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On the day Game Informer’s 100th issue went to print, I remember looking over at Andy and saying, “What are we going to do for issue 200?” He laughed and said, “What else, the 200 Greatest Games of All Time!” At the time, it was a joke. We had just put our hearts and souls into a list of 100 games, and the thought of doubling that number seemed like a sure fire way to send both of us to the loony bin.
I don’t know when the “Oh crap! Issue 200 is coming up!” feeling sunk in for Andy, but it hit me around issue 165. I remember thinking, “we only have three years to plan.” I panicked, and flashed back to the work we put into issue 100. All of the long nights, heated arguments, and fist slams against keyboards became crystal clear again, but so did the knowledge gained from the experience. In putting our social lives on hold for weeks on end, we laid the groundwork for the 200th issue.
If you have both issues handy, you can see similarities in the departments and pieces offered. With the input of the new staff, we built upon that foundation. With 18 writers, you’d think it would be pandemonium, but everyone seemed to understand the direction. The focus was to enhance what was there, much like a game developer working on a sequel.
The Top 200 Voting App
From a design standpoint, the issue came together quickly. We agreed on the departments and mini-features early in the development. Approximately two months prior to the 200th issue’s October 19 deadline, Jeff Cork and Jeff Marchiafava (the Jeffs) were tasked to compile a list of all of the games throughout history that could be considered great, good, or mediocre. They combed databases, complete system lists, Game Informer’s review archive (which stretches back to issue 1), and they even tapped the vault to look at game packages. Their efforts formed a list of over 500 games.
That list was handed off to the rest of the editorial staff. Each editor was asked to look over the list and update it with entries that the Jeffs may have been missed. I ended up spending a good week doing exactly what the Jeffs did. I had magazines and game lists piled high on my desk. Once scrutinized by every editor, the list expanded to 640 games.
This list was then entered into an application created by our production director, Curtis Fung, that allowed each editor to numerically order his or her personal top 200 games of all time. The application was modified from another app we use to track magazine progress called “The Paginator.” Curtis dedicated 40 work hours to transform that application into an interactive voting program capable of combining all of the editor lists into one “super list.” All registered users can get a taste of this app by visiting The Voting Booth.
The “super list” sounded like a great idea on paper, but as you would expect with 18 editors with 18 different gaming backgrounds, the results of the voting were scatterbrained to say the least. From here, we integrated the “super list” with the old Top 100 list that accounted better for cultural relevance and industry impact.This new hybrid list then became the template for weeks of ranking debate. Every game was thrown under a spotlight and into a grinder. The arguments were heated, bringing out the staff’s passion for the games they grew up on or still play today. The games and order of the list were debated over and over again. Some lengthy arguments had to do with a game moving up just one spot. Others centered on what entry in a series should be on the list. Which Quake should be included? Should a series’ best entry leapfrog the first entry that set it in motion? Wii Sports and Myst were both brought up numerous times due to their cultural relevance. I was in the camp to keep them off of the list. I may have even breathed fire during one of the Wii Sports debates.
The list took shape…slowly. Some people wanted Super Mario Bros. over Zelda. Others thought Super Mario Bros. 3 should be higher than Super Mario Bros. And one person (Dan) said that Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island should be higher than every other Mario title.
The month leading up to the October 19 deadline was filled with emotion, and above all else, a true love for games. In that month, I played through thousands of games in my mind, recalling the great and bad times I had with them. When editors would bring up their favorite game, every once and a while the debate would transform into a campfire story where a level or specific moment was described. On the flip side, I may now have arthritis in my fingers from making a tense fist so often, and I lived through a weeklong tension headache brought on from trying to figure out how many pages we had to play with, and how many games would fit onto each of these pages.
A ton of work went into the list, and while it doesn’t reflect my personal Top 200, I do feel that it reflects the voice of every Game Informer editor. Minutes before posting this story, Andy walked by my office, and I barked out, “What are we going to do for issue 300?” He turned around, looked into my office, and asked a question back: “The 300 greatest games of all time?”
We just sent issue 201 off to the printer yesterday. I'm already thinking about how we are going to make issue 300 work.
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