My 2013 Special Distinction Awards For Video Games and Other "Stuff"

Author's Note: Look I don't think that I played enough games released during 2013 to make a traditional "Game of the Year" list or blog. In fact as you will quickly see many of my awards went to non-video game stuff. Sacrilege? Maybe, but I will make amends with the Great Spaghetti Monster before the year is done to make up for that. So instead here are my Special Distinction Awards for stuff from 2013! I hope you enjoy them as much as I spent making and writing them.

Best Game Gimmick of the Year – Hunting (Again!)

This is still cool and will always be cool!

Man was it another great year for killing virtual fauna or what? Between Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider and small indie titles like Don’t Starve hunting became a surprise hit this gaming year, albeit again. That said while killing any random antelope by shooting an arrow through its nostril is fun the first couple of times it lacks drive unless you are able to make something from your prey…oh wait that’s not new either.

Yes while there were plenty of games in 2012 that had hunting as a mechanic, 2013 proves that this isn’t a gimmick that isn’t going to disappear any time soon, especially for open world games. Hey maybe there’s something to those Cabela’s games that we are all unwilling to admit. Maybe there’s an inner hunting enthusiast in all of us. Though I don’t think the NRA hosts lessons on how to kill a shark by harpooning it to death.

Most Visually Broken Game – X Rebirth


Boy where do I even start with X Rebirth? Maybe the clichéd sound bite of “I am a longtime fan of the series and was bitterly disappointed by this recent reboot” works. Either way X Rebirth is an unmitigated disaster. It’s boring, there are no redeeming characters, but more importantly it’s a visual nightmare.

The developers of X Rebirth for some reason decided to take note from JJ Abrams and his recent helming of the Star Trek franchise, most notably his sometimes egregious and other times cinematic use of light bloom; except X Rebirth takes it to eleven. The neon drenched nebulas, and “authentic” cockpit end up becoming major hindrances when you are actually playing the game. The neon coated and bright space-scapes make piloting space ships in X Rebirth an assault on your occipital lobe. It’s impossible to even distinguish what is happening on your cramped screen. That’s why X Rebirth is just visually BROKEN. Every design decision related to the way the game looks not only hurts the game, but makes it impossible to play. I mean can any of you honestly tell me what’s going on this screenshot?

Worst Thing Sold as “Entertainment” – The Final Episode of Dexter

How does this even happen?

I was pretty close to going with Spike’s VGX Awards earlier, but by pure chance YouTube recommended Monty Python’s “I’m a Lumberjack” skit…and then I was instantly reminded of the last episode of Dexter, AND BOY HOWDY WAS THAT A SHITSHOW!

Did you play a disappointing or terrible game this year? Well how would you feel if a game you had been playing for eight years decided to shit its pants and completely forego all the good will you had for it in less than two years? It’s not just that the final episode of Dexter was bad…it was the just the worst storytelling and entertainment experience I had all year. What about resolving the Masuka stuff with his daughter? Or giving Angie Miller an actual character arc? No? Well…shit.

Best One Week Obsession – Salty Bet

Is it sad if I already know who is going to win this match?

I, like many people really enjoyed Salty Bet albeit my obsession over it only last about a week. Though that amount of time doesn’t seem that significant I think it’s important to provide some context.

I use Steam chat a lot, just ask @gamer_152 or @chaser324. However, it’s important to note that I use Steam chat to almost exclusively harass and harangue my fellow moderators. When Salty Bet first rolled out, I didn’t just enjoy it by myself. I spread that craziness to as many people as I knew…that wouldn’t ask me to stop messaging them. Not just that but I would not let up if some of my “peers” didn’t at least watch one full match.

Alas this relationship was not to last and after getting burned when Dragon Ball Z characters miraculously got good, and an incessant number of repeats it just kind of ended for me. That and the Salty Bet community…I mean Jaysus! All that aside I can say that I have no regrets, but I can’t recommend that anyone try the Schedule One Substance known as Salty Bet.

Door Opener of the Year – Candy Box

Candy Box deserves some sort of special distinction award for opening me up to this new generation of browser/url based games that have been coming out. I completely skipped on Frog Fractions last year, but decided to finally go back to it after getting engrossed with Candy Box. I felt triumphant when I finally defeated that goddamned dragon, but not only thatI spent a good deal of time trying to develop new potions and testing strategies.


Candy Box gets my “Door Opener Award” not just because it resulted in me going back to games like Frog Fractions or Don’t Shit Your Pants, but also for changing my mindset. Jokes like Soda Drinker Pro or Bubsy 3D would have otherwise been given a prejudiced scoff by myself. Cookie Clicker or Clicking Bad wouldn’t have been given a chance. So for that Candy Box, you have my thanks.

That said…man was Candy Box 2 kind of a bummer.

Ostrich Moment of the Year – Dota 2

One of you “gifted” me Dota 2 when it was still in beta. Then I downloaded it when it went “live” this year. Then before actually playing it, I removed it from my computer.

Look I can’t be entirely open minded. As good as I may have been in giving browser games a shot this year I draw the line at Dota 2; although I have no idea why exactly I am drawing this line. During the summer I watched a TON of The International. Part of it had to do with me being the unofficial chat moderator for the stream, and from what I saw Dota 2 kind of looks awesome. Yet I want to have nothing to do with Dota 2. The time and patience you have to have in order to get even marginally good at Dota 2 is just not the commitment I ever want to make.

Do I have my head in the sand in regards to Dota 2? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Best Story – Breaking Bad Ozymandias

Do you want a better story than The Last of Us or BioShock? Here you go.

On a positive television note thank God for AMC! Though more thanks should be given to Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, and everyone involved with Breaking Bad for making a masterpiece. My only complaint about how things concluded for Breaking Bad is that the best episode of the last season, and in my opinion of the entire show, was the third to last episode.

Ozymandias was an emotionally gripping and exhausting experience. To be perfectly honest it was the single greatest self-contained story that I saw this entire year across all mediums, and I include video games in that mix of film, books, and television as well. The phone conversation between Walt and Skylar at the end of the episode…Jesus that was some great and powerful stuff. This cast of characters was more than a collection of television actors saying lines. Their actions were sometimes excruciating and I felt the horror that other characters conveyed as Walter White began his climatic downfall. As George R.R. Martin put it "Walter White is a bigger monster than anyone in Westeros."

Now if only I knew what to watch on Sundays that didn’t involve glorified head and brain trauma.

Least Surprisingly Good, Good Game – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

Alright I’m not going to joke around here. Assassin’s Creed IV is not my most surprisingly good game, nor is it my “turnaround game of the year,” because I have no qualms with Assassin’s Creed III. Not only that but for the most part I found Assassin’s Creed III to be a fine and great game. Were there a couple of missions that came across as unfair or poorly designed? Sure, but most of the objectives that were “unfair” were completely optional and for crazy people. I also had no issues with the gritty re-imagining of the American Revolution, but I will not make apologies for how the Desmond stuff concluded. Then again Desmond was always the weakest part of the Assassin’s Creed franchise excluding the couple of “Oh Shit!” moments at the end of II and Brotherhood.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has, to me at least, been a case example of how it’s okay to let developers re-iterate their games using the same technology. I mean just look at the improvement from II to Brotherhood. So to me it didn’t come as a surprise that Assassin’s Creed IV is better than III. The entire history of this franchise has been improvement over time and eventually adding in too many mechanics that result in a loss of cohesiveness (i.e. Revelations).

Black Flag is still a great game, and if I am so daring, would most likely take my “Game of the Year” award if I was giving one out this year. The ship battles were joyous, and the Caribbean came across as a living world. However, I never lacked the confidence that Ubisoft didn’t have it “in them,” to make this all happen.

Revelatory Food Experience of the Year – Eating Hi-Chews for the First Time

If something almost ruins your life...that's worth something, right?

Every year brings a new food experience to me. Two years ago I tried Code Red Mountain Dew for the first time in my life, and last year I ate my first Little Caesar’s pizza. This year I ate Hi-Chews for the first time. Just like the previous two items the experience was revelatory until I “gluttoned” myself out of a potentially dangerous relationship, but my overall love for the candy has gone unabated.

During the height of this obsession I was going through one 100+ piece bag in a week. It got so bad that I was special ordering fruit flavors not available at my local grocery store from Japan at a premium. It got so bad that an online wholesale candy distributor thought I was a small business.

But damn was it worth it. I’d do anything to get some more of this superior Starburst alternative especially if it’s a flavor not available in the United States.

Patriot Act Approved Game of the Year – Splinter Cell Blacklist

I want to start this off by saying I actually really liked Splinter Cell Blacklist. It was a great co-op experience and was a blast to play. That said, boy can you tell this game is grounded in “re-enacting” the fears and drama of modern day society, and U.S. society at that. Maybe it was the nonchalance of being able to torture as well as execute characters that warranted me developing this award just for Blacklist. Now this isn’t political, but I have to believe that there’s a better way to do these sorts of games without them devolving into jingoism. Then again even Tim Clancy himself was quiet able to figure that one out himself.

All that aside, if the spectacle of said jingoism is as slick and fun as Blacklist, I can deal with that.

My Platform of the Year, for a Platform I Don’t Own – 3DS

I haven’t owned a handheld since the GameBoy Advance SP. At some point the appeal of being able to play video games during lunch or long commutes just didn’t have the same draw that it once did. Well…actually Steam happened and I got back into PC gaming. I also have continued to be obsessive over smart phones and money that would have gone into handhelds has gone into buying new phones. However, in the last two years my regret of leaving handheld gaming simply is becoming unbearable as the library for the 3DS continues to impress even myself.

I still think this looks stupid!

Great Mario and Legend of Zelda games? Then you throw in a desire to check out the new Pokemon and Animal Crossing and I’m starting to look at my new android phone with greater skepticism. Then you all sure don’t make my handheld free lifestyle any better. You kids have been talking about Fire Emblem being a great mix of all the best parts of the franchise forever! Yeah I know that Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has the proper mix between nostalgia and newness. SOMEHOW Nintendo made a good Mario Bros. game? Yeah that’s news to me, and what nerve you have telling me this! FINE! I’ll name the 3DS my “Platform of the Year,” now stop making me feel bad about my purchasing decisions.

As the days tick by and I read more and more from users on the site about all of these great 3DS games the more I want to kick myself in the pants for not just taking the plunge.

Edited by Mike

You really do need to get a 3DS. I really like mine, and you know me, I don't like anything. Also, I was obsessed with Hi-Chews for like six months and they almost gave me diabetes, but it was worth it. Some of my friends and I even went down the Japan special order rabbit hole.

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Wow. Now I really want to try Hi-Chews. Like I needed more of an excuse to eat, you beautiful bastard you.

I like my 3DS and love the games, but I do wish Nintendo would get with the times and release an ergonomic version of it. I'd sell mine in a heartbeat for one with better grips and angles that don't turn my fingers into claws by the end of a two hour play session.

Anyways, great list. You've convinced me not to bother with Dexter's later seasons (the last season I watched had Tom Hanks' kid and Admiral Adama smokin' fools), and I agree 100% on Ozymandias being a hell of a fine episode.

Posted by Bollard

Neat idea for GOTY. I approve.

Edited by gbrading

Some great choices here: I like your award categories. I will happily follow your lead on Dota 2; I continue to manifestly fail to understand the game. Looking forward to playing Black Flag in 2 years, when the price comes down.

My awards will be coming in the next few days. :)

Posted by Gamer_152

Well Zombie, you're nothing if not original in your "game" picks. A million yeses to your pick for best story though.

Posted by TheHT

Thank God for AMC, and also fuck AMC. Seriously, I think they got lucky with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Walking Dead. Their luck stat is through the roof, but everything else is in the negative if the drama with each of those shows behind the scenes is any indiciation.

Posted by GaspoweR


Posted by Buneroid

Don't really want to comment on every part of your list but good job on it.

I stopped watching Dexter after season 3? I don't even remember.

Breaking Bad is fucking rad.

Salty bet gave me some great moments betting it all while I was at my friends in BC. The Elongated Man won it all for me, then Michelangelo let me down.

And yes the 2ds does look stupid haha.

Posted by ZombiePie

@theht: That could be true, but if it is Breaking Bad and Mad Men still warrant praise for what they were able to do. However, with this new "Better Call Saul" stuff and The Walking Dead getting really stupid 2013 may have been the end of good television.

@gaspower said:



@buneroid said:

I stopped watching Dexter after season 3? I don't even remember.

You've convinced me not to bother with Dexter's later seasons (the last season I watched had Tom Hanks' kid and Admiral Adama smokin' fools)

For further information on why you should just walk away might I recommend The AV Club?

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@zombiepie: Good TV isn't dead so long as we have Justified, Archer, It's Always Sunny, and The League.

Posted by President_Barackbar

Man Hi-Chews are fucking awesome. I bought them one time at a Japanese market as a reward for some kids in an after school program I work at, and after I tasted one I was pretty bummed that I was gonna be giving them away. Really a great candy with much better flavors than Starbursts.

Edited by wjb

I never saw Dexter, and I'm glad I never did.

I feel like Homeland, another Showtime show, might go that way. I don't like getting into shows until the 3rd or 4th season, but I decided to give Homeland a shot midway through the 2nd.

The 1st season was great, the 2nd was fine, and I'm halfway through the 3rd season (which hasn't been going well) and I've been told it doesn't get any better.

Posted by Buneroid

@zombiepie: Wow I just read that whole AV club thing. Sounds like it gets really stupid. Good comparison with Weed's too. Another show I stopped watching.

Posted by GaspoweR
Edited by ZombiePie

@wjb said:

I feel like Homeland, another Showtime show, might go that way. I don't like getting into shows until the 3rd or 4th season, but I decided to give Homeland a shot midway through the 2nd.

The 1st season was great, the 2nd was fine, and I'm halfway through the 3rd season (which hasn't been going well) and I've been told it doesn't get any better.

@patrickklepek and I agree with you!