Ah, the 2000s: the decade I came of age, wherein I started out as an eccentric, socially awkward teenager who liked to make her own games and finished as an equally eccentric, slightly less socially awkward young adult who now gets paid to make games. Now that said decade is over,  everyone and their dog is making top 10 lists, so I figured it’d be fun to create one myself. Of course, coming from me, it’s inevitably a highly personal and subjective list, so hopefully no one takes it as anything other than that. I have included the games I could think of that inspired and affected me most, but that I did not work on in any way myself. So, here goes, in some random order that only makes sense to my subconscious mind…
Psychonauts (2005) – I love this game. Sure, parts of it got me stuck for quite a while, and I don’t think I even finished it until sometime last year, but it was awesome nevertheless. It truly understands the concept of “telling the story using gameplay”, and it tells a delightfully wacky one, to boot. Plus, there’s fantastic art direction, funny dialogue, and the obligatory “critical success, commercial failure” stamp of approval that makes you one of the cool kids. Or something.
The Shivah (2006) – An engrossing, morally complex murder mystery about a rabbi’s crisis of faith. It was short and sweet before short and sweet games were cool. It launched Dave Gilbert’s career as a professional indie game designer, and was probably the only real success of Manifesto Games as a publisher. Pretty inspiring, if I do say so myself.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005) – I’d say more, but it sounds better coming from Edgeworth.
Best of Three (2001) – Not necessarily the most well-known or complex of Emily Short’s work, but it was my first real introduction to modern interactive fiction, and the first game I played that showed me that one can write an entire game based around a conversation, so it gets a spot on this list based on influence alone. It also wins points for being set in the real world, in the present day, and being centred around a conflict that’s intimate and personal, rather than grand and epic.
Richard Longhurst and the Box That Ate Time (2001) – Some years ago, back when I was in high school and working on Cubert Badbone, P.I., I had an internet acquaintance called Captain Mostly. He wrote this game, and it is the most garish, surrealistic, and altogether strange thing I have ever played. It makes Psychonauts look as mainstream as Halo 3. I mean, seriously.
What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed (2006) – Probably the best example of a puzzle game with a story I’ve seen this decade, Linus has you playing two games simultaneously, with two completely different stories and aesthetics. Definitely a game that should’ve been for the DS, but wasn’t.
Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) – I have to put a Wii game in here somewhere, and this is the one that stuck with me most. Indeed, this is the only Zelda game I’ve ever been able to finish thus far, though I’ve gotten far in two or three others. It seems like everyone and their dog has a favourite Zelda game that isn’t this one, but it resonated with me personally because I liked the atmosphere, and the motion controls were fun without feeling too gimmicky. I had high hopes for the future of story-based games on the Wii after I played this one. Sadly, those hopes have not yet been realised, and I’m no longer so sure they ever will be.
Rock Band (2007) – Rhythm games are a not-really-guilty pleasure of mine; I’ve been into them since the late nineties, thanks to importehttps://www.deirdrakiai.com/files/2009/12/31/d-from-the-philippines copies of ddr and the extremely bizarre bust a groove games. however, it wasn’t until the mid-to-late 00s that rhythm games got more mainstream, and so, with the arrival of rock band, i got to turn my skill at pressing the right buttons at the right times into a social activity to be enjoyed with family and friends. that is, until said family and friends got tired of playing rock band at parties, being all “geez, Deirdra, that is, like, so last year!” Ah well. At least it sort of taught me how to play a drum kit.
Tales of Monkey Island (2009) – Telltale is wholly responsible for starting my career in the game industry, and indeed, many of the lessons I learned there shaped my design philosophies in the years to come. This latest entry in their line of episodic adventure game series is the best thus far, in my opinion; they’ve really started to nail a decent formula for creating game stories that are self-contained enough to be satisfying, but still part of a greater whole. I look forward to seeing what becomes of them in the future.
Blue Lacuna (2009) – By far, I’d have to say this is the most ambitious interactive story I’ve played this decade, perhaps tied with 2005′s Façade. But while the latter felt clumsy and tech demo-like, Blue Lacuna actually had me quite engrossed, resonating with me emotionally as well as intellectually. This isn’t to say it was perfect — far from it, in fact — but it’s definitely a big step in the kinds of directions I’d like to take, and see more people taking, in the years and decades to come.
And that’s the end of this list. I’ve probably missed something or other, and there’s probably a fair share of games released in the 00s that I haven’t finished (or even played for that matter) yet may have a profound affect on me sometime in the future. I’m open to that possibility. In the meantime, happy arbitrary end to an arbitrary period of time!