The Japanese know what's up, the number 4 really is cursed. This year has been both my fourth year writing reviews on Destructoid and also my worst experience as a human being yet. And that's ignoring the general 2020 shittiness that you are all so intimately familiar with. I'm just talking about personal things that got so bad they ate into my blog productivity.
About half of it is my fault, as my bad habits finally caught up to me after I finished my review of Tales of Xillia in June (Which is a shame, since I wanted to finish up the Tales series this year and do a retrospective). I am a stubborn man who has operated beyond his limits for quite a while now, so when my wrists and fingers complained, I would just ignore it to keep up my writing/gaming.
But there came a point where even I couldn't ignore things anymore and put a hard break on gaming and writing outside of really low-energy games like visual novels (much like my writing hiatus in 2019 due to my research paper). It wasn't Carpal Tunnel syndrome, but I can only assume that I got really close to it. My hands got very stiff and swollen and it sucked!
One reason it got so bad as it did is because the desk I had been using up to that point was a piece of shit table with a keyboard slot nailed onto it. And my old chair wasn't much better. Thankfully, I got a new desk/chair combo, which was good enough to get me through a remote internship during Summer in spite of the damage. Don't underestimate the power of good furniture!
That was my self-afflicted suffering, which really sucked for a video game enthusiast such as myself. It got me to watch Tiger Mask W though, which makes me happy, as that show is amazing. It even has a sub-plot about physical rehabilitation, which really resonated with me. Of course, I only resonated with that part of the show so much thanks to what fate had in store for me at the end of Summer.
Come the end of July, me and my brother got sick, and naturally went to take COVID-19 tests immediately. Both were thankfully negative, but my suffering had only just begun. Due to what I can only assume is some unholy malady synergy, the right side of my lower back became really sore. I assumed that was COVID-19 muscle ache, but now I think the cold/influenza/whatever-the-fuck-it-was exploited some minor back ache I'd accrued sitting so much at home (thanks for that, pandemic).
So for a while, I couldn't even lie down without hurting, nevermind sit at a desk for long. Even went down to my leg a little bit. It healed eventually, but good god was it a dark time for me. I also got a baffling headache of varying intensity that still hasn't left me 4 months later! Post-infection symptoms are no joke. Had I actually gotten COVID-19, I can only assume I'd have suffered brain damage on top of all that.
Now, all that is manageable, but still not gone. I can play anything aside from button-mashy action games without my hands complaining much, my lower back flared up after I played too many FPSes with keyboard & mouse recently (and thankfully let up after I took a break from them) and my head still feels off in a way I can't really explain properly. It's like the weakest possible headache that sometimes grow into something a little bit worse.
I haven't made a full recovery yet, but I think I'll get there eventually. I've taken this as a reason to get my shit together, so I've extended my exercise routine (I can do 20 push-ups now!), stopped gaming on Sundays and put in break reminders on my laptop for every 30 minutes. This year has been a wake-up call in many ways and one would be a fool not to learn something from it.
Anyways, lets talk video games.
After my killer writing year in 2018 and my hiatus riddled year in 2019, I decided to cut down on review output this year to give myself a week's break every month and to make room for more random blogs of almost topical nature. And seeing as I still overextended myself a few months after making that decision, I can only imagine what would have happened had I continued putting out a review a week.
I've written about Flash video game culture during the early 00s, the last season of Symphogear, PC gaming like a console peasant, how RE4 and God Hand are the same game with different things put into focus, why Platinum Trophies suck, my time as a child exploiting visits to classmates to play more games and how I came to enjoy mature content in games. I still have my GotY blog to write, but that's for January next year where it belongs.
Overall, I'm happy with the diversity of the stuff I've written. Some blogs were personal, while others are just the result of weird thoughts I've had during the year. Would have been nice to have written more random blogs this year, but maybe I can manage that next year.
Looking over the games I've reviewed, I'd say I've managed to make it a diverse bunch both new and old. RPGs, shooters, platformers, an immersive sim and even weird stuff like all of the Patapon games. I didn't get to write about everything I wanted for obvious reasons, but I wouldn't say I've been lazy with picks aside from the R&C and Patapon games, which took up three slots each.
Interestingly enough, only the mainline Ratchet games managed to score "Great" this year. That wasn't my intent, but that's where I ended up. It's one of my favourite franchises, so it's not that surprising. And I didn't score anything as "Trash" this year. While I have played some garbage I could rip into this year, I didn't have the proper material or motivation to do so.
The low end of my scale is reserved for games that anger me on multiple levels, much like how the top end is reserved for games with flaws barely worth mentioning. They have to be special, so I should probably lay off the Ratchet games for a while so I don't keep repeating myself. They are good in an emergency though, which is why I did 2 in December.
That was actually 1 of 3 theme months I did this year, after only having planned to do one, which was 4 horror games in October. In order to make the most of the month, I released my limiters to get 4 reviews out, all of which turned out well. Continuing on from last year, I'm making steady progress through the Fatal Frame, Siren and MediEvil games. If all goes to plan, I'll finish up all three franchises next October. Not sure what to replace them with aside from Resident Evil and Silent Hill games, but I'll figure something out.
For November, I wanted to write about my experience with mature games, so to prepare, I made the theme of November's reviews the seventh-gen shooters that relate to that topic. It felt great to revisit Uncharted 1 and put into words why the series doesn't work for me. As such, I don't feel the need to write about it anymore. Resistance 1 surprised me with how difficult it is compared to what I remembered. Thankfully, those games are different enough that I can get some material out of the sequels. I really wanna get to Retribution so I can sing its praises.
December being all about Ratchet & Clank was really just out of practicality, as the games are short and I know them well. Still, putting Size Matters under the critical eye was disheartening, as the game is worse than I want it to be. I think I liked it so since it translates the gameplay to a portable system pretty well all things considered, but it falls short in some critical ways.
Next year, I'm planning on maintaining an output of 2 reviews and a random topic each month, but should I run out of general topics I'll probably switch to 3 reviews a month. We'll see how long the current plan lasts. There will probably be some theme months here and there, but it's pretty difficult to think of a good topic and to then find two interesting games that have a link to the topic.
Games-wise, I don't have any specific goals beyond finishing off the Tales series (assuming my hands are back in tip-top condition before long) and doing a write-up on them and finishing those aforementioned horror games in October. I have 199 potential games to review in my list, so I'm not exactly at wit's end just yet, but I haven't looked over that list in ages, so I think a few of those aren't as easy to review as I'd want them to be.
I've burned through a bunch of backlog games this year and found most of them ill-suited for reviews, so I think the same will hold through for some games I thought would be interesting back when I compiled that list. Doing this as a hobby and not as a job lends me a lot of leeway where professional reviewers have none. I think my brain would try relocate if I had to write about yearly sportsgames or whatever drivel Ubisoft has deemed worthy of existance lately.
As always, here's a list of all the games I covered this year, with links to each one. Consider this blog your last chance to talk about any of these games with me, since most of the Disqus threads are locked already and checking old ones suck. I really wish I could subscribe to a thread and get notifications. Anyways, I'm sure there's at least one game in this list worth a comment or two. But that's for you to decide.
And if you're curious about the other games I've reviewed, here's a link to the other summaries I've written. The links there are probably out of date by now (I think Destructoid archives blogs after a while and changes the URL), so you'll need do a web search of my name, "Traveller In Playtime" and the name of the game and to read them. Or just scroll through the blog section of my profile and read everything in reverse chronological order. But even I think doing that is crazy, even if I'd appreciate the attention. I got some good stuff buried down there that's worth a read.
Here's to another year of inane ramblings on the best gaming site there is. Stay weird, Destructoid.