GOTY 2017: The Top 10 Games of the Year - #2
Welcome to the Ninth Annual Silicon Sasquatch Top 10 Games of the Year list! After months of discussion and yet another marathon five-hour meeting, we've finally narrowed down the 10 games that we feel best represent the best and most important that 2017 had to offer.
#2 - Night in the Woods
Infinite Fall | February 21st, 2017 | Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Is the United States of America a failed nation?
That question, along with a hodgepodge of other equally morose ones, has been bouncing around inside my conscience since 2015.
It probably first occurred to me to ask those questions when a wannabe strongman first descended his gilded escalator to spew braggadocious racism—and, almost as an afterthought, declare his intentions for the highest office in politics. I recognized that I was living through an epoch of profound change in the United States. And I began to crave perspective, context, and meaning.
I devoured political news as it came in, subscribed to a ton of political-analysis podcasts, and watched FiveThirtyEight’s election probability day after day. By the time November 8th, 2016 rolled around, I was expecting a shock—but I wasn’t prepared for it.
A few months later, life kept moving forward. I’d weathered one of the toughest years of my personal life, endured a lonely winter, and grappled with what it meant to invest myself in a country that’s more bitterly divided than it has been my entire life. And that’s when Night in the Woods came out.
Night in the Woods takes place in the fictional small town of Possum Springs, which I always imagined to be somewhere in the Rust Belt. It’s a place dealing with the economic realities that so many other communities are experiencing: weak economies, vanishing industry, increasing numbers of people leaving the job pool. It’s also a perfect microcosm for the struggles of the game’s cast of young-adult misfits to try to eke out a life of their own.
The protagonist of Night in the Woods, Mae Borowski, is not a great person: she’s selfish, she avoids her problems, and she’s not always a great friend. On the other hand, these faults are what make her such an exceptional character—some might even say the best character of 2017.
Through Mae’s eyes, I found a cipher for understanding my own damaged world. Her specific struggles aren’t my own, but the institutional ones—the generational ones—have the sting of authenticity to them. This game struck deep, repeatedly, at my core. I sympathized with Mae and her friends’ struggles more than any other cast of characters I can think of in recent years. They felt real.
The act of playing Night in the Woods is simple, but it fits like a glove. Mae wanders her small town, strikes up conversations, investigates some things, and climbs all over the place. Players can easily fall into daily routines—stargazing with Mr. Chazokov, talking about dark stuff with Lori, taking care of your precious rat babies—and look forward to every major story beat that punctuates those cycles.
The game deftly confronts themes of class disparity, homelessness, mental illness, mob mentality, loneliness, and further shades of other-ness. It confronts everything honestly, head-on, and in a believable manner. Night in the Woods sets a new standard for authentic storytelling.
I could go on and on, but I really just want you to play this game: you, the casual game-player who normally avoids story-driven games; you, the person who barely touches any video games; you, the skeptic who’s convinced millennials would be fine if they just laid off the avocado toast and got real jobs. For my money, this game holds one of the most essential stories of our modern era, and it needs to be played. — Nick Cummings