Counting down the heaviest, most discussed and otherwise important videogame stories of the last year. This is part one of a three-part series.
Another annual chapter closing, another collection of posts reliving the year that was. In many respects, 2013 was both a monumental and disappointing year for the gaming industry. We saw the drawn-out process of two major publishers fall, we saw Microsoft get scolded in the NSA scandal, and among other things, the usual ebb and flow of a year in games. Studio collapses, studios rising, games stealing our hearts, and so on. To sum up the year neatly, I gathered the 15 most important stories of this rugged year and compiled them into three neat posts (in no particular order). Read on, reminisce, and enjoy.
The spectacular decline of THQ: When Jason Rubin took over as THQ’s CEO, he promises swift reform. The publisher would come out of bankruptcy stronger and as one front; the chance to build anew was theirs. But that didn’t happen. In late December, THQ couldn’t recover and thus began the lengthy process of auctioning off all of the company’s assets. It was a long affair as various companies and publishers weighed the risks.
The fiercest competition was, interestingly, for Relic Entertainment. Company of Heroes 2 shipped this year to a muted response from critics, but Sega knew the game was close to completion. It was an easy purchase, especially for Sega’s new role as publisher. Saint’s Row 4, too, was a huge pickup for Deep Silver. Koch Media’s publishing arm hasn’t had the greatest run of luck lately, but in anticipation of Grand Theft Auto 5, the comedic approach to free-roaming crime action paid off.
Aliens: Colonial Marines: The term “shovelware” is defined as making crap that sells off the brand name alone. While the Alien film franchise is beloved by nerd fighters universally, the lineage of video games based off the series has been laughable. The latest title from Gearbox, Colonial Marines, was sold at E3 2012 as a gorgeous and atmospheric work of art, destined as the first Alien game to capture the films’ mystique. Then the game shipped.
Reviewers famously tore it apart. Jim Sterling of Destructoid begins his review in bold, red letters: “Get away from this bitch“. The game became a laughing stock of the industry, with Gearbox taking much of the flak. Based on the studio’s previous outing, Duke Nukem Forever, the year did not start off well.
Feminist Frequency/Anita Sarkeesian: Readers of this site will know my opinion on Anita Sarkeesian and her feminist-driven Feminist Frequency blog. Her goals are noble and necessary for the industry to evolve, but the position she took left her impervious to criticism. Standing behind an army of feminists is not constructive, and ultimately it didn’t lead to any reasonable sort of dialogue.
Keep in mind, I didn’t issue any death threats or sexist comments about her being a woman. In fact, I think it’s awesome someone is willing to stand up like she did and face the barrage of Internet anger stoically. But by turning off comments on her videos and refusing to answer any emails, she has made it impossible for any rebuttal.
Nevertheless, she has certainly made an impact on the industry. Any single individual that can drive the conversation about where women stand in the gaming industry is impressive and deserves praise. Now if only she’s respond to my interview requests!
EA and SimCity‘s always-online approach: What may have been a flavour of the month story back in March rightly belongs on this sort of list. EA required players be connected to the Internet to play SimCity, the long-desired city-building simulator. But the game’s launch was one of the messiest in history: Players couldn’t connect for up to two weeks, leading to a growing sect in the community wanting refunds. This was all before EA lied and said offline play was impossible, even though a week later that was proven untrue.
What the SimCity debacle did remind us of, though, is review scores aren’t static. Polygon actively changed its review score based on if the game was playable, the only outlet to do so. Others refused, as one would expect, which forced a debate on the ever-changing state of games and their corresponding scores. While not lively, it was interesting while it lasted.
The state of game violence after Newtown: This one was the toughest. Games played a minor role in the conversation after the Newtown shootings in Connecticut last December, but the ensuing conversation changed games culture for a brief time. Any tragedy of this severity is difficult to talk about. But after many of these senseless massacres, where political pundits throw games in the conversation, there was progress, however little.
Representatives from the industry met with Vice President Biden and other government staff to comprehend if games played a role. They didn’t, because games have never been credibly linked to aggression, but the meeting marked a step in the right direction. It was the first time government officials met with videogame personalities in any format. I just wish it didn’t have to occur under such violent circumstances.
I will post part two tomorrow. In the meantime, pay attention to everything else Holygrenade.
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