This ABCs of Gaming t-shirt showed up on Kotaku over the weekend. It's a cute design, but contains too many critical flaws for me to consider buying it. (Unlike, say, this Madness of Mission 6 tee, which I purchased nigh-immediately.)
You can see what's going on here. One game for each letter of the alphabet, culled across the entire history of gaming.
The two big fails are Indiana Jones and X-Men. Whuh? Sure, they've both had video games, but they are not properties created by our beloved industry... so they are right out. This isn't the "ABCs of Pop Culture."
Indy on I shows a lack of gaming cred, because there's a brilliant pro-level choice for I: Ico. Not only is Ico a critical darling and still gets name-checked by the gamerati, but it also provides an instantly recognizable visual... the boy with the horned hat wielding a giant stick. Prior to about three months ago, did anybody even give two shits about Indiana Jones? I have trouble mustering up the interest now. It's like the all-of-a-sudden Holy Crap Ghostbusters Is Sweet thing going around now. Where were all these fans hiding for the last fifteen years?
For X, my two suggestions are Xevious and Xenogears. Xevious could fill the "retro space shooter" category and free up G from Galaga (or Gladius or Galaxian or whatever that ship is supposed to be.) Xenogears would provide a cursory nod to the prevalence of Japanese RPGs. Neither are fantastic selections, but either would actually be a gaming-related choice.
With that ugliness out of the way, let's look at the rest of the alphabet. And I think we should set up a rule that the letter pertains to the name of the game, not the name of the character. So a li'l Lara Croft would be a T, not an L. Isn't it funny how nobody talks about her anymore? Or any of the key PS1 franchises, actually. Crash, PaRappa, Spyro, Tekken, Twisted Metal, Rayman (I discount Raving Rabbids, as do all good Americans)... Resident Evil only recently pulled out of that tailspin. I think we may have a PlayStation curse! The only inoculated franchises are Metal Gear, Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy.
A: Asteroids. Fine. We definitely need to cover all generations. The dragon from Adventure would also be nice, although Homestar kinda ruined the duck's esotericness. The only non-retro choice I would consider is Animal Crossing, but that stupid Asteroids triangle is so recognizable that I can't replace it.
B: Bomberman. Fine, but I worry about the visual parity with the white Mega Man (what's up with that?) There doesn't seem to be many good choices for B (Brain Age? Bully? Battletoads? Burnout?), so I think Bomberman is going to win this by default.
C: Contra. Funny choice, because Contra ("with Lance and Bill") is kind of a joke, although I gather Contra 4 on DS is quite good. Could also take Castlevania, Crash Bandicoot, Chu Chu Rocket, even Conker.
D: Donkey Kong. DK has certainly earned his place in the pantheon, and I like having non-human characters on the shirt, but he's too closely associated with the Mario family... which, as we'll see, is a little too well-represented. But the best substitutes I can think of are Dance Dance Revolution and Duke Nukem. So I don't know.
E: Excitebike. Well, it beats Endless Ocean or Elemental Gearbolt. Maybe Earthworm Jim? Shame Elebits had no impact, because a pile of those little electric dudes would be great.
F: Frogger. I think we have too many retro choices here, but I understand why that is: the shirt is trying to go for mass appeal and the older games have pop cultural cache that outranks their usefulness to gamers. Still, F could be Final Fantasy, as represented by a moogle or cactaur or something.
G: Galaxian, Gyruss, Galaga, Gradius, I don't know what that ship is from and that's a problem. G is Grand Theft Auto, but then you have the unenviable position of deciding what best represents GTA. CJ? Niko? A car? So I wonder if it wouldn't be better to go with something from God of War, Guitar Hero or Gauntlet. I'll say Guitar Hero since then you can just, you know, have somebody else hold a guitar.
H: Halo. I don't think I have any quibble with that. Halo owns H. Pwns it, even.
I: Indiana Jones must die. Ico. There's also I-Ninja, Ikaruga or Ice Climber, but forget them. This is Ico.
J: Joust. Nice ref. Joust is one of the few coin-op classics that hasn't been done to death. And like H, there is almost nothing else that comes to mind to fill the slot. Joust it is, then.
K: Katamari Damacy. Thank you very much. There's also Klonoa, Kirby or Kingdom Hearts... but no. The King of All Cosmos would never forgive me.
L: Luigi? OK, you could use Luigi's Mansion as the game here, but we all know that this artist doesn't know enough about gaming to dive that deep into the oeuvre. An interesting problem is presented since L ought to be Legend of Zelda... but unfortunately we NEED to place Zelda as our Z. L could be a Lemming or a LocoRoco. But not Luigi. Never Luigi.
M: Mega Man, but in his so-incredibly iconic white costume? O RLY? I didn't even recognize him at first. I was never a big Mega Man fan, so what about Metroid, Mario Kart, Myst, Missile Command, or, duh, Metal Gear Solid?
N: Ninja Gaiden. Not a lot of choices here.
O: Oregon Trail. I guess. I love the visual joke of the yoshis as oxen. Okami is another Ico-level choice, but at this point even simply mentioning Okami reeks of desperation.
P: Pitfall. Yeah, ok. But it seems strange to go retro with Pitfall rather than Pac-Man. I'd choose Pokemon, as represented by Pikachu. Or perhaps Pong, which would be a nice VERY old school inclusion.
Q: Quake. As compared to what, Qix?
R: a Rabbid, from Rayman Raving Rabbids. No. R is Resident Evil because you can use a zombie. It's high time we got over the long national nightmare of Raving Rabbids.
S: Mario, for Super Mario Whatever. Awful usage. It follows my rule about game titles, but being right beside an L for Luigi makes you wonder who Mr. S is, even though you know it's Mario. Still, Mario is almost a necessity. You can't skip him. So I would keep the S but place it between the brothers; they were both in Super Mario Bros, after all. If we shift him to another letter (M, P or D), some other good S's are Space Invaders, Street Fighter, The Sims, and Sonic the Hedgehog. It really hurts that we have to choose Super Mario over Sonic, but he's just been so sucky lately.
T: Tetris. Brilliant. Of course. I'm almost ashamed to bring up Tomb Raider or ToeJam & Earl.
U: Ultima. Tough one. There's always Unreal, but we're sort of top-heavy on testosteroney shooters.
V: Virtua Fighter. Another tough one, with the only other possibility I can think of being Viewtiful Joe which, quite frankly, isn't worth it. SEGA!
W: WarCraft. I like WarCraft. It's a good choice, particularly since the red-and-green orc harkens back to the 2D originals. If you wanted to avoid PC-based games, Wii Sports would be a very trendy selection here.
X: Complete no to poor Professor X there. Xenogears by default, unless we feel we need the retro-shooter nod of Xevious.
Y: Yoshi, of several games that begin with Yoshi. Can't think of anything else, which is why I'm pretty set on ditching Donkey Kong and Luigi as letter-holders.
Z: Zelda, sadly. I hate how this breaks the strict naming convention, but wasn't Zelda II officially called "Zelda II" anyway?
So my highly personal final tally is Asteroids, Bomberman, Contra, Dance Dance Revolution, Excitebike, Final Fantasy, Guitar Hero, Halo, Ico, Joust, Katamari, LocoRoco, Mario Kart, Ninja Gaiden, Okami, Pokemon, Quake, Resident Evil, Sonic, Tetris, Ultima, Virtua Fighter, WarCraft, Xevious, Yoshi, Zelda. I'm killing some of the existing gags, but we could surely come up with new ones.
My list covers popular games, cult games, non-traditional games, puzzle games, PC games, portable games, fighting games, shmups, music games, sidescrollers, mascots, platformers, driving games (sort of), RPGs, RTSs, FPSs, retro games, modern games, and games from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The only omissions that really hurt me are MGS and GTA.