One of the much touted features of the Taylor Family Digital Library has been its Interactive Digital Media Collection, a vast collection of both retro and modern video games available to students for research and entertainment purposes. The collection is the largest of its kind in Canada, and is a major step forward towards further legitimizing video games as an art form, and facilitating students’ research on the medium.
Yet despite being promised since 2010, the game centre that would allow students full access to the collection is still not fully completed. In a fashion true to the troubled history of the ultra-modern library, the consoles needed to play the retro games have still not been installed, and will most likely not be available until the Fall semester.
However, the TFDL has not completely failed to live up to its promise — a group of six high-end PCs have recently been installed near the Digital Media Centre. These computers can be easily accessed by all, and do not require any sort of reservation. They provide something that would be almost impossible to find anywhere else: free, immediate access to hundreds of the most important video games of all time.
This can understandably be a bit overwhelming, especially to those unfamiliar with the medium. To this end the Gauntlet is proud to present a list of five games that have helped to define and shaped video gaming throughout its history, all of which are available to play at the TFDL. These games can be enjoyed by both dedicated gamers and newcomers alike, and serve as a good introduction to the best that the medium has to offer. All that is required to try these games is a few spare hours and a pair of headphones.
Valve Corporation, 2004
Although it is a first-person shooter, Half-Life 2 is very unlike others in the genre. The narrative is presented in a very unobtrusive manner, unfolding slowly as you lead an unlikely agent of fate against an extraterrestrial force that has enslaved mankind. It is considered one of the finest examples of storytelling in games, and is an experience defined through moments of silence and quiet contemplation.
A graphical update of the 1993 classic, realMyst is an exploration game that focuses on complete immersion in its beautifully realized virtual world. With a story that presents itself through cryptic messages left by a group of enigmatic strangers, the player is led through a series of mind-bending puzzles that require an equal amount of cleverness and patience to solve.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Ubisoft Montreal, 2003
Effortlessly combining a gripping story, perfectly tuned gameplay and stylish aesthetics, this Canadian adventure game is considered to be as flawless as it is fun. It tests players on both their reflexes and their wits as they lead the titular prince on a quest to rid his kingdom of an ancient evil, wielding the power to manipulate time itself.
Crytek Studios, 2004
While not as cerebral as the other games on this list, Far Cry is still notable for being one of the best examples ever released of the action genre. It set a new benchmark for technology in video games, with graphics and artificial intelligence that far outshone anything else at the time. For better or for worse, it served as the precursor for many modern first-person shooters.
Double Fine, 2005
There are only a few video games that can be considered true comedies, and Psychonauts is one of them. The story takes place at a summer camp for psychics, where the player must enter the dreams of various characters to unravel a sinister conspiracy. Every aspect of the game is steeped in dark humour and trippy visuals, which have cemented the quirky platformer as a cult classic.