Videogames came out in 2014, and of those videogames that came out, some of them were pretty bad, but also, some of them were pretty good! One reason we talk about the year in hindsight is because – well, okay, as a writer, because it’s really easy to do that – but it’s because by the time it’s December it’s kind of hard to remember what even came out in say, May.
Normally it’s easy to be kinda dour – especially around this time of year, thanks to marketing cycles. There are droughts throughout the year, leading to games bunching up and being missed in the shuffle. Really great years like my favourite talking point of 1999 are fun to bring up because of historical significance of so many of its games, but 2014 isn’t a year that I think will be held high for that reason.
I just realised I haven’t written an article talking about the strangeness of 1999’s game releases. Another time, perhaps.
Anyway, 2014 was just a year where a bunch of really good games came out.
It’ll be easy to despair of videogames this year. There’s been some amazingly depressing news in videogames as a culture. Videogames as games though?
I put together this short list yesterday. Just in 2014, for videogames released in the AAA sphere, and its related, slightly less bloated AA siblings, you had Alien Isolation, Bayonetta 2, Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Child of Light, Civilisation Beyond Earth, Costume Quest 2, Dark Souls II, Disney Infinity 2.0, Divinity: Original Sin, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Drakengard 3, Far Cry 4, Freedom Cry, Game of Thrones (Telltale), Gauntlet, Hearthstone, Hyrule Warriors, Infamous: Second Son, Legend of Korra, Metal Gear Solid V, Persona Q, Season 2 of Killer Instinct, Shadows of Mordor, Strider, Sunset Overdrive, Tales From the Borderlands, Titanfall, Tropico 5, and Wolfenstein: The New Order. Considering how many games came out in that sphere, that these are games memorable enough to talk about says something about the health of that side of the industry. And sure, these games could be working harder for things like representation and characterisation, or narrative. Consider though that two of these games – Alien Isolation and Shadows of Mordor are movie tie-in games, and that’s normally the kiss of death for a videogame. Consider how many of these games are franchise games.
Hell, two of these games are crossovers!
But okay, let’s say you don’t like those games because they’re all sequels (except the ones that aren’t) and franchise games (aside from the ones that aren’t) or the ones that are overpriced (two of them are totally free for fucks sake). What if you wanted to look to the Early Access-Kickstarter-Indie wing of games?
Well, itch.io has boomed this year – it’s growing and doing even better. And if you look away from that – one of the rawer edges of indie games? Even just Steam-gog-style indie games? Then your year featured Banished, The Banner Saga, The Blackwell Epiphany, Broken Age, Elite Dangerous, Escape Goat 2 , Five Nights at Freddies, Freedom Planet, FTL Advanced Edition, Jazzpunk, Luftrausers, Octodad, OlliOlli, Planetary Annihilation, Secrets of Rætikon, Shovel Knight, Sir You Are Being Hunted, Tesla Effect, This War of Mine, Threes, Transistor, Unrest, Valiant Hearts, Wasteland 2, and Xenonauts. If you bought into Unrest, or Freedom Planet or The Banner Saga on kickstarter, they all delivered. Same thing with Double Fine. The long payout for Elite Dangerous and Wasteland 2 happened too. Planetary Annihilation came out of Early Access.
Gaming is a hobby where we almost reflexively think in terms of what’s gone wrong with anything. Look at this year and consider how many good games, how many great games, have come out, and how many of them show us actively making steps for the better.