Choosing your game of the year is a fun thing to do. Choosing your game of the half year is something that enthusiasts tend to do when July hits and we’re bored as hell.
So we went ahead and did it anyway because July (and now August) has been a complete wasteland when it comes to games. With nothing new to write about or discuss we did the obligatory, unofficial, non-committal ‘what are your favourite games of 2014 so far’ post.
And that was roughly the point where I began thinking to myself, ‘boy, 2014 has been a bit sparse on the old video games front’. Not just July. Not just August. 2014 in general.
Usually by July we’ve seen more that a few game of the year contenders. Last year we had Gone Home, Papers Please and Luigi’s Mansion 2 in stores/on Steam. By July/August it was already a pretty solid year by all accounts and we still had some massive releases en route.
But when I sat down to think about my favourite games of 2014 so far, I started drawing blanks.
All that immediately sprung to mind were mildly disappointing, albeit completely well-made, functional sequels -- Dark Souls II, Trials Fusion for example – and Mario Kart 8. These are games I enjoyed to a point, but hardly games I expected to be in the conversation come December. Hardly games that you’d put in a game of the year list in any other year besides 2014.
Then I started thinking about the remainder of 2014. What was left to get excited about? What was tickling my fancy in the lead in towards Christmas.
Destiny? Hell yes. That goes without saying. Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Call of Duty? Sure, we’ll play those, but I’m sure I’m not alone in taking those games for granted. Their release is as sure and predictable as FIFA or Madden, I’m not sure those games are something we necessarily anticipate – more of an annual ritual we continually partake in (and enjoy of course).
There’s not even a Mario or a Zelda to look forward to. Or a new Halo. Sure the Halo: Master Collection is going to be a spectacular package – a ground breaking package even – but it is, ultimately, a collection of old games we’ve already played.
The point I’m leading towards here is this: is 2014 the worst year for video games in recent history?
I’m not sure, but I do know this much. 2014 has been a disappointment. The tail end of 2013 was also relatively weak in terms of new games, but we had the rush of new hardware to negate that – and the promise of great new titles in 2014. That promise, in my opinion, remains undelivered. Titanfall was a short-lived pleasure, Dark Souls II was a satisfying sequel and nothing more, Watch Dogs disappointed the vast majority of players who bought it.
And we’ve seen roughly 50% of our most anticipated titles move into 2015. The Order: 1886, The Witcher 3 and now Evolve have all been pushed to 2015. 2014 was supposed to be the true coming out party for next generation consoles, but it’s turning into something of a damp squib.
Don’t get me wrong; there are a number of high profile games waiting in the wings. We’ve already mentioned Destiny but Far Cry 4, Alien Isolation, Sunset Overdrive, LittleBigPlanet 3, the new Borderlands -- all have the potential for greatness but are any of these really, really going to provide that kind of year defining experience that games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V provided? I’d argue Destiny has a great shot, but I remember years where we had multiple games competing for those honours. In 2011, for example, Dark Souls, Batman: Arkham City, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Gears of War 3 all released within a couple of months of each other.
And that’s without mentioning your Call of Duties, your Battlefields and your Assassin’s Creeds.
Point being: we’re simply not seeing that volume – we’re not seeing those event games duking it out for top spot. It’s been a flat 2014 so far and this year’s holiday season most likely won’t change that.
It hasn’t been a year for the smaller indie style games either, like 2012 when games like Journey and The Walking Dead dominated the ‘game of the year’ discourse. Seriously – when 2014 is said and done, how will we define it?
I wouldn’t even know where to start.