10 Videogames I Played This Year and What I Thought of Them
The curtain has finally come to a close on the torturous year that was 2018. I don’t want to dwell too much on the bad that this year has brought to us in the political, and social spheres. As you can also read by the title of this article — it’s about videogames.
I have been playing videogames ever since I was a wee boy. I still remember booting up the original Prince of Persia (1989)by use of a floppy disk. The old Pentium computer would fire up like a whirlwind as its Windows 95 splash screen would greet me. Even after 20 or so odd years since I last played the game, it still holds a vivid memory. In large part due to its beautiful animations and minimalist approach to design.
As the years would pass, my love for this medium would continue to grow. I wanted to become a videogame developer. I became obsessed with the idea. I jumped into the videogame mod creation scene when I was in middle school. Immersed in the culture, I learned the very pure basics of what it takes to make a video game by tinkering with already existing games. Pulling them apart level by level, object by object, until no mystery was left unturned. I wanted to learn what it takes to make a video game. And what it takes is a lot of time, talent, and skill - which were all the things I did not possess.
Oddly enough, in my adulthood, I did pay homage to my video gaming roots for my bachelor’s thesis project. I created an interactive virtual reality art gallery called Remnants︎. It drew inspiration from adventure games like Myst (1993) and Stanley Parable (2011). Remnants was a way to reveal my true and honest self, in a digital landscape. It was only made possible due to my history with video games and the inspiration they have provided me with time and time again.
Years ago this list would be about “My Favorite 10 Games of The Year”, but now it’s a list of “10 Videogames I Played This Year.”
All 10 of them.
As I get older, other passions take more of my time. I find myself spending more time creating things rather than anything else really. Yet, I still want to wrap the year with shining a spotlight on the medium of entertainment and art that has brought me more joy in a year which I needed it the most.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World was the first big-game I played in 2018. If there ever were a video game that wanted to show me just how terrible I was at playing video games — it would be this one. I was going through a tough time in my life. Every day felt like a mountain that I had to climb while I was being stalked by the predator known as Depression. Yep, that’s depression with a capital “D.”
It was only fitting that Monster Hunter kicked my ass so much. Not to make my life further miserable. But to teach me that monsters, no matter how big, or how strong, can fall. It will take a few attempts or a dozen, but it is possible. The spiritual lesson that this game taught me, of overcoming things much bigger than I was, is something I carried with me throughout the year.
Monster Hunter World also features cat-like creatures called Palicos that help you on your journey. They are an emotional support pet, but most importantly;
They mad cute y’all.
I’m going to admit I do not like this game. Far Cry 5 utilized heavy politicized imagery in its press cycle, but then made no use of it in the actual game. This was quite disappointing to me. I have been very vocal about my own political leanings and make activist art when my heart calls out to it, and I love when video games do the same. It’s one of the reasons why Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017) holds a special place in my heart for being unapologetic about the enablement of white supremacy, and how male-white privilege often goes hand-in-hand with that. But Far Cry 5 isn’t a game about leftist empowerment, it just could have effortlessly been one, and this medium would have been better for it.Honestly, it’s the only game I regret buying this year.
Far Cry 5 wasn’t engaging to play either. You are given a vast open-world to explore which unfortunately looks very similar from one end to the other. Even if you wanted to stop and enjoy the sights — you can’t. You are constantly hounded by evil men, brandishing their guns, trying to light you up at a moments notice. Seriously, you can’t go 1 minute without engaging in a brainless firefight in Far Cry 5, and it makes the act of traversal in the game a real chore.
The Song of Life
There is something special about playing a game in a language you aren’t familiar with. The Yakuza series is entirely voiced in Japanese, so the use of English subtitles is a need for me. The fish-out-of-water experience I have with the series compliments my enjoyment series rather than detract. It’s an adventure. Yakuza 6 makes you feel like a real tourist walking around the packed and narrow streets of a digital rendition of Japan. The quaint and ho-hum streets of a village in Hiroshima are filled with minute details. Mailboxes and bicycles sprinkled about.
The stories of helping the many citizens & villagers of Kamurocho and Onomichi as Kiryu Kazuma (the series long running protagonist) are what stuck with me through my time with Yakuza.
It’s a real testament towards how real and potent the rendition of these locales ends up feeling.
Yakuza 6 has a heart of gold and it isn’t afraid to put it on display.
God of War
There is no doubt that God of War is a very well-crafted game. From its audio-visual spectacle to its moment to moment combat. These are things I simply cannot deny about it. I am not a contrarian.
God of War follows Kratos, and his son, Atreus as they embark on a ‘personal quest.’ The game struggles narratively. While I admire the focus placed on delivering a more nuanced story about guilt and fatherhood, the attempt, unfortunately, feels a bit too safe. It’s certainly unique for the series, but not for media in general. There was this overbearing sense of familarity withmany of it’s emotional beats that ruined the magic of the new world God of War finds itself in.
I also find Kratos to be a boring character, but maybe I just find dads who don’t know how to speak to their children to be tiresome.
No Man’s Sky: NEXT Update
No Man’s Sky, a space exploration game, was initially released in 2016 to poor to mixed reception. It over-promised and underdelivered. The promise? A rich procedurally generated universe (created with mathematical equations) that held endless possibilities — a pipe dream that would be impossible for a small independent game developer to fully deliver on.
And it was, I knew it would be.
I had played games which relied heavily on procedural generation before, and I also know what a gargantuan task simulating an entire universe would be. I have tried to make my own games before, its hard. I went in with my expectations tempered and had a very meditative and enlightening time with the game. I enjoyed the ‘wide as an ocean, deep as a puddle’ version of the universe No Man’s Sky provided me with. Some solar-systems were unique, others were boring. But you never truly knew where you were going to end up. I go on walks when I’m not in front of a screen. Sometimes in the mornings, other times at night. No Man’s Sky was the only game I had played which came close to giving me the same feeling of just walking, and clearing my head.
I was delighted with the base game of No Man’s Sky, and so I had a lot of excitement over what the NEXT update would bring. A culmination of over 2 years of work Hello Games had been making over their simulated universe. A third-person mode, character customization, more ships, more varied and lively planets were just a few things the update would bring. Hello Games delivered, and No Man’s Sky finally resembled the game that the public wanted.
But, it wasn’t a game I wanted.
No Man’s Sky: NEXT just does too much for me – there is just too much in it. More quests, more things to collect, and more “engagement.” More game.
Playing the bare-bones version of No Man’s Sky felt like I was a passenger in a car ride. I was free to look outside the car window and imagine what stories the landscape I was passing by held. The stories these lands desperately wanted to tell me. With the NEXT update, I am the one who’s doing the driving.
I don’t like driving.
Vampyr was released smack-dab in the middle of the year. It remains the most intriguing game I have played in 2018. It’s not perfect by any means, but it does a lot right. In Vampyr you follow Jonathan Reid, a doctor turned vampire against his will. Throughout Vampyr, you have to keep your thirst for blood at bay, while still practicing medicine and helping patients.
It’s quite the moral conundrum.
Feeding on people results in Jonathan becoming more powerful. To do so, you have to invest in learning more about your potential victims. That ‘learning process’ makes every character in the game richer with detail and nuance. You learn about their issues, their relationships with people around them.
These blank characters start to become fully realized.
Some of the citizens of this gothic styled 1918’s London are just vile. But does it make Jonathan, any better if he decides to become Judge, Jury, and Executioner?
That’s up to you to decide.
Video games created under the roof of Insomniac Games have always brimmed with personality. Their garage band attitude towards experimentation has always been in tempo with the often surprising big-budget nature of their video games.
Their previous large-scale effort, Sunset Overdrive (2014) remains some of the most fun I have had with any video game. Its attentive traversal mechanics and goofy sense of humour were entirely in line with my taste. Naturally, I had high hopes for their take on Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, it was a real shame that they didn’t manage to swing past them.
A very good game about driving very expensive cars in a very beautiful rendition of the United Kingdom.
The adjectives used in my previous sentence were consistent, and that will tell you about the quality of Forza Horizon 4.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
A not so good game about being a badass mercenary in a huge yet life-less rendition of Ancient Greece.
The adjectives used in my previous sentence were, and that will tell you about the quality of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
Red Dead Redemption 2
There is a lot I can say about Red Dead Redemption 2, but I will try to respect your time, which ironically, the game has no intention of doing. In that lies its greatest strength. Everything takes more time than it
outta should in Red Dead Redemption 2.
I have heard and read this game described as a cowboy simulator, and I, myself, had made the mistake of labeling it as one. What it really is, is an Arthur Morgan simulator.
Arthur Morgan is the lead character of Red Dead Redemption 2
Everything in the game is hellbent on forcing you to experience life as Arthur Morgan does. I always wondered why Arthur so slowly picks up items, examining them meticulously, until he finally puts them in his satchel. Until it struck me that’s precisely the type of person Arthur is. Arthur is mostly described as “sad” by the people in his camp, sometimes, “sad in a good way, like a romantic poet.” A big part of being a sad romantic is taking things slowly, and overanalyzing the world. It is something I can personally attest to as a sad romantic myself.
Arthur carries around a journal for Christ’s sake.
His penmanship is a window to the romanticized version of the world he foolishly believes in. He writes his feelings on events that transpire on his journey, ones he won’t voice out loud but keep to himself. He will draw and sketch the compelling people and places he visits. Sometimes animals as well. He still draws 🖤 beside the name of the woman he loves.
I can see people absolutely hate this game. It doesn’t always try to be fun but what it does always try to be; is engaging.
My little brother finished Red Dead Redemption 2 a few days ago. He was browsing through a games catalogue wondering what to play next. He looked over to me and said,
“I think Red Dead ruined video games for me”