Why do we all have such different opinions when it comes to Game of the Year? A lot of people argued that Breath of the Wild was the clear choice in 2017? Yet myself and others, who admittedly have no history with Zelda argued that there were plenty of other games that we would recommend first.
There is a pretty straight forward answer to this differing of opinions. Bias.
Every gamer has biases, whether they admit it or not. Even large games journalism websites, who pride themselves on professionalism, are effected by it. So instead of arguing with you over why my opinions right and yours is wrong, let’s take the conversation in a different direction. These are my game of the years, from 2001 to 2017. From one of the first games I ever played when I was five, to my most recent love interest. With each game I will explain why it won my vote that year, and how it shaped me and my gaming tastes into what they are today.
The point isn’t to show you why these games are great, but to show how bias when deciding game of the year is formed.
I started playing video games in 2001. I was five years old at the time. Grand Theft Auto 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 were revolutionizing games for the previous generation of players… but I preferred cartoons and bright colors back then. The Precursor Legacy was one of my first games. There were many factors to it being my favorite game that year. It had funny, lovable and child friendly characters for me to play with, it had plenty of items to collect and landscapes to explore, but most importantly, it was simple enough to learn the controls and progress without too much difficulty. It was accessible. Maybe Mario is a better platformer, but I didn’t have a Nintendo, I hadn’t played many games and this was a great starting point in my video game journey.
Ratchet and Clank (2002)
When I was a little kid I didn’t really have a choice in what I played. I only received new games for Christmas and my birthday, and since the internet was still a relatively unknown quantity, I wasn’t able to find games for myself and advise my parents on their value. So I had to cross my fingers and hope that when Christmas rolled round, I got something good. Luckily in 2002, Ratchet and Clank was one of the games in my stocking. It had a Pixar-like dynamic duo, creative enemy design and a mysterious world, just like The Precursor Legacy, but it also had a massive assortment of guns to dispatch your foes with. The sheer number of weapons and countless upgrades that could be acquired over the course of the game blew my mind.
Jak 2: Renegade (2003)
This is where my bias begins to show. Most gamers have a favorite franchise, a franchise that they place above others not because of its actual quality but because of the nostalgic value it has for them. That isn’t to say that Jak 2 isn’t a fantastic game, but it may not be AS revolutionary as seven year old me thought. I loved Renegade for several reasons. The Jak and Daxter franchise was already important to me, but what really blew my mind was the open world. Suddenly there wasn’t a linear path. I could explore Haven city in whatever manner I desired. I could even steal vehicles from other NPC’s. The freedom to explore and experiment was entirely new to me, even though other gamers had already felt this emotion while playing the likes of Grand Theft Auto 3. The final factor which sold me on its brilliance, was its tone. Many older gamers and critics looked down upon Renegade for its sullen teen-angst story, but as a kid, I thought Jak’s moody exterior and dark eco powers were badass.
Jak 3 (2004)
Ok now my bias is clearly visible. By the time I was eight, the Jak and Daxter series had become a cornerstone of my gaming lifestyle. The Precursor Legacy was one of my first gaming experiences and all my friends were obsessed with Jak 2. Jak 3 might not be the best game of 2004, but it is by far the best Jak and Daxter game, and when you hold this franchise at the level of high regard that I do, Jak 3 is clearly game of the year. It built upon the gameplay of the second game, adding an entirely new open world and desert vehicles to race and explore with. It added a myriad of new powers, weapons and enemies, but what really made it stand out, was its story. It tied together all the loose ends of the series and provided one of the biggest twists in gaming to date. In my opinion Jak 3 had the perfect gameplay loop and was the first time I thought to myself that games could tell interesting stories.
Lego Star Wars (2005)
How do you capture a nine year olds heart? Take three of their favorite things and merge them together. Star Wars, Lego and video games. Lego Star Wars was the first in a series of Lego games that is still growing strong today, but back in 2005 a Lego video game based around an established franchise was a novelty. It was also no coincidence that it released alongside the third and final prequel film, Revenge of the Sith. Hype around the series at this point was monumental, and as an added bonus I was able to play through the events of all three prequel films with my younger brother, who had just started gaming himself. Back when I was a kid games needed to be meaty, because I didn’t have the disposable income to purchase new titles every week. So the fact that there were countless characters to unlock meant me and my brother were able to keep busy and be constantly rewarded.
Destroy all Humans 2 (2006)
Around the age of 10 I began looking for more mature content. I progressed from reading Captain Underpants to the made for teens horror series The Demonata. I was looking to make a similar transition within games. I wanted something scary and action focused, but still not too dark for my age. The idea of playing as an alien invader rather than fighting them intrigued me. So I picked up Destroy all Humans 2. Many of its sexual content and pop culture references went over my head at the time, but the ability to read minds, disintegrate cars and send hippies flying through the air with my psychic abilities did not. Destroy all Humans 2 gave me freedom. Not only to explore an open world like Jak 2 did but to experiment with weapons and powers. I spent months testing the limits of the in-game mechanics. I was also constantly entertained by the absurd story that seemed to constantly try and outdo itself.
DragonBall Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (2007)
In 2007 my brother and I loved playing video games and watching cartoons. One of our favourite shows to watch together was DragonBall Z. So naturally when we found out there was a game where you could pit characters from that universe against each other in fan fiction battles, we jumped on the opportunity. The sheer amount of fighters to choose from meant that my brother and I spent years learning the nuances of Tenkaichi 3. I have probably sunk more hours into this fighting game than any other title. This is where I learned how fun competitive gaming could be. The laughs, the anger and the shared experiences were all something I still treasure.
Monster Lab (2008)
Despite never owning a Nintendo Handheld, Pokemon was a massive part of my childhood. I drew the characters in my art book, collected the toys and watched the show, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I actually played my first Pokemon game. I’d struggled to find a game similar to it, until I found Monster Lab. Most people have never heard of Monster Lab, it’s quite a niche title. However the process of collecting resources, crafting body parts and creating your perfect monster was addictive. It was the closest I got to satisfying the Pokemon gameplay loop and was one of my first ever RPG’s.
This one is kind of a cheat. I stopped gaming between 2009 and 2010, but when I got a PlayStation 3 for my 15th birthday in 2011 I fell in love with games all over again. I went back and played most of the titles from that generation that had already come out. Infamous coincidentally was the first PS3 game I ever played. I decided to try it because it was developed by Suckerpunch, who had previously worked on the Sly Cooper trilogy, one of my favorite Sony series. The jump to HD and glory of traversing a city as a super hero was already a massive win. However it was the karma system that made this my game of the year. The choice to be good or evil. A video game had never given me a choice before, the ability the have some say in who the character I was playing was.
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
To this day, Red Dead Redemption is my favorite game of all time. It showed me what a perfect game looked like, and proved to me why I should invest in this medium. A story so harrowing, so close to home, that it still haunts me to this day. It had a gameplay loop that I never grew tired of, and the world… By this point I’d played video games for about 9 years. Every game I’d ever played felt like a game, Red Dead felt like a real place in time. There were insane moments of chaos and death but there were also peaceful moments where I’d stop playing and stare at the horizon. It was the first time I’d ever played a game where if I thought I should be able to do something, I could. Animals weren’t just window dressing. They could be hunted and skinned, then you’d ride back to town and sell the hide for enough money for some whiskey to get drunk on. It was all so real. I doubt another game will ever make me feel the same.
Infamous 2 (2011)
There isn’t much to say in regards to Infamous 2. There wasn’t a real reason for loving it. I just thought it was one of the most polished games at the time. A fun story about super heroes, a wide array of powers and a well-designed open world. I think it was mainly the visuals. Infamous 2 was stunning from a cinematic standpoint. I had been playing PS2 for 10 years. The sudden jump to HD blew my mind.
The Walking Dead (2012)
At the age of 16 I began following the games press. IGN, Gamespot and Kotaku to name a few. I was so passionate about my hobby that I wanted to hear about all the unique experiences I’d missed. It was around this time that I first came across Podcast Beyond’s Greg Miller. I soon found that he shared many of my gaming tastes. So after hearing him speak so highly of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I decided to investigate. I was initially sceptical of its quality, since I ended up buying the iPad version. I played through all five episodes at once, when I probably should have been studying for my exams. My friend played the last episode with me. He didn’t understand why I was crying at the end of it. I had to leave the room to compose myself. That’s when I truly understood the power of games.
The Last of Us (2013)
I loved the Jak and Daxter series, but was not a fan of any of the Uncharted games. So I wasn’t completely in Naughty Dogs pocket. Yet The Last of Us cemented Naughty Dog as one of the best developers in the industry, in my eyes. This was a broken world. A world where horrific things would and did happen, and every aspect of the game supported the story they were trying to tell. The environments were chilling yet beautiful. Combat was brutally real, in a way I’d never experienced before. The Last of Us also told one of the most important stories ever told in gaming, but you know all that. Many agree that The Last of Us is one of the best games of all time, but I want to show you how bias is formed. Yes I thoroughly enjoyed The Last of Us when I played it, but a few months later while working at an EB Games, I met a girl. We realized that we both loved this same game and decided to exchange numbers. We ended up dating for three and a half years. The Last of Us will always hold a special place in my heart because of the relationships it helped me form.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (2014)
Video Games seem to constantly surprise me. Over the years they showed me so much. Video games can provide freedom unlike any other medium, foster brotherly comradery, tell tear jerking narratives and even help bring people together. Well The Stick of Truth taught me that video games could make me piss myself. Throughout the entire game I was in hysterics, and putting the humor aside, it’s actually a pretty robust RPG.
Dying Light (2015)
By the time I played Dying Light I was reaching another gaming slump. I didn’t feel any sense of excitement while partaking in the games in my collection. There never seemed to be any consequence, there were no stakes and I never progressed. Yeah I might get further into the narrative or new gear but the game always felt the same. Dying Light may be an open world action game, but it’s also a survival game. When I first started, going out at night was terrifying. I was far too weak, had no resources and my only option was to run. By the end of the game I was mowing down hordes of the creatures that once terrified me. Dying Light has an addictively fun gameplay loop but it also makes you feel like your time and effort is building towards something tangible.
One word, polish. There is nothing sloppy or half arsed in Uncharted 4. The visuals are pushing the limits of the hardware, the gameplay feels like a legitimate scripted movie sequence that you choreograph, and the story is touching and bombastic. Yet Uncharted 4 didn’t tell the story of a super hero or a space alien. It told the story of a man, a man who loves his partner but also has a passion for something that he can’t pursue. The internal struggle Drake faces, the inevitable conclusion and the peace he finds spoke to me. I saw myself in him so many times and hoped that I could utilize the answers he found.
So now we come to 2017 and the eventual conclusion of this piece. Well done if you’re still here. This was hardly light reading, but hopefully you can grasp what I’m trying to say. These are my personal game of the years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right choices. There were so many factors that contributed to my choices; my age, money, relationships built around games, personal relatability, or the fact that it provided something new, even if it wasn’t the first it was the first for me. You might not have chosen the same games as me but you probably have similar reasons for your choices. I didn’t include Persona 5 in my top 10 list last year because it had such a big impact on my personal life. My personal pick so far for 2017 is Prey yet when contributing to Goomba Stomp’s official game of the year list Breath of the Wild came out on top. We all have reasons for loving what we love, who cares if the games differ when the reasons are the same.