 5!" The reason why it's number 6 is my list is because though it may not be one of my top 5 favorite games, it still warrants a mention because this was the game that got me hooked into the whole MMORPG atmosphere. I never got a character past level 30, but I still remember coming home every day and hopping onto the Tarew Marr server to level whatever character I was playing at the moment. The long evenings in Crushbone, the people screaming about Dorn being up and wiping camps... Ahh, good times. My roommate failed the second semester of his senior year for this game. But this game leads me to...

5. Star Wars Galaxies - Yeah, the game play at times may have been nothing to write home about, but to me, this game was all about the community. My guild and I would spend hours deciding where to place the structures in our town, and I would spend even more time decorating the inside of my little medium Tatooine house. I remember how the game was back before SOE decided to f*** the veteran subscribers, insert a level system, and rape the game; I started out as a Carbineer, then switched to Teras Kasi when I realized how unstoppable it was. But, as I said, it was always more about the community we made. To this day, many of the members of that guild still game together.

4. Baldur's Gate I/II & Icewind Dale I/II - I remember losing hours to these games. The rich storylines of the former and the exciting action of the latter solidifies these in my top 5. I even still play them when the mood strikes.

3. Rainbow Six 3 - That's right, I went the way of Rainbow Six as opposed to CounterStrike. I think it was the cooperative aspect of these games that drew me toward them, as I've always enjoyed co-op games far more than the adversarial-based games. (Two words: terrorist hunt.) To me, the Rainbow Six series always preached a certain degree of thought and tactical execution over bunny-hopping and firing blindly. No offense to the CS fans, of course. =D

2. Starcraft - I suppose Diablo 2 fits in here as well, but Starcraft owned my soul for just about four years. I saw it played at a friend's house once, then immediately had to go and buy it. I've never looked back since, and is hands down my pick for the best RTS game EVER. Diablo 2? If I had a nickel for the number of times my friends and I would go back and play Diablo 2, even still today, well... I'd have a lot of nickels.

And finally...

1. Chrono Trigger - Quite possibly my most favorite RPG. Ever. The story, the characters, the number of endings; I still play this game and never get bored. I've long since had almost every aspect of this game memorized, and I even tried writing a walkthrough for it once. Make no mistake: I LOVE THIS GAME.

5. Street Fighter II - so many quarters were fed into this machine. Thinking about this game reminds of the many thumb blisters when it came out for the SNES. I played so much SFII that I could consistently get the special ending by having a perfect game without any hp lost on 7 stars.

4. Halo franchise - since the first XBOX debut, halo has been a stable in the office after work fun, from halo 1 and now to halo 3.

3. Dragonheart MUD - this game was the first time that I felt that I was really addicted to anything. Although it's a MUD, the text-based precursor to MMO, I was deeply lost in the world where I could shoot magic missiles and slay dragons. I still remember certains directions. 1e, 6s, 6e,1s

2. Counter Strike - just as Elysium described. I also played competively for a bit at local LANs (what happened to LANs?).

1. WoW - Having played from the beta days to beating MC and Onyxia weekly, I got burnt out when the first expansion came out. What a journey it was though while it lasted. I've since reactivated my account but to play very casually with nephews and help them level. Not sure if I'll ever reach a raiding level again nor that I would want to. Random players often ask about my WoW original collector edition's pets like the panda and the mini-diablo.

honorably mentioned: Rome: TW, Oblivion, BF series, Freelancer, and Joint Ops

Kannon wrote:

3. Jedi Knight. A mediocre game shot to stardom by the community. I've never seen the level design creativity some of the mod-makers put into it, in anything else. Anyone else who played online - remember Purgatory? Or the Jawa Sandcrawler SE? Amature brilliance I've never since seen.

Ah Jedi Knight what a classic that I forgot about. In the single-player, it starts off as a standard shooter and turns into one of the best experiences of being a Jedi ever (especially with the secret code to slice off body parts). I remember so many fun light-saber duels with friends online and the thrill of using Force Push to turn rockets back at your foes. thanks for the trip down gaming memory lane.

I am surprised that my top 5 looks a lot different than others posted here. It is probably worth noting that I havn't been playing a lot of games in recent years and so I can't really judge a lot of these games (I've never played WOW). Anyway, here is my top 5;

#5 - TY 2: The Tasmanian Tiger (Xbox)

This game is great because it places great emphasis on adventure and exploration. Another reason could be that it is based in Australia and being Australian myself, I found that a lot of the sights and sounds do very well at making you feel like you are in the Australian bush.

#4 - Snatcher (Mega CD)

I couldn't really understand why this game sells for so much on Ebay until I actaully managed to get a copy myself and play it. It is a futuristic adventure game with influences from great 80's sci-fi flicks such as Blade Runner and The Terminator. It is a very emersive story which makes you want to finish it just to see whats will happen. The only problems I had with this game was that it seemed a little short and sometimes I didn't know what I was meant to do which was really annoying. You usually know a game is good when you keep getting images if the game in your head long after you have finished palying.

#3 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)

Easily the best Sonic game released. The first one was good but when it came time for making the second, they must've had a huge amount of money and resources to spend after the huge success of the first one because it really delivered. I also loved the huge buildup to Sonic 2sday, the release day of the game. Graphics were brilliant, gameplay awsome. Even today I still pick it up to play it again. It just never wears off.

#2 - Quake (PC)

I know a lot of people would prefer Doom as their favourate rather than Quake but I feel that Quake filled in all that Doom was missing simply because the technology available was superiour. Quake is ok as a single player game but I mostly only played it in multi player mode. In my finalyear in tech college all I can remeber is spending the entire year playing this game with about 10 other people and it was just an awsome experience. It seemed that no matter how much you thought you knew every strategy the was to try, someone would come along with a new idea and kick your ass. The levels were clearly specifically designed for multiplayer in mind and they did a very good job of it.

#1 - Riven (PC)

I know a lot of people hate this game but that is probably because it was beyond their ability. After persisting with this game for god know show long and finally completing it, I havenever had the same sense of acheivment after having completed a game before. The graphics were excellent, the effects were excellent, the story was brilliant. It is a clear number 1. I just hate it when I hear someone complain that it is too hard and they don't seem to realise that is the whole point of the game. It is supposed to challenge you and make you use your brain.

Mmmm, let's see.

5) Baldur's Gate 1/2 - This place is hard, but I'll just go with this one, because I loved it so much. Played both multiple times through, are there are not many games I did that with. But maybe I should have put Civ2 here.
4) Deathball - This is an UT2003/4 mod. I played a lot for a long time.
3) C&C1 - Before the introduction of internet to my home, I would play this over a null-modem cable with friends. I also finished the game a few times.
2) Battlefield 1942 - This game came out right around the time I got broadband. Also right about the time where I had an excessive amount of free time because of a school project. Also played a lot of Desert Combat.
1) Battlefield 2 - Bought it as soon as I could, and played the hell out of it the last years. Even now I fire it up every now and then. Also logged in some hours with Project Reality.

5) DikuMud - My first introduction into pseudo-mmorpg, played it for ages at university
4) Shadow Warrior Demo, Level 1 CoOp with 1 friend - We replayed the level countless times to set up fastest clear times on all skill levels, along with just mucking around playing sticky bomb dominoes
3) Alpha Centauri - Lost the "real world simulation appeal" of Civ, but was just a lot more fun
2) StarCraft Single Player Custom Game, Lost Temple vs 3 AI - Played a lot of MP as well, but for some reason owning the AI in all kinds of odd ways amused me greatly
1) WoW - Have quit it now and moved on to Eve, but played it for years (and years, it feels like).

5) Jedi Knight - this was the first game that really awed me with the sense of scale and one of the first I felt had a real sense of storytelling to it
4) Doom - this was one of my first PC obsessions and also happened to be my first gaming as a social phenomenon. Everyone played Doom, it was the universal language of my high school.
3) Starsiege: Tribes - I have never had a team based online game meet the experience of playing Tribes. The things this game did years before anyone even thought about it again, and it's still more fun than Battlefield/CoD games. Skiing is probably the most fun game mechanic I've ever experienced.
2) Myth: The Fallen Lords - the story and atmosphere of this game really blew me away, and the multiplayer was amazing. Strategy stripped to it's most non-annoying elements, it still saddens me to think nobody's topped this since.
1) Master of Orion - my first PC love, a galaxy-sprawling epic that I can still sit back and play to this day. I am always drawn into my little galactic empire and conquering the Orions. Sadly I never got to play the sequel until a few months ago, which is superior in every way. Nostalgia still prefers this one though.

5) Twisted Metal (PS2?) - Just plain fun.

2) Anarchy Online - The implant/skill system really hooked me. Combine that with the flexibility of a Nanomage Agent, mission system (way before other MMOG went instanced) and a cool Sci-Fi theme.

4) Thief 1&2 - Everyone needs a copy of this brilliant game.

3) EQ/EQ2/WoW/E&B

1) -open-

Diablo 2 was my biggest time sink. I actually ended up making about 2000 dollars off the game. Played it for about 8 years of my life nearly everyday. What a f*cking waste. Hmm.. its installed on my pc right now.. hmm. no no don't do it . hmm

If you name an item in the game, I can tell you what the unique / exceptional / elite versions are of the item and at least half of their properties off the top of my head.

I was so happy to hear some one else mention some love for subspace. I live that game! I usually play on the trench wars server. I would reccommend anyone give it a go. Its completely free and lots of fun.

Total Annihilation
Civilisation 2
Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
Quake 3 Arena

Quake 3 is definitely my no.1 timesink... the rest are in no particular order with close runners-up being Diablo 2, Dungeon Siege 1 and either X-wing or Wing Commander Privateer.

Most of the games i spend the longest playing are in 'sandbox' modes which don't follow the main storyline or are part of the main part of the game (eg. mods)

It's nice to reminisce...

5) Homeworld / Homeworld2
3)Counter strike (this one since before 1.0.... 0.3 beta If i recall correctly)
2) BF2
1) Championship Manager / Football manager (SI Games) by far my favorite. I dont even want to think all the time that I have sink into all the versions of this game.

Not from one to five, from oldest to newest
1. My old Atari 2600 & 5200 not just one particular game, but y'all know what I mean
(digdug, joust, q-bert, pitfall, pac-man, etc...)
2. Final Fantasys
3. C & C Universe (didn't much care for the most recent one though)
4. City of Hero / Villians
5. Guitar Heroes / RockBand

If I had a dollar for every tenth of a point of my GPA in high school that I dropped into Morrowind and Nethack..

I guess I'd have another 15-20$.

5. Urban Terror. Counterstrike has the monopoly on FPS. But having come out of Quake 1 and Q2 and into Action Quake, I found myself grooving on UT. Like the previous posters, I know the maps like the back of my hand and turn off the sound and still rank high. Good for when you want to turn your brain off.
4. Civ 4. Like the others, any civ will do, even free civ. I actually downloaded it on my cell phone, and you could actually play a truncated, yet fun, version of the game.
3. Ultima 4. Just classic in every sense. So open ended, yet the whole overarching goal is brilliant and awe inspiring when you realise when it came out. Truly ground breaking and so many memories.
4. Metriod NES. For me, this was the beginning of the end of arcades. It was longer and deeper than arcade games, but had the smooth arcade play and controls. Hours were spend exploring the levels, with me obsessivley bombing every little tile, looking for those secret pathways. When it was revealed that Samus was a woman at the end, I was hooked.
5. Riddle of the Sphinx 2600. For its time, this was a very advanced game, with multiple items, damage by attacks and dehydration, a couple of puzzles, and even backtracking through levels. Great fun for it's time and one of my fondest gaming memories, only to be challenged perhaps by Raiders Of The Lost Ark 2600
I guess overall, these games all had aspects of exploration and originality allthough it may not seem so all these many years on. And they all excell in the quality that is paramount in this genre: fun.

Kind of late to the thread but what the heck...

Well, I've probably played thousands of games in my time. I'm not sure if these are the ones that I spent the most hours on in and of themselves, but they are the ones that have shaped my gaming landscape so they are the ones that, ultimately, consumed the most of my gaming career.

5) Colossal Cave - Yes, the original text adventure game. I suspect it is hard for anyone who came along after the birth of the computer/videogame era to really understand the impact this game had.

I discovered it in 1978 while I was an engineering student at Georgia Tech. At the time there was a large collection of computer games on our campus mainframe, a Control Data Cyber 74 computer, that was maintained by the Textile Engineering department of all things. (TEGAMES was the directory.) Most of these were very simple guessing games and the like, with the more complex games like Hunt the Wumpus and Super Star Trek being considered the state of the art.

Then, one day ADVENT (as our version was named) appeared. Here was a game that responded to actual typed commands, one that seemed to have recreated an entire world that waited to be explored. Sure, it was primitive and limited by modern standards, but we literally had nothing to compare it to. This was a complete revolution.

The entire campus became engrossed by the game. You could walk into the computer center at any time of the day or night and find groups and individuals huddled over monitors and teletypes while making their slow way through the cave. Scribbled maps could be found all over campus and it was common to come across people comparing notes and speculating on how to solve the next puzzle.

It took me weeks to finish the game. We had no Internet or other source for hints when we got stuck so it would sometimes take me days to get past one point or another. I know that the first person to complete the game with a full score only did so after using a disassembler on the binary and reading the text strings within it for clues.

The Colossal Cave introduced me to what are still "Adventure" games to me (I can't get used to the "Interactive Fiction" name). Adventure led me to the Zork trilogy and all of its Infocom cousins, plus all of the text adventure games written by other companies, through the graphical adventures of Sierra and on to Myst in all its graphically-rendered glory and all of its CGI descendants. I've been a fan of adventure games since their beginning, and the vast amount of time I have spent on them can be traced directly back to here.

4) Ultima II - This was the first large-scale computer role-playing game I played. Yes, I had played earlier games like Aklabeth but they were confined to a single dungeon or castle. This was the first game I played that gave you an entire world to explore (several in fact), with multiple towns and dungeons to enter and explore as well.

But that isn't the only reason that it makes this list. Ultima II was actually the first game to cause me to upgrade my hardware.

At the time (1982) my computer was an Atari 800 that I had bought a year or so earlier. The initial run of 800s had used a graphics chip called the CITA chip. Atari had since upgraded it with a more advanced version known as the GITA chip that could display several more graphics modes.

Ultima II looked distinctly odd on my old, CITA-equipped 800. The oceans were orange, the grass was blue and so on. Annoying, but playable.

Then I saw where a store was closing out their stock of the Atari 400 (a smaller, less powered version of the 800) and that Atari was running a rebate offer for the holidays. Between the two, I was able to buy a 400 fairly cheaply. I then opened both machines, identified the CITA and GITA chips and swapped them, upgrading my 800 and allowing the game's graphics to display correctly.

But that isn't all. You see, the Atari version of Ultima II had a bug. In order to leave the first continent you needed a ship. In order to get on a ship you had to have an inventory item known as a "blue tassel", easily determined because a common rumor you would hear was "Sailors carry blue tassels".

Now, one waitress in one town would greet you with "Hello, sailor". Supposedly you would tip her and she would give you a blue tassel. Unfortunately, I had the bug and she wouldn't do anything.

So, I hacked my saved game file. Using a hex editor and some patience I was able to determine where my inventory was stored and where the counter for blue tassels was located and I gave myself a blue tassel. When I loaded my modified save I was able to get on a ship and continue with the game.

This was the first time I edited a save file. I defend it in this first case since it was neccessary to get past a bug in the game but I have used this ability many times since then, both for "good" and for "evil".

3) Starflight - One of the very first games I bought for the IBM PC, Starflight was even more of an epic-scale game than Ultima. You commanded a single starship and its crew, traveling the galaxy while looking for a new colony planet for your people. This galaxy contained dozens of star systems and hundreds of planets. You could land on any of these planets and explore them, capturing wildlife or mining or finding artifacts in ruins. You could encounter multiple alien races while traveling and interact with them through trade or diplomacy. Or, you could become a merchant and buy and trade goods throughout the galaxy.

There was an overall plot and you did have a goal but the game was otherwise completely open-ended. There was no linear path that you were forced along; you could basically go anywhere and do almost anything at any time. This, to me, was one of the first games to show the true potential of computer gaming; the ability to create an entire universe to explore and interact with.

Unfortunately, this type of wide-open, open-ended gameplay seemed to have been lost for a while, but lately I have started to see signs of its return and I am hoping to come across another truly epic game again.

2) Master of Orion - Master of Orion, one of the classic 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) has the distinction of being my first (and worst) true game obsession.

The game follows the classic "start with a single planet and expand to conquer the galaxy" model, but for some reason this particular game totally caught my attention. I obsessed over the game, even going so far as to buy the strategy guide (one of the only two I have ever bought). I would come home from work and immediately turn on the computer to start playing and some days I would even turn it on first thing in the morning to get in a turn or two before leaving for work. In fact, it was also the first game that ever caused me to miss work; I found myself in an infinite "just one more turn" loop and suddenly realized that it was 6 am, I had been up all night and that I was going to have to call in sick to work if I didn't want to fall asleep at my desk.

Eventually my wife insisted that I delete the game from my system, watched as I did so, then took the install disks away. By then though I had probably spent more time playing this game than I have any other game before or since (with the exception of several MMOs, which are apparently designed as time sucks anyway, but that's another topic). But Master of Orion remains on this list for being my first game obsession.

1) Baldur's Gate - I was a player of the pen-and-paper version of Dungeons and Dragons from the beginning, back when D&D was just three small brown books in a white box. I had played many of the D&D computer games that had come out over the years (mostly from companies like SSI) but Baldur's Gate was the first computer RPG that to me really captured the feel of playing D&D all those years ago.

I played through the game several times with different combinations of character classes and followers, but the most significant thing about Baldur's Gate for me was that it introduced me to the mod community. Yes, I know that mods had been around before, but this was the first one that I became involved with. I made several mods of my own for the game, mostly recreating locations or items from my old pen-and-paper campaigns. This was the game where I went from simply playing the game to actually creating parts of it.

Now I know that none of my mods have ever become well known or famous, but being involved in modding has brought a new level of enjoyment to many games by adding another layer to the experience.

And there you have it, my top five gaming influences that have made my gaming what it is today.

tanstaafl wrote:

But that isn't all. You see, the Atari version of Ultima II had a bug. In order to leave the first continent you needed a ship. In order to get on a ship you had to have an inventory item known as a "blue tassel", easily determined because a common rumor you would hear was "Sailors carry blue tassels".

Now, one waitress in one town would greet you with "Hello, sailor". Supposedly you would tip her and she would give you a blue tassel. Unfortunately, I had the bug and she wouldn't do anything.

So, I hacked my saved game file. Using a hex editor and some patience I was able to determine where my inventory was stored and where the counter for blue tassels was located and I gave myself a blue tassel. When I loaded my modified save I was able to get on a ship and continue with the game.

This was the first time I edited a save file. I defend it in this first case since it was neccessary to get past a bug in the game but I have used this ability many times since then, both for "good" and for "evil".

Hrm. I've played U2 quite a few times and I'd never heard that about the waitress. I'd always assumed the proper way to get blue tassels was to kill pirate ships. Eventually, they'll drop tassels.

OK, I can definitely contribute to a discussion on days lost to gaming. There have been periods of my life where gaming rivaled sleep in terms of time served.

If we're speaking strictly about time invested, I would have to rank the games this way:

5. Far Cry: A lot of multiplayer, but I also went through the single player campaign (the first, good half anyway) at least a dozen times when it was the newest, best looking game that I could run on my crappy old hardware (which I had for about 5 years).

4. Quake 2: I'm not a fantastic FPS player -- I'm very happy to show a 1:1 kill/death ratio -- but this was one of the games I was best at, primarily because I spent what must have been hundreds (thousands?) of hours playing online. One of my few gaming claims to fame is coming in second to Stevie "KillCreek" Case in an early online competition. The "QII" cap that I won still hangs in my closet with a modicum of pride.

3. Aliens vs. Predator: This game nearly cost me a fiancée. There was a 4-6 month period (it's all a bit hazy now) where I spent 3-6 hours every night on MPlayer in pickup games or competing in sponsored events. I just loved those dark, creepy maps.

2. Counter Strike: I've been an on-again, off-again CS player for years (both 1.6 and Source). Some friends and I from a previous job used to go to a local pc "game center" to play about once a month. Those were good times, and my first experiences playing with a small, close group of friends in relatively closed games. It was such a pleasure not having to worry about some uber-awper ruining the game for the rest of us mere mortals.

Now, I can easily see CoD4 taking CS's place. Has anyone else felt a little "cs_office"-ish while playing the "vacant" map?

1. Diablo / Diablo 2 (grouping these together, but I think each individually could hold the number 1 spot): I never did max out a character to level 99, but I've probably had 8-10 level 70+ characters over the course of the franchise. I still go back to D2 on occasion, just to see why on earth I ever spent so much time in that game. I walk out of the room 8 hours later in a daze vowing never to load D2 on my computer again.

Honorable mention goes to: Team Fortress 2. I knew I liked this game when I checked my Steam profile page and saw that I'd racked up as many hours playing in one week as I did working my day job. Playing on Stan's Lounge made it all the more enjoyable.

This wasn't easy, but I whittled it down to these five being the biggest in terms of playtime in my history:

  • Counter Strike (1.3-1.5)
  • D&D 3.0
  • Ultima Online (wouldn't have made the cut except I went back in a couple years later for private shards)
  • Joust (Atari and XBLA)
  • Battleground: Gettysburg

What really keeps me playing and revisiting games is a sort of community aspect. My brother and I beat a number of games together, and we'd go straight to games as soon as we got home from school. This was about the only time we weren't fighting with each other. I made a pretty exhaustive list of games I played 30+ hours on during my life, and the consistent factor was that I played them alongside friends and family.

Come to think of it, that's the way I started gaming. My dad brought home a series of computers in the 1980s and would occasionally bring home a game to introduce me to like chess, Thexder, Lode Runner, Ancient Art of War (+ at Sea), and he'd watch as I played, giving advice and asking questions to help me think more about strategy. Eventually this lead to the same treatment for Civilization and King's Quest 5, and my siblings and I would take turns at the mouse while we all (4 + dad) kibitzed.

I later learned that when my dad would share hints a friend have given him, the friend was often a hint book. That doesn't mean, though, that the ultimate challenge on games of strategy isn't still to go up against dad.