This is a list of the games that were most important/time-consuming for me this year. As usual, not all of these were released this year, and this is in no particular order.
The Walking Dead (PC). We’ve made a number of strides in games writing over the recent years (I’m itching to play Spec Ops: The Line), and The Walking Dead is the biggest leap yet. It takes a well-worn genre and simply shows what’s possible through the virtue of world class writing. It’s interesting that this same content would not work in a non-interactive medium – this would make for boring watching or reading – but as a videogame it’s gripping. It’s also the best use of episodic content seen to date.
Hotline Miami (PC). That a game made by two guys on Game Maker can cause this much of a stir, sell this much and be so thought-provoking is a sign to me that the tyranny of the triple-A has come to a close. It’s an ace game on its own, too.
Fiasco. It made me stop being so nervous about improvising with friends.
Rocksmith (Xbox 360). It’s made me play the guitar. I can play a couple of songs (with very simple arrangements)! I know a couple of riffs by heart!
Ghost Recon Online (PC). This is the only shooter I’m playing seriously these days. Most of them are too much in your face for my aging sensibilities (yes, including Battlefield). You can do well without a teenager’s reflexes!
Super Hexagon (iOS). I still have twitch gaming skills! There’s no way I could even dream of reaching the actual world top positions, but doing well among friends is enough for me. When you first start playing it, it seems unfathomable to survive beyond five seconds, let alone fifty. But after some practice the first level feels downright relaxing.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC). Even with its constrained design and quality issues, this is an entertaining, engrossing tactical offering we don’t get enough of. Makes me think back to Laser Squad (1988) days. I guess 40 hours played in a week says something of its value.
Legend Of Grimrock (PC). Grimrock is important as a sign that this year it became feasible to release just about anything you love, provided it’s polished enough. No publisher would’ve touched a Dungeon Master remake, no matter how pretty you made it, and here’s this group of former triple-A developers making this wonderful thing, and the world eating it up. It’s inspirational.
Dungeons & Dragons. We haven’t actually played much this year, but I’ve been seriously on my D&D campaign. Planning today’s session, I needed (count em) six spreadsheets. I know it’s ridiculous, but that’s how obsessed I currently am. I’m doing pretty much everything I ever dreamed I could do in a D&D game, including boardgame style mechanical twists (running a shop, setpiece fights, exploration), interludes with a whole another party of heroes (two, actually), setting up a fantasy business, dragon nemesises, multiple story arcs spanning a dozen games and big-ass battles with hundreds of combatants. The only thing I’m worried about is giving my players enough room to roam in this playground of mine. I’m not sure what it is about this game that makes me go all out instead of carefully drip-feeding my indulgences as a gamemaster, but I’m excited to take this newfound eagerness to other games I’m dying to run (Heavy Gear).
Infinity Blade II (iOS). I’ve played a ton of this and rank it alongside Dark Souls as modern fantasy the way it should be. A glorious rethinking of what swords and sorcery could be in today’s gaming habits.