The year’s not over yet, but Time is getting a jump on the competition with the slightly premature release of the Top Ten Everything of 2008 Lists, including, naturally, videogames.
The selection is surprisingly thorough, and not just a thinly-veiled excuse for mainstream media to beat up on the evils of gaming: Heading up the list is none other than Grand Theft Auto IV, described as ironically miscast in the debate over sex and violence in videogames “because where it belongs is in the debate over whether video games count as art,” adding that it’s “a grade-A shoot-’em-up that doubles as an interactive novel and triples as a sly critique of American consumer culture.” Rockstar North, the studio behind the game, earns its own share of effusive praise as well. “No game developers are more radical and more passionate about the storytelling power of their medium than folks at Rockstar North,” the list entry says, “and GTA IV is the company’s most ambitious work ever.”
Other entries in the list include Braid (“a simple mechanic in the hands of a brilliant developer can yield near-infinite entertainment”), Rock Band 2 (“boot up, jack in, and rock out”) and LittleBigPlanet (“a restful, chill-out kind of experience”). But like all good “Best Of” lists there’s plenty of room for debate, and this one is no exception. The placement of an iPhone game and even a free Flash game on the list smacks of nothing more than a desire to be inclusive above all, and a few choices – and one very big exclusion – are questionable at best. Does The Force Unleashed really deserve to be on this list, while Fallout 3 doesn’t?
Despite a few misgivings, this looks like not a bad Top Ten Games of 2008 list, and a decent kick-off to the inevitable end-of-the-year torrent of “Year’s Best” lists. But the important thing, as the holiday seasons approaches and the hopes and fears of a new year loom large, is that lists like this give us something to argue about. Check out Time’s Top Ten Videogames of 2008 list here. (If you want to have a peek at a few others while you’re at it, like the Top Ten TV Series, Gadgets or Scientific Discoveries, the full list of Lists is available here.)