The video games that made us

I’m a huge gaming nerd; from console platformers to PC city builders, from grand strategy to tabletop simulators, I’ve sunk thousands of hours into games of all kinds. Like my obsession with fantasy and sci-fi books, games provide me with ways to explore new ideas, constraints, and systems; all of which stretch my mind, and help me in my professional life.

Looking back at my childhood, I realise that a lot of my interest in (and foundational knowledge about) history, socioeconomics, marketing, strategy, and puzzles comes from years of playing myriad games, across a range of genres and devices. I thought it might be fun to explore how some of those learnings have helped me in my professional life.

But it turns out, I’m not alone. Some of the most prominent, successful, and forward-thinking SEOs and digital marketers in the world are huge gamer geeks. For many of us, games played a huge role in how we think, and how we work. These are the video games that made us.

🌎 Civilization

A grand strategy game (and a series of sequels) where players compete to take over the entire world by building towns, gathering resources, researching technology, negotiating, trading, and fielding armies.

For me, “Civilization” was the one that taught me the most about business and life in general. I was running a games company at the time (but Murder Mystery Role Playing games), and I would find myself staying in the office after work and playing through the night until dawn!

Almost every game I played back then was all about managing resources and making calculated guesses as to how to deploy them. It was fun and I treated business no differently. I mean… I had my time with Doom and my then girlfriend, now wife even “joined in” on an Indiana Jones game that she probably only pretended to like, but Civilization was the real winner for me.

I could go back and play it again now… but one day i realized running a real business was just the same and far better for me and society in general.

Geography, history, politics, trade, socioeconomics, war; I think that the Civ series might have taught me more about the world than I ever learned in school. I’ve put thousands of hours into this series, and I still find myself struggling to beat the AI on harder difficulty levels.

I also really enjoyed Colonization, which was an adaptation focusing on establishing colonies in the New World, and the race to declaring independence.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

🚂 Transport Tycoon

A genre-defining business simulation game, where you ship passengers and goods between towns, cities, factories and farms – using a mix of trains, busses, lorries, boats and planes. As you play, you compete with other businesses to drive profit by designing more and more complex vehicle and infrastructure networks and chains of goods.

I’d always find the cheat codes so that I could build things “perfectly”. In Transport Tycoon, entire mountains were levelled so that my railways would be as straight and visible as possible.

Games taught me the official rules aren’t always how things run in reality. Some people have the cheat codes. The life lesson was forcing introverted me to get out there are network. Find the people who know how to game the system and learn from them. That way, when there is a mountain in your way in Transport Tycoon, you can bulldoze it away without a care.

Jes Scholz

Marketing consultant

I’ve spent thousands of hours playing this game. It taught me so much as a child; it was my first glimpse into complex economic systems, system design, supply chain management, and more.

I still periodically return to TTD (An open-source version of the game is still under development today, which adds innumerable quality-of-life upgrades and new features). I love designing – and continually iterating on and redesigning – complex networks of rail signals, and trying to design perfect systems. It’s like coding, and dealing with technical debt, but fun!?

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

🔫 Unreal Tournament

A fast-paced first-person shooter set in a dystopian future, featuring various game modes such as Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Assault. Players must outscore opponents by eliminating them using a variety of weapons and tactics, achieving specific objectives depending on the game mode. The ultimate objective is to dominate the tournament ladder by excelling in these matches, to become the tournament champion.

WSAD, Q and E, spacebar, and shift. Those keys had a rough time when I learned to play Unreal Tournament. But much more important than being quick-fingered and training my reaction speed, is that I learned about Clanbase and competitive clan-based online gaming. Joining an international gaming clan meant I had to communicate with my team. As a non-native English speaker, this was a huge game changer in my written and, most importantly, spoken English.

Unreal Tournament itself was hugely popular, but around it there was a huge subculture of game mods built by individuals and small game studios. While I never built my own mods, I did look into many mods and learned about the value of sharing the source code of your work online. And without realizing it at that time, It basically was the first open source community I was a part of online. 

Taco Verdonschot

Head of Relations, Yoast

🏰 Age of Empires

A real-time strategy game set in the Middle Ages where players have to gather resources, build a town, gather an army and defeat their enemies. Players can re-enact historical events in different campaigns, compete against their friends or play solo.

There’s no other game that rewards curiosity and teaches you resource management like Age of Empires. The game encourages curiosity to explore the map and explore unconventional options to grow faster (like fishing instead of farming for a quick boost at the beginning of the game!) Order your investments correctly when it comes to resource building, technology development and army growth and you’ll crush your enemies off the map (and chase them off the SERPs).

I love the Age of Empires series. There’s a real joy in building up a town, sending peasants out to work the fields, and building a strong economy on expansive farming and mining.

I always find it a shame when victory requires conquest; if there’s enough farmland for everybody, can’t we all co-exist peacefully and work together? Some of the nicest multiplayer game I played ended in a ‘stalemate’ with thriving, enormous cities.

Just because the game implies that you have to beat your competitor doesn’t it that mandatory. Sometimes the best outcome is a shared victory. We’d do well to remember that in our SEO and marketing activities.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

🧌 World of Warcraft

An online RPG where players create characters to explore a vast fantasy world, embark on quests, join forces with other players in guilds, and battle against others in PvP combat. Set in the richly detailed universe of Azeroth, the game encourages cooperative gameplay to tackle challenging dungeons and raids. It is known for its deep lore, extensive world, and the vibrant community it has fostered, making it one of the most enduring and influential MMORPGs in gaming history.

It’s not cool to admit it, but as a teenager, World of Warcraft (WoW) was a formative game for me. The stereotype (helpfully informed by an infamous Southpark episode) is that WoW players are incredibly socially inept. In many cases this is true, but actually this is a game that massively rewards you for being willing and able to organise and teach others.

Most of the meaningful objectives simply cannot be completed alone. More than that, especially in this era, they couldn’t even be completed by a group that was not well organised and drilled. This was before automatic online matchmaking (or “dungeon finder”) – you had to recruit and form up a party, sometimes of as many as 40 people for hours-long endeavours, make sure they either already knew their responsibilities or could be taught, and coordinate them.

Of course, you could always join someone else’s group, but this was rarely your best chance of success, at least to start with – unless of course you were going to share some responsibility. So this game taught me firstly not to complain about problems I can fix myself, and secondly that even in an environment full of the most eccentric and eclectic teenagers imaginable, taking responsibility is a route to success.

Tom Capper

Senior Search Scientist, Moz

🎡 Theme Park

Design and manage your own amusement park. Juggle business management and strategy, as your construct rides, set up shops, and manage the staffing and finances of your park. Negotiate with staff for their salaries, adjust the amount of salt in your fries (to increase drink sales), and balance ride maintenance against new construction to keep the park appealing and safe. And leave the fireworks running.

Gifted to me by an uncle as one of my first PC games after graduating from an Amiga 500 was Bullfrog’s genre-defining Theme Park. While it lacked the immediate appeal (and the secret reason I wanted a PC) of the previous year’s release of Doom, it fundamentally changed how I viewed gaming.

Unlike many games of the time, which had simple mechanics, Theme Park’s underlying simulation meant it was actually dozens of mini-games running in concert, and it was up to you to discover them and keep them spinning like plates on sticks.

The process of learning by doing, experimenting with a system, and having cycles of ‘improving’ failure was the perfect experience. At the tender age of 11, I was competent in the basics of cash flow management; I understood how to make careful early investments and build on success, and of course, the crippling dangers of loan interest! I can’t begin imagine trying to teach attention-challenged 11-year-old me something like this from a book or video.

The game offered many lessons, which to a young mind seem counterintuitive. I discovered I could actually be more profitable by increasing staff wages! The game demonstrated they worked faster and were more loyal (to a point!) when paid more.

Pricing strategy was also an emergent part of the gameplay. Do you charge a high ticket entry price and make things free on the inside, or let people in for free and charge for attractions? Do you surge price when the weather is good and the park is getting too busy? We won’t even talk about rigging the salt levels in the chips to make people more thirsty.

It was these endless options that I’m not ashamed to say, Theme Park gave me the right type of thought patterns early on which contributed to making some of my first businesses successful.

🎢 Rollercoaster Tycoon

An isometric simulation game (and spiritual successor to Theme Park) where you’re challenged to create the perfect theme park by designing, building and managing rides and amenities – whilst balancing the needs of your visitors, juggling commercial constraints, and finding creative ways to make the most of limited spaces.

Roller-coaster tycoon taught me two key principles as a kid:

1) Hard work and patience – Building a theme park is no mean feat. It’s tricky. There’s an infinite combination of systems to setup and rides to rollout, maintain, repair and upgrade.

That being said, I was always drawn to this game and sank countless hours stacking up the cash and trying to build the best possible park for paying customers. I wanted to win, be the best do better and keep going (even at the expense of real life challenges like homework and chores)

2) F**K around and find out

Not repairing rides, charging obsurd amounts for entry and being a tight-arse on the books creates a pressure cooker of the worst kind. Unhappy customers, broken rides and in extreme cases, dead customers.

Basically somewhere in life (and work) there’s a balance between these two principles. Don’t kill people and make the people you engage with happy.

Luke Carthy

Ecommerce SEO & CRO Consultant

I was obsessed with designing efficient parks. Given a finite amount of space, how could I best juggle ride design, queue systems, and shops, all to maximise profits? I optimised my parks to a ridiculous degree; with no room for foliage or decorations.

They were all hyper-efficient, but ultimately soulless industrial machines. I lost the joy somewhere in the pursuit of building a perfect machine. That sticks with me, when I consider that true ‘optimisation’ can’t come at the expense of a value system.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

💥 Red Alert 2

The Command & Conquer series contains some of the most iconic real-time strategy games of all time. Players must balance building their armies with their economies, and fight for control of the map (or to protect/destroy specific objectives). Red Alert 2 brought rich narrative storytelling, complex scenarios, and a competitive online league.

C&C Red Alert 2 taught me a lot about computers. Through modding the game I kinda got to know Windows file systems, and changing variables before I even knew what variables were. I also had a rubbish computer which I upgraded the RAM for so it would play properly, so I had to learn RAM was.

Will Kennard

Digital marketing strategist & consultant

I thought I was really good at this game, until I started competing against other players online. I lost a lot of matches as I learned – the hard way – that your strategy is only as good as your ability to understand and anticipate your opponent’s strategy. I learned to think (and click) fast, and to be comfortable making big bets with limited information.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

🪵 Anno 1701

A real-time strategy and city-building game. Part of the ‘Anno’ series, set in the 18th century during the age of exploration and maritime trade. Players establish colonies on a series of small islands, managing resources, expanding their settlements, and engaging in trade or diplomatic relations with other players and AI entities. The game features a detailed economic system, where careful management of resources and population is crucial for advancement.

City-building games have always appealed to me. There’s something incredibly satisfying about organising a city and managing its resources. For me, Anno is the ultimate city builder. I could spend hours playing any of its editions. My first introduction to Anno was with 1701 (did you know the numbers always add up to 9?), and it’s the one I always return to when I need that fix.

These games require a level of organisation and project management that I love. They taught me that you need to stabilise the foundational elements before expanding into new areas. For example, if you aren’t consistently doing one thing well, don’t add another task that complicates things. Otherwise, you might find an entire neighbourhood on fire.

As someone who works in social media, I often see people wanting to run before they can walk. It’s crucial to lay a solid foundation before taking on more. This is especially important for small or solo teams. Start by excelling on one platform where your audience is most active. Once you’ve mastered that, you can add another platform and then diversify your content types. But always ensure you don’t compromise your initial platform and keep building from there.

Sam Alderson

Marketing Director

The Anno games are incredibly good at making you feel like you’re only ever just in control of a teetering empire, and constantly being driven to fix just one more thing. The job is never done, there’s always more optimisation required, and if you take your eyes of any part of your ecosystem then the plates come crashing down.

It’s a great exercise in context shifting in and out of deep focus in different areas, and in juggling multiple interdependent systems simultaneously. It’s profoundly rewarding when it all comes together and stabilises.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

⌛ Chrono Trigger

A role-playing game that follows the adventures of a group of time-traveling heroes working to prevent a global catastrophe. The game features multiple eras from prehistory to the future, each beautifully rendered with distinct themes and challenges. Players can affect outcomes and change the course of history through their choices, leading to multiple possible endings.

Chrono Trigger was an early learning experience for me. I first played it as a child but didn’t finish it until over 15 years later. The opening section in the carnival, and the fallout from it, always really resonated with me, however.

It taught me that little choices matter and can have an impact. In many games, picking up food or items from the environment is a regular, often victimless, activity.

Whether you take the pendant before checking on Marle or pick up someone’s lunch box, these seemingly innocuous choices start to add up in the first few hours of Chrono Trigger.

That’s something I’ve definitely learned in my marketing career. It can be something as small as changing a page title, sending a quick response email to a client or staying in touch with someone after an event, these small actions can have long-term effects.

That new page title can improve your rankings, increasing traffic and revenue.

Replying to a client when they most need it can encourage them to work with you again in the future, even after they move to a new company.

Staying in touch with someone from the networking event could mean you get hired for that dream job later on.

These lessons about the impact of small choices have served me well in my career and life. I always try to be aware of the potential positive and negative consequences when making decisions, no matter how small they seem at the time.

Oh, and in Chrono Trigger, you are literally put on trial for those early choices. Did you leave before Marle had time to choose her sweets? Did you find the girl’s lost cat? Sometimes you don’t even know you’re making a choice until you’ve already made it.

Jack Chambers-Ward

Marketing & Partnerships Manager, Candour

😮‍💨 Oxygen Not Included

A deep, complex survival simulation. Players manage a group of colonists on a remote asteroid with limited resources. The core challenge is to create a sustainable underground colony by managing and balancing essential resources such as oxygen, food, water, and heat. The game features layers of complex systems involving plumbing, power, temperature, radiation, and ventilation; requiring players to plan extensively and respond cleverly to emerging crises like resource shortages or environmental hazards.

What I really like about this game is that (for me) it strikes the right balance between silliness and engineering. And having an engineering background myself, this means that – as an SEO specialist – it allows me to still indulge in some of the things I originally studied for but don’t use in my current-day profession.

As with all good survival games this game has it moments when it frustrates the heck out of me because I’m stuck. Progress has halted because I fail to understand what to do next. And, like with a lot things in SEO, this means I have to perform a ton of trial & error to try to up my knowledge and take thing to the next level. Curiosity and perseverance better be part of your character for this game. 

Jarno van Driel

Structured Data Consultant

ONI is one of my favourite games. There’s an incredible level of depth, complexity and mental gymnastics involved in managing all of the moving parts.

Just when you think that you’ve built a sustainable colony with food production, water recycling, oxygen generation and more, you realise that the excess heat from you composting system is leeching into the pipework that feeds your farms. Now all your crops have overheated and died, everybody’s starving to death, and reworking your entire fluid infrastructure is going to take too long. Ouch.

This game is fun, silly, addictive, and a great exercise in planning and managing complexity (and frustration).

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

💣 Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes

A cooperative party game where players work together to defuse bombs. One player, isolated, handles the bomb while other players, with access to a bomb defusal manual, provide instructions on how to disarm it. The game tests communication and problem-solving skills, as players must describe and interpret complex information under time pressure.

This game taught me to work through convoluted, contradicting information to restructure and rephrase it, in order to communicate with another player, so they can operate a hostile machine while under pressure.

Martin Splitt

Developer Relations, Google

👾 Star Wars Rogue Squadron

An action-packed flight simulator game where players pilot various Star Wars spacecrafts, including the iconic X‑wing, through multiple missions inspired by the Star Wars universe. Players engage in aerial combat against the Empire, navigate challenging environments, and complete objectives ranging from rescue missions to direct assaults on enemy bases.

I spent hours on this game as a child and it led to a few watershed moments for me. One big thing I learned was – what seems like total chaos really boils down to a series of patterns. There were levels where I remember thinking “these things just appear out of nowhere”, but after a bit of practice I found that I was sat waiting for the “surprise”.

I also slowly realised that the leaderboard isn’t just a kind of gimmicky loading screen – you can appear on there if you put in enough time. Of course, my arrogance at knowing I could beat my adult cousins was tempered a bit when it turned out they were having to play with a plugged in steering wheel rather than anything that acted as a reasonable interface for flying a spacecraft (a bit of a lesson there that sometimes it’s easy to forget what advantages we have going into a situation, whether it be hours to spend on a problem, or tools to solve it more easily). I was reminded of that lesson again a few years later when my younger brother asked me if I wanted to play RocketLeague and absolutely trounced me.

Robin Lord

Strategic Data Scientist, Aira

☢️ Fallout 2

A post-apocalyptic role-playing game set in a devastated world recovering from nuclear war. Players explore this expansive, gritty universe while tackling quests and engaging with various factions and communities. The game features complex interactions and deep narrative choices that influence the outcome of the story. Renowned for its dark humor and the freedom it offers players in shaping their journey and character, “Fallout 2” is a seminal title in the RPG genre.

Fallout 2 is probably one of my favourite games of all time; definitely one I shouldn’t have played as early as I did. I still really appreciated the narrative and worldbuilding. For one thing, it has what I think might be the first gay shotgun wedding in video games; for another, the way the game was built encouraged interaction with the source files. Messing around with them helped me learn a ton about how programs interact with there front end, and how games build narrative: how form and function inform each other to make something great.

Jess Peck

Data Scientist, Weedmaps

🐎 The Oregon Trail

Simulate the experiences of 19th-century American pioneers, venturing westward on the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Players manage a wagon party, making decisions regarding supplies, navigation, and survival strategies against a backdrop of various hardships such as illnesses, food shortages, and unexpected accidents.

The Oregon Trail didn’t just teach me about grit, resource management, and the value of being prepared (you know that wagon wheel’s gunna break!) —It was a great early example of just how fun learning can be! Imagining all of us as kids getting a crash course in illnesses to avoid, like dysentery, cracks me up.

Britney Muller

SEO + ML Consultant

Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe began my love of technology. It was how I was introduced to computers, and it taught me to persist (fording the river) when things felt hard.

20 years later as a 5th year teacher working in a classroom computer lab over the summer, I took a break to replay the game when I’d stumbled upon it again. This time, it taught me to embrace the childhood fun I’d long forgotten. What once seemed so hard for kindergarten me now seemed fun to relive as one who teaches kids to embrace technology.

Courtney Robertson

#OpenSource #DevRel Advocate, GoDaddy

🪼 Super Metroid

An action-adventure game that’s widely regarded as one of the finest in its genre. Players control Samus Aran as she explores the expansive and mysterious planet Zebes to rescue a Metroid larva from the clutches of the villainous Space Pirates. The game is known for its non-linear gameplay, allowing players to explore the interconnected world with new abilities and items that unlock previously inaccessible areas. 

A relatively late Super Nintendo pickup for me – although I was in my early teens. Exploring the atmospheric nature of Planet Zebes as Samus Aran – in an area that you’re alone yet not as much as you like, each unlock brings a range of emotions and thinking where you’ve been that you couldn’t access before but can now. Can you jump to a higher ledge with the high jump boots? Or take down a boss easier with a plasma rifle. A masterpiece of it’s genre, it’s secure in my top 3 games of all time, and it’s the only game up there that I don’t need other people to play with, nor dedicate 40 hours to complete.

I still enjoy this game today either by watching Speedruns (always, always save the animals), or mods that randomise item placements that force you to think on your feet. How many games have an entire genre of games named after them?

The beauty of this game is that it subtly tells you the right way to go. A broken glass tube before a sealed glass tube suggests you may need to break it, or seemingly indistructable enemies that are a breeze after picking up a new weapon that is three rooms in the other direction. This taught me in my professional life that – sometimes – nudging people with subtle hints in language or design can be more beneficial than spelling things out.

Rhys Wynne

Freelance WordPress Specialist

⛏️ Minecraft

A sandbox survival game, where players interact with a voxel world to gather and mine resources, and craft structures whilst avoiding monsters and starvation. The game is widely celebrated for its community-driven modifications, or mods, which enhance and expand gameplay, adding new content and capabilities that significantly alter the game experience. These mods have helped sustain a large, active community and continuously evolve the game’s possibilities.

Minecraft, my first love in sandbox games and modded gameplay. Your expansive world is there for the shaping, allowing you to play however you wish. It’s a game I frequently enjoy with Jono, often with heavy modifications to include machines, resource management, and magic — my personal favourite.

There are times when a sandbox to play in is just what you need, and Minecraft is my sandbox of choice. Its infinite world and nonlinear gameplay offer endless possibilities, all at your own pace. I cherish this game for many reasons, particularly for the way it encourages thinking outside the (sand)box, allowing for a multitude of approaches to any situation.

Minecraft has also taught me valuable lessons about resource management and the importance of having sufficient resources to achieve your goals. This concept mirrors the self-care required in our industry. Just as you can’t build from an empty chest, you need to gather the necessary materials to construct what you envision. Similarly, we must take time to recharge ourselves to present our best selves to colleagues, clients, and conferences.

Sam Alderson

Marketing Director

🥷 Metal Gear Solid

A classic adventure game, combining stealth, action, and complex storytelling, focusing on the theme of warfare and its ethical implications. Players are encouraged to use stealth and strategy over brute force, engaging with a deep narrative that explores the morality of espionage, genetic engineering, and the quest for power.

This is hands down the best game series IMO, one which I’ve sunk countless hours into. Stealth, strategy, action, and a gripping story – for me, it’s got it all, just like a core algorithm update. The original games were mind blowing, and a special mention to the boss battle with Psycho Mantis – this one blew my mind when younger. Everything you do is telegraphed, he knows how you plan to attack him, on the older consoles you literally had to plug your controller into the second players port to beat him. Imagine if your SERP competition knew your every move, this type of out of the box thinking skill was honed through MGS.

In the newer versions of the game, you’re rewarded for being more strategic and utilising stealth more, and guns less. A brilliant metaphor for those difficult meetings in the office where instead of loud back and forths, you use your data, stealth and strategy skills to outsmart the others.

Azeem Ahmad

Digital Marketer

🐀 Lemmings

A puzzle strategy game where players guide a group of the eponymous creatures through various obstacles to reach a designated exit. Each level presents unique challenges that require specific actions like digging, building, or blocking to safely navigate the lemmings. The game is known for its increasing difficulty and the need for strategic planning to prevent the lemmings from walking into hazards or traps.

Playing Lemmings as a teenager was more than just a pastime to me; it was a profound learning experience that shaped my approach to problem-solving and strategy. While I also enjoyed video games like Sid Meier’s Civilizations and Doom, of all video games it was Lemmings that had the most impact on me. I spent countless hours at school during breaks and after class, meticulously planning my next moves and jotting down cheat codes on my schoolbag. This early exposure to strategic thinking and pattern recognition was invaluable. Lemmings taught me to anticipate challenges, think critically, and adapt quickly to new situations. Every level was a puzzle that required careful consideration of resources and timing, honing my ability to manage complex tasks efficiently.

These skills have translated seamlessly into my professional life as an advanced SEO professional and former Google engineer working on organic search. In SEO, success often hinges on the ability to analyze data, identify patterns, and implement strategic changes to improve search rankings. The strategic mindset I developed playing Lemmings allows me to approach SEO with a methodical and analytical perspective. Just as I guided those tiny lemmings to safety, I navigate the ever-evolving landscape of search algorithms, crafting strategies that lead to successful outcomes.

Moreover, the perseverance and attention to detail I cultivated while mastering Lemmings have proven crucial in the SEO world. SEO requires continuous learning, testing, and refining strategies to stay ahead. The discipline I learned from my gaming days helps me remain patient and focused, ensuring that I leave no stone unturned in my quest for optimization. In essence, the skills and lessons from my youthful gaming experiences have become integral to my success in the dynamic and challenging field of SEO.

🧩 Myst

A 3D puzzle exploration game, where you travel through a magical book to an island where you must solve puzzles to traverse and unlock progression. It was unashamedly hard, and as much a work of art as a game; you had to work out what the game was as you played and discover the storyline piece by piece.

No other video game made me explode my brain for solving puzzles. Implementing hreflang on Adobe Experience Engine is a walk in a park compared to the enigmas it asks you to solve.

Gianluca Fiorelli

Strategic & international SEO consultant, iloveseo.net

👽 Manhunter: New York

An adventure game set in a dystopian future where Earth is ruled by aliens known as the Orbs. Players take on the role of a Manhunter, an agent tasked with tracking down humans on behalf of the new alien overlords. Its narrative is dark and its atmosphere brooding, with gameplay that involves investigating crime scenes and following leads to unravel a deeper conspiracy against the alien rulers.

Manhunter: New York, and its sequel ‘Manhunter 2: San Francisco’, take place in a post-apocalyptic world that has been taken over by Orb aliens intent on consuming the planet’s resources while pitting the surviving humans against one another, using sophisticated surveillance systems to watch everything we do.

It has prepared me perfectly for the world we live in today, where technology companies are consuming the planet’s resources while pitting us against one another with rampant disinformation, using their technologies to watch everything we do.

Barry Adams

Founder, Polemic Digital

🚀 Elite

A pioneering space trading video game, with open-ended game design and, at the time, revolutionary 3D graphics. Players take on the role of a spaceship pilot, exploring a vast, procedurally generated galaxy. The game has elements of space flight simulation, trading (in an economy with simulated supply and demand), and combat, allowing players to engage in various activities such as trading goods between star systems, bounty hunting, and combating pirates.

I played hours of Elite (originally on the BBC Micro and then the PC), truly a super nerdy game which required planning, risk assessment and seeing changes in your environment, teaches you everything from resource management, planning, being aware of the changes in the market and how close to being blackhat is sensible… It was a game of skill, long term planning and short term wins, I would love to say it was a strategic game, but honestly, buy cheap, sell expensive assess risk and don’t crash, in digital marketing, costs, spend, tactics and results.

I hacked the game initially, discovering things like changing variables to give me unlimited missiles and by-passing copy protection. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I was a broke teenager but that taught me the core basics of programming.

👪 The Sims 2

A life simulation game where players create and manage virtual people, guiding them through daily activities, relationships, and personal goals. It builds on the original game by introducing a 3D environment, a genetics system where Sims can pass on DNA to their offspring, and a more detailed life cycle that includes ageing from infancy to old age.

The Sims 2 is no exaggeration why I’m a dev/data person today.

I spent far too much time in high school creating mods for this game: new careers, new relationships. modding it to change “Joined Union” to “Marriage”, playing with different tools to customize my experience.

Jess Peck

Data Scientist, Weedmaps

🧙 Legends of Cosrin

A text-based online RPG that immerses players in a fantasy world filled with adventure and intrigue. In this game, players navigate through detailed, descriptive environments using text commands, interacting with other players and non-player characters to undertake quests, solve puzzles, and engage in combat. The game’s rich narrative and complex character development allow for deeply personalized experiences as players choose their paths, align with factions, and explore the lore of the world.

When I think back to the hours I spent on this game and just what I could have achieved if I’d have done something actually productive.

But this game introduced teamwork with quests and bosses you couldn’t complete alone, commerce and advertising with my Character “Dajar Vu” offering poisoning of weapons for a fair price and learning about optimisation when I learned I could use ASCII colours to make my advert stand out.

It didn’t have fancy graphics, we had to trade for hand made maps of locations but it was bloody good fun…

🕵️ Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

An educational video game originally designed to teach geography and history. Players take on the role of a detective working for the fictional ACME Detective Agency, tasked with tracking down Carmen Sandiego and her gang of thieves across the globe – gathering clues by visiting various cities and speaking with witnesses, requiring them to make connections between the clues and real-world geographical and cultural knowledge to determine the next destination.

Looking back, this was certainly the most impactful game I played as a kid not only because of the nature and topic of the game but because I also played it in group.

Before I even owned my own computer as a kid, I went to my neighbor friends house to play it in group with them: it didn’t only improved my own research or problem solving skills as well as geography knowledge, but also helped me to communicate and identify patterns and potential outcomes from the clues the game gave along with others ‑we even documented them in a notebook to ensure we didn’t miss anything‑, taught me how to negotiate from time to time with others when we didn’t agree on the outcome, and how to self-constraint when we missed on the answers when the one I had provided was the correct one but we had gone with another one.

A fantastic game to play as a kid!

Aleyda Solis

SEO Consultant, Author & Speaker

⚔️ The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

An open-world action role-playing game where players explore the vast, detailed province of Vvardenfell within the fantasy world of Tamriel. Players create and customize characters from various races and classes, embarking on numerous quests and delving into the rich lore and politics of the region. Morrowind is acclaimed for its deep story, extensive player freedom, and intricate world-building.

I’ve long been into open world RPGs though this was the first game that really got me into the genre.

Nothing has quite has quite topped it since in terms of the ambiguity of the plot line, the way the game just drops you in a hostile, unfriendly world with little to no guidance, unlike a lot of modern open world RPGs that give you map guidance and fast travel.

This is notwithstanding the at times Lovecraftian/Frank Herbert-inspired (among others) setting and tone. You’re able to forge unique weapons and spells almost without limitation, in ways which can often break the game.

Each playthrough enables you to take a different path with the number of factions available, and the still-active modding community, over 20 years since the game was released, gives it timeless longevity.

The game came with a construction set program that allowed you to edit almost every aspect of the game down to items, characters, landscape, dialogue and questlines. It was my first experience with modding and breaking stuff in general, something that I continue to do to this day in SEO.

Owain Lloyd-Williams

Freelance SEO Consultant

🐸 Frogger

A classic arcade game where players guide a frog across busy roads and dangerous rivers to reach safety on the other side. Known for its simple yet challenging gameplay, requiring precise timing and quick reflexes to avoid obstacles like moving vehicles and floating logs.

Frogger is actually a very good metaphor for being in search.

You’re a powerless frog with limited resources and moves you are able to make – much like being in SEO. You are trying to find out the moves to make so that the roads and streams carry you to a safe place instead of kill you, much like the algorithm.

You also learn patience and doing things the hard way is actually the only way to be successful. It may appear that you can cheat the system with a short cut by jumping onto a moving truck…..until you get to a low bridge. SEO is much the same hacks work for a while but ultimately doing it the hard way is usually the right way.

👊 Street Fighter

Perhaps the definitive competitive fighting game. Players control a character on one side of the screen and must kick, punch, jump, and fire special moves to knock out their opponents. A frantic button masher that’s (still) harder than it looks. 

I was very very shy, but found I was very good at this game in the arcade. Started making my first real friends playing the game. My best friend to date is a guy I met playing street fighter at a local arcade at age 10.

To be fair video games also taught me to look for cheat codes in technology, hence my lifelong fascination with gaming Google.

↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A

Rishi Lakhani

SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist

🚓 GTA

A series of action-adventure games developed by Rockstar Games, known for its open-world design, adult themes and controversial gameplay. Players engage in missions involving driving, shooting, and role-playing criminal activities to rise through the ranks of the underworld. Its deep narratives, engaging gameplay, and cultural satire have made GTA a significant and influential franchise in gaming history.

When GTA was released in 1997 it revolutionised the gaming industry in a number of ways that fascinated me.

The first was the game itself. It was the most unique game that I had seen released beyond the usual things I’d been playing throughout my childhood. Whilst the classics of Populus, Red Alert, Age of Empires and so on provided me with the initial exposure to gameplay, civilisation, resource management and logical thinking – GTA took all that into a new genre. Whether you wanted to play for hours within the direction of the game itself or just “blow off some steam” by going on a criminal marathon or killing spree – the game really helped expand audiences beyond the traditional “gamer geek”.

The second was the theme itself – this was the first time I truly saw criminality serve to your advantage beyond any other game I’d played. This was fascinating as this was my first experience (beyond your fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat) where violence acted to your advantage and power – as well as that violence having knock-on effects from both law enforcement and rival gangs – something more true to life.

The final fascination was its controversial nature of release. I remember the game had calls to be banned and that predicted increases in crime should be attributed to the game itself. Over 25 years and numerous iterations later, GTA is now the biggest game in one of the biggest industries in the world, with its anticipated release to most likely break records again.

Alex Moss

Principal SEO, Yoast

🛸 Nemesis

A side-scrolling shooter game where players control a futuristic mech warrior. Set in a sci-fi universe where players navigate through various levels, the game involves battling enemies and bosses using the mech’s upgradeable weapons system. The gameplay focuses on action and strategy, with the need to manage ammo and armour levels carefully

From the moment my friend shared his new game with me, I was hooked. Nemesis was quite the upgrade from Harrier Attack and way more complicated to “get right”. Nemesis quickly became my nemesis in that it presented problems I had to solve. And at the beginning, I had no idea how to go about solving the quest other than doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Slowly but surely, I started to unravel its hurdles and find myself advancing ever so slightly. Resulting in wanting to optimize the path to victory after that!

It’s the first “set of obstacles” that truly catered to that part of my core that’s annoyingly persistent in wanting to find solutions to problems! My obsessive gaming days are behind me, my choice of problems I want to solve have become a lot more selective, but I remember where it started.

Remkus de Vries

WordPress veteran, performance specialist

😈 Diablo II

An action role-playing game where players choose from several character classes, each with unique skills and abilities, to battle through hordes of monsters in a quest to defeat the titular Lord of Terror, Diablo. Set across varied and moody environments, the game features an extensive system of randomly generated dungeons and loot and requires players to carefully manage their skills, equipment, and potions.

Diablo taught me that strategically wrong decisions might lead only to very limited success. What happened with me is that I was always playing a witch, but instead of building her mana skills, I was improving her strength. Well, it worked till a certain point, but for sure I wasn’t able to play effectively. There’s no need to add that investing in wrong initiatives in SEO will always backfire you in the long run. With all the recent changes that we see in SERPs, it’s obvious that a lot of companies haven’t been approaching SEO correctly for years, and as a result, they’re no longer eligible for ranking well in Google SERPs.

Nevertheless, it was a great time, and whenever I have some free time, I still enjoy playing Diablo.

🏞️ Utopia

A long-running, browser-based, massively multiplayer online strategy game where players manage a fantasy kingdom within a larger virtual world. Each player must balance resource management, military strategy, and diplomacy to expand their kingdom and compete against others. Players can join alliances called “Kingdoms” to collaborate with other players, engage in warfare, and achieve collective goals in the game’s persistent, evolving environment.

You can wake me up for… usually people will say all sorts of fun things. But ever since I had a computer in my bedroom as a teenager, I would wake up in the middle of the night because my armies had returned and I needed to follow the orders of my King in Utopia. 

In this game, organizing growth and attacks with the lords and ladies in your kingdom was essential. With people from all over the world in my kingdoms, I learned about communication with people from very diverse backgrounds, how to convince others to follow my ideas, and how to organize “events” online.

Because all that planning required strict coordination, I also learned building Excel sheets based on the information from an application called Utopia Angel, which helped do some basic math for your own land. In our ever-growing sheet, we’d add all that data to help us coordinate all the lands in our kingdom.

Taco Verdonschot

Head of Relations, Yoast

🦁 Black & White

Assume the role of a benevolent or malevolent god, governing an island and its inhabitants. Notable for its artificial intelligence-driven creature that the player trains, and whose behavior changes based on its interactions with the player and the environment.

This game blew my mind in multiple ways. Your actions and morality shaped the whole world; its aesthetics, functions, gameplay, and more. Your creature learned from its interactions with you and the world; picking up behavioural traits and interacting with your towns based on your own actions.

Most significantly, the game famously didn’t have a user interface. All interactions took place by using an ephemeral ‘hand’; literally requiring you to drag yourself across terrain and physically interact with items.

That sticks with me as a strong reminder that not everything we build needs to follow mainstream design conventions, be rectangular, or even look like anything that other people have made before.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

👑 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

An action-adventure game where players control various characters from the film, each with unique abilities, as they navigate key scenes from the movie. The game features intense combat sequences, strategic use of character skills, and cooperative gameplay elements. Players battle through epic landscapes from Middle-earth, including Minas Tirith and the Black Gate of Mordor, culminating in the final confrontation against Sauron’s forces.

It’s funny, this game sticks in my mind for two reasons. The first is that – it was set up to allow really easy cooperative play and being on a team with my siblings felt great. Writing this I have flashbacks of particular levels where we only just managed to survive and I lament the fact that couch co-op is less and less common now. I have similar memories of Ratchet and Clank Gladiators, more recent co-op games like Rayman, Guacamele, Little Big Planet, and It Takes Two are great in their own way but I haven’t really felt the thrill in the same way. The other thing I remember about this game is being absolutely stumped on a level. It seemed impossible, like “everything is dark and you’re intermittently being hit by a thrown axe” impossible. It wasn’t until we lent the game to my cousin, who had a TV with different brightness settings, that we realised we were focusing on totally the wrong problem. I’d love to say that then and there I learned “don’t take the problem at face value, check your assumptions” but I feel like I remember to take a step back more and more as the years go on.

Robin Lord

Strategic Data Scientist, Aira

🌍 Europa Universalis

A grand strategy game that allows players to control a nation from the Late Middle Ages through the early modern period. Players manage aspects of their nation including diplomacy, military, trade, and economy, striving to build a dominant global empire.

This series made me sink thousands of hours into it. The mac-daddy of grand strategy games with so much to manage and so many angles to consider. War, politics, intrigue and the development of your own nation are all means to an end. But forget a single aspect about the AI’s game plan and you could get your ass handed to you. A great lesson in picking yourself up and trying again.

Luc Princen

Freelance developer & designer

🏴‍☠️ Sid Meier’s Pirates!

An action-adventure set during the golden age of piracy. Players navigate a ship across the open seas, engaging in naval battles, sword fights, and tactical ship manoeuvres. The game also includes elements of trade, treasure hunts, and interaction with different colonial powers to gain influence and wealth.

I have played a lot of games in my childhood and beyond. Each in different phases of my life. But Sid Meier’s Pirates! on Amiga was one I spent days and nights paying at a friend’s house (because my parents would not get me a computer because they expected me to not do anything else.

We would get an atlas (yes, a physical one) to navigate the boat/fleet around the Caribbean and loot as much as we could. This was basically awakening a mindset of workarounds aka problem solving, since this was a pirated version we did not have any documentation and more so this led us to figure out how the map was working and allowed us to understand the algorithm of the game (where the silver fleet would move and more).

Playing Pirates! awakened the type of thinking that I use every day figuring out the why of conversions / SERPs based on what you see and know. If you are working with / against algorithms it’s quite like gaming. Gaming has taught me workarounds / developing better processes by understand why things are happening in games.

Arnout Hellemans

Freelance SEO, PPC & analytics consultant

🤖 MechWarrior 3

A competitive team battle simulator, where each player pilots a giant ‘mech’ robot in a huge open environment. Players must select their armaments and loadout before joining the battle, with no knowledge of the enemy’s location, strategy or loadout.

The game forced a lot of cooperation between teammates – you had to ensure that you arrived at the fight equipped to deal with whatever the enemy threw at you.

I joined a team, and (at the age of 16) ended up las the leader of a crew of over 50 players; that taught me a lot about people and politics, as well as strategy and management! I built and ran a website for the team, too – on GeoCities, if I recall correctly.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

👽 Star Control II

A sci-fi game that combines elements of space exploration, real-time combat, and role-playing. Players captain a starship on a mission to gather allies and resources across a vast, open galaxy to thwart a malevolent alien race. Acclaimed for its rich narrative, complex dialogues with diverse alien species, and strategic ship-to-ship combat.

My gaming “career” started when the 1980s turned into 1990s, and I was exposed to Sierra’s and Lucasarts’ amazing adventure games. I went to space with Roger Wilco, stormed a nazi stronghold with Indiana Jones, and toured the Caribbean with Guybrush Threepwood.

However, the one game that made me embrace the escapism and realize the potential of gaming’s new resurgence was Star Control II. To this day, I still haven’t found the same rush from another game. Star Control II had dogfights, diplomacy, hyperspace travel, resource collection, and a genuinely imposing antagonist race called the Ur-Quan.

The open world design meant that you could enter hyperspace and travel throughout the galaxy, stopping at strange and marvellous star systems to gather resources before establishing first contact with yet another alien race whose help you need to beg for to destroy the evil Ur-Quan. I’ve gone through game after game after game trying to replicate the feelings I had when playing Star Control II as a kid. Games like Tie Fighter, Elite Dangerous, Mass Effect, Faster Than Light, No Man’s Sky, and Starfield scratch some of that itch, but none of these gets it quite right as tightly as Star Control II did.

What Star Control II taught me was that games don’t need to be linear. Life doesn’t need to be linear. You don’t always need to pass through pre-established checkpoints and through carefully designed corridors to achieve satisfaction. It’s OK to divert once in a while from your goal in order to visit an exoplanet for harvesting some noble gases. It might come in handy at a pinch!

🏜️ A Tale In The Desert

An online RPG set in ancient Egypt, featuring no combat, which instead focuses entirely on how players might work together (or against each other) to build a society and prove that they’re stronger together than individually. Players built homes, learned skills, traded, held elections, and even wrote their own laws (that the developers coded into the game engine)!

I played ATITD for hours every day, for years. I was fascinated with this petri dish of human behaviour, where the developers continually introduced new challenges which forced players to cooperate, in different ways, but often rewarded individuals for undermining their efforts. They also introduced events designed to make players uncomfortable; raising questions around gender and racial prejudice , and how comfortable people were to separate their character’s identity from their own.

Political, brutal, and unforgivingly cooperative, those years taught me everything I know about diplomacy(!), teamwork, and striving to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

🌀 Portal

“Portal” is a puzzle-platformer game centered around the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, which creates linked portals on flat surfaces. Players solve puzzles by teleporting themselves or objects through these portals to navigate obstacles and complete levels. The game is known for its innovative mechanics, dark humor, and the challenging artificial intelligence antagonist, GLaDOS.

Thinking with Portals! If you haven’t played this game yet, I’ll wait — go play it. This is the ultimate lateral thinking game! Portal primarily consists of a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting yourself and simple objects using the portal gun, a device that can create intra-spatial portals between two flat surfaces.

If you know me, you’ll know I’m not the best linear thinker, but lateral thinking is where I excel. Or maybe it’s just my spicy brain… Seeing a situation, processing all the variables both seen and unseen (reading a room), and then devising a solution is something this game taught me to embrace.

Being someone who can see a situation and come up with a solution that’s obvious to me but not necessarily to those around me is something this game helped me to embrace within myself. Yes, my brain works a bit differently, but it’s my greatest strength.

Sam Alderson

Marketing Director

🌌 Star Wars Galaxies

An expansive multiplayer online role-playing game. Players created characters from various Star Wars races, choosing professions ranging from bounty hunters to craftsmen, and explored iconic locations. The game featured a complex player-driven economy, where players could build and manage their own businesses and housing.

Star Wars Galaxies (pre-NGE, don’t even ask), probably takes by #1 game of all time spot as a massively ambitious MMORPG that was far ahead of its time.

The beauty of this game to me was that every single thing in the universe, from the boots you wore, to the pistol you fired, all the way to the house you lived in, was crafted by players. It was an intrincate system that mirrored the real world economy, with some players specialising in the gathering of raw materials, others manufacturing specific components, which in turn went to specialist crafters, who would then sell them in automated storefronts inside (player built, of course) shops.

This system naturally developed into a competitive player-driven economy, one that if you wanted to progress at a decent rate, you needed to master. I soon learned that trying to get on the bandwagon to sell the popular items in demand was a poor strategy. The market would get quickly saturated with products before the sell price plummeted as competing vendors tried to out-do each other.

When I finally worked out that I also needed to specialist and find a niche, I encountered a problem many businesses face; nobody could find me or knew about me. In the end, I negotiated with another player who owned property next to one of the busiest starports in the game, with lots of foot traffic walking by and offered them a percentage of sales to allow me to have a vendor in their shop.

Apart from many fond memories, the game taught me so much about consumer behaviour, marketing and negotiation. Not many games have sparked a twenty year community effort to restore them to their “original” state, after Sony Online Interactive burnt everything to the ground in a short-sighted attempt to capitalise on a player base they, ironically, did not understand.

🪖 Planetside

A massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game featuring large-scale, continuous battles across extensive landscapes on alien planets. Players join one of three factions vying for territorial control, engaging in combat using a variety of vehicles and weapons. Notable for its emphasis on team tactics and its capacity to support hundreds of players simultaneously in a single conflict, creating a dynamic and persistent world where player actions have a lasting impact on the ongoing war.

Planetside 2, along with the original Planetside, holds a special place in my heart. For over 20 years and more than 1400 hours of gameplay, I’ve been playing with the same dedicated group of people in an outfit called ‘BRTD.’ This remarkable outfit spans age groups, continents, cultures, and religions, with members from Saudi Arabia, almost all of Europe, the United States, Japan, and more. My older brother is also a member of BRTD, and despite living 600km apart, we are able to spend quality time together in a digital space.

Leading operations in this game and playing with my friends has taught me the value of clear communication across cultural barriers. Mishaps in communication happen, but cultural differences are exciting and valuable opportunities for gaining outside perspectives on oneself. I’ve also learned that sometimes meaningful relationships can form in the most unexpected places.

Hendrik Luehrsen

WordPress Professional & CEO, Luehrsen Heinrich

I’ve logged nearly 800 hours playing Planetside 2. I’m not usually a huge fan of shooters (and as I get a bit older, my reflexes aren’t what they used to be) – but the Planetside series is something special.

To be successful, players almost have to be part of a squad, and in turn, squads are parts of platoons, and bigger teams who all need to coordinate to take checkpoints, react to threats, and pursue objectives.

The degree of coordination and responsibility required to lead those groups is considerable, especially when everything unravels in the heat of battle.

Individual, independent players can have some fun and make a difference, but the real planetary scale impact relies on strong teamwork and leadership skills.

Jono Alderson (me!)

Independent technical SEO consultant

⚔️ Sifu

An action-adventure game that features intense, close-quarters combat as its core mechanic. Players take on the role of a young kung fu student on a quest for vengeance against those who murdered their family. The game stands out for its unique ageing mechanic, where the character grows older each time they die and are resurrected, affecting their physical abilities and skills.

This has been a recent obsession and in a few ways it rekindled my joy of video games. A lot of the games I’ve enjoyed felt like they were teaching me resource/XP hoarding. Do every possible side quest, learn enough that you kind of break the game’s experience curve, and then blaze through the final boss battle. I shied away from Soulslike games because I didn’t particularly like the idea of relaxing with something quite so punishing, but Sifu hit the sweet spot for me. I love the fact that, in failing, you get to make some progress by learning new skills. That said, the things you unlock really don’t give you any easy way to progress, you just have to learn, pay attention, and consider failure to be part of the process. I’ve really enjoyed that reminder!

Robin Lord

Strategic Data Scientist, Aira

✈️ Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.0

A flight simulation game that allows players to pilot a variety of aircraft through “realistically” rendered skies and landscapes. The game focuses on the authenticity of flight mechanics and aircraft control, offering a range of flying experiences from light planes to commercial airliners. Players can navigate using actual aviation procedures, dealing with various weather conditions and navigating specific flight paths/

My love affair with computers started in the 80s with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.0 on my dad’s brand new IBM PC. I was hooked by flying a Cessna on that fascinating monochromatic green screen!

As the Flight Simulator evolved, so did my setup. Faster processors and dedicated hardware like flight pedals became essential. Eventually, a force feedback cloche added a whole new layer of realism to the experience. This obsession with virtual flight led me down another fascinating path – the world of sailplane flying. The serenity of gliding through thermals that I still cultivate as a private dream.

The most unexpected impact of Flight Simulator came during my high school years in Rome. Those afternoons spent virtually soaring alongside my dearest friend, David Riccitelli, fostered a bond that would shape our futures. We discovered a shared passion for pushing boundaries and exploring new territories, both digital and real. We eventually moved from Flight Simulator to developing websites while skipping schools 

Andrea Volpini

Founder & CEO, WordLift

🏰 Tribal Wars

A browser-based strategy game where players control a small village and strive to build a powerful tribe. Gameplay involves managing resources, expanding territories through conquest or diplomacy, and forming alliances with other players. Its real-time strategy elements require careful planning and coordination, as players navigate complex interactions with rivals and allies alike. The game is known for its community-driven aspect, involving intense player interactions that can significantly influence the course of the game.

I joined Tribal Wars in a time when online games weren’t pay-to-win yet; a time when you only pulled out your credit card to support a game’s developer so to keep the game’s future alive; a time when your strategic and community skills could still heavily outweigh the depth of other people’s pockets.

I played the game as if it was a second job. At first because is was a really fun strategy game, but over time I became part of the larger community behind the game. I started playing on multiple servers, being in a tribe with certain people on one server, while having them be my opponents on other servers.

I truly had a great time and as a moderator I learned a lot about running a community as well as team member dynamics. Though unfortunately, after 2,5 years I felt it was time to move on as money and greed started taking over the game’s agenda – as has happened with many of the cool things (that once were) accessible to all online

Jarno van Driel

Structured Data Consultant

💀 Doom

A fast-paced first-person shooter game where players battle through hordes of demons from Hell using a variety of weapons. Known for its intense action and influential design, it popularized the FPS genre with its 3D graphics and networked multiplayer gameplay.

Launching in 1993, when Windows 3.1 was considered advanced and Novell was the go to choice for networking, Doom deserves the term “groundbreaking”.

After years of playing top down shooters such as Castle Wolfenstein (nice nod in the latest John Wick to this), the fact you could run around virtual worlds with your mates on the office network was mind blowing

It was the first game I can remember that allowed to you modify your surrounding and tinker with the environment pretty much to your hearts content.

It made you appreciate code that was optimised for performance and networks especially when you saw people playing it across corporate WANs on ISDN lines

Finally it made you learn who you could trust and who would shoot you in the back

A groundbreaking game, Doom I came to quite late – maybe even a decade after it’s release. But scouring the realms of hell and blowing monsters up with a shotgun is a real comfort game for me. The right amount of technicality in a game for me – Doom is not too complex. But it excelled in multiplayer. Playing it in university with a T3 connection, Doom was a masterpiece and such a cultural touchstone for me now. I had the fortune to meet John Romero multiple times as well. Such a game!

Getting older and knowing the story behind Doom (which is almost better than the game itself!) – it shouldn’t exist. The code is so well optimised that you can run it in most things – especially since it’s now open sourced. The meme “it runs Doom” exists for a reason. It taught me that sometimes – the best way to get the most coverage is to write optimised code and be fast and lean with my development. I don’t think I’d ever get as good as Carmack, Romero et al, but it’s something to strive for.

Rhys Wynne

Freelance WordPress Specialist

⌨️ Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!

An educational software program designed to help users improve their typing skills. Featuring a variety of typing lessons, speed tests, and games, the program adjusts to the user’s skill level to provide customized instruction and practice. It tracks progress over time, offering detailed reports and feedback to enhance learning efficiency.

I spent lots of time as a kid playing computer games, from Chuckie Egg, to Street Fighter, to Rockstar Ate My Hamster, to Lemmings, to Sensible Soccer, to Monkey Island, to Mortal Kombat, through to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, with hundreds in between. It was a big part of my childhood really, including all of the odd things people would do back then: Buy a book from Marks & Spencer, with code listings, and literally type in the code to make simple games; Go along to the library & borrow tapes (I remember a particularly odd game – ‘Everyone’s a Wally’ – which I later learned was the first ever game to feature multiple different playable characters); go along to ‘Computer Club’ at school, which seemed largely to be a games pirating operation. And I remember playing Streetfighter in the arcades, where early versions featured various glitches, such as “Guile’s handcuffs” and “the invisible throw”, which Capcom, the game makers, had obviously introduced to teach young fighting fanatics about the concepts of injustice, entropy and the possibility of extra-universal higher forces (or perhaps they were just bugs). I believe I learned a lot from all of this, though I guess I haven’t played any really since the first “Tony Hawk’s” – a large failing on my part.

One in particular that benefitted me, but that I guess most would not really think of as a game, is “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!” (with an enjoyable exclamation mark on the end). Mavis was a fictional character, invented by a guy called Joe Abrams and his business partners. They wanted a character to front their software, and chose a woman called (theoretically) Renée L’Espérance to play Mavis. Was that admirable and (at least in America) forward thinking? To ask a black woman to front inspirational software in the 80s? Was it exploitative in some way? I had no thoughts of that at the time: Mavis seemed simply to be a positive role model for young people across the world; a digital skills influencer, a grandee in the world of Typing, imparting her wisdom to me through the mechanisms of a computer game.

‘Beacon’ was chosen as the fictional character’s last name: a metaphor for a tool guiding the way to typing enlightenment. Nobody seems to have heard from Renee since, which occasionally causes me to wonder whether that too was perhaps a made up name (‘Renee’ meaning born again, ‘L’Espérance’ meaning hope).

Either way, I’m grateful to Renee/Mavis as, at some stage, I used “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!” to improve my touch typing speed. I rememember my Mum was a fast typist, and I suppose at some point I recognised how useful that was through seeing (and hearing) her type. The software itself was fairly basic, and the brand element of Mavis probably helped a lot in its sales (an obvious candidate for a LinkedIn ‘What I learned about Branding from 80s educational software’ thinkpiece), but it was also pretty good at actually teaching you to type. I suppose in much the same way as Minesweeper used the trojan horse of ‘mild fun’ to teach mouse clicking behaviour, and Solitaire was designed to teach people how to swipe, “MBTT!” did a good job of hiding improvement behind a very, very simple, but marginally enjoyable, continually-more-challenging game. If you Google it today, you can find an online playable version even now. It is as basic as I remember, and feels like something from the 1830s vs 2020s games.

I had a few early jobs specifically as a typist, including one where you were paid on speed (I remember going along for the first day with a friend for induction: They separated you into one of four rooms based on speed for a “training week”. I’d progressed beyond the four training rooms within the first hour, and was into actual work, whereas my friend – sadly not a Follower Of Mavis – was still in Room 1 at the end of the training week, shamefully asking me during breaks what it was like in the ‘real world’, beyond the false reality of the training rooms). Of course, beyond explicit work, typing is really an ultra-basic, foundational, hard skill that enables you to do other stuff a little bit more easily. Many years later, I still happily type at 100+wpm when needed, and occasionally ponder how underrated typing is: the digital world is how we mostly communicate now – imagine if we all went round in person, speaking to each other audibly at just 15 words a minute; nice to be able to push toward typing at least at a speed that removes a few limitations on communicating digitally.

In summary: Thank you, Renee/Mavis/whatever your real name is, and thank you to Joe Abrams and your colleagues. Though I probably only used the software for a few days at some point, those few days helped me with a very foundational skill. I’ve benefitted from that small investment in gameplay since.

Dan Barker

Consultant, CMO, Non-Exec

❓ What’s missing?

Are you an SEO practitioner or digital marketer who’s been profoundly affected by a game or series that we’ve not covered (or where you’d like to weigh in with your own take)? Something that taught you to think outside of the box, or built foundational skills that you still use today in your professional life? Let me know in the comments!

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Jonny Scott

Super Monkeyball

Luc Princen

Homeworld – The first sci-fi strategy game where (as far as I can remember) the third dimension played a big role. Ships in the void of space could attack from every vector! It really made planning a defense or a raid a lot more complex. The story of the game is just also full of home and an almost melancholy trust in science and human cooperation.

Jess

The Sims (I learned to code modding the Sims 2!) and fallout/fallout 2! Totally molded the person I am today (for better and uh. Worse)

Joost de Valk

I played most of these, scrolling through was a good stroll down memory lane.

To add the ones I “miss”:

- Colonization: I prefer it to Civilization (even though it’s probably really not very… well, considerate) and it was released 30 years ago today.

- Ascendancy: one of the best turn based Sci Fi games ever.

- XCOM: turn-based strategy, love it, even though it was weird. 

And then, the games that I spent literally years on: Diablo II en Diablo III. Just the right amount of “shooter” and “RPG”.

Doug Hall

I’d add Microsoft Flight Sim – I used later versions while I was actually training for my license. I spent many hours flying virtual circuits around White Waltham – it even helped my navigation skills such was the realism.

Back on the ground, a high water mark for driving simulator is Asseto Corsa. Again, the realism, depth, and accuracy are standards defining qualities.

Roy

I’m missing Dune2, Starcraft, Warcraft 2, Magic Carpet, Prince of Persia, DeathRacer (really oldschool) and Tony Hawk IV

Thijs de Valk

The one game that probably had the most impact on me is Unreal Tournament, funnily enough. Obviously, being a first-person shooter, it is a very straightforward game. 

However, there was a very active community (with “clans”) that held organised clan-wars. I was part of multiple such clans. Most of the clans the main language was English. This is where I really learned to speak proper English (which means I learned new swear words on a daily basis). I learned teamwork, responsibilities (such as being on time, keeping/defending your spot, etc), and above all: communication. We used mIRC and TeamSpeak for that.

There are many other games I played (Commander Keen, Mario Kart (still do, with my son now), Zelda, Duke Nukem, Diablo 1, 2 and 3, lots of Elder Scrolls), but none have had the effect on me as UT, and UT2k4, has had. The effect was all down to the community for me, though. The game was simply a vessel for that community for me.