I wrote one of these last year and found that it sparked some good conversations and also that I checked it throughout the year to remember what the heck I played in 2016.
Always blog so you can remember it later.
In 2017 my wife and I bought a house and our baby became a toddler, which means my time for gaming was drastically reduced while we packed, unpacked, did projects, and wrangled a suddenly very mobile little child. Also, Scope Creep Studios, the videogame studio I run with a few friends, released Night Lights Toddler Toy, a simple toy app we made for our toddlers. It was supposed to be a simple few week project that, of course, took a few months to get launched.
The Second Half of Final Fantasy XV (PS4)
After loving the first part of this game I put it down for almost a year. I’m glad I did. In fact, this is the first game I’ve played in which I wish I’d just waited a year to play it in the first place. They seem to keep shoving in features and story tweaks into the game with every patch to the point where I’m not when you call the game “finished” vs. “minor improvements”. It’s a fascinating historical problem that I hope academics figure out how to deal with. For those living through it can be obnoxious. If I was younger I’d eat it up. Bring on the content! Now though I do not have time for that and would rather play the game when its “done” (or at least closer to the developer’s vision than hitting a release date set by Marketing).
That’s enough griping about a game I really enjoyed. Huge over-the-top setpiece boss fights, frenetic combat, emotional road trip bros, and the general whiplash of going to “the world is ending because of the gods” to “monologue about Cup Noodles” completely won me over. Final Fantasy is at its best when the stakes are impossibly high but you instead spend hours, say, playing a snowboarding mini-game. It’s melodrama rolled in the banal and I love it.
It’s a very pretty and mysteriously charming game that only Cyan seems capable of really pulling off well. I got bogged down about halfway through by house whatnot. I don’t love playing this sort of game on a PC though because it’s a lot of sitting and thinking I’d rather do on the couch, plus I had a few hard crashes that took me out of the experience. Going to pick up the ps4 port in 2018 to finish it.
The puzzles I did get to were, of course, well designed and integrated into the world. The in-game world seems to expand and also come into focus as you learn new information through the puzzles. A vast setting coming into focus as you wrap your mind around its rules and places. Riven did this incredibly well too and Obduction has a similar feel.
Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
I almost forgot to put this on the list somehow! I think it occupies a different space in my head than other games. It’s inherently a social game. The only time I played by myself was to unlock more tracks for us to play together. My wife and I would play after our daughter would go down for bed. We even had a friend over to specifically play it for a game night. My mother-in-law played with us once too!
And then recently our daughter started asking to watch us play. She and I even tag teamed an adorable, although frustrating, lap in which she handled accelerating and I handled steering. Needless to say she took her power seriously and refused to accelerate at all … we eventually finished a lap in 11 minutes by me sneaking in button presses.
The first draft of this post included it twice I liked it so much. I’m a sucker for clicker games and this took up an entire weekend. It’s a refined clicker/energy mechanic game, which is to say after you get past the initial flurry of clicks you likely are barely ever madly clicking again. Just managing your spreadsheet of inputs and outputs and enjoying the ride as you accumulate resources as you race towards your goal.
What I liked most about it was that it had a fantastic sense of humor and progression curve. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly got its hooks in me fast.
Honorable mention here is Realm Clicker, a game that Andrew Brooks showed me on New Year’s Eve that I played incessantly on NYE and New Years Day itself. It didn’t make the list as its own game because it doesn’t have an easily accessible ending like Universal Paperclips. I hit a point where the game started playing itself with me checking in now and then. I’m quitting cold turkey before it becomes a chore. It’s really good though.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)
I’d played this one a while back and it’d been long enough to have forgotten most of the puzzles. I love the fiction of going into towns where people are so obsessed with puzzles that they will stop whatever is going on to give you one. The story is mostly a glue to give you opportunities to meet weirdos who NEED you to solve a puzzle before they can tell you an important factoid. Lovely music, lovely artwork (heck, they had a Color Design Team on this game), and a solid lineup of fun puzzles.
10 More Bullets (iOS)
A very simple game that I played in one extended sitting. You have 10 bullets left and are trying to use them as best you can. You slowly upgrade as you collect resources until every time you fire the game explodes in a cascade of debris from ships. Really satisfying.
Night in the Woods (PS4)
Delightful writing and wonderful art. Plus it says something about the experience of coming home after being away in a way I don’t think I’ve encountered in other media. The ennui of adulthood setting in and trying to recapture something you will never get back. I didn’t love the game-y platformer parts of it. I did love the little mini-games peppered throughout it though. I’ll likely play through it again in a year or two purely for the writing.
This game was also very wrapped up in the experience of following their kickstarter updates and the creators on social media. I’m not sure it’s possible to divorce the game from the backer updates and twitter exchanges. The creative team on the project seem like cool and thoughtful folks and I’m excited for whatever it is they do next.
A PS+ freebie that hit me at the right time during house buying and moving. I found this to be an utterly relaxing experience. I meandered through it slowly and my toddler watched now and then and pointed out fish. Soundtrack is delightful too. It’s not a hard game by any means, but I never felt like it was wasting my time being overly clever about how I should progress to the next rich environment. It’s a hangout game. A game you want to inhabit for a while. Most of the games on this list are hangout games in some way, actually…
Hollow Knight (PC)
A very moody metroidvania with inspiration from Dark Souls and a style all its own. I picked this up on a recommendation from a friend towards the end of 2017. The first part of it was fine and then I picked up a few of the movement based items and it started to shine. The art direction is highly controlled and the soundtrack is lovely. You don’t feel like you need to rush through it (although I’m sure a speed run would be impressive). My complaint with it is that it’s stingy with save points. Likely no more stingy than, say, Super Metroid itself, but dying in Hollow Knight often than not leads to me to quitting until tomorrow rather than diving right back in.
Dungeons & Dragons and 7th Sea (Tabletop)
Another big change to “gaming time” was that I started running (a few) D&D games. After years of swirling sort of around the tabletop RPG hobby we got a group together. My wife had finished up listening to The Adventure Zone’s Balance arc and I asked her if she wanted to play. I volunteered to be the DM and quickly am realizing that I really enjoy prepping and thinking through what would be fun for everyone. We’re playing through the Starter Set, which is 20 bucks and so well designed I recommend it to anyone and everyone who has been curious but not sure where to start. Or talk to me in person and I’ll talk your ear off.
Videogames learned a lot from tabletop games, and in turn tabletop games seem to have (finally?) picked up on certain things (like approachable rulesets) from videogames.
I’m also playing in a 7th Sea game which has consistently been some of the most fun role-playing I’ve been involved in. It’s a system designed to make you feel like a sea-faring swashbuckling (and/or sorcerous) hero while telling interesting stories.
Notes on other games
What Remains of Edith Finch? and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter are like tailor-made for Chris, but I haven’t had a chance to play them. I’m putting bets that they’ll both be on my 2018 list. Firewatch too, which I keep forgetting about.
And for reference’s sake, here’s a list of friends who have written 2017 wrap-up posts. I’ll add to this as y’all get yours published. It’s nice to go back to these when wondering what to play: