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The World Video Game Hall of Fame inducted its 2023 class of the top video games of all time, with judges including yours truly selecting Barbie Fashion Designer, Computer Space, The Last of Us and Wii Sports.
These four games — which have influenced popular culture or the video game industry significantly — today joined the World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play.
They emerged from a field of finalists that also included Age of Empires, Angry Birds, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, FIFA International Soccer, Goldeneye 007, NBA 2K, Quake and Wizardry. The games will be enshrined and on display in a new home for the World Video Game Hall of Fame slated to open June 30 — part of a 90,000-square-foot expansion of The Strong.
Class of 2023
Barbie Fashion Designer: The 1996 hit Barbie Fashion Designer emerged at a time when many games were marketed to male players. Published by Digital Domain/Mattel Media, it proved that a computer game targeted to girls could succeed, selling more than 500,000 copies in two months.
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The game helped greatly expanded the market for video games and in the process opened important — and ongoing — discussions about gender and stereotypes in gaming. Barbie Fashion Designer was also innovative in bridging the gap between the digital and the physical, allowing players to design clothes for their Barbie dolls and print them on special fabric.
“Barbie Fashion Designer became a jumping-off point for the girls’ games movement and shook up the software and gaming scene,” said Kristy Hisert, collections manager, in a statement. “It also sparked important questions and debate. What does it mean to be a game for girls? Should there even be games ‘for girls’? What are the implications of these games? What are the consequences of gendering games?”
Computer Space: Nutting Associate’s Computer Space appeared in 1971 and was the first commercial video game. Inspired by the early minicomputer and previous World Video Game Hall of Fame inductee — Spacewar! (1962) — the coin-operated Computer Space proved that video games could reach an audience outside of computer labs. While not a best-seller, it was a trailblazer in the video game world and inspired its creators to go on to establish Atari, a video game giant in the 1970s and 1980s.
“There was no video game industry in 1970. The games that we’d now call video games were still mostly locked away on computers in university and research labs, inaccessible to the public,” said Jeremy Saucier, assistant vice president for interpretation and electronic games, in a statement. “Computer Space changed all that in 1971. Ultimately, Computer Space didn’t bring video games to the masses, but by showing that video games could reach paying audiences outside of computer labs, it laid the foundations for the game industry.”
The Last of Us: Released by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment in 2013, The Last of Us jumped into an oversaturated field of post-apocalyptic zombie games and quickly stood out among the rest with its in-depth storytelling, intimate exploration of humanity, thrilling game jumps and cutscenes, and its memorable characters.
More than 200 publications named it the game of the year in 2013. Its story has since made the jump to Hollywood, inspiring an HBO adaptation in 2023 watched weekly by millions.
“Despite debuting in 2013, The Last of Us remains popular because of its quality of gameplay and strength of story,” said Lindsey Kurano, video game curator, in a statement. “The 2023 HBO adaptation has expanded the game’s reach and popularity. Created with Naughty Dog’s involvement, the show has garnered support from both critics and fans as one of the best video game adaptations ever made.”
Wii Sports: Wii Sports launched with the Nintendo Wii home video game system in 2006 and introduced motion-based technology to living rooms across the world. With a simple swipe of the controller, players could serve a tennis ball, hurl a bowling bowl, throw a left hook, or drive a golf ball. The simple mechanics made the game accessible to almost anyone — allowing it to be played by young children and seniors alike — and helped to redefine the idea of who is a “gamer.” Ultimately, the game helped Nintendo to sell more than 100 million Wii consoles worldwide.
Says Aryol Prater, research specialist for Black play and culture, “With more than 82 million copies sold, Wii Sports is one of the best-selling video games of all time, but its true influence comes from the fact that it made gamers out of millions of people around the world who’d never thought about playing one before. It became a gaming phenomenon as news stories proliferated about the game getting diverse groups of people — including those at many senior centers — off their couches and breaking a sweat with virtual bowling, tennis and more.”
World Video Game Hall of Fame
The World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, handheld and mobile — that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general. Inductees were announced at The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, on May 4, 2023 and will be on permanent view in the new World Video Game Hall of Fame space opening June 30. Anyone may nominate a game to the World Video Game Hall of Fame.
Final selections are made on the advice of journalists (I’m one of them), scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in societies.
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