Sunday, October 28, 2012

Best of 2012 - Video Games

When I say I aspire to be a novelist, people assume that means I'm an avid reader. Admittedly, I'm not. In fact, I only read one book this year. My inspiration for writing is mostly based on my experience with video games. Society berates video games as mindless wastes of time and that will always frustrate me. The best of video games are constructed by artists, the people who sketch the first ideas of the animations, the people who write what is said in the game, the people who compose the music who accompany it all, and, more recently, the people who play the main characters. That's right, real actors. As a slight diversion, let's take a look at some.

Yvonne Strahovski in Mass Effect 2

Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2

Kristen Bell in Assassin's Creed

Ilkka Villi in Alan Wake

Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls

Pretty cool, right? And that's just a few. Liam Neeson, Emma Stone, and Patrick Stewart are just a few of the others who can count themselves as video game voice actors. As a gamer, I find this promising.

Now back to the topic at hand, the best games of 2012. I've had a lot of time for them all with this long break of mine and will never regret the hundreds of hours I spend with them. Let's do it.

10. Wreckateer
Angry Birds + physical exercise? Blasphemy! Or is it? In Wreckateer, you use the Xbox Kinect and your own body to fire all sorts of fun flying things in an effort to decimate enemy castles. It's simple, but man...firing giant slingshots sure is satisfying.

9. Happy Wars
Happy Wars is a blast and XBOX gamers are eating it up because, well, it's free! Forcing a bunch of hardcore gamers to battle each other as cutesy midget warriors is so much more fun than it sounds.

8. Dear Esther
Dear Esther was released as a stand-alone game this year and I quickly snatched it up. Dear Esther is more like an interactive movie than a game really. It's about the same length too. For about two hours, you venture between beautiful vistas and enchanting scenes as a narrator gradually details a complex, obscure story. The imagery is powerful and the experience is one that anyone should enjoy.

7. Alan Wake: American Nightmare
When considering all-time favorite games, Alan Wake always comes to mind. In this year's spin-off, the story's taken a bit further. The atmosphere is exciting and the writing (with the main character being a professional writer) is great. The metaphor of light vs. shadow is treated well in this emotion-filled journey.

6. Rock Band Blitz
The story of Harmonix in short form is as follows: tapping music games, Guitar Hero 1 + 2, Rock Band 1-3, Dance Central 1-3, and now this, a return to the tapping music game. This game is easy to explain, it's everything Tap Tap Revolution wants to be. Hours and hours of fun here.

5. The Walking Dead
In the shadow of the incredibly popular Walking Dead TV series based on the comic of the same name, a superb video game arose. Unfortunately this is the only game on the list I haven't finished and that's because the game, much like the TV show, is released in episodes with the last of five coming in December when I'm the MTC. With comic book-like visuals and the most heart-wrenching story I've encountered in a game, The Walking Dead is one of the things I'll be missing most.

4. Diablo III
The sequel to Diablo 2, released 12 years prior, Diablo 3 had a lot of hype that it didn't live up to, at least for most. For me, it was excellent and playing through it with my dad reminded me of old times. This game series is the reason I became interested in fantasy novels, which kick-started my imagination and desire to be a novelist. Diablo 3 isn't just a good game, it's honestly an important factor in who I am today.

3. Borderlands 2
Co-operative games are often my favorites and Borderlands 2 is designed to be played with friends. With its countless pop culture referrences (Lion King, Star Wars, double rainbow, to name a few), this game made me laugh too many times to mention. This sequel improved on the original in every way any fan could want.

2. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
If you've ever wanted your favorite author to be the lead writer for a video game, well...this is probably your only chance. Lucky for me, that's exactly how things turned out. R.A. Salvatore's talent helps bring the world his books are based in to gamers with his rich writing and superior dialogue. Much like Dante's Inferno and the Sherlock Holmes games, Kingdoms of Amalur is bringing literature to gaming in a skillful way. This game is so well-crafted and complex that it took me over 100 hours to complete. Outstanding.

1. Mass Effect 3

Just like any good trilogy ender, Mass Effect 3 was epic. With a team of characters to rival the Fellowship of the Ring and a universe of alien societies complex enough to do battle with the Star Wars universe, this trilogy just might be the very best I've ever seen. With the home planets of the universe, including Earth, assaulted by an unspeakably force, you must eradicate the bitterness between races in order to save them all. It honestly made me sad to see it end. Although the ending left much to be desired because of how large and intriguing the Mass Effect world is, it had to end and it ended extremely well.

I'll miss being a couch potato with all these virtual adventures. With the new Wii coming out in November and the new Playstation and XBOX soon to follow, the gaming industry is going to be a separate world when I return. You best be interested in it because it's going places.

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