I began this piece as a bit of a rant on my perception of video games and the surrounding culture over the past year or so, and decided to refine it a bit with some more thought and maybe some of this positivity I keep hearing so much about. I read several reviews, looked at the numbers, and even delved into a mass of public opinion from Twitter—which was not the best idea—but decided to just share more of my personal experience over the year. My love affair and hatred with games and the people who claim to love them. I cannot say that 2014 was a great year, but I do have a lot to say about it.
Starting with what vexed me.
I suppose the best place to start is with the elephants being thrown out of the room. One of the things that will stick out for a while to me, and many others, is the term “gamergate.” No matter what anyone thinks of the group or the ideas behind it, the #gamergate hashtag became synonymous with an ugly mess of online attacks and threats, none of which should be tolerated and are never okay. It sucks because it only takes the actions of a few to really spoil anything. More recent evidence of that hits as close as the Christmas day attacks on Xbox Live and PSN. Hackers claiming to have a purpose disrupting the services for everyone else who wants to enjoy themselves, coming across as dicks who want to play spoiler. I would love to think this a passing annoyance, but it looks more like something that will become a reoccurring trend. It all seems like a pointless mess and these situations served to remind me how petty and stupid some people in the community can truly be, leaving a horrible taste on the tip of my tongue.
The gaming industry skirted drawing some serious lines in the sand where what is ‘too much’ is concerned, with the recent episode involving what is being called the mass-killing simulator known as Hatred and Steam. Those lines will be crossed one day, and the arguments of art and free speech will fly as the catalyst carves a path for pushing limitations even further or creating better writing and expression about the subjects. That is the hope at least.
I will admit to staring at Mountain way longer than I wanted to after it came out, with a feeling that I did not get much in return, but it did something different and challenged the idea of modern games. This of course brought many out of the woodwork to question if it was a real game, which is the same argument I had with a friend about Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us—which I loved. It is a silly argument that is better left to its own think piece, but I experienced something and interacted—no matter how minutely—with both titles, and received positive and negative stimulation.
Those were the broad strokes of the bad, but there was much more that hit closer to the games themselves. 2014 felt like the year of broken and unfinished releases. I am not just referring to early access projects or some of the horrific crap that made its way to Steam, but many of the AAA games I was looking forward to. Most famously, Assassin’s Creed: Unity decided that their characters did not need faces and players would not mind falling through worlds. I laughed when Ubisoft said putting in female models was too difficult, but it looks like having a working game is a much tougher challenge. Drive Club was another unfinished mess that was wrongly promised and Halo: The Master Chief Collection could not support finding multiplayer matches, and as much as I love the single player campaigns for those games, that is not why most people bought the collection. Companies are quick to offer up free DLC or even full games after a multitude of large patches, but they fail to see the long damage it does to their overall product. I know the more technology progresses the more possibilities of complications that can arise, but it seems these companies may not be putting in due diligence either. This hurts in the long run, because hype is a killer when nothing is delivered.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes released—and they still have not figured out how to do proper titles—as a prequel to the coming Phantom Pain. The price tag I initially saw was for $40, but I have read that this was actually a lowered price from what the game was originally going to cost. This ‘demo’ as some have called it can be beaten in twenty minutes, but has more side missions and challenges that add to the gameplay. That is fine and all, and many of my friends who are huge MGS fans enjoyed the build-up, even with that whole vagina bomb mess, but I worry about paying over half the cost of a full retail game for a prologue of questionable size. I worry other companies will latch onto this trend, seeing a way to cut larger corners and make more money, leaving the players with less quality products. Also, I still do not get the plot to that series
I heard a lot of complaints about The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny, and Titanfall, concerning a lack of story, not enough content, and especially for the first one mentioned, more development and play testing time needed. These are all games that I worry about spending full price on, considering their content and the forced human interaction, so I will probably write them off all together. By the time I would pick them up for cheap, I am not sure if the experience would be near the same. The life spans of certain games are just becoming more evident.
On a little bit more of a personal note I see Sonic had another flop and WWE 2K15 cut out a lot of features and functionality after I convinced myself that this one being under a new team was going to be different and make good changes. What hit me hard though was the failing of Watch_Dogs, the game that I said last year would come out as the shining light of 2014. Boy was I wrong. I wrote an extensive review of what rubbed me the wrong way there, and could probably do a separate piece on the psychology of the characters in that world, and why it does not work. This is not just about hidden video files and mechanical limitations, but wasted potential and a lack of drive. Watch_Dogs was a lesson of what not to do with a great idea in a lot of ways, and turned me off on putting too much hope in anything for the coming year.
Now for what left me elated.
This section will be a lot shorter, and I kind of hate that, but it appropriately represents my feelings I suppose. This is the year I began to say goodbye to my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3; sad because they have both been great systems and served me well. After seeing how the two juggernaut corporations vying for top position recently has reignited a lot of silly console superiority comments though and talk of exclusives, I am considering going the way of PC gaming for 2015.
The good news is that my love for the survival horror genre seems to have been rewarded by games like Alien Isolation and the superb Silent Hills/P.T. demo—even if I am a little worried the actual game will be nothing like it; that was an experience. I also look forward to trying The Evil Within. A few smaller titles like Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Shovel Knight caused my creative and retro gaming muscles to twitch in anticipation. It is however the purchase of the Nintendo Wii U that has me filling every free second glued to my controller as of late though. I do not want to oversell it, but between Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Brothers for Wii U, I have had a lot of reasons to enjoy myself, with plenty of games I want to try on the console as well that are on my list. Not only is it refreshing to see a console have multiple games I want to play, but those games do not rely too heavily on graphics or story, just good mechanics and fun.
Okay, so I did not work as much positivity into this as I was hoping, and I would have loved to include some more inspiring stories about what gamers and developers were doing to improve the community, but there just was not a lot that stuck out. I am hopeful for the future though, ready to move on, and in a way, kind of glad to say goodbye to the year of our lord, Mother Brain, two thousand and fourteen.