Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions, 2012

It's hard to believe that we've reached the end of another year. For the most part, I'm happy to see it go: 2011 had more than its fair share of rough spots. Thankfully, through all the tumult, I still had video games and a forum in which to discuss them. It's nice to have a daily routine that is both structured and creative; something that keeps all the corners of my mind from gathering dust. In the spirit of staving off stagnation, I always take some time at the end of the year to reevaluate what I've been doing and what I'd like to do in the next three hundred and sixty-five days.

Now that I've done this for a few years, I can also see how I've kept up with some past goals. Last year, I resolved to broaden my horizons regarding the types of games I played. Additionally, I expressed my interest in venturing away from the major release track and exploring the independent and experimental game scenes.

Overall, I think this plan was a success: thanks to our periodic Indie game podcasts and a concerted effort to pay attention to lesser-advertised games, I was exposed to a pretty eclectic batch of games. Inside a Star-filled was an classic shooter with a philosophical slant. The Cat and the Coup was a pleasant adventure game and a much-needed history lesson. Don't take it personally, babe... reintroduced me to interactive-fiction and reminded me how terrifying high school is. A variety of other independent and browser-based games reminded me how varied the medium actually is and that innovation does not necessarily require millions of dollars and a huge R&D team.

In a way, this resolution may have been too successful: I still haven't played some of the biggest mainstream games of the year. Skyrim is no where on the horizon, Dark Souls has been passed by, and I just now started Skyward Sword. Within the next few weeks, I'm hoping to fill in the biggest hole in my 2011 release list: Portal 2. I played the first game over a year late, so I guess it's fitting that I neglect the second one as well.

All this brings me to my first resolution: to strike a balance between playing major releases and independent titles. Both spheres are important, but I'm still trying to figure out how to balance my attention between the two of them without swinging wildly between extremes.

My second resolution relates to another strange section of the video game landscape: Facebook. As regular readers and listeners know, Jorge and I have been exploring the weird world of Facebook games recently. Going in, I had the stereotypical prejudices of a "hardcore" gamer: Facebook "games" hardly deserved the title. They were unethical, get rich quick schemes that extracted time and money from players without giving anything back in return. However, after more than a month of experimenting with a small selection of games, I find some of my assumptions crumbling. It's been nice having some of my prejudices challenged, and I'm looking forward to articulating some of my findings in the coming months by both playing more Facebook games and giving them the critical treatment most non-social games get these days.

If this sounds like I've gone off the deep end and joined the cult of social games, fear not. My third resolution is squarely within the realm of "traditional" video games: I want to build a sweet gaming PC. I haven't had a PC capable of playing games since college (and the one I had then was still a clunker), so it's been far long. The advent of Steam and the indie scene's proliferation makes the PC the most versatile, democratic, and sophisticated gaming platform out there. All that being said, I'm somewhat anxious about the process: it's been a long time since I've assembled computer parts myself and the freedom you gain in the PC world often comes at the expense of a console system's reliability. It'll undoubtedly be an adventure, one I'll share with you all, regardless of how many things explode.

So there you have it: a quick recap of last year's goals and a few new ones to tackle in 2012. Now, I'll cede the floor: Do you have any video game related New Year's resolutions?

Thanks to everyone for visiting the site. Jorge and I look forward to seeing you in 2012 (assuming the Mayan apocalypse doesn't destroy us all)!


  1. In the spirit of looking back, I will say that it has been a pleasure to keep following your thoughts this year, both here and on the amazing Moving Pixels blog (so much great writing there!). I'm a faithful reader since 2009, and can only say that you guys have never been less than completely engaging.

    There is one aspect of gaming which I have definitely neglected this year, and that is indie gaming on PC. Well, "neglected" may be a strong word: I HAVE purchased every game I was interested in or excited by, and have at least tried a little bit of most of them. But going into the new year, I am faced with this list of games I failed to really dive into.

    Frozen Synapse
    Cargo!: The Quest for Gravity
    The Tiny Bang Story
    Rock of Ages
    Gemini Rue

    + a few more

    I feel that freeware and browser gaming has been a bit slow this year (a strong migration towards the iOS platforms might explain it), and console downloads have not been that bountiful either (Stacking and Outland two notable exceptions), but the frequent Steam outings have been rich with intriguing propositions, be they design- or presentation-wise. I tremble a little at the thought of the time it will take to catch up on all of them, but a certain looseness in the release calendar might help in this endeavor.

    I was going to roll out my favorites from the many games which I DID end up playing, but will keep those for a more appropriate comment thread ; )

  2. I don't know about the PC plan...personally I feel the fun of playing games decreasing rapidly as soon as a game runs on a PC.
    Thanks to the humble bundle guys I've been checking out a lot of indie titles, but somehow none of them really kept me interested for a longer period of time...on the other hand I played through a lot of smaller titles like Super Meat Boy or Outland on XBLA/PSN. Hopefully Sony and MS keep releasing something like the finest of IGF on their systems.

    Overall this has been a pretty good gaming year for me. I think I found a nice balance of AAA - Arcade - Retro titles. I even managed to keep up with some 2011 titles, which is kind of surprising since I'm usually almost a year behind schedule.

    Wish you guys a happy new and keep up the good work!

  3. I agree: much of this "neglect" I could blame on a very uncomfortable PC setup, including occasional overheats (when playing Super Meat Boy for more than 30 minutes, for example...). I am also quite tired of the typical WASD position, and the mouse is an appendage I avoid whenever possible. Still, all of these are material issues that could be resolved or alleviated in one way or another (like getting a gamepad), and I don't think the games themselves should be faulted.

    About the bundles... I have mixed feelings about those. This might have something to do with the fact that of all those that have come out until now, well, I had already paid for and played every title I was actually interested in. I have thus poured much more money in previous years on individual titles which I greatly enjoyed than I would've if I'd discovered them this year, and find it hard to get away from the impression that bundles cheapen the value of these often smart, polished games in a deep way. This disinterest you feel might be linked to the fact that the implicit "contract" suggested by a bundled game is not as strong as it might be when paying a fixed price for a single product? Just a hypothesis.

    Still, there is no doubt that bundles are great for indie visibility and actually getting the games in the hands of people.

  4. I've never been one to make "Gaming Resolutions," even though gaming takes up an inordinate amount of my free time, I blog about it constantly, and it gives me great joy. For me personally, making a goal about the future in terms of playing video games would be like making a resolution about sleeing more often or sleeping more deeply at night, etc.

    I'm not sure it that analogy makes complete sense or not... gaming just seems like a strange thing to making resolutions for. That being said, all of your personal desires about gaming for the coming year seem like they will make for some great blogging posts for me to read!

  5. An interesting not on the broadening of gaming horizons... Have you considered playing a game not in English yet? With the right game it can be an amazing... meta puzzle? I suppose to play a game in a language you don't understand. It's certainly an experience I wish upon everyone at least once.

  6. That is a cool idea. I think I'll try it!

  7. Hey I wish I could sleep more often and more deeply! ;-)

    That being said, I get what you mean. Wouldn't want to turn games into "work." This was mostly a thinly disguised attempt at cashing in on New Year's themed post. We'll see how well I actually stick to these.

  8. That is a great idea! Do you have any recommendations?

    I've been trying to (re)learnd Spanish, and I bet playing a video game would be a good way of practicing.

  9. Oh, also, I've only recommended Japanese games as I've never really tried gaming in an already romanised langauge, I don't really know of any worthwhile import Spanish games or anything.

    Also, you could just set the langauge in a game you own to Spanish most likely... Same effect so much less work.