'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the unkempt, drafty San Francisco apartment, not a creature was stirring, except me because I couldn't sleep. Away to the Playstation, I flew like a flash, turned on Journey and... something that rhymes with flash... When what to my lonely wandering eyes would appear - but another gamer, frolicking near. 

I know that was all out of order and didn't rhyme very well but the point is that on Christmas Eve, I was feeling pretty lonely, sitting in the San Fran apartment, a country away from my family. As I yearned for the fresh New England powder and crisp winter air that northern California woefully lacks, it simply didn't feel like Christmas for me. 

So I booted up Journey in hopes that another player would be online and we could complete the quest together through the mountains and hills and the heavy snow at the peak. Sure that climax isn't very merry or festive, but at least it has snow. Luckily, I ran into another traveler who seemed just as elated to see me as I was to see them. We jumped and chirped and twirled together in the air to express our joy. It was a bit cheesy, but it was definitely nice anyway. 

As we reached the windy, snow capped peak, I remember just thinking how terrible it would be if my partner suddenly decided to opt out of the game, leaving me to walk into the light alone. What a strange feeling for a game to elicit - a pathetic desire for human contact satiated momentarily by a digital representation of a strange person somewhere unknown in the vastness of Earth. Never before had I felt so strongly connected to another player in an online game. Not even in previous Journey playthroughs. As assurance that this feeling wasn't just one sided, the other player sent me a friend request the moment the credits finished and my name popped up on their screen. 

This caused me to reflect on one of the most unexpected pleasures of 2012: my growing sense of belonging and connection with the greater gaming community. Not only did Journey make me feel like I was part of a special club of forward-thinking gamers and human beings, who seemed to "get it", but several other factors in the past twelve months contributed to me finally gaining a tangible understanding of my gaming brethren. 

I thought about The JACKED UP Indie & Mojo Show and how I can now consider Jeremy and Jack great friends. Both these guys give me an outlet to talk about all things gaming. Whereas I used to just write about things or talk to myself in the shower (am I the only one?), now instead, I could indulge in three hour long conversations about Mass Effect or lengthy discussions about Half-Life 2. Not to mention our numerous GIO guest hosts who joined us to talk games and enlighten me on some games that weren't on my radar. 

Jack and Jeremy were also great sports for placating me as I gushed about one of my favorite games of 2012: Sound Shapes. The level editor in Sound Shapes was the first time I felt like part of a specific game's community. I had dabbled in LittleBigPlanet and I'd heard stories of people who dedicated themselves to specific games, meeting other fans of the property and chatting in forums etc. But when I started playing around with the Sound Shapes level creator and exploring some of the community's levels, I was quickly hooked. After I published my wildly popular Journey level (I'm not bashful), I was inundated with friend requests and comments from people who'd played it. My favorite was a PSN message titled: Journey Level - that simply contained the message "I love you." Seeing all the creativity and the friendly competition in the Sound Shapes community was an eye opening experience for me. If you haven't played Sound Shapes yet, I obviously recommend it.

And finally, 2012 saw me attending another PAX East. I was actually able to procure a press pass for this year's show, which had me skipping lines and talking more with developers than any other gamers. To be honest, I think I almost prefer waiting in line, if only for the many opportunities to chat with other gamers and hear about what they've played at the show and what costume they're wearing or what crazy thing they've seen.


I was luckily still afforded the chance to meet up with several other people whom I've known through Twitter and writing for The Game Effect, including my boss Josh, Whitney, who now writes for us at TGE, Giancarlo, who's given me some great freelancing advice and fellow blogging extraordinaire and music aficionado Chris, who would go on to attend E3 after winning an IGN blogging contest this year. (Click their names and follow them on Twitter)

As my time in San Francisco draws to a close, and I get set to move back to Connecticut, I can only think back fondly on the year 2012, if only for the fact that I finally feel like a part of something special. I've always been a gamer, and I've always had friends, but the two didn't often coincide. In 2012 however, they collided gloriously like a jeep crashing into shark in Far Cry 3 (another brilliant game, you must play). I have some big plans and lofty goals for 2013, but hopefully I only further embed myself into the wonderful world of gaming culture and make some more friends with some of you along the way!

Breathing a sigh of relief that we avoided the apocalypse, let's all grab our controllers and...

Stay classy Game Informer!

Also, if you haven't already, I would love if people voted in The Game Effect's Game of the Year awards. Myself and the other editors worked really hard on these and they're pointless without the participation of readers. So would you kindly register on the site (it's free and easy) and vote for your favorites? Maybe tweet about them? That would butter my biscuits! Cheers.