Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Graduated Gamer's Game of the Year 2013

The end of another year is nearly upon us and like clockwork every gaming site, magazine, and blogger big and small is making a list of their top games of the year. I’ve never really been much of a sucker for this sort of thing, whether it’s done by self-touted experts or fan voting, because as I’ve said numerous times before on this blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter, gaming tastes are extremely subjective. Sure, there are some phenomenally rated games every year, but does it mean that they should be considered Game of the Year (GOTY) over lesser-rated games? Does a number truly dictate if a game offers significantly better entertainment value to a gamer?

These matters are what drive websites to more hits, because humans are drawn to interaction and discussion with others, even if it involves nothing more than fanboy arguments and homophobic slurs (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just check out any IGN or YouTube comments section about anything). Still, opinions are like assholes (and even worse, it’s mostly assholes who share their opinions) and every year the voting and conversations about GOTY lead to arguments about games that get the most press because “experts” use their groupthink to give them all near-perfect scores in an attempt to avoid the wrath of the deranged masses. It makes me sad to think that we live in a world where people demand a reviewer be fired for giving GTA 5 less than a perfect score, but alas it’s true.

Well somebody's getting fired!

Regardless, I like to think that there are still sane, reasonable gamers in the world who prefer to think for themselves rather than let the opinions of others sway them. I mean, do you really trust someone who thinks a single sentence and a paragraph can be the same thing?

I know I certainly don’t.

But I digress – I’ve decided to cave this year and tell you all what game I’ve chose as my GOTY. Now I’ll admit right now that about 95% of my gaming is done on the Xbox 360, and I also didn’t start gaming seriously until about halfway through the year. Oh, and one more caveat – I played a lot of retro games and games not from 2013 this year. So essentially, when you boil down my seriously playing time to games from 2013, you get Grand Theft Auto V and Dynasty Warriors 8. And this is where most of you should stop reading, because I’m about to name a personal GOTY based on non-empirical and highly subjective data from a severely limited pool of games from this past year on one console (are you beginning to see yet why I hate GOTY awards?).

If you’re still reading, I apologize, but I’ll just get to it. The winner of the inaugural Graduated Gamer Game of the Year Award (henceforth known as GGGOTY) is Grand Theft Auto V. This should come as no shock to my followers and readers, as I spent an unacceptable amount of time playing this came when it released. For one, I was at the midnight release which I’ve never done before for a video game, and I played it for almost 8 hours straight that first night before going to bed for a few hours to promptly wake up and play it the entire next day.

Rockstar, you're a bunch of mad geniuses.

Now amount of playing time doesn’t necessarily make this a great game, but the reason why I was so enthralled does. For one, the story is at least engaging, which is a plus for a GTA game. After the now-understood abomination of a game in Grand Theft Auto IV gave us not only a boring story but uninteresting characters with no emotional attachment, the geniuses at Rockstar seemed to realize their mistake and put a lot of effort into the design of the characters and their respective story-arcs. I was extremely engaged and invested in these characters, and even more so I found myself laughing out loud at the in-game and cut scene dialogue. If the game wasn’t so absolutely gorgeous to look at, I’d say that the writing was the best thing about this game.

But alas, the graphics are phenomenal, and as someone who always stays away from the argument of “game X will be amazing because the graphics are great”, this pains me to say. But I can’t deny a game so beautiful that I actually spent moments in the game taking in-game pictures of scenery and just moving the camera around to catch the perfect shot of a sunset over a mountain. For a world this large with various ecosystems and a large city to explore, the textures are well-done (even if it does take them a few seconds to fully realize when you’re moving across the map) and I found myself just staring in awe at how well-designed every detail was. You could certainly tell that the makers of this game took pride in what they were doing, and I have to appreciate this.

Gorgeous mountain views await you in Los Santos!

Lastly, the gameplay is a blast. The GTA series has always done a good job (understatement) of adding new and revolutionary ways to play in their wide open worlds, and they certainly set the bar pretty high in their latest installment. Almost everything you see in the game can be driven and/or explored and/or stolen and/or reached and/or destroyed and/or killed. The amount of freedom you are given in this game is impressive, and the nice little touches to crimes you can commit and missions you can complete make all the difference between a great game and my GGGOTY. Store clerks shooting at you after you rob them isn’t a necessary touch, but it adds a small detail that will make you stand up and slow-clap…once you get the hell out of there and evade the cops that is.

I could continue to drone on and on about how Grand Theft Auto V is my GGGOTY, and I haven’t even gotten into the online portion of the game (which, depending on your viewpoint and experience, could make or break my argument for this game being the best of 2013), but I don’t want to bore everyone to sleep. Besides, as I said earlier this is all subjective garbage that most of you will disagree with, and frankly I want you too. My experience is extremely limited with games from 2013, and sticking to only the Xbox 360 this past year I’ve missed out on amazing titles like The Last of Us, Diablo III (PC), and Gone Home.

So please, disagree with me, and take everything you read from so-called experts with a grain of salt – the truth of the matter is, your opinion is just as valuable and chances are more informed than those who write for the likes of IGN and Game Informer. Happy New Year everyone – here’s to an amazing 2014 filled with great gaming and fewer fanboy fights about XB1 and PS4. Cheers!

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