If you've been a gamer for a while, chances are you've experienced two of the best years in gaming: 1999 and 2006. People seem to agree that in those two years, games were at their peak.
1999 was a revolutionary time. 3D graphics were developing into something a bit more visually stimulating and less jaggy, and high-quality game design was at its height.
We got so many brilliant games that year, like Silent Hill, Super Smash Bros, System Shock 2, Counter-Strike, Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater, Soul-Calibur, Resident Evil 3, Pokemon Snap, and Quake 3. The Dreamcast would also release in that year, and while technically not part of 1999, Deus Ex and Half-Life both entered the scene around that time.
Shortly after 1999, we stopped seeing RPG-heavy action games for a while.
I would've been pretty young during that time, so I can't say I remember that year with fond nostalgia. However, the effects of 1999 on the gaming world were indescribable. Horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill were exploding, and would continue for some time. It's also hard to remember a time before Activision kickflipped Tony Hawk into the ground, but that was a franchise with weight.
And that's all without discussing Quake 3. While it wasn't the first game with online multiplayer, or even the first Quake game with that feature, the fact that a game could release without a single-player was pretty groundbreaking at the time. Even now it seems like games need to tack on a short-fluffy solo campaign to justify the $60-80 price tag, so to make a move against that back in the 90s was pretty bold. Quake 3 still has a community developed around it today, and is seemingly getting some kind of a revival in Quake Champions.
So let's fast forward seven years. It's now 2006. Now this was my jam.
It's so goddam good...
Chances are there's at least a handful of games are on your favourites list. Just a year behind we got the amazing Resident Evil 4, and a year later we would get BioShock.
That was the year the PS3 was released and the Xbox 360 was really kicking into gear. The new hardware wasn't just being used to make technically impressive games, it was being used to make good games.
While the Source Engine seems pretty tame nowadays, some of Half-Life 2's set-pieces were a sight to behold.
Again, while there were plenty of games released after those two dates that set the gaming world ablaze, those two years seemed to not only be the most influential, but the most fondly remembered years in gaming culture.
And it seems 2016 might be one of those years.
After 2006 the indie scene really started to kick off, and so I will be including some indie games on this list. While nothing in the indie scene was as explosive as Braid or Undertale, there are a bunch of titles worth noting.
And just from April we have all of this down below. This is where it gets really good!
Holy shit there are some fantastic games on that list. I can't claim I've played most of them, but all of them were critically received and received some kind of following.
We saw shooters come back and become fun again. The cold days of bland-military shooters are now long gone, and instead we have colourful shooters with a wonderful sense of movement, skill and weapons that feel great to use. We got new experimental games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes which helped sell people on VR, or Pokemon GO, which even Nintendo didn't anticipate exploding the way it did.
I have no clue what's going on in this screenshot, but given how popular Overwatch got I'm sure most people do.
Dark Souls 3 spelled the finale for the Souls series and the introduction of the next chapter of From Software. Dishonoured and Deus Ex reintroduced the world to the immersive sim genre. Hitman revitalized an IP no one thought could be revived in a way no one expected to be this good. Mobile games became a cultural force and VR actually had games.
2016 may have been a really, really shitty year, but in terms of gaming, we haven't had a year this good since 2006. It wasn't perfect though, and it never will be. Dishonoured, Deus Ex and Titanfall likely did not meet the sales figures necessary to see sequels, which sucks. Then we got the PS4 Pro, which risks dividing the console community. We also had a lot of Nintendo fan games pulled and Youtube is still being a dick to its content creators, which puts the livelihoods of so many Lets Players at risk.
Games journalism was also given a forceful push off the sidewalk when Bethesda said it will no longer give review copies to games journalists, preferring to give struggling Youtubers who are easier to control early access to their games. It's nothing games journalists can't adapt to, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out for Bethesda. I'm willing to bet this new policy of theirs doesn't last too long.
Like I said, no year is perfect, even for games. But we got a lot of fantastic releases that went back to gaming's roots: making games that connect with people and entertain them. Overwatch built a community and a strong lineup of diverse characters, DOOM made shooting fun again and Pokemon made people live healthier lives. In 2016 it's good to be a gamer.
2017 is going to be rough. A lot of people are relieved now that 2016 is over, but I don't think it's going to get better. The world has a lot of shit to sort through, including but not limited to:
But we'll get through this, and we'll be stronger for it. As a community and as a world, we'll make games that don't just unite people, or provide valuable escapism, but that change people's lives for the better. That's the power of games, and 2016 was such a good example of that. So let's move into 2017 with great expectations for what's to come, on our televisions, monitors, phones, headsets and otherwise.
And have a happy new year folks!