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What this year's 4 inductees did to get into the Video Game Hall of Fame

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

They are the soundtrack of a generation.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME MUSIC)

SUMMERS: And this week, the Video Game Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play announced the inductees to the class of 2023. Here to talk about which games had the highest score this year is Jon-Paul Dyson, who leads the committee for the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Jon-Paul Dyson, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JON-PAUL DYSON: Glad to talk to you. Thank you.

SUMMERS: All right. So let's start off by hearing a little bit more about the Video Game Hall of Fame. It includes games like World Of Warcraft, Super Mario Brothers and, of course, the classic game, Tetris.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIROKAZU TANAKA'S "A-TYPE (KOROBEINIKI)")

SUMMERS: What does it take to get a spot on this list?

DYSON: Well, to make it into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, you really need to meet four criteria. Those are icon status - everyone knows the game; longevity - the game's been around for a while; geographical reach; and influence. And that's probably the most important of the categories. And sometimes a game will get in when it meets that factor, even if all the other ones don't apply. And so these are the games that really endure - the games that have shaped not only video gaming, but also culture in and of itself.

SUMMERS: So this year, there are four new members being inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame. Tell us about the class of 2023.

DYSON: The class of 2023 is one that really crosses the spectrum of video games in terms of where you played them, when you played them and, I think, most importantly, who played them. The oldest was Computer Space, a stand-up arcade game. Then came Barbie Fashion Designer, a breakthrough PC game, especially for girls. Wii Sports brought a lot of people into gaming in the mid-2000s, and The Last of Us came out 10 years ago and has been a breakout hit ever since.

SUMMERS: I actually want to start with The Last of Us, which I think a lot of people may know from the incredible HBO show by the same title. It's a first-person, story-based game. It's not that old, compared to some of the other games that are being inducted this year. Why did the committee select this game? What is so special about this particular installment in The Last of Us franchise?

DYSON: It shows this distillation of a number of trends in video gaming in general, but it really brought all these elements together of the play, the story, the character development, and did so in a way that showed that games had this real storytelling power that wasn't always prevalent in earlier games.

SUMMERS: One of the other games in this year's class that I definitely want to talk to you about because I remember playing it is the 1996 PC game Barbie Fashion Designer.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, BARBIE FASHION DESIGNER)

CHRIS ANTHONY LANSDOWNE: (As Barbie) Hi, I'm Barbie. Let's make some fun clothes for me to wear.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SUMMERS: And I just have to tell you - even hearing that music and Barbie's voice just kind of takes me back to the 1990s, when I was playing that game. And according to the museum, Barbie Fashion Designer was selling over 500,000 copies in two months, earning over $120 million in the first year of the game's release. And I'm curious what made this game stand out, and if you can talk a little bit about the gender dynamics here because, at the time, growing up, I remember - most games - they weren't geared towards girls. It was rare to see a game that was about fashion, certainly.

DYSON: Yeah. With Barbie Fashion Designer, you take these age-old play patterns of doll play - whether that's paper dolls or Barbies - and you bring them to the virtual world. And there wasn't really much for girls. And so by finding a way to get the software into the toy aisle, Mattel brought in a whole new generation of gamers.

SUMMERS: Do you have a favorite game? Of all the video games that are in the Hall of Fame, what's your favorite game to play?

DYSON: I must admit that The Oregon Trail back in the day was one, for me, that really just is a charm to me. And Centipede is still just a blast to play. Luckily, we have an arcade version of Centipede, so I can play it here in the original.

SUMMERS: That was Jon-Paul Dyson of the Strong National Museum of Play, speaking with us about the latest inductees into the video Game Hall of Fame. Hey, thanks so much for talking with us.

DYSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
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