Star­siege: Tribes, aka Tribes 1, is my pick. I played it re­li­giously for the bet­ter part of my 20s, start­ing back when modems were frus­trat­ingly slow. I even played it com­pet­i­tively on lad­ders, us­ing Capy co-founder Kris Piotrowski’s com­puter for matches be­cause it ac­tu­ally had a video­card.

I love Tribes be­cause it was a foun­da­tional shift in games. It helped me learn why mul­ti­player games were so spe­cial – be­cause you formed a ten-per­son side in a Tribes match, quickly de­cided who was go­ing to play Light Defence or Heavy Of­fence or ‘Cap’, spam Shazbot a few times, then try your best to func­tion as a team. And you had to try to play as a team, or you lost. This wasn’t 1v1 Doom. This wasn’t Quake or

Team Fortress. This was huge, open maps, com­plex char­ac­ter classes and un­be­liev­able move­ment, all of which fun­nelled into team play.

While Quake gave on­line FPSes the taste of speed, ‘skiing’ in Tribes blew it out. Ini­tially a bug that be­came a core fea­ture, skiing gave skilled play­ers a path to tra­verse enor­mous open maps at Mach 10, and

maybe even grab a flag while they were at it. Prior to

Tribes, mul­ti­player games were played in cor­ri­dors, in rooms, and in court­yards. Hell, in most cases they still are. And all of them were played ex­clu­sively on the ground. Quake’s Rocket Jump (all the way through to Trick­ing) ex­plored ad­di­tional move­ment space, but in a lim­ited way. Tribes added a jet­pack and gave play­ers an en­tire ex­tra di­men­sion, to un­be­liev­able ef­fect, the im­pacts of which we’re still see­ing to­day. There hasn’t been a mul­ti­player game since that hasn’t aped some­thing, or ev­ery­thing, from Tribes. And there’s no game that feels bet­ter when play­ing with 20-plus play­ers (even on a shitty mo­dem).

My other picks were nos­tal­gic, ar­sty, or mind­bend­ing. But I think mul­ti­player gam­ing is such a key piece of our cul­ture, and I’m sure that Tribes changed it for­ever. Also, it was re­ally damn fun.

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