2014. You were taken from us early, some would say. The inexorable march of time is pitiless though and your era has passed. We were so excited whenever we burst into this year last January 1st! The possibilities were endless!
Just months before Sony and Microsoft had released brand new consoles and kicked off a new generation of gaming. Boy did we eat it up. Millions of consoles were sold, faster than they had ever sold before. Despite the fact that there didn’t seem to be any software being prepared that would justify our lust, we bought the new machines like a fat kid buys cake. Lets face it, the last generation of consoles had stuck around entirely too long and we were ready for something exciting and new and we ran headfirst towards it without a second of hesitation.
Of course, we know now that it was folly. Sony and Microsoft have given us snippets of what gaming could look like on the PS4 and Xbox One, but they haven’t managed to capture it’s full potential. Many of our most anticipated games were delayed and pushed into the next year (2015) and we ended up playing disappointing rehashes of the previous generations games. Even then the games released in a barely playable state, some taking multiple patches before they functioned properly.
The year also threw cold water on our love affair with Ubisoft’s Open World Game. Since late 2007 they have been refining the basic formula created with Assassin’s Creed but it seems this year their creativity ran out with a trio of releases that left us wanting, despite their massive budgets. The flagship franchise released not only without the advancement that we had wanted to see with a move to the next generation, but completely broken from top to bottom and stuffed with needless and aggressive micro-transactions.
There was also the “consumer revolt” known as Gamergate. I’ve written extensively about the loosely affiliated group of people whose primary objective was, on the surface, to reform video games journalism. Over the autumn and through the winter though it became more and more evident that most, if not all of them, were born from the vile “chan” culture that had for many years before hand been harassing and threatening women they didn’t agree with. The targets were familiar and the results were terrible for people who make and play games. I look forward to this terrible temper tantrum slowly dying as they consume each other.
Oh and we got another horrible Sonic game.
There were reasons to celebrate though.
Sony unveiled Playstation Now. A streaming service we have been looking forward to since they acquired Gaikai. And they launched it in open beta with little problems. Microsoft has been fighting hard to regain the market share they lost this first year and so have been creative in both their games catalog but also how they listen to and respond to consumers. Ubisoft, their worst year for “triple-A” games happening, simultaneously were releasing some of the most fresh “indie” games we saw all year with Might and Magic X, Child of Light, and Valiant Hearts.
2014 also gave us a renaissance of CRPGs. We have survived the dark ages of this, my favorite genre, and have been brought out to the other side by the likes of Divinity and Wasteland. Larian and inExile Entertainment proved that large, difficult, complex RPGs aren’t just for a small niche crowd like we all feared. It’s not every year a game is released that shakes up my top 10 of all time.
2014 was a tumultuous year for the culture of gaming. Never before has playing been so ubiquitous which is, undoubtedly, good for everyone who loves gaming. The rise of the casual gamer has caused a backlash in some circles so dramatic and reactionary that the mainstream coverage of Video Games since August has been almost entirely negative in nature. This, however, buries the most important point; that it’s never been a better time to actually PLAY video games. Even if it’s never been a worse time to talk about video games.