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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I’ve abandoned my child!

I’m not sure who is responsible for the video below (Tomfoolery Pictures, I suppose?) or who is currently popularizing it on the internet (I was introduced to it by a tweet from Slate), but it has absolutely made my day.

Genius. I’m not sure I would actually want to play the game if it were real; I’ve never been a fan of side-scolling platformers that require precision jumping. But it certainly makes me want to go watch the movie again. It also reminds me of this sort of stupid but still hilarious SNL sketch that is just delightfully evocative of late-2007.

FIFA Through the Years

If you have ten minutes to kill and have spent any time over the years with EA Sports’ FIFA video game series, this post over at Deadspin includes the following video which you’ll probably find fascinating.  (If you’ve never played FIFA and don’t care about the evolution of video games, absolutely do not watch it, it would probably be ten of the most boring minutes of your life.)

I remember pretty much all of these games, but the mid-Aught years of ’04, ’05, and ’06 in particular bring back very visceral memories for me.  This game has taken countless hours of my life, and somehow I remain completely terrible at it.  I can barely execute a successful cross.

For a more wide-ranging trip through the history of video games, I also stumbled across this nicely succinct video, which hits quite of few of the highlights from 1972 to 2007. (I originally typed “1792 to 2007,” which, I guess, is equally true, if a bit misleading.)

There are a few in there I don’t recognize, but I’m surprised by how many of these I’ve played, particularly once it gets to 1992.  Earthworm Jim!  Remember Earthworm Jim?!

[First video via Deadspin]

3-D Television and Gaming

Paper glasses for viewing Anaglyphs.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m pretty excited about 3-D television. 3-D television! In your living room! And soon we won’t even need to wear the ridiculous glasses! Why are people not on board with this?  Everyone seems so ambivalent.  My wife seems sort of repulsed by the idea of owning a 3-D television, and she tried one, at Harrod’s in London, and thought it was great.  I don’t get it.

Until this post in the NYTimes ArtsBeat blog, though, I hadn’t given much thought to 3-D gaming.  I mean, I was fully aware of the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, but I’m not much of a handheld gamer.  I have no reason to play a mobile device, seeing as I rarely leave my apartment.

If you still think this 3-D thing is a gimmick, though, go read the post.  Author Seth Schiesel got to watch (although not play, unfortunately) a bit of Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3-D.  He says, amongst other things, “I simply have never had an entertainment experience quite like it. In its way it was one of the most impressive 20-minute demonstrations I have seen.”  And, “I immediately felt as if I would be missing something important playing it, or any other game, in the old 2-D fashion.”  The future: we’re getting there!

Embarrassing Video Games

I’m pretty excited for the Microsoft Kinect.  Motion-sensing gaming with no controller!  Sounds great, right?

And I’m sure it will be really, really fun.  I’m excited to see all the different ways game designers use the technology.  But the other day I was showing some of these videos to my wife, and I could tell we were both thinking the exact same thing.  In addition to being really, really fun, this is going to really, really embarrassing.

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Polls, Best of the Decade, 2000-2009

So, now that I’ve figured out how to use polls, I thought it might be fun to post a poll for each of my categories thus far.  To keep them from being too unwieldy, I’ve only included my top ten as choices, but if you think one of my other choices (or something completely different) is the best of the decade, there is a write-in option.  Feel free to finally voice publicly your disagreement with me!

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Video Games, 2000-2009


By no means am I a big gamer.  There are probably great games from this decade that I’ve never even heard of, let alone played.  And I know for a fact that there are great games out there that I haven’t played; I currently have a stack next to my TV of unopened games that includes the well-reviewed Left 4 Dead 2, Fallout 3, and Assassin’s Creed 2.  I should also include the caveat that I’m not a big sports game person, or a huge first-person shooter fan, as evidenced by the fact that there is no Halo to be found here.  But in the imperfect spirit of my lists, here are my 20 favorite video games of the decade (along with the year of release and the console on which I spent the most time playing them):

20) Crackdown (2007, Xbox 360)

This game seems like an afterthought, and sort of was.  I’m guessing that it’s most remembered for being the game that came with an access code for the Halo 3 beta.  But it’s a game that I find myself coming back to on Saturday afternoons when I’m bored and just feel like throwing cars and jumping over buildings.  Great arcade-y fun, and the orb collecting is completely addictive.

19) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 (2009, Xbox 360)

I guess, according to this list, this is my favorite first-person shooter of the decade.  The levels in this game are much more varied than most shooters; it sort of reminds me of my favorite FPS of last decade, GoldenEye 007.  That’s also the reason that I picked this over the original Modern Warfare. Even though I don’t really play video games online (probably the main draw of this title), I didn’t mind that the single player story was pretty short.  There are so many great games coming out lately that I don’t have time for all of these 30-hour epics.

18) Wii Sports (2006, Wii)

I don’t really play the Wii that often.  Most people that own them seem to stop using them after a while.  But when I do revisit the system, this is what I want to play.  And everyone who plays this game for the first time wants to go buy a Wii.  The most brilliant system and game bundling since the NES and Super Mario Brothers.

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