Jan 072013
 

Hello everyone, glad to see you all made it to the newest year! Now, as you all know, the start of a new year always sees “Best of Last Year” lists and posts. I’ve come up with a sort of “Best of Last Year” subject of my own. Now, I’m very aware of the arbitrary nature of calling a year noteworthy, especially for gaming. Nevertheless, I really do think 2012 is special, as I find it hard to compare 2012 to some of the proceeding years. 2012′s accomplishments are, by and large, surprising. Hell, the scale of some of these accomplishments alone is nothing short of astounding.

If you’ve taken a look at a single game of the year list this year, you would’ve noticed some very unconventional entries making the rounds. Really quickly, we have The Walking Dead, a point-and-click adventure game, FTL, a roguelike/space sim, Dishonored, a first person stealth game, Hotline Miami, a game I can’t really describe since I’ve not played it, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a turn-based strategy game, Journey, a game best described as one of those art games, and the list goes on.

While your typical big name RPGs and shooting games have also made the list, The Walking Dead making game of the year on most lists is remarkable. An adventure game making the list is quite new, considering RPGs/first person shooters/action-adventure games usually win. Hell, the last adventure game to get this much acclaim was Grim Fandango, and even that didn’t perform nearly as well as The Walking Dead. I don’t think we’ll see a sudden surge of adventure games, but The Walking Dead has definitely put Telltale Games on the map, if they weren’t already there.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Dishonored, two games released on the same day (like Prototype and inFamous), belong in genres that have effectively been dead for quite some time. Dishonored is especially noteworthy for being a new IP released near the end of a generation. While we have seen a first person stealth game in last year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, releases like these are too few and far between. I can’t even think of anything similar to XCOM released in the last few years, except for several Jagged Alliance releases and maybe Valkyria Chronicles.

While the two were not without their flaws, they were pretty damned good attempts at reviving dead genres. With the commercial and critical successes of XCOM and Dishonored, we should start to see more buried genre resurgences. Hell, Bethesda has turned stated that Dishonored will be treated as a franchise, so that’s already a good thing.

2012 also saw the release of two RPGs for the Wii that may not have reached North American, were it not for the excellent Operation Rainfall fan campaign, though the campaign did not totally succeed (we have not seen Pandora’s Tower yet, and it is very likely we never will). While now it’s a little dubious how large a part Operation Rainfall played in bringing these titles over (XSEED has mentioned that The Last Story’s release wasn’t really affected by Operation Rainfall), it was still very possible that we could have winded up missing out on these Wii RPGs.

These two titles seem to have fared quite well critically and commercially, and it would have been a real shame if North America missed out on these titles. It may be hard to know how much of an impact fans had on the release of these titles, but it’s hard to imagine fans playing no part in this process. Nintendo must have listened to its fans, even if only to a limited extent. That’s pretty significant, as many will swear that Nintendo follows its own rhythm exclusively.

Ah, Mass Effect 3, another instance where developers had to listen to its fans.

By far the biggest event that will likely put 2012 in the gaming hall of fame is the Kickstarter craze. While Kickstarter was used to fund some games in the past, Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2 have opened the figurative floodgates of video game crowdfunding. From there, we’ve seen a ton of gaming Kickstarters, and many of these have exceeded expectations. The immediate benefit of this deal is that developers who go this route are beholden to no publisher. If anything, developers are more beholden to their fans.

Many of these projects, such as the second, fourth, and fifth top funded ones, are designed to be throwbacks to games of old, similar to this year’s top titles. FTL, the first game to come out of the Kickstarter craze, is a tightly crafted experience, and does just about everything solidly, and backers were practically there with the developers every step of the way. I’m not about to espouse the idea that fans are always right, but FTL is definitely a success. It shows the game world that fans can do wondrous things for a game’s development, which pretty much makes FTL the proof of concept of the Kickstarter model. I’m certain many other Kickstarter games will come along and perform admirably, as well.

2012, in short, makes us reexamine our relations with developers. Traditionally, gamers didn’t have much of a say in what goes on in game development. Before the time of the internet, it wasn’t exactly easy to follow a game up till its release, much less influence development, in some manner. In fact, gamers still really had no say in development. With events like these, we’re starting to see a new sort of relationship, one where the developers and even publishers know that their fans are important beyond sources of revenue. This new relationship underlined just about every major gaming occurrence this year. While I don’t know how 2013 will unfold, I’m thinking that companies will continue to cultivate these relationships, for the benefit of all.

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