It’s probably a bad idea
Writing “Best of the Year” lists makes me feel pretentious and self-aggrandizing. That’s probably because these lists operate under the pretense that the writer is able to both assess an entire year’s worth of games and make some sort of absolute judgement about them all. Just picture if I stood alone on a public street yelling things like “The Missing was 2018’s the most exciting surprise in gaming, unlike the Tetris Effect, which was unsurprisingly great! DO YOU HEAR ME?!? I WAS NOT SURPRISED BY THE FACT THAT I STILL LIKE TETRIS! LOOK AT ME NOW AND THINK ABOUT HOW I STILL FEEL ABOUT TETRIS!!!”
That would be a pretty annoying thing for me to do, and definitely not the best way to present myself as an ally to your “Average Joe.” Yet most people’s Game of the Year lists have a humble, every-man vibe to them. We all want to share our experiences with our peers, and we all hope that people will relate to our perspectives. In that way, Game of the Year lists are sort of like singing karaoke. Sure, you’re putting the spotlight on yourself, but it’s a spotlight that we can all relate to.
On the other hand, making a list of all the video games you appeared in that year is definitely NOT a way to endear yourself to pretty much anyone, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m even going to point out how some, if not all, of these games probably would have been better off without me. In all the ways that your average Game of the Year list is relatable-but-self-indulgent, this one will be alienating-and-self-loathing.
I hope you enjoy it.
The term “Hopepunk” is getting throw around a lot these days and people have feelings about that. I guess the trend towards movies, games, and TV shows that are defiantly optimistic and empathetic needed to be summed up some way or another, but it’s sort of depressing that stories that are about believing in good are outliers. Hopefully the trend will continue to grow until it becomes the norm.
The success of Wandersong, a game about smiling and singing in the face of the pending apocalypse, gives us cause to believe that the world may be slowly becoming a better place anyway, day-to-day garbage be damned. As I was playing through it, I almost didn’t notice that the candy shop in the second level has my last name on it. After finishing the game, I followed up with the game’s creator to discover that the candy shop was in fact named after me, inspired in part by our excellent conversation on Sup Holmes all those years ago.
But is Holmes Sweets the best name for this candy shop? Wouldn’t something like “Steews Sweets” have been more whimsical and clever, fitting to the game’s smart and cute nature? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I for one will always worry that this small nod to me will have somehow diminished its power to change the world. But I hope not!
That’s Destructoid’s robot mascot, former Destructoid writer and Podtoid cast member Conrad Zimmerman, and myself hanging out in the opening cinematic of Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe. It’s a great likeness of my face a few years ago, before I needed glasses and male pattern baldness had fully taken hold. The three of us also end up dead in game’s opening tutorial. So while this version of me may look better, he didn’t live as long, so I guess that’s some small consolation.
These cameos were also present in the not-as-deluxe Steam version of the game from 2014, which did not sell as quickly as the deluxe port on Switch and PS4 from this year. That may be because this later version features a boss who is a cross between former Destructoid reviews editor Jim Sterling and Dutch from the Alien vs. Predator beat-’em-up from the ’90s. While my cameo alone didn’t do much to help with sales, my efforts to wrangle my old friend Big Chungus into the game was much more effective. So I guess I can feel good about that.
Here’s yet another game that features Jim Sterling and myself, this time as voice actors. In fact, as of late 2017, I played not one, not two, but four characters in the game: the Fro Yo food truck vendor, the doorman at a bar called Stardust, a bouncer in the bar, and a random guy named “Parallax Block AN-19 Security Guard.” I did my best to make all the voices sound different, and from what I heard, no one could tell they were all me. The Fro Yo guy was especially well received, getting a fair amount of laughs out of various reviewers and lets players.
Just imagine my shock when I found out a few weeks ago that they had replaced the bulk of my audio with new performances from popular cute man ProZD. I can see why they went in that direction though. ProZD is tough to beat. Still, the feeling of being patched out of a game, like I was a poorly implemented hit box or a game-crashing bug, was not great.
Still, compared to some of the many, many other stories of the working conditions that the dev team suffered while making the game, my gripes about being cut out after the fact are small change at best. Also, they did leave in my riveting read on the character of “Parallax Block AN-19 Security Guard” (which you can hear yourself in the video above), so I guess I wasn’t all bad. One thing’s for sure, hearing your voice come out of the speakers of a Switch console is definitely a treat, even if you sound like a poor man’s Danny DeVito. Which I do.
[Screenshot care of Laurence Phillips]
Notice a trend? While I have appeared in way more games than I rightly deserve, it’s almost always with the caveat that Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman appear alongside with me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our time together on Podotid, then The Dismal Jesters, was a highlight of my life, mostly because of our fans. They are the most creative, inspiring, and endearingly unbalanced people I’ve had the pleasure to call an audience. The reams of fan art, videos, and other tributes that they’ve created over the years is staggering, not to mention 100% more entertaining than any podcast I’ve ever been on. In fact, just a few months ago, one of those videos ended up getting seven million plus views on Facebook. Whoever said that we don’t get to choose what other people will or won’t appreciate about us sure wasn’t kidding.
I just wish Pool Panic, whose lead artist is a big Dismal Jester’s fan, would have sold as well. It’s a huge game, consistently funny, challenging without being oppressive, and works great both alone or with multiplayer. Was my weird face to blame for its lack of blockbuster status? Probably not this time, as I’m far from the first thing you see when you boot it up. Still, if Pool Panic were a free online game, it probably could have been the next Fortnite.
Or maybe it wouldn’t have. It’s hard to say.
Did you know that Fortnite‘s senior PR guy used to be Destructoid’s Editor-in-Chief? He’s a really wonderful person too. I’m glad he didn’t put me in Fortnite though because then I would have to worry about if I ruined it or not. Also, I have never played Fortnite, and I’d feel weird being in a game that I’ve never played.
This one is kind of a stretch, but I’m still happy and worried about it, so I put it on the list. About 20 years ago, I was part of Kaiju Big Battel, a self-made monster wrestling outfit that hails from the Boston area. I was lucky enough to sing and wrestle with them, playing three characters on an off-and-on basis: Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle, Dusto Bunny, and an original creation of my own called Beefy ‘Le Ox. Beefy. He was a college Minotaur whose horns were actually detachable nunchaku. I thought he was pretty cool. He died about a year after he was born.
Still, with video games, you never know when the dead may come back to life. I don’t think many would have expected Kaiju Big Battel to survive into 2018, let alone with its own game on Steam. Playing a new RPG costarring the weird little rabbit monster that I once embodied made me giddy. Even if I had no personal connection to it, I’d definitely enjoy it, because it’s also a good game. It has a free demo if you want to see for yourself.
But I do have a personal connection to it, and therefore, any coverage, or worse, praise that I might have for Kaiju Big Battel: Fighto Fantasy might be considered “biased,” which in turn could lead to bad actors attacking its creators for “colluding” with me.
Once again, my passive, tangential involvement with a game worked to make its chances of success ever so slightly worse. Gosh darn it, why does being a part-time hobbyist video game blogger have to be so dang precarious!
I was sure this one was going to blow up. They got the original Jax from Mortal Kombat to sign on, and he looks better than ever. Ernie Reyes Jr. from The Last Dragon even jumped on board. But of course, “The Holmes Curse” struck again. The game didn’t make its relatively low Kickstarter goals, and now its development remains in limbo.
Was it my fault? It’s definitely possible. While the Two Best Friends gang played the demo, one of them (I think it’s Mike?) sounded happy to see me in there as “The Toasty Guy,” while the other two sounded more annoyed than anything else.
Then a few months later, they broke up.
I really do destroy everything I touch, don’t I?
Anyway, the demo is still free to download from its Kickstarter page, so Super Combat Fighter is technically a game that exists for you to play right now, even if it only has two characters. I think it shows a lot of promise, and I hope it still has a chance to make it someday. If they need to cut me out in order to find success, I won’t be hurt. I’ll always have these screenshots to remember my glory days by.
This one I didn’t see coming. I contributed to the Indie G Zine, a book sold on Fangamer, which was published by Monster Prom‘s Creative Director Julian Quijano, but other than that, I have no connection to this game. Did I talk to Julian about the project in some helpful way at some point and I totally forgot about it? Did I help connect him with someone who helped him make the game as good as it is? I have no idea. The only thing I know for sure is that I like the game, and Arin Hanson is great as the teen wolf. I’m also happy that it was something of a hit.
So maybe the trick for game developers is to only keep me in the Special Thanks of their games, and make sure to include as much of famous animator, commentator, and actor Arin Hanson in the production as you can, as his glorious presence works as a sort of antidote to my middle-aged, washed-up, bedraggled poisonous presence? I guess that makes sense.
Anyway, I have to go walk my dog now, so I have to wrap this up. Thanks for reading this post everybody, and thanks in general to 2018; a year when I appeared, in one form or another, in at least seven whole video games. What a nice thing for me. I hope nice things happened to you this year too.