Typically, games have often revolved around two opposing sides - from the basic binaries of left and right in Pong to epic titanic battles between gods and men and other creatures, the grandeur of warfare, struggles between good and evil, super spies and seedy government organisations. But the industry isn't just restricted to rivalries between characters. The nature of gaming is such that entire series become bound up in the raging battle for approval. Publishers go to war against one another, and then, of course, there are the fans themselves. We are a so often a fairly fickle bunch. Rivalries are part of the business, so here are ten of the best.
Honourable Mentions: Championship Manager vs. Football Manager, Scorpion vs. Sub Zero
10. Pac-man vs. Ghosts
A classic to kick things off. It's a pretty simple back and forth really, but imagine if you were in the little yellow ball's..erm..shoes. There you are, happily munching your way through some dots in your homely labyrinth when all of a sudden some pesky colourful members of the undead with absurdly cute names start chasing after you, wanting you touch you up. You'd get pretty pissed off too. We never really get to find out exactly why Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are chasing Pac-man, but the heroic, timeless battle of a bottomless-eating-machine-who-just-wants-to-enjoy-his-food vs. the undead has spoken to decades of gamers since its inception.
9. Solid Snake vs. Liquid Snake
Brothers in arms!...well, not exactly. Liquid gets all uppity because he thinks that his brother won at genetic bingo, making Solid Snake destined for greatness while he, Liquid, was fated to play second fiddle. Of course, it was all rubbish, but siblings...what can you do, right?
Not that killing Liquid actually helped much. The jealous twin had his arm amputated onto Revolver Ocelot's body, causing Ocelot to go mildly loopy whenever Solid Snake was around. Until Snake fights Liquid Ocelot on top of Outer Haven that is...
8. The Games Industry vs. Idiots
Although somewhat lessened of late, there are still those members of the mainstream right-wing media - usually employed by the Fox Network or the Daily Fail - who still like to use games as their own personal scapegoats for all of the world's ills. Gaming, like films before it, have been blamed for a myriad of crimes from destroying health services due to obesity to grade one murder. At best it's mildly annoying, at worst it's scandalous and insensitive scaremongering.
The reaction from our end is nearly always the same. A sharp rebuke highlighting the drug abuse or mental instability or poor parenting that those aforementioned rags inevitably either fail to mention or gloss over in a waterfall of poorly researched rhetoric. And to think...people used to take Jack Thompson seriously.
7. Mario vs. Bowser
Normally you'd expect dodgy leaks, blocked pipes and badly setup washing machines to be the main antagonists in a plumber's life, but not for Mario. Instead he gets to face off against a giant, fire-breathing turtle-dragon who keeps stealing princesses and threatening Mario's homeland. It's classic David and Goliath. The villain has massive spikes, an armoured shell, a legion of Koopas to do his bidding, an awesomely pimped go-kart and the aforementioned fiery halitosis. Mario can jump really high.
Of course, bizarrely they sometimes put their animosity aside and carve up the tennis courts or engage in a spot of racing. It's all a bit suspect really.
6. Activision vs. EA
These two heavyweights had to be in here, right?! Smack talk, lawsuits and multi-million dollar betrayals. Activision and EA might be just as bad as one another, but they're always entertaining. This year's rivalry promises to be one of the best yet, with EA hellbent on taking on Activision at their own game. First of all, Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 will jump into the sweaty pixellated FPS ring, and then EA will try to nibble at the ankles of MMO behemoth World of Warcraft and hope that the double whammy of BioWare and the Star Wars licence can help them snaffle a piece of the online pie. There are millions of dollars being thrown at this war from both sides. Millions! Roll on winter!
5. Link vs. Ganon
Elfin fairy-boy with a bow and a sword takes on evil ginger megalomaniac. It's a brilliant set up and it doesn't really get much more classic than this. The hero is a noble, near-silent paragon of virtue who never asks for anything and commits himself to the salvation of his world and his princess. The villain is consumed with the search for ultimate power, persistent in his machinations and unswerving in his diabolical focus.
Their struggle spans a series of games, the villain in a series of forms and guises, the battles stuffed with acrobatics, magic, light and fire. This is about as archetypal as Good vs. Evil gets.
4. Ash vs. Gary
A rivalry in the truest sense of the word, this match-up isn't about Good vs. Evil (that's where Team Rocket comes in), it's about playground bullying and competition. Ash is the loving trainer - someone who genuinely cares for his Pokemon and takes on Professor Oak's advice and wisdom. Gary is a douche.
When you've slogged through the SS Anne, fending off sailors and brim-hatted gentlemen, who should appear but Gary. When you've made it through a dark and dingy cave, your Pokemon bruised and battered, who should be blocking the door to the Poke Centre? Yep, it's Gary. When you finally slog your way up Victory Road, battle the Elite Four and stand ready to face the champion, who do you find belittling you once more? Gary Oak, that's who. None of the other rivals in any of the other Pokemon games quite cut it. It was the cockiness, the little jibes, that smug grin and spiky hair - beating Gary just felt that little bit more special than beating anyone else.
3. FIFA vs. PES
It used to be very simple. FIFA used to be for mainstream morons and PES used to be for snobbish elitists - or at least that's what fans of the other games would tell you. But the truth of the matter is that there's room in the footballing world for two giants. It's true that FIFA went straight for authenticity in terms of the spectacular experience - bringing the drama of the sport to consoles and PCs alike. PES, however, strived to capture the technical aspects of the game, giving the player greater control, often at the expense of official authenticity.
But the cycle tends to go in four year spurts. PES 4 is undoubtedly one of the finest sporting games of all time, but then Konami's series dipped in form, allowing FIFA to come in and steal the crown in the last few years. But now PES is bouncing back and the stage is set for an incredibly close battle this year. We can't wait!
2. Horde vs. Alliance
There are a good number of WOW players that have characters on both sides of the divide set up by Blizzard, but you'd better believe that when playing as an Alliance character, they loathe their Horde counterparts. The factionalism is simple in WOW, but so very effective, a primal split that many have tried to emulate, but few have succeeded.
The thing is that the factions themselves seem to be pretty similar on the surface, but as you play it's not the technicalities of the gameplay itself that suck you in. It could be the lore - whether you plump for the good guys of the Alliance of the underdogs of the Horde. It could be because you think one just looks cooler than the other. It could just be because a friend introduced you and you want to play alongside them. But, whatever the reason, you'll end up getting sucked into the Us vs. Them mentality.
1. Fanboys vs. Fanboys
It's a no-brainer. Whether it's PS3 vs. 360, Nintendo vs. The World, PC vs. Console or COD vs. Any Other FPS series, you invest in a game or a console or a brand identity and plough your time and money into it. Clashes will always happen, and so they should. This is an industry that offers such a wide and diverse range of experiences that there truly is something for everyone, a variety of choice right down to niche sub-genres.
There's no right or wrong, not really. But competition breeds debate, whether the mouthy, misspelled rantings of an illiterate teenager, or the well-reasoned arguments of the verbose, there will always be a place for people telling other people what to like. Objectivity in this industry (as with all creative artistic industries) is a myth...and that's absolutely fine.
Our days would be infinitely more boring if that weren't to be the case.