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The best of the decade in gaming
By -- Sun Media


The graphics are prettier, the storylines are deeper and the controls have us moving our bodies in addition to twiddling our thumbsticks.

But the biggest change in video games over this last decade has been their transformation from a nerdy hobby into a mainstream entertainment force.

In 2000, as an odd little computer game called The Sims made its debut, video games and game consoles were still largely seen as the domain of teenaged outcasts, the kind of guys who'd rather spend a Saturday night pressing buttons on a controller than pressing their luck on an actual date.

Was that an accurate depiction of games and gamers? Probably not, but quick 'n' easy stereotypes rarely are. To say you were a gamer in 2000 was to bravely declare solidarity with your fellow computer-game enthusiasts and PlayStation 2 early adopters, blank stares and stifled snickers be damned.

And now, as the decade winds to a close, The Sims and its sequels have sold more than 100 million copies; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has had the largest single-day gross of any entertainment launch in history (at $310 million US); and sitcom characters are just as likely to be seen trading quips over a game of Wii Sports as they are over a cup of coffee.


Tell us what your faves of the decade are!

Video games still aren't as ubiquitous and universal as television or films - we still call those who play games "gamers," even though no similar segregation exists for movie buffs, TV fans or book nuts -- but they're getting awfully close. Roughly half of all Canadian households now have a video game console of some sort, compared to 35% just four years ago.

And that 20-year-old gamer virgin in his mom's basement? According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, the average gamer of 2009 is 36 years old, and more than one-third are female. You can bet some of those ladies would eat you alive in a game of Madden NFL 10 or Halo 3.

As a gamer from the Intellivision era onward, it's been fulfilling for me to see how far the medium has come in the past 10 years (and to have spent a sizable chunk of that time writing about it for Sun Media, as even today we're one of the few mainstream news outlets that covers games on the same footing as movies, music and TV.)

There have been controversies and steps backward, sure, and video games still have a lot of growing up to do. Ten years from now, it would be nice to see more games that speak to a broader level of experience and engagement, instead of falling back on subject matter such as Guy With Gun Shoots Everything That Moves.

But, like the Sims themselves, video games have evolved, matured, become more social and been embraced by the masses. The medium's awkward teen years are over, and the exodus from the basement is complete. Game on.

TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES: Games

1. Half-Life 2/The Orange Box (2004/2007)

2. Grand Theft Auto III (2001)

3. Ico (2001)

4. The Sims (2000)

5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

6. Super Mario Galaxy (2007)

7. Fallout 3 (2008)

8. Resident Evil 4 (2005)

9. Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

10. BioShock (2007)

TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES: Biggest stories

1. Hot Coffee -- Sexually explicit content discovered on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game disc leads to a political firestorm and massive recall (2005).

2. Bill vs. Japan -- Microsoft's Bill Gates unveils the Xbox game console and enters a market dominated by Sony, Nintendo and Sega (2000).

3. Brandon Crisp tragedy -- After the confiscation of his game console, an Ontario teen runs runs away from home and is later found dead from a fall (2008).

4. Call of booty -- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 breaks single-day entertainment sales records, with more than $300 million rung up at registers (2009).

5. Red ring of death -- Outcry over the abnormally high failure rate of Xbox 360 consoles leads Microsoft to extend the system's warranty to three years (2007).

6. Rhymes with "twee" -- Nintendo reveals their new video game console, previously codenamed Revolution, will officially be called Wii (2006).

7. Death of a dream -- Industry titan Sega exits the hardware manufacturing business after the failure of the Dreamcast game console (2001).

8. Duke Nukem for never -- Game developer 3D Realms announces that the 12-years-in-the-making Duke Nukem Forever has been cancelled (2009).

9. Ganging up on Bully -- The teen-rated action-adventure game Bully is attacked by teachers and politicians who feel it glorifies schoolyard violence (2006).

10. For the horde -- Massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft launches, and becomes one of the most successful gaming phenomena of the decade (2004).

TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES: Developers

1. Ubisoft Montreal (Assassin's Creed, Splinter Cell)

2. Valve (The Orange Box, Left 4 Dead)

3. Nintendo (Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Fit)

4. BioWare (Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic)

5. Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto series)

6. Bungie (Halo series)

7. Harmonix (Rock Band series)

8. Infinity Ward (Call of Duty series)

9. Capcom (Resident Evil series)

10. EA Canada (Need For Speed, SSX)

TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES: Innovations

1. Online multiplayer console gaming

2. Wireless video game controllers

3. Downloadable games and game content

4. User-generated content in console games

5. High-definition visuals

6. Motion-sensing game controllers

7. Web browsers as a gaming platform

8. Touchscreens on handheld gaming devices

9. Hard drives in game consoles

10. Physics as a gameplay enhancement/mechanic

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