Kid, I hear you got beaten up at school the other day. Got hit real bad, didn’t ya? Who were you fighting with? I bet he used Ken, didn’t he. There, there, son–calm down. It’s okay. That’s what I’m here for.
2012 has been a fantastic year for videogames. Seems like every week a new game came out that overtook my Twitter feed with OMG YOU MUST PLAY THIS, every month a new genre suddenly experiencing a revival (interactive metavisual novel fictions? Tell me more!), every season another paradigm-subverting something or another (if you don’t have time to choke down Spec Ops: The Line, go play Frog Fractions, it’s, like, the same thing).
So how do you put together a list of the Top Ten Videogames of 2012? Well, in my case, you don’t: For one, I have probably played only barely more than ten games this year, most of them weren’t released this year, and anyway, ranking games is kind of boring. Better, I think, to talk about the games I played that were interesting, and what they made me feel, however flawed they might be. That certainly makes more sense than Patrick Miller’s Top 5 Games of 2012, anyway. Here it is: Ten games I played in 2012.
(alt title: vomiting and throwing iPhones: the future of video games)
To people who play games and people who make them: Our world is changing at a rapid rate, and for once, the people who spent their lives playing and making games are not the ones on the cutting edge. Kickstarter, free-to-play, mobile/social — all of these are things that are changing the medium we love (and not always for the better). Read these four stories about the future of video games, and you will come to embrace change, though maybe not with both arms but just one of those man-hugs that starts with a handshake and transitions into a shoulder-bump with a back-pat finisher.
For me, E3 started the Sunday night before, when I, along with most of the Insert Credit staff, almost died in an elevator. The floor indicator froze on 3, then jerked like a roller-coaster whiplash aimed directly at our bowels, then teleported us to 6 and did it again and again. Calmer minds suggested that due to the design of a modern elevator, they cannot fall; said calmer minds were still very much freaked out. We tried the call box. It didn’t work. We did make it out alive, and celebrated by watching that one episode of the Power Rangers where all ten Red Rangers show up in a single episode. I looked at Spencer Yip (Siliconera), who I had not said a single word to that entire evening, and said: “Nice to meet you. I’m Patrick Miller, and I will forever remember you as One Of The Guys I Almost Died In An Elevator With.”
We are in a business of creating and consuming recreational realities, and E3 is the supreme recreational reality, with tanks and free booze and hot girls paying attention to us just about everywhere. Our business thrives by trivializing death; we started the show by ever-so-slightly making eye contact with death, and then flinching. It kinda put things in context. It was a moment of clarity.
What follows are a few more moments of clarity from E3 2012. Read them, and you might never have to go to E3 again.
I am known among some circles as The Guy Who Is Good At Street Fighter and/or Starcraft 2. (These are invariably the circles that don’t play much of either. When I hang out with my friends that do play either one, I’m usually The Guy Who Isn’t Very Good.)
“It’s so competitive when you play against another person.”
“It’s too hard.”
“You have to practice so much.”
“There are just so many good players out there.”
I hear these things a lot. The person I am talking to–let’s call him Johnny Doughnuts–is making an excuse, even if he doesn’t realize it, for why he isn’t as good at Starcraft 2 as I am. Why he chooses to spend his time doing something else. And really, I don’t care. Some people want to get good at Starcraft 2, others want to get good at skiing or whatever.
But I do find it interesting that Johnny Doughnuts describes Starcraft 2 as an anomaly. As though it is practically the only thing challenging–in life, in video games, whatever.
<If you are reading this strictly for tips on not sucking at ZiGGURAT, you can just jump down to the tip stuff here.>
I played a lot of Diablo II back in the day.
I actually didn’t get that deep into vanilla Diablo II, though. Beat the game on normal with a Conversion/Thorns Paladin, found myself woefully underpowered for Nightmare, and put it down until Lord of Destruction came out. That’s when I got addicted. Six months later, I had four high-level Assassins of various builds, a magic find Sorceress, and a Lightning Fury Amazon specced specifically for Cow Level runs. Yes, I made a character whose sole purpose was to mow down cows with alarming efficiency.
One decade later, I would reflect with some of my friends on our shared addiction to Diablo II. “Man, that game was addictive,” we said. Pause. Then I said:
“But, you know, it wasn’t really that much fun.”
I joked to my fellow insert credistas a while back that I wasn’t any good at those weekly “What Are You Playing This Weekend?” staff poll pieces because my answer would be the same practically every week. Dark Souls? Call of Duty? Nope, just StarCraft 2, every week for a good 9 months or so.
Needless to say, I don’t play that many games these days. But I do play good ones, and I do play bad ones, so here we go: Patrick Miller’s Top Games of 2011, starting here. Note that I don’t really give a shit about things like release dates, so if you’re expecting a strict analysis of the 2011 videojuego canon, that’s not what you’ll get here.
I was a particularly nerdy kid, growing up. I was raised by a single Dad who was plenty nerdy himself, and I usually opted out of sports-related activities in favor of playing as many video games as I could get away with. I have this excellent picture from my 8th grade Little League baseball team. On the day where everyone got action shots, I asked to have my picture taken on the bench, math binder in hand, since most of my game time was spent there doing homework. (I’m pretty bad at math, too.)Never in a million years did I think that I would be the kind of guy to watch other people play video games, cheer wildly, and yell “OH MY SHIT DID HE JUST DO THAT”. In other words, I never thought I’d be into sports. Until I went to Evolution 2004. That mass of roaring people cheering Daigo on? I’m in there, somewhere.
I imagine that attending Evo is, for a few brief days, a taste of what it’s like to be any average guy with a beer belly, some gym shorts, and a profound devotion to ESPN. A basketball fan can walk into any sports bar in the world and mouth off about how terrible the Warriors are and start a conversation. They can watch The Big Game with a crowd of people and not feel self-conscious about spending their time watching big guys play with big basketballs. And when they’re at work, they can say “So, how about them Knicks?” and everyone else is obligated to reply with “Hell of a team, gonna go all the way this year” whether they pay attention to basketball or not. Well, fuck the Knicks. Here at Evo, the name of the game is MAHVEL, BAYBEE.
Basically, it’s a brief trip into a world where taking games seriously is totally fucking normal.
So! You’re going to Evo next year.
The guy standing across the ring from me is a stocky Asian guy fromFresno. Shaved head, probably in his early 20s, coached by what looks like an older Thai guy who was sizing me up after the weigh-ins. Didn’t hear what his coach was telling him before the round started. Didn’t really need to–I had a good ten-inch height advantage on him. He was going to kick my legs. They always kick my legs.
No time to think about that. No time to ask myself why I’m getting punched in the face in front of a few dozen badder dudes than I. Besides, I already knew why–it was because I played too much Street Fighter.