First of all, a quick reminder that my Game of the Year doesn’t necessarily have to come out in 2012. Because I don’t have the time to dedicate to video games, the price premium of buying it new rarely makes sense to me. So my Game of the Year will be my favorite game that I played in 2012.
As I compiled my list I realized that I played a lot less games in 2012. I may not have played a lot less hours (I haven’t bothered comparing the totals with 2011), but I definitely had a lot less variety. A lot of that has to do with the birth of my daughter this year. Only as the year has gone on have I been able to carve out some time here and there to play story-based games. In addition, I resumed pursuing my master’s degree in the fall, right around the time I was able to have a bit more time to myself. I didn’t have any gameplay at all in March, September or October.
I ended 2011 thinking that Bastion would surely be my GOTY for 2012. I finished it in January and I can barely remember most of what made the story so great. But that doesn’t matter because there are other games I played this year that have really touched me in ways that I didn’t really know video games could.
Civilization V (52 hrs) – Early in the year I played a bunch because the expansion pack came out and it reminded me I hadn’t played Civ V in a while. Later I finally bought the expansion pack and played another great game of Civ V. I think I’ll continue to really enjoy Civ V as my default game when I’m not playing my narrative games.
Saint’s Row: The Third (31 hr) – I played this game only until first half of year and then at the end of the year. You can see what I’ve written about it, but it’s basically a crazy Grand Theft Auto.
Plants vs Zombies (30 hrs) – Got back into Plants vs Zombies when I was thumbing (virtually) through my games on Steam. I noticed I still had some relatively simple achievements to get so I tried to get those. I also worked on collecting the virtual coins. So I played in January and then didn’t do more than an hour in the rest of the year.
Mass Effect 2 ( 20 hr) – I finally finished in Feb. I was rushing to finish it before Scarlett was born and I succeeded. The ending wasn’t as great as Mass Effect 1, but the game as a whole was better in Mass Effect 2. I was very excited for Mass Effect 3, but the Giant Bomb guys have pretty much said it’s crap so I’m not really motivated to spend the money.
Team Fortress 2 (19 hrs) – Other than Civ V this is one of the games I play all year long whenever I want a bit of gameplay. It’s not as easy to get into and out of it as Civ, but it’s still a bit of quick fun. I played all year long, especially around the holidays.
Batman: Arkham City ( 7 hrs) – I did not enjoy Batman: Arkham City as much as Arkham Asylum. I felt the pace was off and they amped up the difficulty in weird ways. So after playing it a bit in January 2012, I still haven’t finished haven’t finished playing. I’m not sure if I’ll even go back to it.
Peggle Deluxe (7 hr) – Another perennial favorite. It’s easy to do a couple quick games.
Portal 2 (1 hr) – I fired up Portal 2 in May to do commentary, but got frustrated that I couldn’t save in a particular spot to continue to commentary from there.
To The Moon (4 hr) – I just had a large writeup of this game in the December games report.
Bastion (2 hr) – I started the year with the intention of playing New Game +, but never played beyond February.
Solitaire (2 hr) – Just regular Windows 7 Solitaire.
Trine 2 Demo (2 hr) – I played it and enjoyed it, but not enough to play it again.
Tetris HD (1 hr) – I love Tetris so much. I’ve mentioned it so many times on this blog.
Cities XL (1 hr) – I started working on my city again in April and then I heard about the development of Sim City (5) which is coming out in March. They seem to have taken a page from Civilization V and simplified it while retaining a lot of the parts of the complexity that make it fun. I’m really looking forward to trying it out. After the fiasco that Sim City 4 ended up being when they released the transportation expansion and then abandoned it for The Sims 2 expansions, it looks like it’s finally getting some serious development again.
Chess Titans (<1 hr) – Just wanted to see how this game played.
Greed Corp (<1 hr) – Finally got Dan to get this game and played one game with him. He did really awesomely for having not played it before.
Worms Reloaded (<1 hr) – I played during the free weekend, but didn’t buy the game or play any more than that.
Game of the Year
As I mentioned above, when 2012 started I was sure I would be nominating Bastion as the top game of 2012. Mass Effect 2 was great, but not groundbreaking. It was a better Mass Effect 1. Then Dan gifted me The Walking Dead. The Giant Bomb guys had been talking about it for a while and it sounded like a neat game, but I’m not really into Zombie fiction and I wasn’t into The Walking Dead comics. WOW, what a game! Each episode built upon the previous one in a way that made me care about these characters. It was a level of connection with fiction that I hadn’t ever had before – not with movies, books, or other video games. The choices I made at the end of the game had me feeling really strong emotions. It seemed like a no-brainer to make The Walking Dead my Game of the Year for 2012.
But then I played To the Moon. Here was a game that contained everything to hit every emotional chord. It had the nostalgia of a 16-bit RPG. It had the great storytelling techniques of Memento. It touched upon growing older and love. It had a great score that really supported the game and sounded like the RPGs of old while still sounding original rather than derivative.
So which of these deserves the title? I think, in the end it has to go to The Walking Dead. While To the Moon tells a great story that really spoke to me in my current life situation and there aren’t zombies around for The Walking Dead to do the same, by making me control and make decisions for the main character in The Walking Dead, it became me. With To the Moon I wasn’t in control of John nor did I really take on the personality of either of the technicians. I was just moving the technicians around the world. But my choices in The Walking Dead had profound impacts in who lived and who died (even if, in the end, the same people were probably going to be dead at the end)
So congratulations to The Walking Dead for being my Game of the Year for 2012.