2013 Game of the Year Awards: Brit's Honorable Mentions
As someone who’s always been a nerd but is just now getting into video games, I’m often forced to choose between titles that are cutting edge and those that I think match my pathetic, baby bird-level of experiences. As a result, my time in 2013 was a rather uneven split between brand-spanking new games and the stuff that most of the Sasquatch staff played back in middle school.
With that in mind, my honorable mentions consist mostly of games that forced me and many others to thoroughly question their perspectives on the nature of our hobby. Even the games on this list I didn’t explicitly play affected my perspective on gaming. It was a damn good year.
September | Blizzard Entertainment | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
My favorite game on this list, Diablo III absolutely brought it this year, with a streamlined interface and more room for customization than they ever needed to provide (specifically in the console version). The weapons system was easy to navigate, and I enjoyed the extent of the character customization, even down to the sensical-within-the world leg garments. I had no trouble as a newbie to the series. I loved booting up my witch doctor and wreaking havoc with my pets, and even now I occasionally have the urge to breathe locusts into the air whenever I’m caught in a boring conversation.
But the reason Diablo III makes this list is because of its in-game auction house (a feature, ironically, only available on the PC and not the console version I played). There were two versions -- one for real money, one for game currency -- and both incited more than a little fury on announcement. While players didn't need to participate in this system in order to succeed, it definitely helped trick out more than a few characters. However, it's my feeling that the auction house shied away from the same gross extremes as, say, Dead Space 3. It was also the first microtransaction system that I honestly believe the result of a money-grubbing state of mind on behalf of the developer. Though the grand experiment ultimately failed (and will be shut down in March 2014), Diablo III's auction house felt like a well-intentioned step toward a healthy medium between commerce and gameplay.
August | One True Game Studios, Iron Galaxy Studios | PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Windows
Though it might not be a game in the way we usually think of them, (See Nick's HMs for a dissenting opinion on that. -Ed) Divekick is definitely a success story in the age of modern business. Its creation reads like an idealized flowchart of crowdfunded independent development; guy invents game, guy asks for funding to continue game, game gets funding and an even bigger cult following, and game ends up successful and seen as the epitome of indie cool.
I love Divekick -- not just for its sly use of nostalgia and truly interesting mechanics, but because it is proof that the post-publishing model can work. Crowdfunding sometimes seems like a shady process, especially in games -- motives can be unclear, and many campaigns seem more like tries for cheap publicity than true independent projects. Divekick proved that funding in the era of Kickstarter and Indiegogo can be classy, professional, and handled with accountability in mind. There is hope for the future!
Slender: The Arrival
March | Blue Isle Studios | OS X, Windows
I was, and am, a huge fan of the original Slender. I thought it couldn’t be topped. But I was wrong: Slender: The Arrival adds to the story of Slender Man in a deep and meaningful way. The expansions to the Slender world make sense and don’t empower the player to the point where fear is eliminated entirely.
Slender also represents a shift in horror gaming, as players turn their backs on major studios and look for independent developers to deliver a truly frightening experience. I fully expect a Slender Man movie to come out sometime in the next decade. No studio film will take it on, though; the movie will be just as DIY as its source material. Like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Slender: The Arrival is cause for hope for the future of game sequels (or, rather, sequels with a twist). There are people with vision and skills among us, and they are making wonderful things for us all to enjoy (and be terrified by).
God of War: Ascension
March | SCE Santa Monica Studio | PlayStation 3
This game made us all think about sexism in a newly uncomfortable way, and I give it an Honorable Mention because the discomfort was beneficial. The “Bros Before Hos” trophy disgusted many Sony fans, made a few God of War fans laugh, and confused many gamers who heard of it. Why would a big-name programmer put in a trophy that celebrated violence against women? Will pointing out potentially sexist things in videogames be seen as white knighting? Why are people only appalled by the idea of violence against women and not violence toward a woman-shaped thing dished out by a man-shaped thing?
I commend Ascension not for its mechanics or its graphics, but for being so consistent throughout the years. How stalwart the publishers must be to continue putting out violent hack-and-slash games in this day and age, while also constantly skirting the line between bro-culture satire and a nouveau misogynist’s wet dream.
This is not to say that violent games or hack-and-slash games aren’t fun -- they’re wicked fun. But for so long God of War has walked the line between satire and obvious, identifiable misogyny. Ascension crossed that line, and we have all been forced to look at ourselves and the attitudes we allow to prevail in the gaming community. For that provocation, I salute them.