In the U.S. it’s just about time to give thanks… and by that I mean eat enough food that you pass out in front of the TV while your Grandma talks about how lazy kids are these days. So I thought it would be nice to list some of the things I am thankful for, in this past year of gaming.
I’m thankful that console developers are listening to the fans more. From Microsoft’s decision to totally change the Xbox One’s DRM policies, to Sony’s push toward universal cross play and game sharing, console developers are hearing what gamers want from their next-gen consoles and are complying. In fact, the only console that is doing its own thing is Nintendo, and they are lagging behind in sales. Console manufacturers are being smarter with their prices as well, like when Microsoft made the Kinect for the Xbox One optional. All of this speaks to an increased respect for the gaming consumer.
I’m thankful that we are changing the way we think about the shooter genre. Titanfall, Destiny, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare –all of these shooters were big hits this year and all broke our slow grey brown shooter mold. Destiny is practically an RPG. Titanfall was fast and frantic like an arcade shooter and introduced giant robots. Finally, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare shook up the shooter genre not only in its multiplayer, but also in its story, criticizing the American government and war profiteering. It really feels like the shooter genre is moving forward from a point of stagnation and that is good for everyone.
I’m thankful that crowdfunding continues to be successful. Only a few years ago, games like Broken Age, Shadowrun Returns, Wasteland 2, Mighty No. 9, Skullgirls, Shovel Knight, and even consoles like the Ouya wouldn’t exist. However, Kickstarter and Indiegogo have given these games a chance to succeed. Now Star Citizen has raised 63 million dollars with its crowdfunding efforts, and is quickly catching up on AAA budgets. Crowdfunding shows that we, as gamers, have the power to be creators and supporters instead of just consumers, and that is inspiring.
I’m thankful that developers are exploring new ways to present game narrative. The finale of The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us were some of the greatest narrative experiences of last year. Games like Broken Age are bringing back the point and click adventure genre. This War of Mine is a game that is specifically not fun but carries an important message about war and surviving it as an innocent bystander. A few years ago, people would laugh at the idea of these games. Now, we look at these games as huge advancements in video game art.
I’m thankful that streaming is becoming integrated with next generation systems. Gaming is a community and console developers are starting to realize that. Integrated streaming in the PS4 and Xbox One will make it easier to broadcast things like gaming tournaments or strategy shows. Now that G4 is going off the air, streamers can make their own video game shows with their own video game related content. Not only that, but now games can be streamed effectively and with little lag. Heck, you can even play your friend’s games through a streamed connection. Streaming is the future, and it’s going to change the way we thinking of the gamer community.
I’m thankful that borders between game companies are becoming thinner. Smash Bros. has the most guest characters it has had in ages. Games like Persona 4 Arena are mashing up RPG companies with fighting game developers. Nearly every indie game that comes out has a million cameos by other indie game characters. No longer are publishers holding on to their IPs with a death grip. Instead, they are crossing over with other game franchises and making more interesting games as a result.
I’m thankful that #GamerGate became a meme. #GamerGate was one of the most sad and disappointing parts of gaming in the last year. It showed the darker side of the gaming community, and it forced many important members out, female and male alike. I attempted all sorts of manner of being civil with #GamerGate. I sat down and had discussions with them. I argued against them. I put my support behind #StopGamerGate2014. However, nothing was more effective at de-fanging #GamerGate than the “Actually it’s about ethics in game journalism” meme. This made #GamerGate a joke and showed how ludicrous their claims were, and humor is just a great tool to fight against hate. Cue everyone in the comments saying #GamerGate isn’t about hate. I know guys! It’s actually about ethics in game journalism! Now just imagine that was superimposed over a Sephiroth picture or something.
I’m thankful that the Humble Bundle is still in business. The Humble Bundle is just one of the best things that has ever happened to gaming. It gives gamers tons of games at an incredibly low price. It puts money directly in the hands of developers AND charity’s. It highlights games that you might not have played and bundles them with big name titles to get them out to more people. It’s just outstanding, and while we all have sort of been waiting pensively to see whether or not the guys at Humble Bundle end up going under (they are always the lowest on the donation slider even by default settings) it turns out that players really are willing to give more when they can name their own price. Thanks a lot Humble Bundle.
I’m thankful that gamers everywhere are raising a ton of money for charity. From Desert Bus for Hope, to Awesome Games Done Quick, to the ludicrous number of gamers who did the ice-bucket challenge this summer, gamers have done a lot for charity and they are continuing to do even more. Child’s Play continues to be an incredibly successful charity. AbleGamers, Extra Life, Special Effect, GamesAid, Donate Games, Will Ferrell’s SuperMegaBlast Max Gamer Challenge, and the aforementioned Humble Bundle have done so much to help out charities that need it. When the gaming community comes together we can change lives.
Finally, I’m thankful that despite all the bad news, drama, scandal, problems, and general nastiness that has been surrounding the gaming community in the last year, the gamer identity, the feeling of gamers as my family, has not died. I feel very much for the people like Felicia Day who have begun to feel uncomfortable in this community. When I felt outcast, gaming was what I turned to, and the fact that anyone might turn people away from this community is heartbreaking. But I believe that there are more good gamers than bad and that gaming as a whole does more good than bad. That is why I am proud to say I am a gamer, and that is what I am thankful for.