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Boston's Harmonix struck a chord with Game Of The Decade respondents thanks to the signature music game's beautiful melding of melody and gameplay.
Robert Marney, University of Virginia: "Rock Band started out as a very expensive video game, but it is also: A stealth education in music appreciation 101, like Civilization did for history; A way to bond with my game-loving brother and musician parents at the same time; A vortex into which all house parties are eventually drawn after the crowd leaves, like karaoke; A cooperative game that allows skilled players to take up the slack from unskilled players, like volleyball; An innovator in downloadable content; and a massive source of revenue from a largely untapped well. And that's just off the top of my head."
Zach Wilson, THQ Kaos: "It was the first and last game I will ever play with my mother (gaming newbie), my wife (plays games occasionally) and my brother (hardcore gamer) all at the same time. We all played the game simultaneously and everyone had a smashing good time.
"I played that game all winter and then the winter next with the other couple I hang out with that had a similar composition of gamers - we ate, we drank, we sang and we jammed. It was amazing. Rock Band is also the first game that I feel really made strong use of the promise of DLC and made the idea of paying for music that I downloaded not only make sense but also feel like I got my money's worth."
Another much-nominated title, Valve's expertly done evolution of the multiplayer shooter adds vital character and humor to an already much-polished gameplay mechanism.
Terence Lee: "An expertly crafted multiplayer experience that continues to be updated to this day. And not just simple updates, but whole new community-involving themes."
Anonymous: "The game is leaps and bounds above any other game of the decade in terms of player and developer support, balance, testing, art design, style, humor, fun, and replayability. The game is the gold standard by which all games should be measured for style, replay-ability, and competitive balance and support."
Nick Myers: "This game incorporated several key features that made it, if not the best, the epitome of this decade of video gaming. These are: simplicity and deeper mechanics of the gameplay, art style, good voice work and clever writing, digital distribution and content updates.
"It's not what makes this game different from the other games of this decade, but rather what this game utilized and did well, and can be seen in many other games. The simplicity of the game and the deeper mechanics involved allow this game to be playable by casual and hardcore gamers alike."
While it may be late to the party, at least some believed that Naughty Dog's lush filmic action game deserved to be included in the running for the best game of the last 10 years.
Paul Haban, 7 Studios: "This game had a level of cinematic immersion I have never found in a game to date. While there were many games that came to mind, few compared to this overall experience."
Bradford White: "It was an amazing experience from start to finish. The game was made with the highest quaility in all aspects."
An impassioned plea for a cult, perhaps overlooked Japanese action RPG is noted in our Honorable Mentions, partly thanks to the strength of the write-up:
Meredith Katz, InLight Entertainment: "In some ways, I think this is a throw-away vote -- I know it won't end up anywhere on the top ten lists, because I highly doubt other people will happen to think of it as well. After all, it's a PlayStation 1 game and right from the beginning of 2000. [...] But Vagrant Story, back then, did things I have rarely or ever seen since, and it did lots of them in a single package.
"VS had one of the most cleverly put together simple stories. For all the assumed identities and disguises, it's not that complicated a story. But it's clever, and it does something that -- sadly -- I rarely see in other games: It trusts its players.
"At no point are things summarized or recapped for the protagonist and thus the player. You are invited to put the backstory together yourself from the details you are given, and if you don't, well, you still get the main details (the encounter with the cult, the corrupt church knights). You aren't obliged to consider the dates you're given for the Duke's reign and the Earthquake and so on, but you can. You're not spoonfed story, and at the same time, the story isn't too convoluted or too unnecessarily camp. It's just a little insight into the altercation.
"As well, it utilizes literary techniques that, by god, more works need to and don't. When people protest that there's no place for literary techniques in video games I point to this as an example of what works -- not 'lots of narration', which is what people tend to think of, but things like the unreliable narrator. Unanswered questions that cause the reader to react by attempting to fill them in -- unfinished questions. Perspective and paradigm shifts. Biased commentary from characters. Each character having their own motivation which changes their role in the story slightly regardless of what faction they're associated with. I haven't seen a game manage to use literary techniques so effectively since. [...]
"I feel like this is the game that opened doors, but so much of what came out right after it was a step backwards. It raised a bar that I've seen individual titles do right for parts of, but rarely had the complete package the way Vagrant Story did."