2010 was an eventful year to be certain. Every website and their brothers are going to be chucking out awards and in the same fashions as every other website. We all know the games that will be plastered with reviewer spunk so those other guys will be boring reads. But what about mine? What makes mine so different?
Basically, I'm a prick. A proud and arrogant prick that views the gaming industry and it's fans with a layer of disgust over what we allow as common behavior. We're wrapped up in revisionist history and hype shots and petty theological wars. Make no mistakes, to many a gamer, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo represent entire patheons of gods. Me? I'm just here to cut it all down and give my 2010 Neggies Awards.
2010's Sequel That Allowed Us To Admit The First Was Quite Shit
Mass Effect 2
Before January of this year, you were not allowed to say anything bad about Mass Effect. This was a flawless piece of magic code that represented the very best of Western RPG Developers in a scifi setting the likes of which we never saw before... so long as you never saw anything remotely related to Scifi.
Fact of the matter is the setting was as tired and borrowed as a porno in a frathouse. The story was shit, sorry, it was. The game was rife with WRPG problems (glitches, megafuckton of content where only 5% was interesting, inventory issues). The main campaign was just about 8 hours long. Should you explore in the way the game didn't intend, you could skip entire story quests with characters and NEVER trigger those events. Not to mention the STILL bullshit concepts of good and evil which ALWAYS related to being a saint or a baby rapist and no REAL moral middle ground.
Of course nobody could SAY this was an issue until Mass Effect 2 dropped and showed in stark contrast how horrible Mass Effect 1 really was. Even to the point that many reviewers who suckled at the Bioware Biodangly last game found all sorts of things suddenly wrong with the first. Mass Effect 2 is currently on par to win all sorts of rewards that the first received as well, which ultimately begs the question, how much does Mass Effect 2 suck? We ALL know it's gonna grab many accolades and it's a flawless game... but what issues can suddenly be discussed when Mass Effect 3 drops?
2010's Apparently You Weren't Paying Attention The Last Time Around
Fallout New Vegas
Once upon a time, Obsidian was respected. Well, no. Obsidian has ALWAYS been the "Holy Fuck, we need a new sequel real fast" studio. While usually making great advances with the franchise, their "cleanup" status and low bug hunting time allocation leads to a reputation of their games being exremely buggy messes. This lead many people to bash New Vegas for it's myriad of issues and hold it in contrast to the sparkling Fallout 3. This studio reputation was damning the game many months before release by reputable podcasts like Uncle Gamer and Joystiq.
And then the game dropped and much to no ones surprise, had a huge list of issues. "This never happened in Fallout 3," gamers on the interwebs cried. Indeed, Fallout 3 was the magical piece of code with no issues at all and New Vegas was a blemish, tarnishing a franchise yet again and proving Obsidian should be shuttered.
Actually, no. When Fallout 3 dropped, it was a horrific piece of buggy shit, just like Oblivion before it. It was prone to hardcrashing, glitching, characters spawning in the wrong place, broken quests, broken cities, and even cheating players out of cheevos. Let's not even speak of the horrors of the PS3 version. Anytime this seemed to fix itself and Fallout 3 became stable again, out comes new DLC with a fresh batch of broken shit. MAYBE by the time New Vegas came out, Fallout 3 was finally stable and fixed, but it took MANY, MANY, MANY patches, and a devout modding community on the PC, to get it there. New Vegas having issues is more true to Bethesda's studio reputation than gamers are willing to admit.
2010's Resurrection Of A Genre That Didn't Fucking Die In The First Place
Sometimes a genre "dies." Gamers don't pay attention, a couple titles bomb, and we're all ready to say it's gone. Despite Soul Calibur, Tekken, and MK vs DC success, gamers claim fighting games died and Street Fighter IV saved it.
Delusional thought at the time, but this year it was Driving Games turn. You see, Motorstorm 2 didn't do phenominally well despite being a great game, nor did Forza 3. Blur and Split/Second straight up bombed and we all asked "why is this genre dead and what does this mean for Gran Turismo 5?" At the time, I was calling gamers morons considering Mario Kart was still doing well and Forza 3 and Motorstorm were both secretly consistant sellers (Gamers have an "Off of NPDs, out of mind" mentality). Going into the Holiday Season, GT5 and Hot Pursuit were supposed to tank...
This is were I point at all of you idiots, from both gaming journalists to gaming enthusiasts. I say this because that GT5:Prologue has to date sold over 4 million copies not including PSN sales (Which Sony won't disclose), despite being a glorified demo. Fact of the matter is, the genre wasn't dead. It was just waiting for it's heroes. Both Hot Pursuit and GT5 are doing phenominally well and every journalist who ever publicly stated "But how relevant is GT nowadays, is it REALLY going to do the numbers Sony needs" needs to be beaten for having been so out of touch with an industry they are PAID to follow. Driving games were NOT under threat at any point, and this notion was just as stupid when it was expressed over Fighting Games when Soul Calibur IV was a 3+ million seller.
2010's Everything You Do Is Wrong In Every Way Device
For gamers with an axe to grind and an amazing talent to remain blissfully ignorant, 2010 was a banner fucking year in the PSP house. Of course it's been that way since 2005 but 2010 was especially brutal. If you're a PSP supporter or fan, don't bother to respond. You see, the less you publicly admit you enjoy the console, the better. When reviewers have a common practice of bashing the console in it's opening line, we've jumped a shark from merest complaints to open contempt.
Of course Sony is not guiltless in this regard. They botched the PSP Go, and constantly advertised their failure in 2010 rather than move on and focus on the 3000s. No, they really didn't but gaming journalists with rants constantly bashed hardware even Sony took out of the limelight and these same asshats loved pointing out the Go dropped out of campaigns. Of course 2010 provided absolutely no new games on the hardware worth playing despite several favorably reviewed games this year and ending up being arguably the best JRPG system of the year.
Gamers are guilty of this as well. It's a universally accepted fact that PSP sucks and all PSP games suck with it. The hardware is terrible, the games blow, and it's not designed for "portable gaming," whatever the fuck that means considering up until the minigame collections, neither was any other Nintendo handheld. Nothing Sony can do with the PSP hardware or games will ever be praised or even mentioned with anything other than contempt. Hell, it's just the cool thing on message boards and forums and it's the height of cool making it your Live sig. If you have the device, keep it in the closet because EVERYTHING it does is wrong.
2010's Failure To Live Up To Imaginary Standards
Samus from Metroid
Nintendo is one of those names that remains immune from criticism. From ignoring their digital platforms to focusing their upcoming 3DS on exactly the same kinds of games that made PSP a horrible portable system, Nintendo is beyond reproach. Nothing short of using Club Nintendo information to order surgical orbital deathray strikes to every Platinum Level super fan could blemish their reputation. In fact, among those emerging from the charred ruins, many will praise how their GBAs survived the attack, though their immediate family did not. Yes, Nintendo is beyond question and infallable, unless they mess with one of their characters.
In Other M, Samus gained a voice, a backstory that wasn't for the birds, and a game focusing on her character depth and history and WE DID NOT LIKE THAT. You see, somewhere along the lines, Grrl Gamerz started to relate to Samus because she was a strong female lead character that it supposedly wasn't important that she was a female. Naturally Team Ninja was at fault when she ultimately could not live up to such lofty standards, except Nintendo themselves wrote the story of Samus's past and vulnerabilities and fully approved this chapter since it was intended cannon since the beginning. But hell, we need someone to blame for our misunderstanding of the character.
Yes, Morgan Webb, misunderstanding. You see, your pillar of female strength and unwillingness to bend to a man's will was 100% fabrication. The fact that Samus was female at all was a striptease reveal. How good and fast you beat the game directly related to how naked you can get the bitch. Even as the series grew, how naked was usually the reward. Even in the Metroid Fusion, your success changed how seductive the scrolling imagery was. All this was even before Zero Suit Samus which was essentially "Check out my hot bod and blonde pigtail... it's blonde now, not green hair since you round eyes hate Japan all the sudden" Samus. Facing facts, this illusion you've all built up is about as reasonable as claiming Blade in Marvel was anything other than Blackspoitation when it started. So naturally when the illusion comes down, it's all Team Ninja's fault that you've constructed, and defined yourself as people, around a lie.
2010's This Is Why We Hate You, Japan
Final Fantasy XIII
While many an Xbox 360 fan accuses iPhone Toting, McDonalds Eating, Devo Loving, Levi Wearing Japan of Xenophobia, we round eyes have made a passion sport of hating Japanese games and Eastern Development in general. With anti Japan generals like Arthur Geese heading up nonsensical and hypocritical rants the likes of which we haven't seen since Superman implored us to "Slap a Jap with War Bonds," we needed our yearly "Why Japan Sucks" showcase. Fortunately SquareEnix was all too willing to offer it.
For those uninitiated, imagine a game that feels like Final Fantasy X. You have a straight path you follow as the story unfolds right before you get a field at the end to explore before ending the game. Despite this being the format even as far back as the first (I can't explore X because I don't have/know Y but apparently I wasn't on rails... just stupid), this was but only a fraction of the crimes FFXIII commited. In fact, as you read many of the lower reviews, it becomes more and more apparent the biggest crimes FFXIII is guilty of is actually BEING a JRPG.
Which is where everything breaks down. You see, us western gamers have our own little genre's we refuse to break traditions from. For example, look at the First Person Shooter. We CLAIM they've changed, but have they really? Well no, because everytime someone tries to change it, we make sure it doesn't sell. Western Developers are every bit as piss awful scared of change as Japanese Developers and yet we've sold ourself the notion of "same old shit from Japan" by sacrificing one of the few JRPG franchises actively attempting to change the way JRPG traditions have refused to budge for 15 years. And if you need anymore evidence of this, just look at the critical responses of DraQue IX. Amazing how a game that's steeped in very Japanese gaming theory and traditions is treated well and yet FFXIII is horrible and the very symbol of why Japanese Game Developers are stagnating traditionalist.
2010's Best Tonal Quality Of Gaming Journalism
If you followed gaming news this last year, it was among the most schitzophrenic mood swings since Dr. Dre said Lindsey Lohan "might have a problem." Throughout the year, all game systems, including OnLive, were both in "big trouble" and on top of the world. Every single one. This included the Android and iPhone. Think about that polar extreme for a minute. Nintendo Wii, depending on it's month, had either it's best or worst year this year. A slight slump in sales was the dooming of a platform. Frankly speaking, gaming journalism as a whole has sunken further into the Daily Mail trend of shock titles to no news articles.
Now imagine if you're a game developer in this environment. You say something, it gets chopped and sensationalized, and suddenly your game is under fire for saying something with all the context removed. While this negative hit has hurt the credibility of your studio and the 50+ people who work hard there to create entertainment, at least Jim Sterling or Brian Crescente got a 100+ comment post out of it. I'm sure that's the part that makes the texture artist on her 58th hour this week working on road textures can hang her hat, stating it's all worth it. Being a part of the games industry with no real sense of responsibility must be among the best feelings in the world.
Among the more amusing aspects of this "trend" is the sheer lack of any real work required. If something is wrong or unknown, slap a "rumor" label on it. If it all turns out to be bullshit, hey, we're not responsible, it was a RUMOR. Most of gaming journalism of today is held to this no consequence standard. Many of the journos in the industry today don't even have a sense of humility or ability to debate their stance. Instead, we receive sarcastic rants about how we're all stupid and they are better, not entirely different from the same kind of reaction Daily Mail gives when they get caught in a blatant lie. As much as I wish we could blame this all solely on the journalist, it's gamers ultimately at fault. Like a shitty moral system in a video game, gamers demand a stark black and white. We hold the controllers to our media and we demand sensationalistic spectaculars to sate our bloodlust.
2010's Best Sudden Turnaround
This generation of handhelds, a new concept was introduced. What makes a "good portable game." This notion never existed until this war. For example, Link's Awakening or Metroid 2 were never dinged as being "Horrible Portable Games" despite the prolonged activity required to play them. GBA featured many 40+ hour RPGs and emphasized bringing SNES era gaming experiences on the go. For RPG players, it meant Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, Castlevania, etc. For Platformer fans, it had the best Sonic game in years, Mario platformers, among others. GBA was a great system for me and many other gamers BECAUSE it had games that defied the concept of what makes a good portable game.
Nintendo DS changed this. Suddenly minigames and short exercises in gameplay were considered fully featured and excellent portable games. The depth was disappearing and we didn't care. Chief among the PSP's crimes was focusing on the type of library that made GBA so great (which, to this day, leads me to be bashed whenever I say PSP is my fav handheld this generation). This has essentially lead to the further degredation of what is considered a full featured game. Nintendo, frankly, cannot compete with $.99 iApps and thankfully they don't want to.
When 3DS was debuted, many marveled at the hardware. For a PSP fan, it's a mild step up in graphics so it's not THAT mindblowing. I was paying attention to something else. MGS3, SFIV, MK, DOA, Kid Icarus, Dynasty Warriors, Zelda, Paper Mario, Starfox, Resident Evil, Pilotwings, getting the picture yet? Those are NOT what we've been sold as a "Good Portable Game." There isn't a "Tilt the screen to navigate a maze" game to be found. Why I'm excited for the 3DS is it looks like, at last, they're refocusing on the hardcore gamer.
LOOK WHO CAME: