Make no mistake, despite the rather pessimistic tone of this article's title, 2013 was a GREAT year for gaming. On top of several excellent games such as Bioshock: Infinite, The Last of Us, and Tomb Raider there were also two seemingly successful console launches. The 3DS had a strong year with a new Fire Emblem, Pokemon, and Zelda all releasing while the indie scene continues to pump out quality content covering almost every style of game imaginable.
However, 2013 also had some rather dark moments attached to it. Broken promises, studio closures, and extremely disastrous launches all plagued last year. An industry that claims it wants to be taken more seriously keeps demonstrating a Peter Pan mentality over and over again with petty name calling on all sides of any discussion derailing any real chance of change. All of this darkened what should have been a banner year for games.
2013 was paved in gold, but the tarnished spots need to be highlighted in hopes that 2014 will be even better. I'll be showing off some of those moments in hopes that they can be avoided in the future.
Bullshots! The Lies Behind Aliens: Colonial Marines
There is absolutely no nice way of saying this. Gearbox sold the consumer something that was not advertised. The atrocity that was the game itself is only matched by how deceptive the trailers were. I've gone off on how terrible the game was and how nothing was near the quality of what was promised. Using high-res shots and "gameplay" that is unable to be replicated for the normal player is common in the industry, but Gearbox took this to the next level with its extremely immoral advertising.
The thing to take away from all of this? Don't buy into the hype of anything. Resist the buy it now, play it later pre-order culture that has been fostered over the years. These days, short of a small handful of releases, nothing will be sold out and if it is, it will be back on the shelf in days. It costs nothing to wait to verify what a company is telling you.
The Never-Ending Penny Arcade Controversy
Make it stop!
It no longer matters who is right or wrong about this. Both sides have dragged this down into the muck and the supporters on each side have devolved into rabid dogs. Once vicious death-threats and insults start being tossed about casually by both sides, it stops becoming a debate and turns into a third-grade playground fight.
What could have been a legitimate, teachable moment about sensitivity vs. political correctness has become a clusterfuck of callousness and arrogance all around. When people start having their heads shoved so far up their asses they can taste they own breakfast, it's time to move on.
If you want to have a real discussion, then have respect for the opposing side and, for the love of god, understand that sometimes people will never see things your way. It's going to be alright, your life will go on if someone disagrees with you.
On-Line Server Woes
Meanwhile, at EA...
So EA is the clear target here with both SimCity and Battlefield 4 having MAJOR issues at launch stretching weeks past the first day. Companies will try to explain these away with spin claiming that it's due to how well the game is selling and that the game is so popular they couldn't anticipate the server load.
Let me make this perfectly clear. These are no longer valid excuses in this day and age.
A major publisher like EA or Take-Two, who also suffered launch issues with Grand Theft Auto Online, knows full well at least ballpark estimates as to how well a game will do before it comes out. They have the ability to perform massive stress tests and make sure that any problems at launch are kept to a minimum as well as years of botched launches in the past to learn from.
The real culprit is a justifiable fear of their stock prices dropping from delaying any AAA game more than a week or two to address these problems. The result is that they launch what's essentially an "early access" game, still in beta, filled with game-breaking bugs in the form of disconnects, server crashes, and lost progress.
Releasing a buggy game to the public is infuriating, but then lying to me about it with spin trying to tell me the reason is that your game is selling so well insults my intelligence and is a lame attempt at an apology for ripping off a day-one buyer. No more. This idea of "ship it now, patch it later" needs to stop NOW.
Joel McHale's Blatant Disdain for the VGX Awards
"Just give me my God damn check, Keighley"
If there was one thing to take away from the VGX, it was how much of a professional Geoff Keighley is. Only a true pro would be able to put up with what an ass Joel McHale was during the entire show.
McHale spent the entirety of the show making fun of everyone ranging from the guests, to the viewers, to Keighley himself in a style that went far beyond simple comedic riffing to outright offensive. Insulting and insufferable, McHale was clearly here for an easy payday and made sure everyone knew it.
Microsoft's Xbox One Reveal
It takes a lot to unite the entire gaming community but Microsoft pulled off this feat with its Xbox One reveal conference. A overwhelming "Hell no!" was collectively screamed out in terror by multiple media outlets and gamers in general.
With its need to "check-in" through an internet connection every 24 hours, the always-on Kinect, used game restrictions, and the inability to play games on different consoles the Xbox One quickly became the punchline to several jokes and memes on the internet. Even Sony was unable to resist poking fun at their biggest competitor, themselves having been on the other end with their own lackluster E3 conference when the PS3 was first shown.
All of this combined with several mixed messages from Microsoft executives in the days that followed as well as former Microsoft Studios creative director Adam Orth's "deal with it" comment only angered the already upset fan base. The outrage was so great that Microsoft even reversed some of its policies before launch.
I've come not to bury 2013, but to praise it. The good far outweighed the bad and anyone who claims 2013 sucked for gaming needs to re-examine their priorities. However, that said, it was far from perfect.
As spiraling development costs lead publishers and developers to push out broken or extremely restrictive products, the public needs to be ever watchful to call companies out on their patronizing bullshit and demand to be respected as consumers.
Gamers need to realize that this is a two way street, though. If people want companies to treat them like adults then they need to ACT like adults. This asinine, horrifying need to not just disagree with, but to destroy anyone and anything that someone might not like needs to stop. There will never be anything that is acceptable to everyone. Everyone has different lines and there is room to discuss where they are, but let's keep the conversations civil and not let it turn into a flame war.
As 2014 starts I'm sure there will be a fair share of controversy, but lets at least try to show a bit of humanity about it.
Capitalistpig (Steven Brown) is someone who thinks he knows WAY more than he actually does about gaming and isn't afraid to share that with the world. You can follow him on Twitterif you want to hear more of his ranting.