One of the pleasures of having your own blog is that you get to ramble on about what ever the fuck I feel like. Today… Video Games.
Specifically ones I have enjoyed recently and why. Consider this a Best of 2011 list if you want.
Deus Ex:Human Revolution
So this was one of those games I grabbed off of Steam without doing any real research. I looked at some metacritic scores and just bought it. I didn’t even know it was a first person shooter, nor had I played the other Deus Ex games. See, this is rare for me. I’m notorious for spending an inordinate amount of time researching everything but the actual plot points of a game. So to pick up a game and not even know it’s core game mechanic? That just seems dumb. But I’m glad I did.
I thoroughly loved this game. I even actively put down Skyrim to finish this game. I felt it deserved to be completed. I could pour over why this game is great but the guys from extra credits already made an excellent video about it. I will mention three things I loved about this game. One, the soundtrack. I’m actually listening to it as I’m writing this. It’s a great electronic mix that fits the setting so well. Michael McCann did an excellent job and I often throw it on when I’m drawing. Second, The setting. Everybody harps on the “OMG GOLD” aesthetic, but it makes this game gorgeous and reinforces it’s Renaissance themes. The actual locals are unavoidably inspired by Blade Runner and to me that’s a good thing. Lastly, and I touched on this before, the themes of Transhumanism and augmentations and the socio-political repercussions were beautifully handled and again the Extra Credits guys break it down better than I can in this blog post I recommend watching that video.
I was pleasantly surprised by it and whole Heartily recommend this game to anyone and everyone, One of my top games of 2011.
Forgetting the meme’s and parody, what makes Skyrim a great game to me, what makes me ignore all the bugs, the stiff animations,or the antiquated first or third person combat, is the crazy ability it has to make me want to live in this world. No fantasy game has made me want to find a way to escape into this world, become Dragonborn and shoot a bunch of vampire bandits in the back of the head with my bow. This game made me want to take up archery. For some odd and unplaceable reason this game made me feel how I felt when I was 12 and playing roleplaying games for the first time. I’m excited to jump back into this game again once some DLC has been released and the mod community has had their run through of the game.
Hold on tight this is gonna be a long one…
This is my game of the year…
It was my game of the year before I had even played it.
This game, with all it’s wit, great level design, lovable characters, excellent voice acting, great music, memorable moments, and HOLY SHIT THAT JUST HAPPENED!!!!, this game had me before a single bit of it was on my drive…
Let me explain…
Back just before this game was announced, Valve started up an ARG (an Alternative Reality Game not another me). Essentially they stealthily updated the original Portal with radios that if you took to specific spots in the level, you’d receive an audio transmission. If you took these audio transmissions and decoded them… some of them ended up being images, some morse code, all leading to a BBS number that you could call and get the next clue. Needless to say I was ABSORBED by this. It had grabbed hold of me and I was sucked in, waiting on every line of new information and positing my own inferences when I though I was on to something. Sadly the whole thing was over pretty quickly and led to the announcement of Portal 2.
Then suddenly Potatoes…
April 1st 2011 Steam released a collection of indie games under the name of the Potato Sack. It wasn’t long until people started to notice differences to the games from before… I’ll make this short as the WHOLE THING is a pretty long story with lots of red herrings and trolls. but everything lead to secrets pointing towards an early release of Portal 2. Again I was hooked. Staying up late to see if any new information had been released, reading theories and speculation. The difference between this ARG and the last one was that it had a lot more real life components to it. Forcing people to search in real locations for clues and the co-ordination of the Indie Developers involved was incredible. Throughout this whole ARG there was a core group of people that had cataloged or had done most of the research and discoveries and a lot of us counted on them to keep this ARG community going.
Then suddenly all 7 of them Vanished…
They were gone.
The only clue was something about Glados taking them. The Players became part of the ARG.
I went to bed scared that night… Seriously. I’m a rational and skeptical human being and I was moved by this and I loved it. This action alone makes this my game of the year for me.
Now I know You’re saying to yourself right now. But that isn’t even THE GAME?
I’m putting a spoiler tag here. Some people haven’t played the game all the way through (My GF being one of them) Anything below this point is a spoiler. You’ve been warned.
Well that experience, that wonder, that mystery, that fear. That all changed how I perceived the game. Gone was the lighthearted, witty romp through Aperture Science. In it’s place was a horror filled disturbing black comedy that shook my being and gave me nightmares. AND I LOVED IT. It became more than just wit, great level design, lovable characters, excellent voice acting, great music, memorable moments and became something that changed me. Yeah, something in me changed. The way I thought changed. I had never experienced that before from a video game.
When I was 16 a friend of mine sexually took advantage of another friend of mine when she was drunk. We’re not friends any more but that whole event changed me. I was just on the sidelines of that whole thing but I had this feeling. A dark feeling and a realization that the world can be a fucked up place sometimes. I grew up. No longer a kid. I think everybody has this same realization at some point in their lives and it takes different forms for everybody. But for me it was that moment, that dark moment when things weren’t going to look the same anymore.
There’s a scene apparently cut from the game where Caroline protests her being turned into Glados and even though the delivery of the line seems to be lacking, it still sounds like… well… a rape. And when put into context of the plot of Cave Johnson and Caroline and the whole history of Aperture Science, it makes for very mature and disturbing material for a game most people consider witty, light and funny. I found this out as I was playing through that part of the old aperture science, so it coincidentally gave me a motivational frame for Glados. And it brought up that day when I was 16 all over again. I had that realization that games can be more than just entertainment. They can be experiences, both good and bad, both fun and horrific, both lighthearted and disturbing.
Now I had always told myself and others that Video games can be moving pieces of art and that they are more than just entertainment. They can inspire emotions like any other form of artistic expression. I’ve been a huge proponent of “Games are art!” But until I had these moments with Portal 2, I can’t honestly tell you I have ever had the same movement of thought and emotion like any classic piece of cinema or music has given me. I had been lying to myself, thinking what I had experienced had been as equal. Sure some games have made me happy, scared, tense or angry. But I never had the intensity of emotion and thought that I did while playing this game.
All these paragraphs might sound confusing… this is the first time I’ve ever tried to parse this experience into some recognizable form. For me these were mixed emotions and random thoughts that coalesced into something moving and ultimately changed the way I perceive video games.
That’s it. Portal 2 changed the way I think about Video games.
The change had happened.
That’s the simple answer.
That’s why Portal 2 was the best game I played in 2011.
Thank you for spending the time to read me honestly ramble on about video games. Those are the memorable ones I played on 2011. There are others but once I hit the portal 2 section I figured I’d cut it short.