I don’t typically like game of the year awards, and I don’t typically like writing things. But there were so many interesting things going on this year that I just had to write down some of my thoughts. That, and I hadn’t had time to write my thoughts on any games this year at all, so I hope this will make up for it.
The following are the thoughts I had on some games I played this year. They may or may not have come out this year, and keep in mind that I missed a bunch of games that came out later in the year.
Game of the Year Awards of the Year
Game of the year awards are filled with a bunch of, well, sterile lists. Giant Bomb changes that up every year, and it’s wonderful. This year, they went with a “Making fun of TV shows” theme, that barely has anything to with video games at all. But their humor shows through, sometimes being funnier than what’s actually on TV these days. The crew’s personality shines through, including gems like Jeff Gerstmann’s characters actually resembling his actual personality. The moment he flips out about NiGHTS being on his shelf in a fake Hoarders episode is hilarious.
Also, their podcasts deliberating which games to give the awards to are really entertaining, and probably more interesting than seeing the nominees themselves.
Best Sound / Game That Changed My Mind About Spoken and Written Word
I hate spoken and written word, especially in games. The games that I make intentionally leave text and spoken word out. It may be because I want people of any language to enjoy my games, or it may be because I spent a majority of my childhood playing games instead of talking to people; I don’t really know. But what I do know is that Thomas Was Alone changed my mind. I won’t be making games with a ton of text in them any time soon, but I can now see the value in it. Thomas puts the effort in to make you want to hear the next piece of that narrator’s dialogue. It even goes so far as to frame the subtitles in a interesting way in terms of screen composition. It’s not perfect, but the fact that it made me connect with basic rectangles spits right in the face of AAA games pouring cash into getting players to connect emotionally. I have to mention the soundtrack, too, which if it weren’t for Hotline Miami would win best music. I do have some critiques, though. I feel that the story becomes too spread out between too many characters as you get further along, and the level design could be better, but man oh man. What a treat for my ears.
Holy Cow. I can’t say enough good things about this game. Sure, most of the soundtrack wasn’t made specifically for this game, but the same could be said for Braid. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to me. The music fits so well, as I cruise through multi-story buildings and “Babysit” for my “Client”.
Local multiplayer is quickly dying. But Nintendo is bringing it back with the Wii U, and Nintendoland is an impressive start. Sure, not every minigame is great, but I have to give it credit for two things. First, I am fascinated by asymmetrical multiplayer and hidden information in games, both of which Nintendoland achieves amazingly well. Second, the game earns marks for doing so well in achieving the fantasy of whatever the theme of the minigame is. Of course, I’m referring to the big three: Mario Chase, Animal Crossing, and Luigi’s Mansion. Mario Chase makes you feel like you’re really playing hide-and-go-seek tag. Players yelling out Mario’s location as he dips and dives is wacky fun. Animal Crossing convincingly makes you feel like you’re criminals running from the cops. Every time I’ve played it, every player immediately starts using terms you would hear from a teenager’s party getting busted – “Cheese it! It’s the cops!”, “Run, just drop it and run!”, “Split up!”, etc. But, the Luigi’s Mansion minigame. Oh man, the Luigi’s Mansion minigame. I’ve long held the belief that it’s near impossible to create an effective multiplayer horror game. You see, I think that immersion and multiplayer are mutually exclusive. So it came as a surprise when I played this game that the players hunting the ghost, including myself, were genuinely scared of the ghost. And you know that feeling in the Batman Arkham games that you get when you start scaring the guards? Playing as the ghost actually allows for this feeling, but with real humans on the other end.
The “Proved You Wrong” Award
I don’t have much to say about this, other than that it’s really, really good. I don’t generally enjoy stealth games, but I did enjoy this one a whole lot.
The “Double Dip” Award
Pixeljunk Eden came out on Steam this year. I loved it when I played it on PS3, but there are some glaring issues with the design. With the Steam version, they fixed some of the biggest design issues with the game. I don’t know if they are the best solutions, but they at least fixed it in some way.
I can only hope to create a game with the sense of style and atmosphere of the original trailer for Superbrothers. That is all.
Best Use of Film Techniques
Finally, someone gets it. Game industry, stop aping films by having cutscenes. Start taking cues from Thirty Flights. We can use film-style transitions in gameplay. Why did it take so long for someone to do this? I was so impressed by this game that I started to create something similar to it for one of my classes (it remains unfinished, though).
Well That Was Unexpected
Not much to say, other than that it’s about the opposite of what I go to for games, and yet it was the first game in my career of playing games to make me tear up.