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My Top 10 Games; Part 1

So we’re still on the “get to know me” phase of this blog.  I mean, it’s the second post, so… c’mon.

I figure one of the best ways to piece together the personality of a gamer is to look at their favourite games, yeah?  Sure!

So these aren’t necessarily the best games I’ve ever played, or the ones I would rate the highest, or even marvels of their generation.  They’re simply the games I had the most fun playing, remember fondly, or changed the way I play in general.

I’ve separated it into three posts, spanning the three generations of consoles I’ve played on.  This first one will cover the PC-era.

This list is in chronological order of when I first played/fell in love with the game, not ranked by which is my favourite.

1. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (PC)

"Stop that, you need my help!"

This was the first game I ever played (not including those educational, point-and-click games, which really shouldn’t even fall under the same classification), and the reason I think my father bought our first powerful home computer.  Trekking through the snow-covered mountains to reach the Shambala Sanctuary (only to have to reload a prior save to deal with that infernal candle puzzle), blowing myself up multiple times by not learning the size of the hitboxes around the submerged mines while swimming through the Palawan Lagoon, and facing down Marduk with my electrified whip in the Tower of Babel were all critical moments in the molding of my self into a future gamer.  The combat was solid, the puzzles were devious but intuitive, and the story was actually pretty well-formed.  Plus, with a cheat, you could shoot singing chickens out of your bazooka.  C’mon.

2. American McGee’s Alice (PC)

"I've heard self-reliance is a virtue. Now you've heard it."

 I’m not sure that my parents understood what world they were allowing me to enter when they bought me this game (at my request, after I played the demo {where the amount of blood and gore was significantly less than the final retail version}).  But the books after which this was modeled had always been favourites of mine, and I eagerly jumped into this demented Wonderland.  Part action-platformer, part shooter, part mild-puzzle game, American McGee’s Alice was rife with personality.  From the timely quips of the superbly voiced Cheshire Cat to the sheer diversity of the landscapes-the sombre black and white of the Pale Realm, the tentacle-sprouting walls of Queen of Hearts Land-this game showed me what a game was truly capable of at its best: sucking you in and making you feel.  Alice was a cold, unstable protagonist, but still one I came to care about and empathize with.  Plus, the soundtrack by Nine-Inch Nails veteran Chris Vrenna still plays through my head to this day, which is certainly a feat.

3. Grim Fandango (PC)

"My scythe--I like to keep it next to where my heart used to be."

Not much explanation is needed as to why this game is one of my favourites.  The film noire-esque art direction made even gaming-location staples (such as the iconic casino level) stand out even when compared to today’s market.  The voice actors provided a nuanced, believable performance that made playing this almost akin to watching a perfectly cast movie, with the script providing plenty of clever wordplay and subtle, yet hilarious, jokes.  And the puzzles (the main focus of the actual gameplay) ramped up smoothly in difficulty and were hard enough to make me spend hours on a few, but never completely esoteric or irrational (though I did have to consult a strategy guide two or three times for a small hint).  I never felt frustrated to the point of quitting, because even the wacky supporting cast was such a joy to interact with, and I was enraptured enough to continue just so I could get to the next twist in the constantly shifting plot.  Especially important was the near lack of a HUD or interface, with even the inventory “menu” taking the form of Manny halfway drawing items out of his jacket until you arrived at the one you wanted.  This neglect for something so commonplace in games that it’s become almost second nature to glance at the corner of a screen to check your health or remaining ammo allowed me to completely immerse myself in the seductive intrigue of the expertly woven plot, and achieve a level of interest that has been challenged by only a few games since.

That’s it for my PC-gaming days.  Check back tomorrow for my next three favourite games from my time with the original Xbox, and make sure to comment below telling me what your favourites are from this era!

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