2013: My Year of Games

The year 2012 was what I would consider to be a milestone-filled year for me, at least in the realms of work and finance. I managed to become 100% debt-free, beholden to no man. I also received a significant promotion at work in the late summer, which carried with it a rather hefty pay increase. I mention all of this because it means that prior to those events, I had been fairly thrifty with my game purchasing, and by extension rather slow and methodical with my game playing. But after all that occurred, I decided to go all in, big-time. In November of 2012 I purchased my first PS3 (I had been playing 360 only since I re-entered the game-playing world in mid-2010). Around that time I spent money like a crazy person, throwing out wads of cash toward Amazon and their low-priced shitty games, which allowed me to build a back catalog of console games that went well into triple digits.

While 2012 was a boon to my finances, I found myself significantly and increasingly frustrated by society as a whole. Petty bickering, continuing violence, rampant unfettered self-interest, and encouraged stupidity abounded. These things made me very tired. Very, very tired. So, instead of doing something profound and courageous with my life to combat these horrible societal turns, I decided to retreat into the world of video games. It was a medium with which I had some prior experience, and it seemed a quite appealing one in that it could provide a form of escapism.

It was this series of events that led to my actions during 2013, and the below is a list of 100+ console games that I started and finished during the last year.

First, some things I would like to explain about the below content. All of the games listed were played on one of the (originally two and now four) current major consoles. They are listed in the month in which they were completed. By “completed” I generally mean that I finished the single-player campaign of the game. I do not play multiplayer games, generally, and ’S-ranking’ a lot of these games is a time commitment I am not willing to make. Games that do not have a campaign in the traditional sense were not included (such as sports games, quiz games, racing games, etc.) with a few exceptions for cases where an actual campaign-type thing existed.

Also, much to the chagrin of many of you folks out there, I do not have a modern game-worthy PC. I do have a fairly new iMac, on which I play a significant amount of games (my Steam Library is currently sitting at about 140 games and I have apparently played 585 hours of Civilization V). I have not included any of these games, despite the fact that I played a fairly large number of them, including such critical darlings as The Stanley Parable, Gone Home and Rogue Legacy.

All that being said, what you will see below is a breakdown of the games I played every month of 2013 with my picks for best and worst of that month. Enjoy! You almost certainly won't.

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January

I really love the winter. It is the time of year that I generally use most of my vacation time, and it also tends to be cold here in the Northern Hemisphere, thereby making it the only time of year that I am able to get a decent night’s sleep. Statistically, January is the coldest month of the year where I live, with an average daily high temperature of 39 degrees fahrenheit (4 degrees celsius). Despite my love of the cold, I am not really very fond of the snow, largely because it is kind of a pain in the ass (and arms, legs, neck and especially the back). What is also a pain in the ass is the damn LEGO games, one of which (LEGO Lord of the Rings) I played in January. The reason I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the LEGO games is that they expect you to play levels multiple times with multiple characters. I have no interest in doing that. I am a content tourist who feels that he should be able to experience all content of a game in one playthrough. Platformers like Rayman Origins are also guilty of this. Not a fan, me.

In the month of January I completed 9 games. My favorite game was probably Game of Thrones. I am a sucker for ponderous fantasy RPGs, what can I say? Also, I played it when it was rather cold outside, and the Game of Thrones universe is rather cold weather heavy. The combat was kind of funky, but the story was alright if you like that sort of weird semi-fantastical stuff or are a fan of the series. My least favorite was probably Lost Via Domus, despite the fact that I S-ranked it. Getting 1000 achievement points is a pretty satisfying reward for slogging through a game, but it was still rather boring to wander through. I should also mention that my playthrough of Halo Anniversary was the first time I had played a Halo game since playing this same game in non-HD form 10 years ago. I enjoyed it much more this time around.

Here is what I played:

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February

Ya know what annoys me about February? The number of days. Sometimes it’s 28, sometimes it’s 29. Where does February get off wielding that kind of power? Not only do you decide that you can have less days than any other month, you feel that you can also vary your number every four years? That’s some major bullshit, and makes me dislike February quite a bit off the bat despite its rather chilly temperatures (which is a definite plus). Also, what’s the deal with the extra ‘r’ that’s in there? Does anyone actually pronounce February as ‘fehb-roo-air-ee’? Everyone I know always says fehb-yoo-air-ee, therefore that is correct. They should just get rid of that extra ‘r’.

In the month of February I completed 7 games. My favorite game was… uh… er… Captain America? There are probably a couple of games in there that will be on people’s Games of the Generation lists, but I did not feel they held up very well. I also hate first-person shooters for the most part (I am looking at you Call of Duty). My least favorite game was Shadows of the Damned, because the so-called humor in it was some of the most embarrassingly juvenile I have ever experienced (mind you, I have not yet played Lollipop Chainsaw).

Here is what I played:

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March

In 2007, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 went into effect and moved the date that daylight savings time starts in the US from early April to early March. In my opinion, this is the greatest injustice in the history of mankind. March was always one of my favorite months before then, but all of the sudden my drive to work in the morning became dark again in 2007. I hate driving in the dark. I hate driving in general, but if I do have to drive, doing so in the daylight is far preferable. Also, I have skunks that live around my apartment. Skunks, for those of you who do not know, are crepuscular animals, meaning that that are active just after dusk and just before dawn. So, as of 2007, I have to very cautiously exit my apartment in the morning to make sure there aren’t any skunks in the vicinity ready to spray smelly disgusting urine at me all the way though the month of March, when most of March used to be a safe zone for me. Again, history’s greatest injustice. I also travelled to Kansas City for a training thing in March, which had a deleterious effect on my game-playing. Man, the midwest is pretty fucked up.

In the month of March I completed 8 games. My favorite was easily The Saboteur. This game seems like it is highly under appreciated amongst the gaming populace. It is pretty much a WW2 Assassin’s Creed without the eavesdropping missions. I enjoyed the heck out of Binary Domain, too. Big motherfuckin’ Bo! My least favorite game was probably Wolverine, but it really wasn’t too bad. I had a pretty good March, actually, in retrospect.

Here is what I played:

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April

Aaaahhhhh. Flowers blooming, grass growing, trees sprouting leaves… and at least one week during the beginning of the month where the goddamn temperature reaches close to 90 fahrenheit (32 or so celsius) and ruins my dag nab ability to sleep because my lazy-ass building manager hasn’t activated the AC yet! Fuck April! It is the beginning of the end of the quality days of winter. It’s not so bad overall, though, I guess. I had assumed before looking at my own data that I would have played less games during the warmer months of the year, as I would be more likely to just want to sit around and sweat profusely. April, as the month that begins the death of all that is good, seems to support that. Later months seem to harshly contradict it, though, which makes me think that maybe something weird is happening with April. I don't know… weird month. Begins with an ‘A’.

In the month of April I completed 6 games. My favorite was Bioshock. I quite enjoyed the story in this and was pleasantly surprised by the shooting in it, despite my general dislike of FPS stuff. I also would just like to add that the Keflings games are pretty cool. I didn’t play any of this with others and found it quite enjoyable. I just love building stuff, and having a constant progression. My least favorite game was The Simpsons game. I used to love the Simpsons until about the late 90s. Now, it is shit. This game was dull and stupid and had the comedy level of a Simpsons episode from the mid-2000s. Again, shit.

Here is what I played:

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May

While May is month that I am generally not terribly fond of due to the fact that it tends to get pretty warm by the end of its reign, I can’t say that I have the bad feelings about it that I do about April. I chalk that up to the fact that I pretty much expect the occasional heatwave in May, while April - despite the fact that it always fucking happens - always seems like its heat sneaks up on my ass and causes me to shave my head during some weird attempt to cool down, like what Pedro does in ‘Napoleon Dynamite’. May is also the month that includes Mothers’ Day. At the risk of being perceived as a really terrible person, I object to Mothers’ Day as a concept (Fathers’ Day, as well). Why should there be a day set aside to honor a choice that the honorees made of their own volition? I am not saying that the act of child-rearing is not difficult, but it really is a choice. No one forces you to be a parent, so no one should honor you for going through it.

In the month of May I completed 12 games. My favorite game was probably Mafia II. It was a pretty enjoyable little 3rd person action story that had perfectly fine controls and no issues with glitches or anything. It was pretty open and allowed the player to kind of run/drive around quite a bit. It was sort of a pre-Sleeping Dogs Sleeping Dogs. You may notice a lot of stuff in this month that seems like “achievement bumpers”. It is exactly what it seems like. I got them cheap and got lots of gamerscore from them. Sorry… I am a weak, weak man. One of those games was my least favorite game; Jumper. Goddammit, that was a boring-ass boring game. There are several others on this list that could easily fit that bill, but none were so consistently boring as Jumper. It was even more boring than the horribly boring film.

Here is what I played:

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June

I really hate sweating. There are very few things that I find less comfortable than having articles of clothing stick to my body due to moisture. June is the month that sweat really starts to make its horrible ingress into my life. It often causes another thing that I despise to occur: the shedding of clothes. I am of the opinion that people should cover up as much of their bodies as possible at all times. Male, female, fat, skinny, ugly, attractive... it doesn't matter to me. Long pants, hoodies, knit caps (or “toques” for you weirdo Canadiens), large boots, overcoats, top hats, robes… all these are things that should be worn at all times by everyone. June is the month that people shed all of these items and wander around in cut-off denim shorts and leather vests. This is something that should be condemned at every level of society.

In the month of June I completed 12 games. Now that I think about it, I have to assume that the reason I play a lot of games in June is because there is a lot of daylight and I can’t sleep when it is not dark. Therefore, I play lots of games every weeknight after work until it is late enough that I can actually fall asleep. My favorite game was Tomb Raider. It had all the best aspects of games like Uncharted and had some of the tightest controls that I have ever experienced. The weird accusations of sexism were entirely unfounded, and based only in the attempts of perv fucks who wanted to propagate antiquated notions of female helplessness in order to meet their own old-fashioned needs. My least favorite game was Homefront. Goddamn was that game some painfully outdated shit with lame rah-rah America rubbish all the way through. I like Red Dawn as much as the next goofball mid-80s kid, but this made that movie look like Citizen Kane.

Here is what I played:

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July

I really fucking hate the summer around here. It gets very hot and very humid and I can’t sleep and my fans are blowing ineffectively all the time and so is my AC and my electric bill approaches $100 when it should really only be like $30 and fuck this shit! I would be remiss to not mention the obvious unpleasantness of this particular July for Giant Bomb fans. I am not one who is generally affected by death, especially the deaths of those that I don’t know. But Ryan’s passing, along with that of George Carlin’s in 2008 were ones that were genuinely saddening to me. But let’s face it, Carlin was 71 and Ryan was 34. I now hate July for more than logical weather-related reasons.

In the month of July I completed 11 games. My favorite game was You Don’t Know Jack. I generally don’t allow quiz games to be on these types of lists, but I think anyone that has played this game will agree that there can certainly be what is considered a “campaign” to this, by which I mean the completion of every round. I did that in July (largely to get the July 4th achievement) and ended up with 1323 points out of 1500 from this game due to the lack of anyone playing multiplayer at this point. The one fucking game I might like to play multiplayer. Bioshock Infinite was pretty good, too. My least favorite game was LEGO Indiana Jones 2 because it had the usual LEGO shit of requiring you to play each level several times to complete all content and is based on the least interesting IP that LEGO has delved into thus far.

Here is what I played:

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August

A lot of people that I know think that August is the hottest month of the year. I don’t know why that is because it is a simple and easily-researched fact that around these here parts August is merely the 2nd- warmest month of the year. Statistically, July blows August away, which is just another reason why FUCK JULY! While I am certainly no fan of August, either, I had a heck of a time playing games this month for whatever reason. Just look at those games I played! Some really amazing stuff down there. It is becoming clear that I am playing more games during the summer than the winter, despite my hatred for this time of year. What is also clear is that I must just be absolutely tearing through games in the summer, because I hardly remember anything about any of these.

In the month of August I completed 10 games. My favorite game was Saints Row IV. It is the game that either of the Crackdown games should have been. Play a couple of hours and you will get enough upgrades to be running and jumping and flopping and flying all over the place at your will. While the frame rate was totally fucked at times on the 360 (which I noticed way more often during the DLC than the main game) I found it really fun to do almost everything in this game (with the exception of some of the side content). My least favorite game was… Call of Duty: MW2, I guess? It was alright, I guess but, criminy, look at its compeition. I tend to dislike FPS games and specifically modern military FPS games, so there you go.

Here is what I played:

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September

September is the month of the year that tends to be most active in tropical storms in the North Atlantic. This year was pretty tame as far as these things go. Despite what all the so-called “experts” predicted, the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season was one of the least active on record (even taking into account how much more sensitive and meticulous modern measuring techniques have become). This just goes to show how much of a waste weather prediction is, specifically tropical cyclone activity prediction. Fuck William Gray and the horse he rode in on! Go out more than a couple of days and the prediction people are no more reliable than flipping a coin, whether one is talking about a tropical cyclone or just precipitation chance.

In the month of September I completed 6 games. I’m not sure why I played fewer games this month than the ones before it. I think I was actually pretty heavy into attempting to get a bunch of Steam achievements in Civilization V. I should really have taken some notes about my activity for this thing instead of working entirely off of memory. Anyway, my favorite game was Dead Space 3. Seems like a lot of people were pretty down on this game, but i enjoyed it quite a bit. Complete removal of horror elements from games is a considerable plus for a franchise in my opinion. My least favorite game was Deadpool. It was very dull, and that was keeping entirely in pace with the character itself. Also keeping in pace with character from the comics were the stultifying lame attempts at humor. The fact this type of humor appeals to some people is indicative of the stupidity that is prevalent in society.

Here is what I played:

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October

There is something about the month of October that has always appealed to me. Maybe it is because it begins with the letter ‘O’ and no other month has decided to do that. Maybe it is because it represents the true ending of the hot weather that is so prevalent until this time of year. Not sure. Whatever it is, one thing that I can assure is that it has nothing to do with Halloween. I hate Halloween as a concept, I despise horror themes, and I am no fan of dressing up in weird garb for any purpose. Whatever the reason that I actually seem to enjoy this month, it has always been a month that I seem to play a lot games. This year was no exception.

In the month of October I completed 11 games. My favorite game was Diablo III. I played close to 100 hours of Diablo III when it came out on PC/Mac back in the summer of 2012. I enjoyed it, but I must admit that it was nowhere near as fun as it was to play it with a controller on the 360 in 2013. My least favorite game was Aliens: Colonial Marines because it was extraordinarily dull. I liked this game less than Ride to Hell: Retribution which was the consensus worst of the year at many sites. My reasoning here is the bizarre comedic value that Ride to Hell had. Aliens had none of that, and was solemnly serious all the way through. Word of advice: if you are going to suck at something, suck so bad that it isn’t horribly boring.

Here is what I played:

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November

I seem to be discussing the weather in a lot of these things, but I will deviate here. I have no problem with November. Also, in November of 2013 I bought a PS Vita - the same bundle, in fact, that Vinny bought. It seemed like a heck of a deal, even though I have never even touched a handheld gaming system before, and was unsure whether I would play it at all. As it turns out, I am playing quite a bit of Vita, mostly while on the shitter (where else are you going to play? Come on!). I haven’t finished any games yet, but playing Wipeout 2048 during my morning pre-work dump while drinking a Red Bull Zero has been pretty satisfying for the last month. Getting my face shown inside the sun during Tearaway while plopping, on the other hand, is kind of unnerving.

In the month of November I completed 13 games. My favorite was definitely XCOM: Enemy Within. Enemy Unknown was my 2012 Game of the Year, and Enemy Within is my 2013 Game of the Year. The expansion adds a huge amount to the original and playing though it in its entirety is closer to a completely new experience than any expansion in which I have partaken. Honorable mention goes to the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, which improves on The Walking Dead’s mechanics and is a far more interesting story. My least favorite game was Inversion. It was a sad Gears of War clone with a clumsy gravity mechanic. Just kidding. That was shit, but it was nowhere near as terrible as Duke Nukem Forever.

Here is what I played:

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December

At no time of the year can one acquire more games for less money than December. Whether it is $0.49 games during the Steam Holiday Sale or 360 and PS3 disc-based games for just a few dollars each, there is a wealth of gaming needs that can be filled for next to nothing. Also, December is pretty cold, and if you read any of my prior summations, you’ll know I love the cold. Yeah, I’m bringing weather back into it! The worst part of December is that fact that it contains some pretty major grocery shopping days. Don’t even bother going to a grocery store on the days before Christmas and New Years in America. It is a fucking nightmare. I went to Shop-Rite on the 22nd to pick up my normal items and I ended up dropping my little red hand-basket on the floor and running out of the store in frustration after being repeatedly elbowed by a morbidly obese balding woman in the cracker aisle. I hate holidays and people who stock up on food for these days - thereby shoving aside the average shopper - are pure evil.

In the month of December I completed 10 games. My favorite, quite shockingly, was Ni no Kuni. I have never spent anywhere near this amount of time (about 50 hours) with a JRPG before. I am going to be honest here… I don’t really get Japan stuff. Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Nintendo shit, Persona… I just don’t see what the appeal is, in general (and I am not allowing my complete Nintendo abstinence to color this opinion). I don’t mean to condemn these things, I am just expressing my disinterest. Ni no Kuni, on the other hand, I found to be an absolute delight. The art and voice acting was great and the story and battles were far more interesting than they had any reason to be. I also feel I must give a mention to Beyond: Two Souls here. It is the closest the medium has come to providing us with an actual interactive movie, despite what all those 90s CD-ROMs claimed. Take that as you will, but I quite liked it. My least favorite game was The Walking Dead. I played it last year on my Mac and I didn’t like it at all because the controls were horrendous and I despise post-apocalypse shit that doesn’t explain why this situation has occurred. I decided to run through it again on 360 prior to the 2nd season since it was so highly acclaimed (and because I wanted the achievements). I still don’t like it. Sorry. (That apology is not at all genuine).

Here is what I played:

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So that was my year of game-playing. Overall, I had a fucking blast! I can say without irony that it was probably the best year of my life. To close this terribly overlong blog post, I shall now list my favorite games released in 2013.

10. Beyond: Two Souls - I have yet to experience a game that felt more like an interactive movie than this game. Quantic Dream is a weird studio, and their prior game - Heavy Rain - was pretty fucked up (Jaaason!), but this one much better. The acting was a considerable step up and the story was far less mundane and melodramatic. These factors and the gorgeous visuals make this a must play.

9. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - I will admit right now that before playing Ni no Kuni, I had never played a JRPG to completion. In fact, I'd be surprised if I have ever spent more than about 10 hours with one. After digging the art and story bits that were shown during the Quick Look (and seeing it on sale at Amazon for $14) I decided to give this a shot in mid-December. I played 50+ hours aver the period of a about 10 days and Ni no Kuni has made me question my previously stanch anti-JRPG stand. The battles were a bit of a repetitive grind by the end, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere, art and the way the story unfolded (although it was fairly predictable).

8. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - As a fan of all things XCOM since the early 90s (except for for Enforcer... man was that boring) I was as ambivalent about this game as anyone. The switch to 3rd person was a huge win in my eyes, and the further switch from run-of-the-mill shooting to a more tactical bent was also welcome. I seem to recall Vinny or Brad mentioning on a Bombcast how bad the squad mate AI in this is, and boy were they right. Despite that, I enjoyed this game quite a bit.

7. Dead Rising 3 - I gave the first Dead Rising game a go about two years ago and didn't enjoy it one bit. I really dislike being given rigid time restraints in games, and that is obviously one of the major 'things' in the series. Due to this, I really had no interest in this game at all leading up to its release, until Brad described his experience with the game in early November. The (optional) removal of the timer functionality, the amped-up RPG elements and the relief over some earlier performance worries made me decide to give it a shot. And I am extremely pleased that I did, since otherwise I would have found the Xbox One's launch line-up as depressing as the PS4's.

6. Bioshock Infinite - While it was the critical darling that everyone assumed it would, I have noticed a fair amount of backlash about this game from the common folk (yes, my power of observations is that keen). For the life of me I can't figure out why so many people seem to railing against this game now. Was it the shooting? I am usually lukewarm at best about FPS games, but I really enjoyed the gameplay in this. Was it the time travel conundrum shit? I admit I didn't necessarily understand everything that happened, but whatever it was that occurred was really fucking well done.

5. Tomb Raider - Hey look! It's a game where a woman has the shit beaten out of her just like 99% of games have a man getting the shit beaten out of him! That's wrong! And the people who made this game are terrible for not perpetuating the backward notion of women being helpless all the time and in need of male protection! Nah. That's all horseshit, and it's the exact horseshit that came out about because of this game. It just goes to show how little we have progressed as a society. The simple fact is that this game outdoes Uncharted at being Uncharted and outdoes Assassin's Creed as being Assassin's Creed. Forget all the rest of the bull that surrounds it.

4. Diablo III (360) - This game proves that a gamepad is far superior to mouse and keyboard controls in every way (yeah, I said it!). I played about 100 hours of Diablo III when it came out on the PC/Mac in the summer of 2012, and had a damned good time with it. But the console release this year blows that version away in every possible way. Not only are the controls more intuitive than playing on the PC/Mac, the updates to the loot system made it much less of an annoyance to slog through while trying to manage gear through the debacle that was the auction house. If you are going to play Diablo III, get it on a console.

3. Saints Row IV - Goddammit is this a fucking fun gam or what!?! Take everything form the prior Saints Row games and jack it up as high as you can with Crackdown-esque superpowers and the ability to pretty much do whatever you want. Add in the most addictive series of collectible-chasing side missions that I have ever seen, a map that actually shows you pretty early where to find everything, and achievements/trophies that do not make you spend hours doing stupid shit over and over, and you have one of the top three games of the year, and probably in the top ten of the generation.

2. Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World - Goddammit are these Civ games addictive! According to Steam, I have played Civ V for 585 hours. And i can assure you, that is all pure play time. I didn't leave it running, and I didn't fall asleep on my keyboard. AT least 200 of those hours probably came this year as I digested the amazing content that was added with the 2nd expansion pack. I consider it a separate game due to all the things that were added. An amazing experience, and makes me ender how I ever played the game prior to its release.

1. XCOM: Enemy Within - Yep, my top two games are expansion packs of Firaxis games. Like the Civ V expansion in my number two spot, Enemy Within added so much to the original game that it can undoubtedly be considered a separate game from its predecessor. While the game's central plot is unchanged from the Enemy Unknown, the addition of a huge number of maps, several major categories of squad member abilities, new enemies, and lots of new tech and engineering goals make this the perfect coda to my game of the year from 2012.

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