Game Pile: What Left In 2020?

Hypothetically, you could run a list of all the Game Pile Articles and know everything I’ve covered, already.

Which I do.

The original purpose of the Game Pile was to serve as a direct accounting of every game I played from my at the time unmanageably large Steam collection. I didn’t look at that collection for years, and now, over the starting on eight years of this blog, I have been using the Game Pile as a category to talk about games, and things, and things about games, and using games to talk about things. Part of getting this pile under control was playing a lot of them, and part of it was building familiarity with Steam’s tools.

I have a category I put games in when I’m done with them: ‘Completed.’ At the moment, on Steam, I have 324 games outside of that category, and 434 games in that category, meaning that in the context of Steam, I have more than half completed my Game Pile. It has obviously grown in this time, and I’m sure it will grow a little by the time the Steam Winter sale ends. This isn’t accounting for my Itch collections, or the physical boardgames that are also sometimes included, or just random flash games or folk games I talk about too.

Still, the Steam list is a large volume of things, and at the end of each year, I do run through some games and look at the stuff I moved to the Completed category that I haven’t written about, and have in fact, committed to not bothering to write about.

I haven’t done any full-blown revisits yet. I used to do ‘Deeper in the Pile,’ back when I was interested in parleying this blog into a journalism job. The idea was that the Game Pile posts would be entertaining reviews, then the Deeper in the Pile posts would examine things in the game in greater depth. Sometimes I use a remastered edition as an excuse to go back on a game, but otherwise, it’s pretty much that if I didn’t talk about a game and moved it into completed, there was a reason.

Well, it’s the end of the year (oh no, writing forward into the future revealed) and I’m tired, so let’s talk about some games that weren’t interesting enough to merit a full article. As with all of these, though, once I put the thoughts out there, I may come around to a new idea and realise that hey, no, here’s an academic concept or a game design idea I can totally use, and they’ll get pulled out of storage. Who knows!

Another World. Eric Chahi’s beautiful platform game is so short you could just watch a full let’s play of it in the time it takes you to read whatever I’m going to tell you about it. It’s moody and atmospheric and interesting and beautiful and reminds me that we lose a lot when we insist technology meet our aspirations so we can throw more pixels at a problem. Great, gorgeous, but I feel like you know that.

Ascension. This is a deck building game built on an engine familiar to me from Star Realms and Hero Realms. It’s so familiar, in fact, I found myself wanting to play Star Realms instead – because I couldn’t feel a meaningful positive difference, and the theme of a fantasy kingdom versus space was just plain out weaker. Might be a great game, but playing it, I found myself feeling like I was just going to be comparing it to Star Realms (which I liked) and Hero Realms (which I didn’t).

Audiosurf. This is a neat game, where you can plug your music collection into it and have fun, but I don’t exactly have a brilliant insight into what more that means. It feels like all I’d say about it is ‘oh hey, this is neat,’ or maybe some story about how Fox got into it and as a result now we have some Fallout Boy songs in our musical regimen.

Blood Code, Bloodlust, Bloodrayne Betrayal. These three blood-named games are vampire themed and all look to be very high quality games that parley with strong fanservice elements and lived on my hard drive for months before I realised that despite having access to them the whole time, I just was not interested in playing them. They all look good, but I don’t have a spark of interest in trying them. I did want to do a piece on Bloodrayne that talked about the ways we use blood in media, but I feel that a lot of that became a footnote in the analysis of Bloodborne.

Command & Conquer Remastered. Hey, I thought I could do something fun here, and I bought this game thinking I’d compare my experiences playing it as a kid to my experiences playing it as an adult. What I learned is that as a kid, I used editing programs to cheat on this game a lot against dumb AIs, and as an adult, I am real bad at RTSes. Also, the strange thing is that the interface is still really slow? Like, scrolling around the map is so much slower than just using a web browser these days.

Light. How abstract can a stealth game get and still hold my attention? Apparently, a bit more abstract than this. This game really suffered from being installed the day after I was done with Volume, because I fucking loved Volume and good god that made Light look bad. I appreciate what it wanted to do – stealth game with minimal art assets – but I didn’t like how it made me do it.

One of the funniest things is this game is criticised for being extremely short. Yet despite that, I didn’t finish it.

Shadow Tactics: This hurt. This hurt specifically because the game is really interesting. It looks cool and it has a cool style and it’s a tactics game and it’s a stealth game and those are things I really enjoy.

My big problem with this is just how hard I found it to internalise the lessons of the tutorial. I don’t often wonder if I’m neurodivergent, like experiencing ADHD or something like that, but the way this game treats its tutorial and the way I found myself wondering if I could find faster, easier ways to do them,

The game looks good, I want someone else to play it and talk to me about it, and I’ll happily platform them.

Smashing the Battle: This is a game about tits. Oh, the game is also seemingly a pretty fun smash em up where you run around and do combos and hit baddies but it is absolutely and unassailably about tits. The game puts tits out there and shows them to you and it makes them bounce and while the game might be fun, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable about it. I tried sharing screenshots of this game when I tried it years ago, and the process left me worrying that people thought I was sharing this game because I was horny for it. This game made me worry about what my friends thought of me, which isn’t an impressive thing for your game to do.

Tangledeep: Turn based roguelike with an adorable aesthetic that I am not good at and found nothing interesting to talk about. To talk about a game like this, you need to be able to resonate with it, and I just aren’t the person that needs a Floramancer in his life. You might love it, I bet this is a game you’ll be able to love if you’re even a tiny bit into high femme cottagecore aesthetics.

This War of Mine: Depression simulator. Sure it’s great. All I’m going to tell you is ‘wow, this is a game about making you make hard decisions and feeling sad’ and like, I feel as if the fact that this game was a Conversation for Games Media is a testament to how few sad games mainstreams games press even looks at.

Everything The Witcher: Look, The Witcher may be good. Over on Curio, they’ve made a great video series about how good the Witcher might or might not be. And that set of video essays sounds a lot to me like someone who has found a thread to enjoy and connect in a deep reading of a game. That’s cool but I don’t think, watching their videos, that the game they see is the game that’s there, and if the game has a huge audience of shitlords who see it differently, you have to wonder if it’s the audience’s fault that they don’t see what the game is ‘really like’ but is instead, the game’s fault for failing to make its points actually clear about how little it respects women with the whole, trading cards of sexual conquests.

I’ve watched the Witcher played, I’ve tried to play two of them, and the result of it is mostly feeling like they’re tired and boring and the man they want me to inhabit is awful, and therefore they think that I am okay with being awful and I may even think being awful is cool, and then the same people made Cyberpunk 2077 that came out last year, and basically, I don’t think very highly of these developers and I think that if I found something good and interesting to talk about in these games, I’d be the one doing all the fucking work. This may be your favourite game series, but I’d rather hear about the game in your head than the one CD Projekt Red sells me, because hearing you talk about it will avoid not bothering dealing with all that bad game that you’re not going to mention to me.

Kentucky Route Zero: This game is apparently, really good. I played the first chapter and thought it was absolutely excellent and I was, at the time, looking forward to playing it more.

Now, you can make the case that part of the point of playing Kentucky Route Zero was playing it in its episodes with those time gaps between them, to spend time thinking about it, thinking about the tension between episodes. I didn’t want to do that, so I decided to wait until the game was complete before I returned to it, so I could look at the game text in terms of what it was trying to say, what it was saying about its message. And now it’s complete so I hypothetically could have engaged with it and used it as an interesting text to talk about, I don’t know, media in general, or maybe the way that America is presented and packaged to the world at large.

Then I was brought to understand that Kentucky Route Zero is one of the only three games about America that exist, and I would not dare to think that I, a mere outsider, could have the temerity to comment on what must be its transcendental insight into the mysterious culture of the Americans. After all, this game is too important, too meaningful for someone to have a mere opinion of it. It should not be treated so churlishly as to be subject to people’s interests, and must be venerated as instead a divine text that cannot be understood, cannot be criticised.

How dare I.