End of Year Post

Well with Christmas over and the after holiday sales taken advantage of and since everyone else has done their part, I figured I’d give my thoughts on the 2008 year end in gaming. (Spoilers.)

I start with the easy one, my game of the year. The easy part was to write about, not choose. I personally haven’t played every game this year worth playing. Not even close to it. But based on my personal experience of what I have played, I have to say my pick is Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

I am a very big fan of the series, I wouldn’t say fanatic, but I still go back and play the original Metal Gear Solid from time to time. At the time of its release I was super excited. I popped that baby in and was off to the races. I plowed through the first two chapter of the game without too much mental fatigue and was eager to keep going. Then the third chapter hit. I beat it with the same excitement, but after I beat Raging Raven, one of the most difficult boss fight of the year by virtue of having no rations left, and the very long cut scene after it I went to bed having spent most of the evening and night getting there. It took me around two weeks to get the energy to go back. It is an exhausting game. When I finally did sit back back down to it I found myself faced with a 20 minute cut scene before I could move on. The game experience is like a diesel engine. Very long and hard to start up, but once it get going it grabs you and can go one for a long time. I finished the game in three extended play sessions really. At the time I was disappointed in its end. And several of its twists. Big Boss being kept alive in a hermetically sealed bag as a computer security measure. Awesome. The twist being pulled on you and finding out no, that’s a lie and that was Solidus. No, not cool.

However, now that I look back on the whole experience, I come away with a little smile on my face. I don’t think after three games of setup, combined with the amount of hype Kojima Productions put into it, that anything produced could have lived up to it. Metal Gear Solid 4 came as close as humanly possible. I remember the boss fights, Raging Raving, Crying Wolf, Laughing Octopus, the Vamp showdown (once killed him 45 times in one continue), and the final beatdown with Liquid Ocelot. I remember the closure give to the characters. Since the first game I wanted to know what was up with Meryl and this game gave me just the right amount. Jack and Rose had the right amount of angst to them, but I appear to be one of the few North Americans not to find Raiden annoying. At the time I thought Vamp’s excuse for being immortal was cheep, but now on reflection, the answer was well set up and there really was no other conceivable explanation. Even just crawling around the active battlefield of the second chapter was amazingly satisfying, killing a soldier that got too close and no one noticing, because everyone was shooting. Not to mention that the game has what I consider the second best chase sequence in gaming.

Even its ending with Snake not dying after the huge hype that he would die is growing on me and my only residual complaint of the game. The more I think about it, the more I revere the game. Every game I can think of worth talking about either comes out to acclaim or disappointment and then comes with a certain amount of backlash to counter the initial point. Eventually it settles down to apporximately where it should be or keep going with the cycle. Metal Gear Solid 4, came out with acclaim, received a large amount of backlash, some of which I agreed with. But on further reflection and the benefit of distance I can call it my pick for Game of the Year. I am going to remember it for years to come as a total package, a genuinely impactful and emotional experience only amplified, not diminished by the fact we’ve been invested in these characters for so long.The original Metal Gear Solid came away with 8s and was considered an amazing achievement, but lacking on elements, like playtime or challenge. Now its considered once of the best games of all time. The readers of IGN put it in the top 10.

Which brings me to my next point. What does that really mean? Everyone is giving out their game of the year picks or their top 10s. The Brainy Gamer did an entire three part podcast with a whos who of critiquers on that subject. Spike TV held a special, yet tawdry, award show on it, but what does it really all mean. Anyone can have their opinion. Certain sites have greater validity, because of recognition and a group of people who devote themselves to the process be involved rather than a individual. Now without getting into any discussion of ideas of integrity of such sites, I’ll leave that for the symposium, what we need is a centralized award organization. Movies have the Oscars, TV has the Emmys and stage theater has the Tonys. The closest video games have are the Spike TV awards or Game Developer’s choice awards. I’m not saying we need it right now, but really a cohesive organization of appreciation of the best art that our medium has to offer could only be beneficial. It took the various award ceremonies time to get where they right now, so there is no hurry. Just something to think about along these lines: the Oscars don’t nominated until late January and voting doesn’t close till mid February and that is for movies that are only a few hours in length not 10+ like video games and yet our awards are due two weeks after big games are still getting released.

I started late, but this is my last post of the year. I’ll start next year with the first video game critical essay for the site. I said before we can’t just talk about writing critical essays or whatever you want to call them, we need to actually write them. Best way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to get ones hands dirty.

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