Four and a half years ago, I began writing about games through a series called “Why Story Matters” where I’d analyze the story or storytelling devices that a game used in an interesting way. One entry I wrote focused on the episodic release structure of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and how it made for a different type of game experience. However, as episodic releases have persisted with the late Telltale and even with other games, I think it’s important to reevaluate the episodic release structure and see in what areas it works and what areas it fails. So before reading further, make sure you look here for my 2014 post, and then come back and see how things have changed.
In light of the recent Telltale layoffs, I have been thinking a lot about my history with this company. My third post ever for my little IGN-based WordPress blog, I decided to write a quick thing about the game I was really into at the time. Little did I know that this piece would end up being featured on the front page of IGN, and it was what really kept me going as a writer even 5 years later. However, IGN Blogs have been shut down, and I managed to recover this piece and subsequently see just how much I’ve evolved as a writer since those high school days. I really wanted to edit all of its little flaws, but instead I wrote a new piece quickly looking at episodic releases in the modern day that you can find here when you finish this one. So, in all of its unedited glory, is this very old piece.
I’ve always been intrigued by the worlds, characters, and stories that are brought to the table when it comes to Japanese role-playing games, or JPRGs, but the genre is often placed in tandem with turn-based combat, which I’ve very rarely been a fan of. I don’t really see the skill or appeal in battling mindlessly to raise your stats enough to beat the boss and proceed through the story. JRPGs like Kingdom Hearts and The World Ends With You have been among my favorite games ever, given that they have the narrative elements that interest me in the genre, but the combat is much more action-heavy and feels involved and skill-based. The one game series that has subverted everything I’ve said up to this point is Pokemon. I am very indifferent towards the stories of Pokemon games, but there’s something exciting, beyond the nostalgia and hype, about collecting a myriad of interesting creatures that evolve and have elemental strengths and weaknesses. Somehow, it took me until the fifth entry in the Persona series to find a game with a good story and engaging turn-based gameplay.
What I love most about Persona 5 is hard to pin down, but one thing I admire greatly is how well the game makes its complexity approachable. The game is roughly 100 hours, and there’s so much to do that it would be easy to consider it daunting in any other game. When you consider that it takes elements of dating sims, Stardew Valley, Pokemon, and many other titles and mashes them together, it’s understandable that so many are taken aback. However, I think Persona 5 is a fantastic place to jump into both the Persona series and JRPGs as a whole, if you have the time to spare.
Now that that pesky best game design tidbits list is out of the way, let’s get right to the main reason you’re all here: to read yet another best games of the year list. I’ve played a lot of fantastic games this year, and I personally had a harder time narrowing down a list to just ten games than I have in previous years. In fact, I’m starting off with four honorable mentions before we even get to the list. For most people that keep up with the industry, you probably will not be surprised with the inclusions on this list. However, the order of them is what may shock and appall some, so be sure to let me know what you agree and disagree with. Without further ado…
It feels like every year for the last few years, it’s been fairly easy to say, “This has been the best year in games!” With a market that’s filled to the brim with releases weekly, it’s no wonder that we see more great games coming out now than a decade or so ago. Amidst a sea of microtransactions, lootboxes, and games as services, developers have been crafting truly remarkable and innovative experiences, and it’s a great asset to look at these creative bits of design and learn from them. This isn’t a list of my favorite games of the year – that will be coming towards the end of December – but all of these games are ones I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Video game genres are numerous and multi-faceted. There are a staggering number of them, and so many of them share characteristics and can be mixed and matched to make truly unique experiences. Recently, I watched a video by Barry Kramer of Game Grumps explaining, as a smaller part of the video (which you should totally watch anyways), how video games are different from other forms of media because there is an advanced vocabulary used to categorize them. Gamers can understand a bit about a game without even playing it or researching it simply by knowing a few terms like “platformer” or “roguelike.”
In the last year, I’ve spent a good amount of time being enthralled in visual novels. I always enjoyed a great story in a game, and puzzle games are some of my favorite games to play, so it seemed only natural to be drawn in. However, as I played more and more, I begin to see a lot of similarities with a genre I was not as fond of: adventure games. I became curious as to why I enjoyed one type of game over the other, but it soon became clear that visual novels are simply the adventure games of a new generation.
Here I am again. While school and inspiration has taken its toll on my writing for this blog, I still keep track of games and enjoy sharing my opinions about them. This year, as I did last year, I kept track of my favorite games and why I loved them. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are my top 10 games of 2016. This year, all of them will have been released in 2016, unlike last year. This year, I’m looking to balance my picks between how good of games they actually are and how much fun I had while playing them. Without further ado…
WARNING: Spoilers for both The Witness and Firewatch below. While The Witness, as a puzzle game, is only spoiled on basic concepts, Firewatch, as a plot-driven game, is heavily spoiled here. I suggest you play both before reading this piece.
Oftentimes when I’m just casually gaming, I’ll put the game on, play some tunes on my Bluetooth speaker, and just have a good time. When I get very serious about playing a game, however, I often place myself into a state of solitude depending on the type of game it is. I’ll turn the lights down, put my big headset on, and immerse myself into the experience. If the game is meant to be played this way, I will try very hard to do so. Two such games came out within the last month, and they have me thinking about how I play my games.
Long time, no see.
It’s been a while since I last spoke, and for good reason. See, I’ve mostly lost my passion for this blog, and I don’t want to write some half-baked pieces. I know I promised a three-part Why Story Matters saga for my triumphant return, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon. With my final year of high school wrapping up, I’m hard-pressed for time. I want to give that trilogy the time and work it deserves. I want it to be my best work yet when it comes out.
This post is a year-long work in progress. Over the course of the year, I’ve been collecting my thoughts on all of the games that I played. I planned to do this from the start of the year. I almost forgot, had it not been for my good buddy ThatPlatinumDude and his recent post about his top 5 games of the year. So here’s mine. Be warned, not all of the games were released this year, and this list reflects my opinions of the games I played this year.
Very few games strive to be hard these days. With an era focused on storytelling and gameplay, developers tend to makes games easy enough so that a large audience of people can enjoy them. However, that leaves much to be desired in the way of real challenge. Games like Dark Souls have brought back the idea of a difficult yet rewarding experience, and it seems indies have also taken heed of this idea. Titan Souls is a breath of fresh air in a sea of over-the-top action and filler content. There’s very little else to what the crux of the core gameplay has to offer, but what that presents is a truly addictive and challenging experience that is bogged down only by my plea for more.