Game of the Decade: The End
Someday, you'll tell your grandkids about Florida in 2000, Minnesota in 2008 and Crispy Gamer in 2010. Nothing gets an electoral junkie's juices flowing like a close, down-to-the-wire vote, and if the likes of Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer had been here, they would have been crunching the numbers all weekend. And at midnight on Sunday, like the rest of us, they would have witnessed this stunning result.
By a margin of 130 votes -- six freaking tenths of a percent -- Half-Life 2 is your Game of the Decade! Huzzah!
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The craziest thing about this whole exercise has been the notion that we'd end up picking only one game. But if we had to choose a winner, Valve's dystopian masterpiece is as good as any. Released in 2004, Half-Life 2 solidified the studio's reputation for top-shelf games; when Half-Life 2: Episode Two was bundled with Portal and The Orange Box in 2007, it was probably the greatest game bundle ever. A deserving victor.
Let's not give short shrift to our runner-up by a hair's breadth, though, the MMO that gave birth to an industry, enraptured millions, and (as one commenter reminded us) even starred in an Emmy-winning episode of "South Park." Bravo, World of Warcraft.
Our heartfelt thanks to everybody who voted and chimed in with comments. We're glad you had as much fun with this as we did. As the competition comes to an end, here's a look at how we got here.
People's Choice Preliminaries: Recognizing that complaints of "I can't believe you left out [Game X]!" are inevitable -- and probably well-justified -- the Game Trust leaves four open slots in the bracket. Readers are asked to make nominations in the comments. They come through big.
Round Two: The Crispy writers have their say. Nintendogs goes to heaven. In a move that perplexes users (not to mention three members of the Game Trust voting panel), four PopCap-loving writers conspire to bounce Civilization IV out of the running in favor of Peggle. Then the readers have their say. Alucard Division voting heats up as Grand Theft Auto III battles Resident Evil 4, and Fallout 3 almost manages to oust Half-Life 2. Advance Wars and SSX go down by embarrassing four-to-one margins.
Division Finals: Four Crispy writers tell everyone who they're voting for. Evan Narcisse's blathering about Shadow of Colossus is ignored. Likewise John Teti's hot-air stump speech for BioShock. In fact, the voters ignore everyone but Ryan Kuo. Surely his support is responsible for WoW's continued domination.
Final Four: Super Smash Bros. Melee clashes with Half-Life 2; WoW battles Halo. Game Trusters go before the camera to make their final pitches. A few SSBM fans mount a ballot-stuffing campaign so clumsy and transparent that it would make a Taliban warlord blush, then cry and pee their pants when they are caught. Self-respecting SSBM fans facepalm.
Championship Round: Fraudsters are given the heave-ho. The electorate is divided in twain by the swirling emotional mix of passions, heartache and vengeance created throughout the long competition. As the lead seesaws in an incredibly close vote, Crispy staffers brace themselves for a long night of counting pregnant chads and half-filled bubbles. Then we remember that a computer counts the votes. We are relieved, at least until someone complains about Nintendogs.
What's the takeaway from GOTD? Hopefully, after a long look at the bracket, it's the realization that a hell of a lot of good games have come down the pike since 2000. If you have a little downtime during the holidays, rummage through your collection and give some of those classics another spin. The end of a decade is the perfect time to appreciate how far we've come.