I’m sure many people feel similarly on the eve when we have to replace our calendars: it’s hard to believe it’s actually happening. As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to get a little reflective of the past and thoughtful of the future. Or something like that.
My blog, born in the latter part of this year’s lunar cycle, had little time to blossom into something bigger, but I’ve been writing lots in other places, as well.
My biggest game reviews came out on PCMag.com, a great website for anyone into computer technology and living a smart tech-life. My favorites were The Swapper, Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, and Candy Box. All these were stellar productions by smaller studios or even one person, in the case of Candy Box. Another big deal for me was Cart Life, a captivating game about making ends meet that conveys the gray bleakness of everyday hardships. I’m into simulations, but the story here is also on par.
Women were at the forefront of internet and gaming discussions frequently this year, particularly due to controversies in real life and the release of Tomb Raider. One of my own pieces explored what Tomb Raider means for the image of women and whether the game will deteriorate or improve it. Also, Anita Sarkeesian launched her video series, Feminist Frequency, where she dissects past and current tropes surrounding gender and gender expression in video games. Highly controversial, yet successful.
I’ve had the pleasure to attend a video game conference for the first time and covering it. I went to Two5Six, a conference in Brooklyn, NY hosted by Kill Screen. It was quite amazing to see in person renowned video game creators and innovators, who discussed the merit and artistic values conveyed by their work. I only hope to go to attend some in the future and network more.
What did this year bring for games? I saw this as the year of FPS games – not first-person shooters – but first-person stories: Games like Amnesia: a Machine for Pigs, The Stanley Parable, and most notably, Gone Home. Thoughts for these games from me will have to wait until next year, but I can tell that these have innovated the market. Developers think outside the box more and smaller studios take on bigger risks, bigger risks than the triple-A game-makers. For me, personal disappointments from those big studios are Tomb Raider and Bioshock: Infinite.
This is the year where, instead of looking onward, I tended to look back in the past. I wrote about how I am not ready for the next-console generation. I eagerly watched the console war from a distance, and, in a way, it felt good to experience it again, now that I’m older and more savvy about the industry (much more so than when I was 11 and 16). I also made sure to give proper regards to the retiring PlayStation 2, which had its last game released this year. I looked at top ten unforgettable classics and summed up the console’s interesting launch. Rather than keep up with the latest titles, I returned to games I missed out on, like Persona 4, Baldur’s Gate 2, and Metal Gear Solid.
Finally, my game of the year is Terraria. Initially, I was discouraged from playing it, around May 2013. I didn’t know what to do, and it seemed like the game had no natural progression. It was difficult to connect to, requiring to use services like Hamachi. However, when the huge patch 1.2 came out, it fixed a multitude of issues and added an amount of content equivalent to old-school expansion packs. I read the wikia a bit and discovered that for such an open-ended, sandbox game, Terraria has a logical progression and growth. I’m sold especially on the fact that I can be a mage if I want to be (my go-to class in every RPG). But what’s more, Terraria is rewarding at nearly every step, it constantly subverts its own rules, and has that careful balance in its design. It’s the right mix of exploration, combat, action, RPG parameters, and mining/building. For the price (often as low as 2.50), Terraria has incredible value, and the updates keep on coming – all for free.
There you have it – surprised? What’s your game of the year?
Surprise of the year would be Starbound, a game very similar to Terraria that’s still in early development. However, it’s already one of the most popular games on Steam, with as much as 80,000 people playing it. I play it too, but with such frequent updates, it’s better to lay off for a while, since it’s often required to make a new character or world for changes to apply.
Speaking of the world, it’s nearly 2014, and in some parts of the world it already is! Like in Poland. Cheers and may the next year be even better for gaming!