TGC’s Game of the Year ’09

So what is my game of the year? Well unlike the last two years when I asked myself that question, there was a clear winner. In 2007 it was Portal and in ’08 it was Metal Gear Solid 4. There were plenty of other good games out those years, but those two to me were just obvious. This year has no such easy stand out, hence the lateness of this post. Just to be clear, I have not played everything that came out, not even all the better than decent AAA titles, so this really is a personal pick. But even so, among the games I played I haven’t decided which is the best at the time of writing this post. I’m hoping that getting my thoughts down and explaining why I thought each game was so great that I’ll be able to choose. I was able to narrow it down to 5 finalists, and I am a shameless showman if nothing else, so in true award show style here are the nominees:

Brutal Legend

I wanted this game ever since I first heard about it, when I was looking up what Tim Shafer’s next game was going to be. When I heard the concept all I could think to say was: ROCK ON! There has been a lot of criticism directed at the game, though to be fair it would be better directed at the marketing. Despite that and a few control issues the game is awesome. Of course I am a metal head so that may explain some part of my excitement and love for this game. I love driving around looking at the scenery and listening to the music. You can feel the creativity just ooze from the title. Everything about the game is epic and the Tim Shafer humor doesn’t hurt it either. No game since the original God of War has me leaping up in victory like a Viking warrior. Any game with that can do that purely by its pathos is a winner in my book.

Dragon Age: Origins

I’ve been called biased towards this title, because of my ungodly love for Baldur’s Gate, but honestly I wasn’t expecting the second coming with this title. I think I kept my expectations well within reason for Dragon Age. I knew it was going to be another generic fantasy setting and the plot was going to involve saving the world from some evil demonic creatures. But in a way that’s good, because it means they could really nail the details without having to explain the elves, dwarves and the rest from scratch. I haven’t finished the game. It’s long and I haven’t had the time needed for it, but from what I have played of it Dragon Age has some of the greatest storytelling of any game I’ve played. It sucks you into a world and I think may be the first game where I decided roleplaying was a higher priority than making sure I chose an optimal dialogue option or armor. In fact I got rid of armor that hindered my enjoyment of playing my character.

Flower

Sublime is a word that gets thrown around a lot when talking about Flower. But more than anything else, something I had forgotten until I booted it up the other day, it’s a peaceful game. The lovely serenity that permeates the entire experience also sinks into you while playing. It’s an effort of simplicity with controls that even my dad could figure out on the modern Dualshock. The metanarrative of naturalism and dreams somehow meld into the nature of the game and are a reminder of our own dreams and desires.  It also represents the concept that maybe we all need to slow down a little. It’s one of the few games that just make me feel peaceful. The game may be short and can be beaten in three hours or so, but if you did, you’ve missed the point.

Small Worlds

Never heard of it, check it out. It’s a game that will take you at most 20 minutes to play, but after I finished it I immediately refreshed and played again. I hesitated putting it among my best games of the year, because it was a quick flash game for a competition and debated whether or not its seemingly insubstantiality made it worthy of being a contender. Then I remember that a game is a game and it came out between Jan 1st and Dec 31st of this year. The fact that it makes me question myself given its humble origins and that it made my top 5 says something about the game. Two weeks after playing it, I went and played it again. There’s barely a narrative and no characters, yet somehow it elated me, confused me, cooed me and chilled me to the bone. From the basic idea of exploration came a game that said more than any number of space marines could hope to say.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Again I have to warn all about my potential bias towards this title. I loved the first one and love pulp adventure. I’ve taken classes on the genres and have studied the style. So my love of Uncharted 2 is no mystery. It puts you into the shoes of an adventurer in the vein of Indiana Jones and Flash Gordon on a quest of riches, greed, villainy and the extra-natural. The action set pieces are wonderful and the scope of the game so grand you can’t help but feel like you are on a wild ride. And despite what anyone says, it is well written and well voice acted. Yes it’s not Shakespeare, Faulkner or The Godfather, but then it’s not trying to be. It’s about sending you on an adventure and having a rip-roaring time along the way.

And the winner is:

Dragon Age: Origins

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