Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Thanksgiving is a time of turkey, cranberry sauce, family, in-laws, that cousin you never liked, siblings with plastered smiles, your grandpa getting drunk and telling everyone why he's disappointed with the whole lot... ahh, good times. But however your Thanksgiving celebration goes, it's a good time to sit down and appreciate the little things in life. But we've never really taken a moment to ponder the game that we're most grateful for - not the game we think is the best critically or the most popular, but one that is deeply embedded in our hearts (if we had them, of course). So ten of our staff members have gone back through our histories to find those special games and thank them for inspiring our love for video games. If we could hug them, we would... wait, we can... aaawwwww... shmuggy wuggies....
Blake's Pick - Ms. Pac-Man – Back when I was a kid, there was a Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine at the local public pool that my summer daycare would go to. It was a rare occasion for me to have a quarter to play it, but I would always walk by and hope there would be a free game on it.
I think a lot of games nowadays forget that the reason people play games in the first place is for the challenge. Ms. Pac-Man isn't the prettiest game out there by any means, but it offers up a plethora of nearly infinite challenges. You could call the game minimalist or simplistic for its lack of buttons and repetitious nature if you like, but all I know is I've played 15-minute games of Ms.Pac-Man that have left my heart beating faster than most "modern" titles could ever hope to.
It teaches me that a game can be clever and enjoyable without having a Michael Bay-like complex for big tits and explosions and that's why I'm grateful for it.
Nick's Pick - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 – There once was a time when I was disillusioned. I discovered that all of the JRPGs I had been playing were just the same formula: a man with spiky hair and with amnesia and/or latent abilities, perhaps scouring the world for a purpose, gathering party members, fighting the military, and saving the fantastical world. I meandered about the sea of games without inspiration...
Until I encountered Persona 3 and delved deep into the subconscious of modern-day high-school students and the collective psyche of gods and demons - the power emerging from the darkness of our minds. Twisted it was, unnerving and unforgettable. For rekindling and rewriting my love for JRPGs, Persona 3 has my gratitude.
Anthony's Pick - Kaboom!– The game I’m most thankful for is essentially the reason why I’m a gamer today and why I've been one my entire life. My father, who isn’t a gamer at all, used to be a pro at Activision’s Kaboom! for the Atari 2600. He’d catch hundreds of bombs in a matter of seconds.
Seeing that fun and intensity combined instantly appealed to me as a child. If it weren’t for my father’s love for Kaboom!, he might not have went out and bought my brother and I the NES, which forever solidified my love for video games.
Josh's Pick - Final Fantasy – I'm not going to regale you all with the story of how Final Fantasy single-handedly saved Squaresoft's existence, as everyone and their mom already knows it by now. But just like Mario brought the industry back from the brink of collapse, so too did FF give RPGs the shot in arm to become the juggernaut genre it is today. And for a long, long time, the Final Fantasy series reigned supreme as the golden standard for fledgling RPGs to shoot for.
Now, as I have recently been subjected to in recent months, the series' level of quality is definitely in question, but hey, even if the FF franchise dies tomorrow, we should still be thankful for the one that paved the way for all those great 16- and 32-bit adventures, not to mention every single other RPG we've known and loved.
Daniel's Pick - Plants vs. Zombies– The game I'm most grateful for is Plants vs. Zombies. Not only is it awesome fending off the undead with your garden full of Cob Cannons, Frozen Watermelon Launchers, and Sunflowers, but PvZ is also a great way to get your girlfriend to sink 20 hours into a game with you. If you'd like to sit down and spend some quality time with your significant other, Plants vs. Zombies provides an entertaining, accessible, and fun time sink.
(I'm also thankful for Chrono Trigger because I forgot how awesome that game is and I'll be playing that while I'm out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday!)