Like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this is another game that’s on this list primarily because it exemplifies and perfects one of my favorite genres. In this case, it’s turn-based, squad tactics games — and the XCOM series is the best out there.
You don’t see too many of these, especially back in the years before XCOM: Enemy Unknown returned the genre to life from the brink of death. There was the little-known Silent Storm series, which is fantastic if a little unpolished, but aside from those I can’t even think of any other examples in the 21st century.
Maybe the best thing about having started my gaming journey in the late ’80s, and sticking with it until now, is watching as the classic makes a comeback. It’s seeing old games reimagined and brought to a wide audience. Concepts from the earliest days of videogames rediscovered and adopted by new games. Younger folks finding their way into the industry and taking the reigns of the franchises they cut their teeth on.
We’re in a fascinating period of time for this little hobby of ours. It’s a damn young hobby, too, this videogames thing. I mean, the generation I’m a part of is basically the first to have had the chance to grow up not knowing a world without videogames, and now we’re becoming the creators. Can you imagine having been the first generation to experience silent films, and then finding yourself behind the camera? Or the first to listen to the radio, and then having the chance to speak into the microphone yourself?
It might seem like a stretch, but XCOM really does remind me that everything we do is cyclical. A good game is a good game is a good game, no matter when it came out, and there will always be an audience for every kind of game. Enemy Unknown came out at the height of the FPS craze (and they were even making a dumb, shooter-fied XCOM reboot at the time), and even though it was about as far from a shooter game as you could get, it blew everyone away because this will always be a great concept regardless of what year it is.
XCOM gives me tremendous hope, honestly. Hope that the classics will never die. Hope that we’ll never stop improving. Hope… because slow, think-y games can still make huge waves.
Oh — and by the way, yes, I know XCOM was released in 2012… but the expansion came out in 2013 so shut up.