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Showing posts from December, 2019

The Best and Worst Games of 2019

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The Best & Worst of 2018 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010
This is my tenth year-end, Best & Worst blowout. That's a decade of me agonising over winners and losers for a post that maybe twenty people read. And eleven of those people are me.

A lot has changed since I picked Mass Effect 2 as my game of the year back in 2010. We've had hardware successes and failures, and major franchises that have come and gone. We've seen the peaks and troughs of casual and mobile gaming, the near disappearance of game-dedicated handhelds, the growth of subscription and streaming services, the evolution of online gaming, and the continued ascendancy of the industry as a whole. And don't forget the ongoing march to all-digital, the multitude of trends that have lived and died (3D, second screen gaming, toys-to-life etc.), the indie explosion-demise-resurgence, and the death of the mid-tier game and developer. A lot has happened over the last decade.

By this …

Christmas, My Grandma and Sega Rally

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Be sure to check back in the coming days, as I'll be posting my Best & Worst of 2019 some time between Christmas and the New Year. Happy holidays!

My first console, the Sega Master System II, arrived one holiday in the early Nineties. From that point on, games were a regular Christmas fixture.

However, while I certainly enjoyed video games as a kid, I was far from an expert. I'd pick up a magazine from time to time - a Sega Power or Mean Machines - but most of my wisdom came from either the playground or the Toys R Us Christmas catalogue. Until my mid-teens, I was always a generation behind and I didn't care one iota. I had a Master System when the cool kids were playing Mega Drive; the Christmas I upgraded to 16-bit was the same year the Playstation debuted. When I finally caught up, I did so with a console that, unbeknownst to me, was already dead in the water. For Christmas 1996, I asked for a Sega Saturn.

My original thought was to get a Mega CD, but friends talked…

A Decade in Games: When Games Were Rubbish For a Bit

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It's the end of a decade! To mark the occasion, I'm sharing memories and experiences that I associate with some of the games of the last ten years. You can find them all here.

During the summer of 2012, I didn't like games. They bored me. I couldn't bear the thought of having to go through the rigmarole of starting up a new one, learning controls and systems, and buying into poorly written stories and characters.

For one summer, video games were rubbish.

I've been playing games since the early 90s, which makes me very wise indeed. I've played every genre - shooting and non-shooting - and once paid £80 for an import copy of Final Fantasy VI. In 1995, I almost convinced my parents to buy me a Mega CD. My rampant gaming can be split into four distinct periods.

Childhood: Games were just for Christmases and Birthdays. They were toys and they weren't my main interest. GI Joe, plastic guns and Boglins were.

Teens: My interest in games burgeoned. I read the magazine…

A Decade in Games: The First Few Months Are The Hardest

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It's the end of a decade! To mark the occasion, I'm sharing memories and experiences that I associate with some of the games of the last ten years. You can find them all here.

The first few months are the hardest, we were told.

You won't sleep much, you'll keep unnatural hours, and your baby will do nothing but feed, shit, sleep, throw up and cry. Sometimes it will do all of those at the same time. There will be times when you'll think that your baby is smiling at you, and it'll make it all feel worthwhile. But she isn't. She doesn't have the ability to do that yet, and that grin is just wind. Also, you're looking at a stuffed toy. Where's your baby?

You should really get some sleep.

And they were right, obviously. Those first few months are the hardest. There's plenty of joy and emotion, but for the most part you're too tired to fully savour it. You operate on instinct alone and sleepwalk through much the day. There are times when you&#…

A Decade in Games: A Summer of Basketball & Witching

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It's the end of a decade! To mark the occasion, I'm sharing memories that I associate with the games of the last ten years. You can find them all here.

It'd been an age since I'd last played basketball. A group of friends and I were playing weekly pickup games in Tokyo in the mid-to-late-2000s, but interest eventually waned, ankles got sprained, lives got busier and our meet-ups ended.

Fast forward to 2015, the Year of Luigi + 2.  We'd been back in England for a few years, and I really wanted to play basketball. I was a little overweight and in need of a new type of workout. I also wanted to get out of the house for a couple of hours a week and see if I could remember how to socialise.

On top of that, I wanted to see if I had magically gained the ability to dunk after almost a decade of inactivity. Seemed like a reasonable expectation. Maybe my hops had matured?

Someone pointed me toward a meet-up app that listed local sport groups, and I found a game nearby. I sig…

A Decade in Games: Memories of Mead

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As you know, it's nearly 2020. Which means it's time to start agonising over which games were the best of the last ten years.

Initially, I was going to re-pick my favourite games of the decade. However, I've been writing "Best and Worst" of the year posts since 2010, and will be writing another before the end of this month. So let's not do that again. Let's do something a little different.

I'm going to write around some of the games of the last ten years, instead of writing about them directly. I'll use them as inspiration and share memories to which they are intrinsically linked.

So without further ado, let me tell you about the time I got rat-arsed on mead.

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It's December 2011 and my wife and I are on our way to Manchester. We've got a lovely weekend planned. We'll meet some friends and hit the Christmas Market in the city centre. The next day, we'll do some exploring and Christmas shopping, before getting the train b…

The Twenty Year Wait: The Bouncer

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I remember gawping at the preview images in the Official PlayStation Magazine. The Bouncer was the poster boy for the next-gen jump. This is what games would look like on the PS2, and things would never be the same again.

The Bouncer, Squaresoft's first PS2 game, arrived at the very tail end of the console's launch-window, and it did so with a whimper. It received mixed reviews and was soon forgotten, replaced by equally beautiful but far more substantial games. The graphics-likers found new things to lust after, and the Square faithful put all their energy into pining for Final Fantasy X. When I finally bought a PS2 in the summer of 2001, I'd forgotten all about the game that had once made my favourite PS1 titles seem like pixel puke in comparison.

Fast forward almost twenty years, and I'm finally playing The Bouncer. In a last-gasp attempt to recapture my youth, and spurred on by a ¥55 ($0.50 / 38p) price point, I bought a copy. I hadn't thought about The Bounce…