I don’t mean to be hyperbolic with the title of the article, in many ways 2014 has been a great year for games. Especially if your games are titled Shovel Knight or Divinity: Original Sin. But see, that’s kind of the problem I have with this year. Aside from the two indie darlings of the summer — like them or not, it’s dumb to say that both games haven’t enjoy ravenous success and been highly regarded by critics and fans alike. If you don’t like them that’s fine, but even I, who thought Divinity was just good — God forbid — have to admit the impressive success both titles have garnered. You might be able to shove the January’s release of the Banner Saga into this conversation. I, personally, loved the game and it seems to have developed a following, but I don’t think it’s been quite as well received as the aforementioned games.
Then you get beyond those games and — what? What comes next? There is middling clump of good games, sure. The flagship releases of Infamous: Second Son and Titanfall onto current-gen, new-gen, whatever-fucking-gen, have come and gone with mild appreciation. I think Titanfall is an excellent game, but I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. Infamous: Second Son sure looked pretty, but it was kind of boring. Boring is what I would call a lot of these games. South Park was funny, but when you boiled it down, it’s just a run-of-the-mill JRPG with some button prompts. You might throw Wolfenstein in here, people really seem to dig that game.
Then we get into the disappointments of 2014: The Watch Dogs, the Destinys, the Elder Scrolls Onlines. The game that said, “We’re totally fucking different!” When they were totally fucking not. The games that used words like, “ambitious”, when they should have been using words like “average”. It’s not that these games were offensively bad. They promised to be groundbreaking and left you shrugging your shoulders. Is it our fault for buying into the hype? Sort of, we should have smelled something rotten in Chicago, Venus, and Tamriel; but we didn’t because we wanted to trust in the developers. In the end, we can only believe what people tell us and when they tell us they’ve built the next must-have MMO or open-world masterpiece who are we to say otherwise?
Then come more little darlings, games that some people liked, some people didn’t. Transistor, Super Time Force, Valiant Hearts — The Wolf Among Us might fit in here. Smaller experiences from studios with an established reputation, games that were on your radar but released to a cheer similar to Monty Python’s “and there was much rejoicing.” (If you’re an uncultured swine who doesn’t get that reference you can see it here. Then go watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Seriously.)
I think 2013 deserves some blame for how lackluster 2014 has been. A year where we saw Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Grand Theft Auto V is a year that is going to get remembered. You add in games like Rayman Legends and Gone Home and A Link Between Worlds and Guacamelee and — my god! 2013 was so good. Hold the three games of Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and GTAV up to Titanfall, Watch Dogs, and Destiny and there’s no comparison. 2014 died for 2013 — not exactly, but I like the picture that phrase paints.
I think further proof that 2014 has been a bad year for games comes from the attention paid to controversy. We care about who fucked so-and-so and how so-and-so is killing the industry with their blah-blah-blah. It seems like 2014 has been a year of contention because people don’t have anything else to talk about. Here’s how conversations seem to be going:
Person 1: You play Transistor?
Person 2: Yeah.
Person 1: Not as good as Bastion.
Person 2: Yeah.
Person 1: You read about the controversy about the stupid things?
Person 2: Dude, we need to do something about that.
Person 1: Yeah because that’s why everyone left Uncharted 4. #GamerGate
It’s like the internet collectively smelled 2014 was bad and had to find someone to pin it on. People just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In many ways, it makes sense that 2014 would be an off year. You have developers straddling two generations of hardware in addition to the usual PC, Xbox, PlayStation split. You have games which are coming out, not because they are ready, but because publishers can’t afford the expense of a delay. You have new franchises that are likely just trying to get the tech right, hoping to polish the experience up for a sequel which can live up to the original promise of the developer. The first year of a new platform tends to be weak — Jesus, I’m sorry, you’re probably really fucking tired of hearing/reading that phrase. I’m tired of saying it. But it is true. 2014 was going to suck, it was meant to be that way. Hopefully, it means that good days are ahead.
Remember when I used that phrase “2014 died for 2013”? Remember how I said, “not exactly, but I like the picture that phrase paints.”? I think what that should really be is “2014 died for 2015”. Games like Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Dying Light, Halo 5: Guardians, Uncharted 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Batman: Arkham Knight are bound to get you a little bit excited. Hopefully 2015 can deliver where 2014 could not. Fingers crossed. Knock on wood. Let’s keep a little optimism here, okay?
Do you think 2014 been good for games? Fuck me, what do I know? Tell me what has saved 2014 for you and why I’m wrong. C’mon internet, I know you have something to say.