I was sitting on the couch, trying to decide whether I should continue my Office re-watch, give Tomb Raider more time, or go play Syndicate (the actual shooter, not Assassin’s Creed.) As I sat with my conundrum, I decided to reflect. 2015 has been quite the year for me. My wife, Lisa, was deployed, and I quit my job, of teaching to go to seminary. It’s been quite the transition, and there were of course moments of being down or being filled with anxiety. However, this year has been filled with huge distractions in the form of one of the best years we’ve ever seen in video games. It honestly could end up being one of my top three of all time. Now before you freak out and start screaming other years (2011, 1997, 2003, etc), I just think it was one of the best. Also, it’s been filled with some news stories in the medium that will affect us in the years to come. So, I decided that we would go through the year, to a degree, and how this year will be to be remembered for the wonderful world of video games.
Let’s first start off with the big news stories that seemed to be coming non-stop this year. We found out that VR may actually be a worthy investment. I’ve made it known, on the podcast, how I feel about VR, but in short; I think it’s an incredible possibility that I will probably really invest in because of the lack of perception of the room that I’m in. With that said, I’ll probably buy one the moment it comes out just out of sheer curiosity. I was just jacked to find out that the games seem really awesome and innovative even if the demos on stage may look ridiculous.
Next, another big piece is probably the loss of Satoru Iwata. The man is an incredible story of hard work and kindness. I wasn’t a Nintendo kid growing up, and the first Nintendo system I actually even owned was an N64 that I bought in college almost 11 years ago. However, I’ve always loved the games made by them, and I have known who Iwata was since he took over in 2002. The man had a joy about himself and a kindness you rarely see from leaders of major companies. Between the questions that he was never afraid to answer, and the fact that he allowed himself to become a puppet, the man was a beacon of happiness for a company that has been the embodiment of Joy since many of us were in diapers. Yes, some of us are old. His passing may not cause Nintendo to stumble, and they may prosper from this day forward even more than they ever have. Nonetheless, Iwata will be a legend in gaming, for me at least, forever.
Now comes one story that I have been invested in and following ever since we heard grumbles about the two not getting along: Kojima vs Konami. It felt like a break up of your two high school friends. We first hear of rumblings that they may not be getting along, and we wave it off because we’ve heard it before. Then, we hear that Kojima is making his last game of Metal Gear. “Ha! I’ve heard that one before. They’ll sleep it off, listen to some Ed Sheeren and be fine.” So we keep going assuming that they will figure it out because fighting is just what they do. Then, the crap hit the proverbial fan when he heard that Kojima wasn’t going to be on the box of his “final” game. That one made all of us do a double take, but then some still said, “oh, this is just a bigger fight than before. They’ll be fine though.” Yeah, about that…
From that point on, it was nothing but an onslaught of findings against Konami and how they may be the actual devil when it comes to 2015 business operations. I’m sorry if anyone is still pro-Konami, but I just have a huge problem with the fact that I may have to clean toilets for making a mistake when I have a master’s degree in computer programming. The breakup seemed legitimate, and we all thought that the craziness was over until game award season fell upon us. Metal Gear Solid won a few awards this year. I’m sure you heard. Maybe not from us, but I seem to be the only one with high quality taste for video games. I digress.
Anyway, MGS won some awards, and Kojima wanted to be there to receive said awards. However, Konami decided to be the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld and say, “No Awards for you.” That’s right. Konami became the crazy ex that wouldn’t allow the boyfriend to go to the party because their friends would feel awkward about it. At the end of it all, Konami showed their true colors, but Kojima walked out the victor. By having made one of the best games to date, he also found himself partnered up with the hottest girl in school, Sony. Now, we probably won’t see his next game until Playstation 6, but at least the guy got out of there before Konami could lock him down any longer.
2015 wasn’t only about news. It was about the games! Holy crap, what a year. We were able to experience a year where everyone, of any taste, could have had a game for them. We had Invisible Inc. for turn base lovers, Rise of the Tomb Raider for action adventure, Axiom Verge for side scrolling, and Halo 5 for shooters. Heck, we had Battlefront for Star Wars lovers too! It was a year of surprises with Until Dawn, Dying Light, and Life is Strange, and I can honestly sit back and say that I wasn’t disappointed once this year. Sure, I could nit-pick and try to perfect some games, but honestly, I enjoyed my time with the games I played this year. Sure, this year did give us numerous remakes/remasters/enhanced/whatever, but I can tell you that, outside of Deadpool, I even enjoyed replaying many of those too. Rare Replay may have been the coolest of all of those because of the heart and pleasure you can see that they put into making that collection.
This was a year that also supplied us with Undertale that allows you to never have to kill an enemy. That’s right, folks. You can befriend or compliment your way through a game that also allows you the ability to kill every enemy that is set before you. While I’m writing this, I’m getting the biggest smile thinking of these games! We were also given Hacknet that allows us to finally feel like Hugh Jackman in Swordfish, which I know all of us always wanted. Her Story blew us away with its story, iteration with FMV, and search engine mechanic. One more to add, Rocket League was that breathe of fresh air that I think we all needed while we were being bear-hugged by open world RPG’s. That first moment you score a goal was like the first time you blew someone up with proximity mines in the facility in Goldeneye 007. It was glorious.
Now, the GO crew all chose different games for their game of the year. Scott chose Fallout 4 because it allowed him back into that post-apocalyptic landscapes where the world is your playground, and he loves being over encumbered with opportunity. Josh picked Bloodborne because From Software creates some of the best words out there, and he loves the diversity of weapons and enemies. Plus, he’s a huge glutton for punishment. Zach decided on Ori and the Blind Forrest because of its level design, and the game gave him a gut check with its emotional storytelling. Also, Ori reminds Zach of a time when children bought games only one time and they used lead based paint. (I’m sorry, Zach. I had to.) Now we come to me and my love for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I raved about this game from the moment it came out, and I still brag about its fantastic gameplay mechanics, and the little nuances that it offers.
Do you want to you know the truth though? The real reason why I love The Phantom Pain so much is because it allowed me to feel like I could actually control the world around me. My wife was gone, she wasn’t coming home anytime soon, and I was in a dark state of depression. However, this game allowed me to go into combat and have a big smile on my face. I won’t sit here and try to present some cheesy emotional victory that this game presented, but I will say that this game, for at least a few hours, allowed me to forget that I missed my wife. And, it allowed me to have some jubilance in a medium that has always been there for me.
Yes, I babbled about the year, and I tried to make some puns along the way. Ultimately, what I want to get across to you is that video games saved me this year. It wasn’t the extreme of that statement. Trust me, I love myself too much for that, but it saved me from being down or feeling alone. D-Dog, just like my real life dog Artemis, was my partner, and we combed the Afghan desert together, killing dudes with knifes and supply drops. Or, it was Her Story by making my head hurt while I tried to figure out the impossible code. This year may not be the greatest gaming year of all time, but it may end up being the most important for me because it was my best friend when I needed it.