The first inductees into the new World Video Game Hall of Fame include "Pong," the game that introduced millions to electronic play, "Doom," which triggered a debate over the role of games and violence in society, and "Super Mario Bros.," whose mustachioed hero has migrated to everything from fruit snacks to sneakers.
The first six games to enter the hall of fame cross decades and platforms, but all have impacted the video game industry, popular culture and society at large, according to the new hall at The Strong museum in Rochester, where the games were enshrined Thursday.
Joining "Pong," launched in 1972, "Doom," from 1993, and 1985's "Super Mario Bros." are arcade draw "Pac-Man" (1980); Russian import "Tetris" (1984); and "World of Warcraft" (2004), which has swallowed millions of players into its online virtual universe.
The newly created World Video Game Hall of Fame pays homage to an industry that rivals Hollywood in the entertainment pecking order. The Strong, which bills itself as the national museum of play and also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, has been preserving and collecting games and artifacts for years through its International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
"Electronic game play is increasingly influential and important," Strong President and Chief Executive G. Rollie Adams said. "It's changing how we play, how we learn and how we connect with each other across boundaries of geography and culture."
The inaugural hall of fame class was recommended by a panel of judges made up of journalists, scholars and other experts on the history and impact of video games. They chose from among 15 finalists that also included: "Angry Birds," ''FIFA," ''The Legend of Zelda," ''Minecraft," ''The Oregon Trail," ''Pokemon," ''The Sims," ''Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Space Invaders."
Nominations for the hall can come from anyone and be from any platform — arcade, console, computer, handheld or mobile. But they must have had a long stretch of popularity and left a mark on the video game industry or pop culture.
"Doom," for example, introduced the idea of a game "engine" that separated the game's basic functions from its artwork and other aspects, but even more significantly was one of the early games cited in the debate that continues today over whether violent games inspire real-life aggression.
"World of Warcraft," is the largest MMORPG — "massively multiplayer online role-playing game" — ever created. As of February, it had more than 10 million subscribers, represented by avatars they create, according to The Strong.
Sixteen-year-old gamer Shaun Corbett, of Rochester, said after the induction ceremony that he was expecting "Doom," ''Super Mario Bros." and "Pac-Man" to get in.
"'Tetris' I wasn't expecting but I can see where they're coming from. It made puzzle games popular," Corbett said.
He said his fascination with video games started with Pokemon.
"I enjoyed watching the show. I enjoyed playing the card game," he said. "I got the video game on the Game Boy Advance for Christmas when I was 7 and I just have a lot of good memories of playing it with my cousins, my parents showing me how it worked."
More than 150 million Americans play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and 42 percent play for at least three hours a week. In 2014, the industry sold more than 135 million games and generated more than $22 billion in revenue, according to the ESA.
Nominations for the hall of fame's class of 2016 are open from now through the end of March.