This year’s inductees at the Strong World Video Game Hall of Fame include two big deals in the history of PC Gaming: Pioneering arcade game Computer Space and legendary late-90s hit Barbie Fashion Designer. They’re joined by The Last of Us on PS3 and Wii Sports to make the class of 2023 inductees.
Computer space was the first true commercial videogame, released in 1971 as a coin-operated arcade cabinet and designed by Atari co-founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney with computer-makers Nutting Associates. While it wasn’t a best-seller, or a real commercial success, it did bring videogames out of university and research computer labs and into the broader cultural sphere.
Barbie Fashion Designer, meanwhile, released in 1996 for PC. As much a design program and what we’d now call an interactive toy as a game, Barbie Fashion Designer let players design clothes for their dolls and print them out. It sold over half a million copies in its first two months—this is during a time when PC games were almost exclusively marketed towards male players and when a million copies sold was enough to get you on the list of absolute best-selling games for that year.
Kristy Hisert, collections manager for the Strong, said this in a release: “Barbie Fashion Designer became a jumping-off point for the girls’ games movement and shook up the software and gaming scene. It also sparked important questions and debate. What does it mean to be a game for girls? Should there even be games ‘for girls’? What are the implications of these games? What are the consequences of gendering games?”
The Strong National Museum of play started its World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2015 with the goal of recognizing electronic games that have been important to the history of the broader videogame medium and its role in society. A new space housing the hall of fame will open on June 30, 2023 at the museum site in Rochester, New York.
Founded in 1968, the Strong is a massive museum devoted to the fundamentals of playing and imagination. It’s a very interactive museum, and has in recent decades embraced the tabletop and videogame industries with collections, exhibits, and exhibitions.