Starting Topic 3, which explores Games Gone and Past, here’s post 1: What is the best game ever made?
Sorry it’s been a while! I’m starting a new Topic tonight, pertaining to games of history – taking a look at games of a past age. It starts with a simple yet daunting one: What is the best game ever made?
So, when I first got this question, I thought: Oh god…are you seriously asking me this?? How can…? Do you have any idea how many times people have tried to answer this question and got ripped apart? This is like trying to analyze and support, with verifiable, objective evidence, “What’s the best color?”
It is true that this is purely a subjective opinion, not one to be truly backed with evidence, because what defines “the best”? Is it based on revenue and profit success? Is it based on popularity? Is it based on its transcendence over time? Accessibility? Level of challenge? Quality of graphics? Quality of immersive story? Peer and corporate ratings?
Because all of these aspects about a game will be weighed differently for everyone, and to analyze all of these aspects for every single game ever made (and, keep in mind, this says “game,” not “video game,” so this includes all tabletop and card games, too, which stem back quite a ways in history).
I cannot possibly do this objective. This is purely opinion. And so…I suppose I just have to take the plunge.
And my answer is simpler than you think:
Yes, I mean it. And whether you like this game or not, you have to admire the historical significance of this game and its ability to still be popular today. It is the mother of all strategy games, and the father of all competitive game tournaments. It’s highly accessible and versatile – hell, you can create a chessboard and its pieces out of scraps of paper or even pebbles found on the riverbank. It is easy to learn, but exceptionally difficult to master. The global prevalence of chess is also unmatched by any other game: Every country on every continent knows and has played the game of chess. This may be an interesting note to research, but chess may be even more widely known, played, and appreciated cross-culturally than even most sports. (When I say that, I mean by width, not depth. Chess certainly does not have the same passion on the scale of say, football (American or otherwise), but football is not played as easily or as widely as chess. Scientists in Antarctica can’t play football (at least, not easily), but they certainly can and have played chess.)
Chess has a story – not just historically, but within the game itself. How it has evolved is particularly fascinating, not something I’m going to spend my time doing here, but certainly worth a brief look if you’re in the dark on the origins of chess. The player engages in the role of war commander – they partake in a battle, commanding forces of different ranks and abilities, against a foe that is after the same thing: Destroy the enemy head, the emperor, the king.
It is assumed upon victory that the triumphant side is the all-powerful and is able to take the land for themselves. This is actually a very in-depth role, even if it’s simple on its surface, that is wholly dependent on the player. There are no cut-scenes or automatic stories or pre-determined endings – the player tells the story of the war, move by move, and the atmosphere of the battle, whether it’s aggressive or peaceful, defensive or offensive, can change in a heartbeat. The simplicity of it leaves so much space for the player to fill.
Chess has characters – the pieces on the board. The military units. There is hierarchy, power, and ability. Pawns have their own story and purpose and potential. Same as Queens, same as Knights, same as Kings. They interact with each other in a cooperative manner – no single piece can assume control on its own. There will be casualties – dramatic twists in an evolving storyline that requires sacrifice and rise to power, risks and close-calls. (Quite honestly, chess and golf are the only 2 games in which I am bored to hell watching, and yet completely riveted while playing.)
And the coolest part about it all: This is all expressed in nonverbally. The players may not speak a single word. The pieces do not speak, nor is there narration or context. An epic replay-ability that is different every single time you play it.
I am not an avid chess player. I appreciate it on occasion, and I respect it on an insane level. I grant it first place as “best game ever made” because of its history, but also because the aspects of it that are represented in other games, but not nearly as simply.