New Years Eve is upon us. This is the time of year where we reflect on the happenings of the past 12 months and plan for the future. It is also the time where we video game “pundits” have to put our names on the line and choose a Game of the Year.
2012 will go down as a significant year in the video game industry.
One of the most widely successful games of the year was The Walking Dead. It stands out because it was a downloadable, episodic, adventure game that was largely devoid of any real game play. By all accounts it should have been a flop, but it resonated with enough people to be a massive success.
We also saw a battle fought between artistic integrity and fan service with regards to the ending of Mass Effect 3. Not only did we see the fight, but we saw BioWare cave in. (We might be talking about the effects of that decision for years to come.)
We saw sequels galore to help herald the impending end of the current console cycle. Sequels like Assassin’s Creed III, FarCray 3, Max Payne 3 and others dazzled the sales charts this year. But, they weren’t alone. We also got a chance to play a new IP from Bethesda in Dishonored. We worked some funky steampunk magic all over the city of Dunwall (and it was great).
One game stood out among all the others: Journey. I don’t know what’s running through the water over at thatgamecompany’s offices, but it must stimulate genius.I thought they hit the mark with Flower, but they outdid themselves this time. They have come to be the shining beacon in this whole “games as art” argument.
Journey set my world on fire. It was moving in its simplicity. It was so simple, in fact, that one could have argued that it wasn’t a game if it was released through any other medium than a PSN download. The “game” elements were stripped away carefully leaving us with a minimalist experience. There was no gaudy tutorial, grandiose story, or unimaginable army. In their place was an invitation into the most beautiful game world I have ever set my digital feet in.
The aesthetic was certainly novel, but what really made the game stand out as an experience was the unique use of multiplayer. We are living in a world where just about every game that reaches retail has some form on online multiplayer tacked onto it. Journey was special because its multiplayer component was integrated into the experience from the get go. Even more interesting: the other players were anonymous. There were no PSN Ids to clutter the screen. You only saw another hooded, scarf-wearing wanderer just like yourself. There was just something about the mournful call that players use to communicate that made you care about the people you were playing with. It was an odd feeling considering the stomach churning chatter you often hear playing some other games.
Simply put, Journey is my game of the year because it will likely be the sole survivor when the dust of 2012 clears. It has been the closest we have come so far to playing a piece of art.
What about you? Do you agree with me here? Sound off in the comments.