10 years ago, at a long-dead trade show called ECTS, Eurogamer thrust up its first webpages and started filling them up. As somebody who has been here almost from day one (I joined the team in February 2000), I know that I could not have conceived of the site you're now reading, more than 3500 reviews later, from the creaky beige box hooked up to dual-bond ISDN in the days of the millennium bug, 5ive and Gerard Houllier. Far, far more importantly though, I certainly couldn't have conceived of some of the games we'd be playing, or the manner in which we'd be playing them, a decade after I took a job that's come to define me.
But this isn't just an introduction about how little foresight I have and the fact I don't go out much. It's to explain that as we arrive at our 10th birthday, the best way we can think to celebrate it (that we can put on the website, anyway) is to salute the very best games of the time we've been alive. After exhaustive polling of the entire Eurogamer staff - including editorial, tech, management, some old flames and even the salespeople - each of whom was allowed to nominate 10 games in order of preference, I've compiled a list of our 10 favourites based on weighted votes, and invited Eurogamer's foremost editors of past and present to comment on our selections. Say hello to the usual quartet of Ellie Gibson, Oli Welsh, Johnny Minkley and myself, but also welcome back Rob Fahey, Kristan Reed, and launch editor John "Gestalt" Bye.
(What's more, say hello to yourself, because last week we polled you for your favourites. If you'd like to see whether you did any better than us, be sure to check out the Editor's blog for the Readers' Top 50 list.)
Before we begin our countdown, however, a brief disclaimer. As with our Top 50 lists every Christmas, I'd be the first to admit the list that follows is anything but definitive. It does, however, reflect the tastes and preferences of more than 20 passionate gamers over a huge period of time, many of whom have been paid to play as much of everything under the sun during the period covered. If your first instinct is to call bullshit on the list, more power to you, but for the rest of you, I simply hope you enjoy being reminded about what are at the very least some of the games of the decade, and that you find some of our recollections and considerations insightful.
4th September 2009
P.S. Ever the spoilt brats, we couldn't stop at doing just one big celebratory games feature on our 10th birthday, so do be sure to check elsewhere on the site for individual blogs from each of the seven-strong panel, who, in addition to their comments for the top 10, were invited to write a longer post about any game they like from the last 10 years that happened to have a profound effect on them. Congratulations in particular to Ellie for choosing Fruit Mystery, the mad idiot.
10. RedLynx Trials 2: Special Edition / Trials HD
RedLynx / PC, Xbox 360
Tom Bramwell: There's a danger with best-of lists that they end up biased towards the flavour of the moment, and to some degree Trials' position in our top 10 games of the last 10 years probably does reflect that. But I kind of like that, too. I think when you look further down the list you'll be surprised at how wide our eyes were cast anyway, but in 10 years' time, if there still is an internet and someone looks at this list, realising that we all fell so completely in love with this little indie treasure in 2008/2009 will probably raise a smile rather than a frown.
Kristan Reed: Ever since Mr Chips came up with the remarkably addictive Kikstart 1&2 in the late '80s, I've hankered after a simple, side-scrolling, hazard-strewn, obstacle-course racing game. That's possibly the most laboured genre description you'll ever see, but Trials basically is Kikstart in all but name. Simply barrelling across a course from left to right without falling off is somehow the best fun, and yet almost ruinously frustrating. The ability to instantly reset Trackmania-style is undoubtedly the game's key saving grace, inspiring a degree of OCD devotion that turns a quick go into a 3 hour session in the blink of an eye. On top of that, has any game inspired such a slavish obsession to online leaderboards? If any game demonstrates how vital and how relevant downloadable games are to the current landscape, Trials is it.
Johnny Minkley: Finally completed the final stage of Hard in Trials HD this week. The final attempt took me over 28 minutes, hundreds of attempts and I was sweating like a LAN party by the time my driver limped over the line. The learning curve is savage, the infinite failure crushing, but the pain of defeat is rewarded with an incredible sense of achievement that seems to have faded from games over the past decade as they've become more "accessible". It's also the best leaderboard-focused game I've played in years. I just wish I'd never added Tom to my friends list.
Rob Fahey: I walked into a friend's flat the other day and discovered him and his flatmate sat on opposite ends of the sofa, not speaking to one another - a state which had persisted for over two hours, ever since my friend discovered that his flatmate had spent his afternoon off work methodically destroying each of his times in Trials HD. This game destroys friendships. It destroys lives. Forewarned is forearmed.
9. Quake III Arena
id Software / PC
Special Guest Star Rupert Loman: The Quake series means more to me than any other game. Quakeworld was my first experience of online gaming (stealing time on my dad's PC) and Quake 2 was instrumental in my brother and I starting Eurogamer - having previously run Quake 2 LAN parties and online leagues after school. But the Quake III demo gave us a scare when it was released - bounce pads, a laggy lightning gun, messed up air control, levels hovering in space...
But it turned out id Software knew what it was doing all along - Quake III Arena is the best multiplayer experience that has ever been created. I can still remember learning all the maps, endlessly tweaking my graphics settings and travelling around the world to play in tournaments. I played against two World #1's in my short professional gaming career - Thresh and Fatal1ty - before I realised I was better at organising than playing. (I lost both.)
And Quake 4 was rubbish.
Tom Bramwell: The railgun ruined my life, you know. Back when all this was just Quakeworld, the rocket launcher was king, with a bit of switching to the others as situations developed. I was fantastic at that. Then Quake II came along. I was not fantastic at Quake II. The railgun was the birth of true "twitch" shooters, for me, and, along with Counter-Strike's AWP, probably also the reason it took some of us a while to get used to twin-stick console controls. Quake III Arena finally sold me on the idea, and I think the main reasons were nothing more complex than aural feedback.
Competitive Quake had long relied on sound cues for tactical awareness, but the hum of the railgun coupled with the "chnk!" of each damage-dealing hit completed some sort of vital sensory loop for me, and the bond was joined. Between that, Q3Tourney4, The Longest Yard and Rocket Arena 3, we had a deal.
Rob Fahey: Q3A was the perfect nineties FPS game, demanding insane reaction times, stunning knowledge of the arenas and pinpoint precision from its players. But by this stage, we'd all played Counter-Strike - we'd had a taste of the slower, more lethal and more tactical play that realistic weapons and physics could provide. Quake's days were numbered. Q3A was a fitting swansong, but a swansong nonetheless.
Kristan Reed: At the back end of the nineties when even the casual hardcore bought two graphics cards a year, we were all impatiently wondering what next-generation games were going to look like. In its usual off-the-cuff style, just a few days before Christmas 1999, id provided that answer with a title that was part tech demo, part gameplay demo for every other developer to aspire to.
And just like every other multiplayer FPS before or since, I got my arse handed to me so many times I walked backwards just to mix things up. Yes, I was the very definition of cannon fodder, and never did get invited to join a clan or wear a sponsored AMD t-shirt, or have a clever eed hotmail address. It is, however, one of the main reasons I got so good at single-player games.
John Bye: I spent far more time watching other people playing Quake III Arena than playing it myself, as its pared-down arcade-style gameplay made it the ideal choice for deathmatch tournaments. The game's release saw a boom in "professional gaming", with the world's top players taking home hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money at the sport's peak. By comparison, all I ever won playing Unreal Tournament was a backpack and a £20 gift voucher.
One of my fondest memories from my time at Eurogamer was spending the week of my 23rd birthday in a caffeine-fuelled frenzy at the Razer CPL tournament in Dallas, pumping out a frankly ridiculous 40+ pages of live coverage, whilst rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Carmack and John Romero, and hanging out with some of the best Quake players in the world.
I'd like to give a special thanks to event sponsor Bawls, whose supply of free energy drinks kept me running back and forth between the tournament hall and my hotel room every half hour for three days straight to type up the latest news and match reports. How I didn't drop dead from heart failure halfway through the weekend I'll never know...
Johnny Minkley: I've always been predominantly a console gamer, so - with the exception of a university year lost to GoldenEye - my FPS experience was 'limited' to say the least when I started working for Emap on CVG magazine in 2000. Quake III Arena was the lunchtime fix across the games department, and though I was never any good at it, I don't think I've experienced anything since of quite such clinical, relentless, devastating brutality. Wonderful.
8. Fallout 3
Bethesda Softworks / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Rob Fahey: Lots of games let you choose between good and evil, but it feels like an artificial choice - "press X now to be evil!" Fallout 3 made you pick your path much more organically, and allowed not only for the extremes, but for shades of gray in between. It muddled its morality beautifully - how many of us, certain that we were being righteous and just, managed to get the sheriff killed and left his son an orphan? It's a rare game that dares to suggest that there isn't always a right answer. Blurred lines, backfiring moral choices and confused morals make Fallout 3 into a game to truly cherish.
Kristan Reed: People chuck around the phrase 'Oblivion with guns' like it was a bad thing. For me that was precisely what I was after. But as it turned out, I found it more of a survival horror RPG than a dumb FPS-RPG. Creeping around decaying relics capping ghouls was scary enough, but it was always the moment when you were morally conflicted where Fallout 3 really got its hooks into you. Full of reprehensible characters with often quite despicable agendas, it was predictably easy to play the bad guy. Blowing up Megaton wasn't ever something I was going to do, but eventually someone would end up getting you to do something absolutely terrible. My worst decision? Capturing people for the slave camp for money. It doesn't get much lower than that. Apart from, perhaps, letting the ghouls into Tenpenny tower...
Ellie Gibson: I was hoping Fallout 3 would be a lot more like Threads than it actually is. Why hasn't anyone done a proper videogame tie-in for that, anyway? Guaranteed Christmas number one.
7. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Activision / Neversoft / PS2, Xbox
Rob Fahey: My mother never said this, but in fictional terms, she's meant to have said that if you don't have anything good to say, you should say nothing. I'm saying nothing.
Oli Welsh: I'm called Oli and I like grinding. But I don't do skateboards, sorry. It's no Super Monkey Ball.
Kristan Reed:Tony Hawk's was always one of those series that I wished I was good at, but never was. I tried repeatedly to get into both of these games, fully aware that they were supposed to be works of genius, but somehow my hands refused to buy into the multi-button, combo-strewn mechanics required to enjoy them. The same reason I still suck at Street Fighter, then.
Ellie Gibson:Interviewing Tony Hawk was one of my highlights of the 2007 Leipzig Games Conference. We only got to share a few minutes together, but I like to think they were as special for him as they were for me. He smells of money.
Tom Bramwell: When we first started compiling this list, I didn't expect to see a Tony Hawk game anywhere on it. I'd long forgotten about Tony Hawk. But the people who elevated it to this position - the chaps in the Eurogamer tech bunker, predominantly - are onto something. Remember when NHL games were popular in the UK? It's because they played nothing like ice hockey; they were just fabulous, competitive impressions of a popular sport. It all went to s*** with polygons and analogue sticks.
Skateboarding has kind of had its cake and eaten it too in that respect, with the Skate games doing a wonderful job of rebooting the concept, and Tony Hawk: Ride perhaps taking it to the logical extreme. OK, I'm yet to be convinced on that one, but the point is that skateboarding survived the transition and proven successful across the world on both occasions. The transition itself, though, is what I take issue with, because it had to happen at the expense of games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and 3, even though nothing - not SSX, not Amped, and certainly nothing involving pushbikes - has ever better combined spazzy, Street Fighter-style button combinations, reaction-based path-finding and wiggling a stick for balance.
6. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Bethesda Softworks / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Rob Fahey: Same answer as last time for me!
Johnny Minkley: I tried so hard to like this. I really did. "Just give it another hour or so and you'll love it," Kristan would say. So I did. 17 hours, in fact. 17 long, tedious hours of aimless, aesthetically sterile rat-punching I will never get back.
Oli Welsh: Honestly? I barely played it. I'm just not one for that lonely-sociopath-in-a-cruel-world thing that Bethesda does so well. But I was fascinated when a friend told me how he completely ignored the main thrust of the game, choosing instead to play through the Dark Brotherhood side-quest to completion - and then he left it there, completely satisfied with this deft little whodunnit. That it gave him the freedom to play what he wanted, how he wanted and then move on, without succumbing to videogames' chronic, goal-oriented OCD - that's all the evidence of Oblivion's genius I need.
Ellie Gibson: Unlike Oli I actually have played Oblivion. But only once, for about four minutes, on a demo pod in Microsoft's reception area. It made me feel sick. However, I enjoy making snide comments about horse armour to this day.
Kristan Reed:No matter how many times people tried to bellow into my face that Morrowind was the better game, it simply failed to hook me the way Oblivion did so effortlessly. This was a game where no decision or choice felt like a particularly bad one - just another intriguing branch to explore. With all the inherent freedom of the RPG married to the most spectacularly alluring gameworld I'd ever seen, it was small wonder I was utterly seduced by the option to steal someone's entire house. Like Fallout 3, half the fun was merely exploring, and when you find a game like that it's hard to ever stop poking your nose in where it's not wanted. Who cares about the levelling-up nonsense? This was the first huge game world I wasn't put off by, but attracted by.
John Bye: I don't think I've ever spent more time playing a single-player game than I have with Oblivion. Epic doesn't even begin to do it justice. After escaping the sewers at the start of the game I got completely sidetracked, working my way up the ranks of the Thieves Guild and ransacking the mansions of Imperial City in search of a quick profit, before redeeming myself by going on a holy pilgrimage around the shrines of Cyrodiil. Along the way I discovered the joys of alchemy and joined the Mage's Guild, learning some handy magical skills that helped me become grand champion of the Arena. Several weeks and 50 hours of gameplay later, I suddenly remembered I was still carrying a really important thingummyjig that I was supposed to be taking to a monastery to, you know, save the world and stuff. Oopsie.
5. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Activision / Infinity Ward / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Tom Bramwell: Wanna know Eurogamer's dirty secret? Eurogamer's dirty secret is that we all really admire Call of Duty 4 - its technical achievements, its crushing atmosphere and surprising variety, and the seismic effect it's had on multiplayer FPS design, particularly in terms of persistence - but nobody on the core staff really... likes it... all that much. I've played it, probably about halfway through, and I spent a few hours dropping fools on the internet, but that was enough for me.
It reminds me of how I felt about Halo originally - I'd just come off years of playing Quake, Counter-Strike and every other meaningful online FPS on the PC, and I didn't have much time for this little upstart with its sparkly planet, squeaking gnome enemies, plot arrows painted on the floor and daft little spaceman bouncing around holding only two guns. By the time Halo 3 came out though, I'd got it. I still don't quite "get" COD4, but I'm cautious about making too much of that, and I'm eyeing up Modern Warfare 2, especially the Spec Ops time trial mode, and wondering whether this is when I join the fight.
Johnny Minkley: I very rarely play first-person shooters online (I'm not very good and see it essentially as an elaborate form of self-harm), so have probably missed out on the side of the experience that has bestowed upon Modern Warfare its enduring greatness. But the single-player was brilliant and, in terms of action, flair and excitement, everything I could possibly want from a 'Hollywood' shooter. Shame the generic global terrorism nonsense that constituted the plot was so forgettable.
Rob Fahey: I like the storytelling in COD4 - it does brave, interesting things with game narrative, and tells a remarkably strong story for what is, essentially, a dumb action movie in game form. Sadly, the single-player game is let down by some awful design - infinitely respawning enemies? Really, guys? It's not here for the single-player though, is it. It's here because we spent dozens if not hundreds of hours online, perfecting our ability to pop a bullet right between the eyes of an American teenager just at the moment that he suggested that our sexual preferences may involve goats. Fast, exciting, satisfying and stunningly well balanced (the game, not goats), it's the best online FPS game of the decade, bar none.
Kristan Reed: For reasons that only a shrink could hope to unravel, I only ever seem to bother playing Infinity Ward games on the hardest possible setting. Partly it's kind of a videogaming self-harm thing, but also because they nail the difficulty so perfectly, and somehow give you a sense of achievement that stays with you. The way each segment unfolded so atmospherically embedded itself in my head in a way that a good movie should - and in the way that only the very best shooters ever manage to, the original Half-Life, for instance.
For me, the highlight of this gloriously merciless videogame was the section next to the ferris wheel midway through, where planting traps for the incoming hordes was the only way to blunt their incessant attack, before dancing a frantic jig of death behind the bumper car stand to mop up the stragglers. It's probably the closest I've ever come to outright madness.
Oli Welsh: It doesn't win me a lot of friends around these parts but I'm a diehard Halo man, and as much as COD 4's sturm und drang blew my socks off, I couldn't help but find it a little too tightly scripted by comparison. One thing, though - Death From Above. That level is incredible. The sense of alienation, the meaningless, soundless slaughter in grainy black-and-white, the presentation of godlike technological might tearing little humans to pieces, the blunt title... In the ultimate gung-ho war game, it comes across as almost anti-war. It sent shivers down my spine. I still don't know if Infinity Ward meant it that way, but respect, regardless.
4. Half-Life 2
Valve / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Oli Welsh: Strange as it might seem now, I'm not a PC gamer by tradition, or even inclination. But before WOW welded me to a mouse and keyboard, there was one series that could reliably get me to break my console habits, and it was Half-Life. I dimly remember a curtained weekend, starting and twitching my way through the tense original. I much more clearly remember forcing a melting laptop to stutter through this eerie masterpiece a few weeks before Blizzard claimed my soul.
Coming back to it years later when it was bundled with the Orange Box, I found myself vaguely disappointed by the point-and-click gunplay, and maybe the remarkable physics has lost some of its shattering impact. But the artwork is still incredible, as haunting a vision of totalitarianism and decay as you've ever seen. And the unobtrusive storytelling through the scene is an object lesson in how to do narrative in games. Valve may be the masters of technology, but this is their work of art.
Kristan Reed: For me, the very best aspect of Valve's masterpiece was its ability to continually reinvent itself, to the point where it felt like you'd played about six different games - some that would make thrilling long-form games in their own right if the ideas had been followed through in the same way that other FPS titles have. But perhaps that's the beauty of a Valve title - that ability to condense a single amazing idea into a level, and then merely leave it there. Valve has always excelled at leaving us wanting more, and that's precisely why we love them. Could we possibly have some more now, please?
Rob Fahey: Probably the most ambitious sequel in videogames history. Also, probably the best. FPS is a crowded genre, but Half-Life 2 stands alone. Nobody before or since has come close to the atmosphere of City 17 and its environs, to the sheer variety and lateral thinking of Valve's game design, or to the wonderfully understated nature of its characterisation and storytelling. Also, Dr Breen looks very much like my dad, which gives the whole affair a slightly otherworldly, hallucinogenic feel - although that's obviously something not many of you will share, unless he's been far more prolific that he lets on.
John Bye: I never quite got into Half-Life 2. The drab, grey East European setting didn't do any favours to the game's low-tech engine, the much vaunted physics system had the same floaty feeling that most Havok-based games tend to suffer from, and the in-game cut-scenes stopped impressing after I got bored one time and emptied a clip full of bullets into Alyx's head in the middle of a conversation, only for her to carry on yapping away as if nothing had happened.
Unfortunately my one abiding memory of Half-Life 2 is the Water Hazard chapter, in which you pilot a little boat down a polluted river until you reach some kind of obstruction, then hop out and either move some barrels around or fight your way through a series of dull concrete rooms to reach a control wheel. Over and over again. For about half an hour. It was somewhere around this point that I lost interest, and promised myself I'd never get sucked in by internet hype again.
Tom Bramwell: While I sympathise with John's problem with the boat bit, I'm stunned that he wasn't able to maintain a connection with this, probably the best first-person shooter ever made. I still remember the first screenshots, and seeing it running for the first time, and the first time I saw the Citadel, and the first time Breen said "...our benefactors", and the first time I fired a sawblade out of the gravity gun, and the first time I saw an antlion, and the first time I fought a strider. So much, so much more.
Even the incidental details are fantastic - the little houses along the coast, each with its own little story told in cadavers and splinters, foreshadowing the FPS's future swing towards RPGs, or the supposedly redundant enemies, like the spider headcrabs with their all-but-one-HP-sapping pounce attacks. And Dog!
I haven't enjoyed the subsequent episodic releases as much. I feel as though I'm being told a bit too much in the process (Half-Life always did so well precisely because it was mysterious), and the gameplay shifts and ideas haven't been as profoundly interesting as those in Half-Life 2. The iterative design process has had, uh, "fringe benefits" (Team Fortress 2, Portal and Left 4 Dead, for instance), but I still yearn for Valve to do another, proper, blow-your-head-off game-changer. In a profession where it's increasingly difficult for even the most ambitious and inventive game to throw us off-balance, it's easy to remember just how much and how often Half-Life 2 did so.
3. Deus Ex
Eidos / Ion Storm / PC
Kristan Reed: Many games promise to offer gamers freedom to play them the way you want to, but so rarely do they actually deliver on any meaningful level. For some reason, Deus Ex made me want to play like the crazed stealth assassin, sneaking around in my long leather coat zapping everyone in the cranium from 100 feet. What a shame.
Somehow, despite the wooden character models and gruff voice acting, there's an atmosphere and intrigue about the narrative that elevates the game to legendary status. If a capable team can build on the achievements of Ion Storm with modern tech, one of the best games ever is waiting to be made. Even as it stands, this one comes pretty close.
Rob Fahey: Deus Ex is still a shining example of what games can do, if they only try. After years of corridor shooters, a game which genuinely had many different ways to approach and solve each situation was a revelation - at times, the choices it subtly presented seemed almost overwhelming. Not only that, it was relentlessly stylish and entertaining - today, it looks dated, but it still plays like a game ahead of its time. I'm more of a fan of the sequel than most people seem to be, but frankly, nobody has ever bottled the Deus Ex magic since then - not even the spiritual successor to the intelligent FPS genre, BioShock. The graphics are better, the storytelling craft has improved, but the gameplay is still a mere shadow of what Ion Storm Austin managed all those years ago.
2. World of Warcraft
Blizzard / PC, Mac
Rob Fahey: It's easy to get carried away on the waves of hype and media coverage about WOW, and forget that at heart, more than 11 million people pay to play this game because it's bloody brilliant. The level of polish, balance and attention to detail is only made even more impressive by the breadth of the world to which it's applied.
It's effectively several games wrapped into one - a relatively casual player like me can have literally years of fun levelling up different character classes and meddling in five-man dungeons, while hardcore bottle-pissing lunatics eke out similar amounts of fun from insane 25-man raids and uber-competitive teenagers smack each other in the face in PVP battlefields. I've had dalliances with other MMOs and I've tried to quit WOW time and time again, but each time it pulls me back. It'll destroy your life, but you'll have a hell of a time on the way.
Kristan Reed: It is with a certain amount of professional pride and shame that I have yet to go anywhere near WOW. I watch people play it, I listen to their stories of devotion, and realise why people like it. But when I hear of the stories of the lost years spent playing it, and the obsession it inspires in people, it gives me the fear. As someone with a slightly OCD nature when it comes to certain types of videogames, the knowledge that there's a game out there that I could happily lose years of my life to is enough to make me pretend it doesn't exist.
Besides, I've always felt it strange to experience only one game, when there are so many excellent titles vying for my attention as it is. Blizzard, I salute you, but for me your wonderful game exists as an entity all to itself, outside of the traditional videogame sphere.
John Bye: This game swallowed my life for about six months, before I finally managed to kick the habit. While it didn't do anything particularly new, it did take everything that had come before in the genre and polished it to within inches of its life, offering a vast world that constantly amazed and entertained. Well, until about level 40, anyway, at which point the game's original content started to get a bit thin on the ground and grinding set in.
Still, there are certain moments I'll never forget - flying into Undercity for the first time on a wild rollercoaster ride through the tunnels, getting chased around the Un'Goro crater by giant dinosaurs, or legging it across the Plaguelands and scrambling up a mountainside to escape the ravening hordes, only to find myself facing a vast, empty plateau and realising I'd managed to climb my way clear out of the game world.
Occasionally I miss my trusty Tauren Shaman and am tempted to go back and try out some of the new content. But then I look at my friends and co-workers talking about WOW tactics over lunch, or saying they can't go to the pub because it's raid night, and I remember why I quit in the first place.
Ellie Gibson: I got bitten badly by the WOW bug. Normally I couldn't give a toss about wizards and elves and the like, but there was just something about it that kept me playing for weeks on end. That's despite the fact I was pretty rubbish at it, and would get shouted at by people I partied with for not really having a clue what I was doing. Eventually I got fed up with that, and with being asked things like "Are you into Death Metal?" and "Do you like sex?" by 14 year-old Norwegians. I had fun, but I don't think I'll go back.
Tom Bramwell: While I would not describe myself as a misanthrope, that's probably because I'd rather be at home reading or playing videogames rather than hanging out with anyone to whom I might describe myself. Pesky humans. Oddly though, despite having several cracks at World of Warcraft, accumulating some 20 or 30 hours in Azeroth, I've been unable to channel my anti-social nature into what's supposed to be the ultimate life-destroying timesink. Am I doing it wrong? I have no idea, but I'll have another crack when Blizzard re-gens 0-60 in Cataclysm, because as hard as I've bounced off it each time I've tried, I've always known it will take me eventually. I'm like Nicola Six at the end of London Fields. It's always been you!
WOW's a black hole and the entire industry is in greater or lesser orbit. What Blizzard does to keep it going, or to replace it, may well be the biggest story of the next 10 years in gaming.
Oli Welsh: I just logged in to all my characters, typed /played and totted up the result. I have played World of Warcraft for 1,532 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds. That's not counting time logged on beta servers for the expansions, and a couple of low-level characters I deleted. I have played my main character for over 795 hours. I have spent - get this - 1.7 per cent of the last decade playing WOW.
And you know what? I'm not bored yet.
1. Grand Theft Auto III
Rockstar Games / Rockstar North / PC, PS2, Xbox
Kristan Reed: We all expected it to be good, but no-one expected it to be that good.
I can't recall any game before or since that inspired such a bug-eyed fervour among players when it came out in October 2001. We'd all stand around swapping stories like kids making up any old fibs to impress each other. But however far-fetched our tall tales sounded, they just happened to be random occurrences in a videogame. That was the beauty of GTA III - the realisation that a new type of gaming had arrived in all its cartoon glory, allowing you to approach missions in the way that you saw fit, or to just wander off and cause cartoon mayhem for the hell of it. It felt like ten games in one, all better than its individual inspiration. For a long time, most action games felt hopelessly one-dimensional next to DMA's classic.
However many terrible imitators it spawned with their cut-and-paste approach to open-world gaming, few ever had the seismic impact that this had on gaming. And it wasn't just about the gameplay, was it? The incredible radio stations, the wry humour, the memorable cut scenes... all were so far ahead of anyone else that even now the vast majority of games don't have a fraction of the creative energy on show here.
Oli Welsh: We've all conveniently forgotten this now, but before GTAIII's release it just didn't seem that big a deal (to a certain snobby subset of the game literati, at any rate, to which I'm ashamed to say I belonged). The RenderWare graphics looked, well, a bit rough, and a lot of people were justifiably asking how it could possibly hang together - and even if it did, how it could attract the attention of the shallow, glitz-hungry hordes. Rockstar North knew what we wanted better than we did though. This outsider changed the whole game, and most rivals are still scrabbling to keep up, eight years on. Disruptive, in every sense.
Rob Fahey: Personally, I'm a GTA refusenik - but even I would have to admit that few games can claim the kind of far-reaching influence that GTAIII has had on the entire medium. It created a whole host of gaming concepts and mechanisms which have become a fundamental part of the language of videogames ever since - from its now de rigeur interpretation of sandbox gaming through to minor, yet often-copied, touches such as the radio stations.
To my mind, it's not the best sandbox game out there (I'd pick another Rockstar title, Bully, for that accolade), but is that surprising, when everything that's come since has stood on GTAIII's broad shoulders? If it's not actually the best game of the decade, it's certainly the game that best defines the decade. Its shadow falls over everything, from the influence of its design decisions to the controversy surrounding its content. There are other, better games on this list, and indeed not on this list - but when we look back in years to come and ask which game best exemplifies gaming in the 2000s, GTAIII will provide the obvious, perfect answer.
John Bye: Grand Theft Auto IV's much-hyped return to Liberty City just served to remind me how good Grand Theft Auto III was. Sure, the city's traffic had a disconcerting tendency to vanish into thin air whenever you turned your back on it, but the game delivered fun by the spade full.
While GTAIV was a soulless dirge featuring some guy with a dodgy accent whining about not having any money for hour after suicide inducing hour, GTAIII was a game that didn't take itself too seriously, with a reckless, anything-goes attitude that made it a delight to play. Every time you tried to do something crazy, like jump your sports car off a bridge, pick up a hooker, or steal a fire engine, there was some kind of side quest, mini-game or score bonus waiting for you. Reassuringly silly and endlessly entertaining, it was a truly groundbreaking game.
Johnny Minkley: I very clearly recall looking at early screenshots of GTAIII with Pat Garratt - now blogging maniac at VG247.com - on his monitor when we worked together at Emap. And you know what? We laughed. We said it'd never work. The rush I got from watching the first trailer for The Ballad Of Gay Tony this week reminded me of this and why I now love Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto. Pat and I were clearly, spectacularly wrong, but no-one really expected GTAIII to turn out the way it did. Rockstar may have a reputation for being obtuse and aloof, but the scale of achievement, the creative single-mindedness, the unshakable belief in the potential of the medium has produced a handful of the greatest games of the past decade. So I really wouldn't want them any other way.
Ellie Gibson: Oh good, another game where you get to drive a car and deal some drugs and shoot the policeman BRAP BRAP BRAP. Not a patch on Diner Dash.
Tom Bramwell: Grand Theft Auto III came out not that long after Eurogamer was born, and although the sequels were also excellent, the open-world movement still lives predominantly in its long, broad shadow. Even GTAIV, brave enough in its own way, had no real answer to its ancestor - Rockstar simply got 3D GTA right at the first time attempt. Few around here would argue that it's fitting for World of Warcraft and GTAIII to sit astride this list, but the contrast is interesting: WOW turned everyone green and people have lost billions trying to match it, whereas GTAIII gave the industry the new model for its livelihood throughout the 2000s.
So there it is. Thank you for coming to our birthday party. We love you all and hope to see you again soon.
Aged 10 and a bit.