2011 Retrospective: & All The Rest

Weeping Invaders

2011 Tried To Make Baby Jesus Cry

Shaun: Let’s get the sad times out of the way first so we can end with something positive.

AJ: The number of companies that went into closure this year was extremely saddening. Sure, there were some that deserved it (Bedlam) as they simply did not produce a quality project but with studios like Split/Second developers Black Rock Studios and Geometry Wars’ Bizarre Creations being liquidated the gaming world is actually a lesser place.

Shaun: It’s worth mentioning Kaos Studios as well. Not because of Homefront, because meh, but because we love Frontlines: Fuel of War. Oh, and the implosion of Realtime Worlds was a tragedy as well – APB was a total clusterfuck on launch but I get the impression that the studio also functioned as a locus of the Scottish games industry and helped draw investor interest to the area. Not that I’m one to get excited about investment opportunities, but I do care about British gaming development.

Spann: Disappointing titles have unfortunately been rife this year, and to to start I’ll jump in with LA Noire. As good as the facial expressions were I still couldn’t tell whether or not people were lying – maybe I’m just not a very trusting person and the game is showing me this? I played an hour or two, found it to be rather lacking in what it promised, and left it. I might come back to it at some point but it’s not a priority.

Also added to the “what a pity” pile: Arkham City (Batman, with a capital FUCKING HELL LOOK AT THIS), Shadows of the Damned (an average adventure game that I’d still recommend but should have been incredible), Bastion (which I will remove from this list if a sequel leads to a wider exploration of the world it created) and Magicka (a lovely game that was so hilariously broken and resource-hungry on release you’d think I’d made it (or you would if you’ve seen the amount of dishes I use when I’m cooking)).

Magicka

Not pictured: EVERYTHING FAILING. And people still playing the game anyway.

Shaun: It’s difficult to pick out specific games that I found disappointing. I’m not really one for pre-ordering or buying games immediately on release (in fact, over the past year I’ve probably done this ten times more often than before AR began, which my wallet has definitely noticed) so I generally manage to avoid the total turkeys, and mediocrity… well, if you know it’s coming you can generally find some good in it or ignore it entirely. I only write about a fraction of what I play.

That said I am one for hoovering up cheap games in Steam sales, and I am one for disappointing myself, and you’d be surprised how often those two go hand in hand.

Spann: Another disappointment is the lack of splitscreen multiplayer in a lot of games now. My girlfriend and I were looking for decent ‘couch games’ the other day and didn’t find much worth bothering with outside of the Lego games and Left 4 Dead.

Shaun: I’ve had this problem as well, so would recommend getting a PS2 and Mashed (throwing that one in there as Dylan’s not about right now) alongside Gitaroo Man.

Operation Flashpoint is full of surprises

"It's all American bravado and bullshit one-liners until one of these fuckers 'accidentally' plugs you in the back of the head"

2011 Summarised In Old Words

AJ: For personal writing I stick by There is no Potter in Team as my favourite, and probably my Bastion review as my least. Of other stuff on Arcadian Rhythms, Dylan’s piece on Portal 2 still makes me giggle and his Dead Island review was comprehensive enough without having any real spoilers that I felt compelled to buy it. Shaun’s Beyond Good & Evil piece gave me a warm glow and his Return to Consolevania was ace (when are we getting a sequel?). As for Spann, well obviously there is that Tropico piece, but my favourite is from his own blog where he talks about his possibly racist, possibly not hair dresser.

Shaun: I’ve been so lazy about finishing the Consolevania series that I think I need to watch it all again. It’s a cruel world.

AJ: Also, a special mention to Harbour Master, who won the internet with his piece on Portal 2.

Spann: With regards to my own writing, it was awesome to see Electron Dance and then Rock Paper Shotgun link to my Tropico piece (I’ve been reading the Sunday Papers for a while now and always wanted to be in them and HM is… well, HM), and HM’s Portal 2 piece was excellent as well – although I’d recommend the Proteus post to readers who aren’t keen on listening to terrified children.

It’s worth pointing out that The Aspiration (also by HM) was this year, and rivals Tom Francis’ GalCiv blogs in terms of sheer length and brilliance. Why aren’t you reading it now?

Yeah, I’ve spent the year being an Electron Dance fanboy.

The Aspiration

Together We Aspire

Shaun: So we’re officially an Electron Dance fansite now. Wait, does that mean we have to write fan fiction about The Aspiration?

I jest. Electron Dance has consistently delivered posts that are a pleasure to read and consistently thought-provoking, with both the coverage and authorial style clearly standing out in videogame blogging circles.

Cheques in the post please HM.

Spann: Here on AR I particularly enjoyed the I Watch Bad Videogame Films So You Don’t Have To series. I’ve admired AJ’s writing for a long time so being on the same team as him has been particularly lovely, even though we never really seem to agree on anything – we even managed to have totally opposite views on Bastion based on what I think was a similar core opinion.

I’m also gutted that I missed out on a good chunk of the year – I ended up being a little bit homeless back in March and took a good chunk of time getting myself back in order – but now I’m back and looking forward to the next twelve months.

Shaun: I won’t go into my own writing as I actually think most of it could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been better. This year I hope to devote more time to individual pieces on AR thanks to reducing my commitments elsewhere. The half-dozen people who still read my music reviews will be very sad indeed. I also won’t pick favourites here on AR, because I love all of our ugly misshapen children equally.

the ugliest and saddest mutant

It's amazing what the internet gives you when you search for "the ugliest and saddest mutant".

As for videogame writing elsewhere, well, the enthusiastic reader could take a look at the ‘gaming‘ and ‘games‘ tags in my delicious library. But here I will play favourite and state that I’ve been genuinely thrilled to see so many positive and broadly well-received posts that attempt to address the problems with privilege and prejudice among gamers.

Demographically gaming grew up some time ago, but it feels as if we’re experiencing a sea change in what’s considered unacceptable behaviour and that can only be a good thing. It may take a while to filter through to Xbox Live’s COD Elite community, but that’s what happens when you don’t attach the Deep Impact bullet penetration perk to your ‘Blogger’ character class.

A few recent examples include Leigh Alexander’s I’m Tired of Being a “Woman in Games”. I’m a Person (yes, it constitutes a stepping away from a spokesperson role into which she has felt forced, but it’s also a fine articulation of problems and solutions), This Gaymer’s Story, and Dear Men, Please Listen. Love, Man. And, although it’s not as positive overall as the other pieces I’ve linked, this blog post introducing A Closed Mind (an indie game about homophobia) does a good job of cracking knuckles in the face of wishy-washy attempts to engage with prejudice without understanding privilege. More of this sort of thing please.

To finish here are a few exciting statistics for readers who’ve made it all the way to the end of this grotesque act of group auto-fellatio.

  • Since the site went live in February we’ve seen 1,293 comments. That includes a few trackbacks but no spam. It’s an amazing figure for a videogame blog in its infancy so a huge thank you to everyone who’s passed by and decided to stick around, whether for one comment or the lifespan of an RSS subscription.
  • The site has had over 41,000 page views. I can’t break this figure down too much as it’s based on WordPress Stats rather than Google Analytics, but it excludes those of us directly involved with the site as well as robots and sitecrawlers so it’s another impressive figure. By way of comparison my music review/book review/fiction blog has 55,000 page views but has been running since 2007.
  • The most popular post was Spann’s piece on Tropico with 5,225 views to date. It just goes to show that to get ahead in this biz you need to describe a British cabinet minister as a ghost trapped in a sausage. The second and third most popular posts were my daft piece about a forest fire in Minecraft and Dylan’s round-up of turn-based iOS games.
  • Interestingly the Tropico post’s popularity was initially driven by links from Electron Dance and Rock Paper Shotgun, and to a lesser extent Critical Distance, but once it hit Reddit the figures skyrocketed. It then appeared on Stumbleupon and its popularity soared a third time – and a lot of people still happen by via SU. The Minecraft piece owes its popularity to Reddit and my friends on the SMP server (including our assistant editor Potter, the twisted firestarter) who posted it there. The iOS piece? That’s popular because of Google hits. It’s an inadvertent SEO success.
  • The most popular Google searches have been “mud”, “altered beast”, “david dickinson”, “arcadian rhythms” and “i win”. From this I’ve learned that it’s important to try and prevent Google Images from indexing the pictures you throw in for a laugh, and that people are deliberately looking for us. Hoorah!

Thanks for a great 2011 everyone. Here’s to a damn fine 2012.

Angry Invader