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GOTY 2012

2012 is a year when unique and independent titles really grabbed me. Not just in personal gameplay enjoyment, but from even the simple entertainment of watching someone else play them. Since 2011, I have increasingly turned to watching streams of people playing the latest games, and these titles left a big impact on me. While I appreciated these games on their own, streaming of such titles as XCOM, FTL, or the PC version of Dark Souls cemented them as true gems of gaming. On their own, each game is fantastic and unique, but through the prism of playing along with a broader community, many of these titles truly shined. These are my games of the year in 2012.

List items

  • What can I say that hasn't already been said about this surprising title? A master class in how to make turn-based decision making tense, like a life and death chess match in a cruel and merciless world. Even with its imperfections, XCOM reminded me of why I love gaming, and it stands firmly at the top of my list this year. If you can handle some challenge, a good bit of tension, and the terrifying hand of fate which make it feel more real and personal than it has any right to be, XCOM deserves to be diligently fought against until victory is yours.

  • FTL came out of nowhere to strike a cord with myself and many other gamers this year. Another merciless game that plays almost like its own little world with the same mystery and unfairness that marks our own. You cannot choose whether fortune will shine on you, but you can make great strides in learning how to make the journey whether things are going in your favor or endlessly falling apart. It's an experience that will make you want to keep going back for more time and time again.

  • A carefully-crafted world all its own which stands as a love letter to gaming. That is Fez. An often imperfect experience marked with the nicks and cracks of something supremely amateur, Fez is as real as games come. It took some time for it to click with me, but once it did, I relaxed and just enjoyed it for what it is. At a time when many game studios have had to sacrifice personality for saleability, Fez stands as a reminder of what a truly personal, flawed, beautiful, disjointed, and artful game can be.

  • Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition introduced Dark Souls to the PC audience in grand fashion. A niche title which became a phenomenon, Dark Souls expanded its grasp even further into PC gaming, and the result was endlessly entertaining. It is a considerate and brutal game made all the better by additional content on the PC, and whether I am playing it or someone else is, there is still a tension and drive for achievement which makes it ceaselessly compelling.

  • Closure is everything one could hope for in a puzzle title. Mind-bending puzzles and the gorgeous presentation that keeps every area a delight to peer at forever while you rack your brain for an answer.

  • Stealth is alive and well, and Mark of the Ninja is the new king. An unexpected contender whose tight mechanics and polish cut a place in my heart.

  • Experiencing the characterization, storytelling, and decision-making in The Walking Dead, it almost makes one wonder why other developers can't embrace this level of story and character impact. Classic adventure games have delivered this before, but few have ever been so able to capture your attention until it's done. This is an experience not to be missed, and while not quite a revolution in game design, it expands the horizons of what great game stories, structure, and decisions can be.

  • It's hard now to talk about the craftsmanship and artfulness within gaming without Journey coming to mind. While I still feel that it could have been more, it is amazing for what it is. A gorgeous, thoughtful game that will be remembered for quite some time to come.

  • Dust: An Elysian Tail is a title which should encourage anyone who has ever worked in or dreamed of working in game development. With every fiber of its being, it shows that you -can- design and construct a game which can rival the biggest developers out there. Of course, the story behind it also shows that getting help along the way for such a herculean task is greatly advisable, but like Bastion before it, Dust: An Elysian Tail is a polished, personal indie title which deserves acclaim from anyone who loves games. Whether it is your style or not, this is a well-crafted game that is exactly what it intends to be, and you can see the blood and sweat that made it what it is today. Gaming may at times seem far from its early roots, but titles like this remind us of how possible it is for small teams(or even one man) to put their heart and soul into a game and come out with something amazing.

  • Dishonored is like a lost gem washed upon a modern shore. A first-person stealth/action game with inventive mechanics, it oozes with its own style and personality. Which, for a bigger title today, is quite the accomplishment. Dishonored captures the spirit of a small developer-made title with the polish and scope of a AAA title. I wasn't expecting it, but like many other titles this year, it surprised me with what a unique and entertaining experience it turned out to be.