Wednesday, January 1, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Happy New Year folks.

2013 is finally behind us, and it’s in the books as one of the most eventful years in the industry by default because of our entrance into the next generation of consoles. But 2013 was also bloated with other buzz worthy news throughout the year outside of the PS4’s exceptional messaging since its February reveal, and Microsoft’s sloppy handle of the Xbox One: THQ went belly up after all of its properties were auctioned off to other publishers, and LucasArts suffered a similar fate with Disney taking over their IPs and some, like Star Wars 1313, dissolving in the process.

Being that I’ve been blogging about games since May of last year, let’s take a look at some of the most significant as well as interesting events of the latter half of 2013.

Xbox One

Rumors aside, the cloud – not their golden servers cloud – that has been Microsoft’s messaging has cursed the company and the image of their new system from May till its release in November.
Though many watched the system’s reveal, the unveiling of the Xbox One had worse luck holding gamers’ attention than a kid trying to hold a handful of water. The Redmond event was as entertainment focused as they stated before hand, which was briefly made up by their exceptional E3 press conference.

But I look at Microsoft’s handle much like a car crash. Their money truck had flipped over, and the leaking fuel was ignited, slowly making its way to the gas tank. The DRM, game licensing-used game restrictive policies along with the douchy “If you’re backwards compatible, then you’re backwards” and “If you want to play off-line, then you have the 360” statements  plagued their image until Sony’s knockout punch at E3.

This was unprecedentedly followed up by their series of complete about faces from axing their online mandate, to including a headset in the box, to removing the Kinect requirement.
The pre messaging of the Xbox One will go down as some of the worst PR in the Microsoft’s history.

E3 2013

As much as people loved to hate on Microsoft in 2013, there’s no denying that they had a kickass E3 press conference, arguably the best showing of the three major console publishers (Nintendo’s Direct included).

MGS5, Forza 5, Quantum Break, Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, The Witcher 3, Battlefield 4, and the tease of a new Halo already had the makings of the company’s best E3 conference in their history; however that was solidified with the debut of the from-ashes Respawn first, Titanfall.

From a game’s show perspective, Sony’s conference didn’t quite have the strong line up that Microsoft had. The Order: 1886, Infamous: Second Son, Final Fantasy XV, and Destiny all showed promising multiplatform and exclusive support for the system, however their heartwarming indie circle and ultimately their, “F**k what Microsoft’s doing, we’re not changing a thing” response to Xbox One’s DRM messaging took E3 by storm and was arguably the most significant news to come out of E3 2013.

The funny thing about Nintendo’s game announcements is that they’re low on surprises, they don’t unveil all that gracefully, but ultimately turn out to be exceptional titles. Pokemon, Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart and Smash Bros have all been and are expected to be literal system sellers in spite of their more or less underwhelming showings in E3 season. Other “un-Nintendo” titles sit on the horizon like the mysterious “X” assumed to be Xenoblade related and Bayonette 2.

Nintendo’s E3 Direct has taught us even more to instill a little more faith and imagination in the company, as anti-gaming industry as that sounds.

Wii U: Continuing Nintendo’s home console trend as consumers’ first party platform.

There were a number of announcements throughout the year from different third party titles removing features from Nintendo’s next gen system from Sniper Elite 2 to Batman: Arkham Origins. It’s difficult to imagine Wii U as the sole go-to system for gamers with so much third party support shifting away from the platform, even with titles that are being supported on it. On the same token however, there are reasons to own it nonetheless. Super Mario 3D World is the best proper Mario title in 7 years, and the HD Zelda Windwaker remake gives consumers a chance to experience one of the very best 3D Zeldas of all time which to some, including myself, still bests even two of the franchises previous home console installments.

The Wii U might not be yours or my go-to platform of choice; however it’s an essential system to have if you don’t want to miss out on some of the industry’s best.

Developer Abuse

From Phil Fish, to Bioware, to Treyarch’s David Vonderhaar, consumer to developer abuse has escalated over the past few years, and with the increase of access the consumer community has to game makers and consumer to developer platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the internet has surprisingly yet inevitably facilitated this form of abuse.

Developers have been very vocal about the abuse they’ve undergone, from badgering comments on a Kickstarter page to death threats issued to their children and themselves. This is a raising concern in the industry as of late. Many talks have discussed suggestions to combat this abuse; lets hope to see some proper reaction in 2014.

The respect women deserve in gaming

2013 has thankfully been a year where women’s voice has grown tremendously throughout the past year. Though some claims have been questionable, such as the accusations of sexism in The Last of Us, many points made by Anita Sarkeesian and other women who discuss or work in the industry have been profound.

Take Whitney Hills for example, a deeper who discussed on Kotaku the idiosyncratic behavior men has had towards her and other women developers. The reach for the hug instead of a hand shake; the delayed recognition as an asset instead of a “girl” once past 40, and the still-stale question “You play video games?”

Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in video games has covered topics from the over used and subverted attempts at the damsel complex which portray women as helpless victims to what she refers to as the “Ms. Male Character” which are often female counter parts to male leads; a gamification of the biblical “Adam and Eve” tale if you will.

Both Whitney Hills and Anita Sarkeesian have offered profound insight into what women developers go through in the industry and how women are represented in games.

Social Problems: The Video Game

With the industry’s rapidly growing indie scene, we’ve come to be exposed to wholly unique topics being discussed in a medium that has largely been recognized as an empowerment escape.
Choice: Texas is set to put players in the role of different women who are looking to carry out an abortion for reasons of their own. From different backgrounds and motivations, all face the restrictive abortion laws of Texas. Of course this couldn’t have gone unnoticed by pro-life activists such as Right to Life’s Emily Horne who accuses the game of reducing abortion to a “dry simplistic view”.

Financial burdens and transportation limitations are just the few that are exacerbated by the laws imposed, and Choice: Texas looks to give us a unique insight into that.

Papers, Please is the much talked about border control simulator that puts players in the uncomfortable shoes of a border check point officer who must maintain his job performance so that he stays out of jail and his family stays well fed, healthy, and alive. The game is oddly compelling, punctuated with unnerving events that occur as a result of your choices. Papers, Please is the most talked about social problems game of 2013.

As a pregnant former district attorney who ends up in prison for a crime, only to be accused of the murder of her cell mate, 9 Months In has been nominated for best original story by the AGS Awards. It’s a murder mystery within a premise unlike what’s explored in any medium.

We don’t get to watch the Watch Dogs

While games like Dead Rising 3 and Battlefield 4 occupied many wish lists for the new gen systems, Watch Dogs was the next gen launch title virtually everyone was looking forward to come November. However the shocking delay of E3 2012’s game of show bummed many folks out looking for the new Ubisoft open world IP to be their entry into this new console generation.
At this point, looking at a release for the earliest mid 2014, there’s little hope that Watch Dogs will carry the same buzz and excitement it would have had 6 months prior.

Who watches YouTube?

YouTube’s Content ID crackdown on content creators has been one of the most tumultuous attacks in the video site’s history. Endangering the ad revenue that YouTubers earned for their content which happen to contain footage and/or audio of any game, creators question their faith in YouTube as a platform.

These recent developments have been ignored by no one in the industry. Top games YouTuber Total Biscuit has been very vocal about Content ID, game publishers such as Ubisoft have taken a stance on the side of content creators, and WhoLetsPlay has been formed to develop basic legalities to issue standardized licensing terms for content creators and copyright owners in the future.


…has been an immensely eventful year. There have been some unfortunate losses and some troublesome developments. However it’s been a year that represents a new beginning in many ways, from new consoles to new topics being discussed in games and the games industry.

Be sure to tune in later this week for my top 10 picks for my favorite games of 2013.

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