This year was…mixed. It was a year comprised of a frankly stunning amount of amazing and innovative games, a shiny new Nintendo console that’s taking the world by storm while simultaneously proving that the big N is here to stay for a long time to come, and of course there was the beautiful death of Steam Greenlight that served to close the chapter on that saga of shit awful early access trash. It was cool. On the other hand of course, we also had the privilege of watching Steam Direct appear and see it immediately pick up where Greenlight left off, occasionally in ways that made Greenlight seem straight up snobbish by comparison with how much garbage Direct was allowing to go unchallenged. We also got to see much of the Triple A landscape get hastily converted overnight to a digital Las Vegas overnight as published scurried to shove loot boxes into every single game they thought they could get away with which, as it turns out, was a lot of goddamn games. And, most relevant to my interests, YouTube was completely torn asunder by the adpocolypse, leading to basically every content creator of all kinds getting thoroughly screwed over. Shout out to Pewdiepie for that. Kind of weird how everyone has seemed to just let him off the hook for causing that, isn’t it? Kinda bullshit. Anyways, where was I?
Right. 2017 was a weird year, but let’s try to focus in on the good. It was a year that where we saw basically every major IP attempt to inject new life into itself. We saw Nintendo finally engaged in a long awaited embrace of open world game design in both Super Mario Odyssey and Breathe of the Wild to stunning success. Resident Evil essentially hit the reset button on the whole franchise in an attempt to stay relevant in this era of First Person, duck-and-run horror that was either an incredible success or a complete failure depending on who you ask. Hell, even the flagship annual Triple A IPs were getting in on it this year, with Assassin’s Creed Origins coming back from a much needed hiatus to deliver their first not-awful game since Black Flag while Call of Duty attempted to revitalize it’s waning star by trying to bring the series back to its roots in all the ways it could stomach. And all of this is to say nothing of other games like Sonic Mania, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, all of the Warhammer games, and so, so many others.
Say what you will about any of these games individually, but cumulatively they represent a change in gaming’s zeitgeist that leaves me hopeful for the future: Not even successful games can be lazy anymore. When you even have Assassin’s Creed doing its best to make itself seem fresh and exciting, you know something’s up. This year marked a turn in the gaming industry where, at least for the time being, it seems to be pretty risky to not take risks. The games that played it safe were at best left by the wayside, as happened with the decent but generic Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, or were absolutely savaged for the attempt, as we saw with Star Wars: Battlefield 2 and it’s attempt to shell out the exact same gameplay as the previous game with a brand new loot box tire fire component.
One of the most well reviewed games of the year involved Mario and Rabbids teaming up in an X-COM clone. Let that sink in. That should tell you everything.
We continued to see this broader trend in the sleeper hits 2017 churned out. Horizon: Zero Dawn was an open world game that refused to even give the Ubisoft open world formula the time of day, opting instead for a more Witcher or classic Elder Scrolls approach of focusing on narrative and plot relevant side quests rather than an endless slew of pointless collectibles. Hellblade came out of almost nowhere to deliver one of the most intimate looks at psychosis available in pretty much any artform, complete with a permadeath non-mechanic that seemed to make everyone absolutely lose their shit for a week. Cuphead burst onto the scene to remind us that games are, in fact, an animated medium and that is not actually a thing to be ashamed of. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds basically single handedly popularized the ‘Battle Royale’ genre and has left basically the entire Triple A industry scrambling to try to figure out what to do about this new cultural tidal wave. Meanwhile, What Remains of Edith Finch proved that ‘walking simulators’ (I can’t begin to describe how much I hate that term) can be just as vibrant and creative as any other game out there.
However, perhaps no game emphasises how much risk taking was both in vogue and how eager the general public was eager for experimentation than the frankly shocking success of my personal game of the year: Nier Automata. This is a game I’m planning on talking about at length in a full video, but suffice to say that no other game this year sweep me up and inspired me quite like Nier, and this is due in no small part to it’s wild and drastic experimentation. Not going to go into details here, but if you’ve played it, especially up til ending E, then you know what I’m talking about. There is, frankly, no other game like it, or even vaguely like it. It is a work that is in a class all its own, with brilliant combat, a vibrant world, endearing character, a flawless soundtrack, and an ending that kept me thinking about it consistently to even this exact moment. Every couple years, a game gets released that reminds me why I love games. In 2011, there was Dark Souls. In 2014, there was Transistor. In 2015, there was Undertale. This year, there was Nier Automata. If there’s any game that summed up all the good 2017 had to offer, it was Nier Automata.
Luckily, it seems as though this trend will be carrying on into 2018, with games like Dragonball Fighter Z, the new Spiderman game, and God of War looking to inject some fresh blood into long time gaming mainstays. Whether or not the will succeed remains to be seen, especially in God of War’s case. Personally, I’m keeping a strong eye out for the americana that the Kerouac-inspired Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seems to be aiming to craft, as well as the still impressive high action and haunting LUCAH, which I briefly mentioned earlier this year that did manage to meet it’s Kickstarter goal. Also going to have a soft spot in my heart for MechWarriors 5 regardless of how it turns out, seeing as MechWarriors 2 was the first game I ever played. And of course there’s the obvious games as well. No More Heroes 3, Soul Calibur 6, and Kingdom Hearts 3, which I am now especially excited for after having played Kingdom Hearts 0.2. The line up isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but there’s undoubtedly more than enough to keep me optimistic for the coming months.
2017 was kind of a terrible year in the broad scheme of things. We hit a real rock bottom with how scummy the big developers can make us feel with Take Two kicking it off by taking modding tools from us before EA closed it out by taking our basic human dignity. And this is to say nothing of the whole Net Neutrality shit.
What a fucking scam.
Don’t forget that shit as we go into 2018. Don’t forget that the people at the top heard what the overwhelming majority of the populace was saying and then promptly told us all to eat shit. Do not forget that happened and stay angry about it. Stay fucking furious.
This is getting too political.
Point is, 2017 is said and done. We got some amazing art out of it and a lot of not so amazing business horseshit as well. Will 2018 be much better? Maybe. Maybe not. But I think it’s ultimately valuable for us to enter the new year prepared for whatever may come, good or ill. I hope every game released in 2018 is good. I hope every piece of art in 2018 is good. I hope the aftermath of every single political action taken last year turns out to be for the best this year. But I’m preparing for the worst, just in case. No matter what, I’ll still be here, continually screaming into the ether about everything I love and everything I hate until everything is awesome or I die. I look forward to experience it with you all, no matter what it looks like. Fuck 2017, long live 2018.
Oh, also Persona 5 happened this year too. That’s cool, I guess.