Video Games, 2010

Video Games 2010 2

What a great year for video games!  The top two here are up there with my favorite games of all-time, and there isn’t really any filler in the rest of the list.  The best part about the games this year has been the diversity.  I’ve complained in the past (notably in my list of my favorite games of the last decade) about video game developers’ seeming inability to expand beyond the typical sci-fi/fantasy/crime/WWII genres, but this list bounces from modern-day Seattle to Hogwarts, from Renaissance Italy to the Old West.

As always, this is not a list of the best video games of the year, it is a list of my favorites.  I don’t play everything that comes out, obviously.  I don’t play a ton of sports games, and I play barely any first-person shooters, which explains the absence of both Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo: Reach.  I love third-person open-world games, as evidenced by my top five here.   So read this list through that filter.  Let’s get started!

10) Heavy Rain (PS3, February 23)


Sometimes I don’t finish a game because I lose interest.  Sometimes I don’t finish a game because the last boss or battle or mission or whatever is frustratingly hard and I give up.  And then sometimes I don’t finish because I try to download a mandatory PS3 firmware update and Sony bricks my machine and I lose my save data when I send my system in to them for repairs.  That’s what happened with Heavy Rain.  This is a game that takes a lot of time to really get going, and the control system (and the mundane tasks it controls, like brushing your character’s teeth) can be a bit boring.  But I do want to know how it ends, so I’ll likely return to it sometime in the near future.  That’s enough to earn it a spot in my top ten, I suppose.

I originally picked it up because I’d read that women were enjoying it more than the average video game, both because of the more intuitive controls and the more “grown-up” subject matter.  Knowing her love of mystery novels, I thought Johanna might want to give it a try.  I just played the above trailer on my computer and, hearing it, she asked what it was.  When I told her it was Heavy Rain she said, “Here I was thinking it was a movie I might want to see.”  Maybe she should give it a shot.

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Albums, 2010

Albums 2010 2

This was a really fun, interesting year in music, which is good because it was also a year in which I was particularly interested in listening to some new albums.  I reached a breaking point with all of my old playlists and favorite artists and decided to dedicate myself to searching out a lot of new stuff this year, and I wasn’t disappointed.  To be fair, there were a few great new albums from my old favorite artists as well.

As always, this is not a list of the best albums of the year, but a list of my favorites.  Although, to be honest, I’ve listened to most of the stuff that is showing up on other best of 2010 lists, and I feel pretty good about this.

15) Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (October 12th)


It would be wrong to say that I’m disappointed in this album; I actually like it quite a bit when I sit down and listen to it.  The problem is that I rarely put it on.  It was a pretty crowded year of music for me, and for some reason I’m always in the mood to listen to something else.  For now it just barely makes the list, but I suspect that it when I get some more reps in it might climb.

14) Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils (May 25th)


Man, a lot of bands sounded like this band this year.  Or this band sounded like a lot of bands.  Whichever it is, this is definitely a good sampling of 2010 in sonic form.  Beach Fossils stand out from the pack a bit, though; they’re slightly catchier than similar-sounding groups, and the guitar lines here are great.  The guitar parts  sound a little like Johnny Marr from the Smiths, except slower and hazier.

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Books, 2010

Books 2010 2

There were quite a few books that I liked a lot this year, and I actually still have a stack that I haven’t gotten around to yet, including At Home by Bill Bryson, Salvation City by Sigred Nunez, and Bound by Antonya Nelson, that I suspect would have been nice additions to this list had I read them.

A few notes: This is, as always, not a list of the best books of the year, but of my favorites.  Obviously I haven’t read enough of the books published this year for this list to be anything approaching authoritative.  Also, the list only includes new books, although I believe two of them were published originally in 2009.  But whatever, I didn’t stumble across them until the paperbacks came out this year, and it’s my list.  Here we go:

8 ) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


I swear, when I first heard about the Hunger Games trilogy, all I knew about it was that it was a series of young adult novels aimed primarily at girls, and I thought it had something to do with eating disorders.  I’m not even kidding.  It turns out I was wrong.

My wife read these all at once when the third volume was released in August and enjoyed them enough to encourage me to give them a chance when I felt  like reading something a bit escapist, assuming novels set in a future dystopia can be used as an escape.  I really enjoyed the first novel, The Hunger Games, but hesitated about continuing the series; it seemed like the aspects of the first book that made it thrilling and hard to put down would be difficult to replicate.  Those of you who have read it will likely know what I mean.  The story did lose a bit of momentum in the second book, Catching Fire, but things pick up again nicely in Mockingjay.

The books are of course being adapted into movies, supposedly with a PG-13 rating.  If the movies hew closely to the books, that will be a pretty hard PG-13.  This story is almost surprisingly violent at times and relatively dark throughout.

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