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Veteran Member - Level 14
It's always interesting to reflect on the past 12 months this time of year. What stood out for me in compiling my second annual list is how my experiences with the Game Informer online community and industry in general stood out in 2012. Indeed, I wouldn't be posting this if this site and its members didn't figure so prominently in my life. So without further ado, here are my top 10 experiences:
10. Multiplatform gaming
More so than past years, my gaming branched out to other platforms. I became addicted to Minecraft Pocket Edition Demo and Infinity Blade on iPad; toyed with Angry Birds Space and Star Wars, Jetpack Joyride, Nodebeat, Pinball Pro, Quell and Call of Atlantis on iOS and Android; and tried out Microsoft Flight, Metro 2033 and PlanetSide 2 on PC.
When I wasn't digging myself into a hole or poking zombies as if they were the Pillsbury Doughboy while in Minecraft, I was hacking and slashing (and dying) my way through Infinity Blade. Otherwise I was flying my jetpack into laserbeams or doing the Big Bad Wolf's job by using slingshots to kill livestock.
But most challenging was PC gaming. Whether failing to run Diablo on my antiquated hardware, dumbing down the presentation to play other games, or attempting shooter controls for PlanetSide 2, it was an uphill battle. But worthwhile to see Hawaii from the air or enjoy my first MMOFPS and second favorite game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (PlanetSide 2).
9. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Most of my 70-plus hours of gameplay in Bethesda's huge and enormously satisfying game were spent last year, however, it continues to draw me back in with its gorgeous setting, compelling characters and entertaining gameplay. Indeed, the Radiant AI creates some truly memorable moments.
If you've followed my blogs, you might recall how I had to spare rabbits since my daughters were aghast at how I'd hunted them before. So imagine their satisfaction when I wouldn't attack a bear because a bunny was in between us; then imagine their horror when the bear swatted the bunny across the cave.
Other encounters continue to inspire whether giant crabs outside Whiterun that I somehow had never seen before, likewise new Forsworn foes who turned tail and ran from a dragon fight, or Khajit warriors who helped fight off said dragon, which was the most challenging yet as it mostly stayed airborn (and I mostly stayed dead).
When a game allows you to do practically whatever you'd like to do (within the confines of its gameplay options), that is a special experience whose memory stays with you. Arkane Studios' unique title let me leap onto bookshelves and ceiling lamps, climb buildings and other structures, and toss the heads of decapitated foes for sport and as strategy.
Granted, my activities might not have been what others would initially choose to do given their expert athleticism, but I was continually impressed with how my in-game experimentation often met with success. Challenging myself with scaling building facades, playing catch with a head or lobbing it onto a loudspeaker speaks to impressive interactivity.
Sure, it also speaks to my morbid fascination and questionable pursuits, but more importantly they bear the hallmark of a designer who knows how to satisfy a gamer's itch. Combine the gameplay with quality level design, a promising story and the wonderfully conceived industrial setting of Dunwall and you have a compelling world to explore.
7. Dragon's Dogma
Capcom is known for the action they can deliver, and Dragon's Dogma is no exception. Whether the character you control and upgrade, or the pawn you create and share online, gameplay options are varied and even include a welcome option to scale foes a la Shadow of the Colossus.
Indeed the pawn system is unique and well implemented. Not only can you use and share your creation but you can borrow others' pawns for your four person squad. Mix character classes for some balanced gameplay and special combos in combat. But what most impresses is the AI.
When faced with two trolls (ogres?), I tried to divide and conquer. But the distant one still became alarmed and aided its ally. During combat, one crushed me with a backflop after having tried in vain to grab me off its back. Then it pursued me behind a rock formation where I sought to recover, and knocked me over a cliff. Dying has rarely been so satisfying.
6. Mass Effect 2
I haven't hidden my frustration with the seemingly incessant fetch quests that make up BioWare's sequel. The first game is my all time favorite title, but the second game's focus on building a squad instead of building a story was a huge disappointment. I do recognize I'm in the minority in that regard, as most fans seem to prefer the sequel.
What I didn't anticipate was how those dozens of hours spent in team building exercises would impact the game's incredible finale. I agonized over each and every command decision on the final mission, knowing full well that the success of the mission depended on it and that their lives were in the balance.
Had I not spent all that time with each character and their backstory, the climax would have been a standard action set piece devoid of emotional involvement. Instead it was a harrowing experience that is one of the most memorable I've had in over 30 years of gaming. And I was grateful to only lose two crewmembers (OK maybe three but that's nitpicking)!
5. Far Cry 3
My second favorite game this year is an open world shooter of which I've only scratched the surface. The islands setting is impressively designed, exploration is practical and rewarding, characters are fascinating and the varied gameplay is solid. But what makes this memorable is the predators you'll encounter.
The human kind are nettlesome enough, but it's the animal kind that evoke wonder and fear. After all, I literally leaped when a crocodile bit my arm when swimming in a river (I had no idea they were even in the game!). Komodo dragons likewise can make you want to curl up in the fetal position, especially when they sprint unseen through the brush.
What's more, their AI reminds me of Skyrim, as you'll often find animals hunting prey in the form of other beasts or humans. And that's just the solo campaign. I've also spent at least 18 hours in the Map Editor creating my own map; despite falling through it LOL, it's still a rewarding experience. This game is incredibly deep, and entertaining.
4. Borderlands 2
My favorite game if only by virtue of its addictive gameplay, Gearbox Software's sequel surpasses its accomplished predecessor in every way. While I eventually bored of the first game's staid setting, threadbare narrative and somewhat traditional mechanics (despite the impressive weaponry), the sequel ups the ante considerably.
The first game was renowned for its huge variety of guns. Borderlands 2 adds to that appeal by likewise varying the game's environments and character skill trees. The multitude of settings and gameplay options increases the breadth and replayability of this title. Add in an entertaining story and the mix is addictive.
It's even more fun when played cooperatively. The only caveat is that if math is not your strong suit, prepare to agonize over inventory management. Comparing a gun that deals 18x750 damage vs. one that dishes out 13x890 damage is arithmetic hell, nevermind special damage multipliers like fire or corrosion LOL. Good thing trying 'em out is so dang fun!
3. Noobtubin8er/Brian Seavey
I rarely get to play with Noobtubin8er as he mostly games on the 360 and I on the PS3. However, I have had the opportunity to spend time in person with Brian Seavey and can tell you he is as interesting, entertaining and genuinely nice as his GIO persona would lead you to believe.
Over several business trips to my neck of the woods, Brian and I enjoyed discussions on everything gaming and otherwise over a few meals together. We talked video games in general, GIO in particular, Extra Life (which succeeded due to his and others' efforts), and even real life -- family, work, etc.
And to his credit he still is friendly toward me despite a conversation we had about the classic horror movie Alien. You see, I'd read an excellent, in-depth article ("Anatomy of a Monster Movie: Alien Dissected," Fantastic Films, Issue 22) that showed how the entire movie was ... oh, nevermind. I value our friendship too much to open old wounds.
2. Co-op gaming with mojomonkey12/Jeremy Brown
Jeremy and I have come a long way from his repeatedly fragging me when playing Dead Island, and I think have found our stride as co-op partners. Together we have since also polished off Dead Nation, The Darkness 2 and Sniper Elite V2, as well as making significant progress in Modern Warfare 3 Spec Ops and Borderlands 2.
What makes him such a great partner, besides his friendly, easy going personality, is that we share a similar gameplay style. Take a loot grinding game like Borderlands 2, where inventory management is an important element. Not only do we both scour every nook and cranny, but we take our time to swap out weapons.
That doesn't mean I don't try his patience when trying to deduce which gun is mathematically superior or he doesn't try mine by charging ahead or askew into dangerous territory, but I think like an old couple we have grown accustomed to each other's proclivities and still are civil in spite of them LOL. But most importantly, games are our excuse to just chat.
I hesitate to include this, especially in so prominent a position, lest I be accused of tooting my own horn. However, if I'm being true to this endeavor, I have to say that this past year was a milestone one for me in terms of my experience as a member of this community and the industry.
Being selected by the staff as a featured community blogger was a poignant surprise for someone who gave up on dreams of writing long ago, and who never intended to be a blogger, having only blogged to communicate with the gaming community. Likewise, selection as a moderator was a great, unexpected honor as GIO has become a home away from home.
Either development alone would have been a gratifying surprise, but to come in the same year and then possibly contribute to my admission to E3 was surreal. As a lifelong gamer, I can't express how grateful I am for my good fortune this year; however, it would be meaningless without the GIO family. After all, you're what inspires and motivates everything I do.
In closing, thanks so much for reading, and allowing me to share my favorite experiences. But most of all, thank you for giving me a home at GIO, and welcoming me into your family. I wish you a very happy New Year and a 2013 filled with good fortune and cheer!