Everyone and their mothers are writing “Top 10 games of 2009″ lists around this time. And I figure that most of those people are probably more qualified than me to judge this year’s cache of titles (especially seeing as I haven’t yet touched some of the heavyweight contenders like Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2). So I decided to take a more personal approach to my remembrance of 2009 with 10 of my gaming memories of the year. Okay, so they’re not so much memories of individual events as much as they are just general subjects of recollection, but whatever. Here they are in roughly chronological order:
- Area 5/CO-OP: I can’t describe how much I love these guys. Their layoff from 1up hit closer to home than most others in the industry that have occurred in this economic climate. So when they came back with their own show, I was absolutely thrilled. I’ve watched every episode they’ve produced, and I generally hold their opinions of games in high regard. They’ve definitely influenced more than one of my purchasing decisions. And in a recent outing to San Francisco, I even stopped by all of their recommended eateries throughout “Mother Mission.” I hope to meet these guys one of these days.
- PSP: My wife got me one for my birthday this year, and I’ve had no trouble putting it through its paces. (Apparently, neither did she.) In fact, my wife blames 2.0 on my… gratitude… for her gift. Anyway, despite the PSP’s horrible battery life, I’ve managed to sink hundreds of hours into it. Hands down, my favorite so far has been Dissidia: Final Fantasy, which is easily the biggest surprise game this year. After the travesty that was Crisis Core (admit it, guys, random leveling sucks), I was expecting another cheap fanboy cash-in – that is, until a friend at work recommended it. My tastes in gaming don’t always align with his, but I gave it a try and fell in love with it. I also spent a ridiculous amount of time with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite – solo! A group of guys at work had been playing it regularly during lunchtime with imported Japanese copies, but since the localized version wasn’t released until months later, I barely missed the bandwagon. I got to play with a remnant group of lunchtime monster hunters, but the fervor had mostly died down. It didn’t stop me from sinking 100+ hours into it, anyway. And then there was Half-Minute Hero. Seriously, why haven’t I seen that game on all of the other top-10 lists?! It’s amazing.
- Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game: My wife and I actually purchased BSG last Christmastime at a little swap-meet-style place called Frank and Sons during our annual SoCal soujourn to visit family for the holidays. I played a pre-release copy with coworkers months before, so when we spotted it for an unmarked price at a random board/card game booth, I was immediately interested. When we asked the merchant how much it cost, he had no idea, so he just assumed it cost $30. Sold! Since purchasing it, we had a solid group of friends come over on a regular basis to play. Sessions lasted well into the night with tensions high and voices raised. Unfortunately, since 2.0′s arrival, we haven’t really had much chance to participate in a good BSG session, but my friends have borrowed the board game multiple times for their own nights of collaboration and conspiracy. They’re convinced it’s the greatest board game ever. Clearly, they haven’t played Agricola yet.
- Console failures: While these weren’t exactly good memories, they were unforgettable ones nonetheless. Both my Xbox 360 and PS3 failed this year. The Xbox red-ringed days before I was to get my copy of Street Fighter IV. The PS3 stopped reading Blu-ray discs just 10 minutes shy of the end of Burn After Reading that my wife and I borrowed from Netflix. We still haven’t finished the movie. The PS3 was out of warranty, but lucky for me, American Express has an extended warranty benefit that covers purchases made with Amex cards, so I got my repair costs reimbursed. And Sony still sends boxes.
- Fighting games: Speaking of Street Fighter IV, this year has indubitably been the year of the fighting game. Street Fighter IV, BlazBlue, Tekken 6, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 re-release. There has definitely been a resurgence of fighting game interest in the West. We probably have Street Fighter IV to thank for that. Consequently, this year has been loaded with amazing fighting game memories and events: MadCatz released the Tournament Edition fightsticks to give console players an outstanding and competitively priced alternative to the top-of-the-line Hori sticks; Evo2k9 was live-streamed for the first time in its history, allowing upwards of thirty thousand people to witness live another epic bout in the endless East vs. West war between Daigo and Wong (with SoCal rep Ed Ma taking 3rd and doing us Californians proud); I began teaching my younger cousin the Street Fighter basics and watched him level up from a flowchart Ken into a formidable Chun Li diving into the arcade scene at SJSU; my masochistically chosen Carl Clover went from being pitied to being “disgusting” (except against lame Arakune dive spam) during lunchtime and after-work BlazBlue battles. Here’s hoping 2010 continues to nurture the fighting game scene.
- GM’ing priveleges: As a programmer at a game studio, I helped launch my first title this year, which is a huge step for my future career in the industry. One of the highlights of that milestone had to be when the Community Relations team invited all of the developers to participate in an apocalyptic end-of-beta event in which we were given ridiculous powers and an order to kill players. We had to play nice and let them kill us once in a while (I even stuck around so they could get screenshots of my corpse), but it was a memorable moment becoming a living part of hundreds of players’ experiences.
- 2.0: I basically spent two consecutive months of this year on family leave lounging around at home. A screaming, pooping child really limits your options. On the plus side, with a kid that slept all day except when he was eating, I got a lot of gaming time in. Of course, that was only after my body adjusted to the three-hours-of-sleep-at-a-time schedule. But after that, I must’ve completed something like ten games in that period of time: Brutal Legend, ODST, Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, Jeanne d’Arc, Half-Minute Hero, Final Fantasy II, Torchlight, Wind Waker, and others I probably just can’t remember. I told myself I’d be productive and do some work on a side project I’ve been designing, but that just didn’t happen. In any case, retirement is looking extremely desirable now…
- Assassin’s Creed: …was one of the games I mentioned that I played during my family leave. I just recently picked up Assassin’s Creed II and am making good progress to complete it in another couple days. The series is phenomenal. I wasn’t trying to make this a top 10 games list, but the two Assassin’s Creed games definitely comprise a couple of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had this past year. A little cyberpunk here, some history there, a healthy dash of conspiracy theory, with a mixture of free-running and stealth action gameplay, not to mention the top-notch production values – seriously, if you haven’t played the Assassin’s Creed series yet, do it now! Heck, buy it here through Amazon (who usually offers great prices, free shipping, and no tax) so I get me some commission monies.
- Steam holiday sale: This thing’s been better than getting actual gifts! For the past week, the first thing I’ve done after getting out of bed is to go to my computer and check the daily sales on Steam. In case you haven’t noticed, they’re insane. The deals are so crazy that on the first day of the sale, I overheard a couple of my coworkers talking about how they spent hundreds of dollars on “impulse purchases”.
- You!: I know I’ve neglected this blog a lot, but my motivation has steadily increased as of late. It really wouldn’t be possible without seeing the traffic and occasional comment to remind me that people still take some remote interest in this hunk of junk. I especially want to thank GameSetWatch for linking a lot of the stuff I write. Overall, putting my thoughts onto this metaphoric paper has really taught me how to more deeply appreciate and understand this genre we all know and love.
Happy New Year, everyone! Game on!