GameSpot Gives Thanks
The GameSpot staff takes a minute to recognize some of the good--and not so good--gaming moments of 2009.
Thanksgiving is a holiday in the United States that celebrates the removing of turkey innards and replacing them with vegetables, as well as various seasonings, only to throw the whole thing into a deep fryer with the hope it doesn't explode in a mess of drumsticks and tears. But it's also a holiday for reflection when we think about events that transpired over the previous 11 months and give thanks for those events that made our lives better while stuffing vast amounts of food into our mouths. With that in mind, members of the GameSpot staff took some time to think about the things in the world of gaming that they're thankful for and share them with you. And, hey, while you're over there, can you pass the gravy?
Andrew ParkManaging Editor
Let's get this out of the way. "The economy," to use the highly technical term, isn't good. It's bad. It's scary bad. This past year, we watched the doors close for Midway, Ensemble Studios, Pandemic, ACES Studio, GRIN, and even our beloved PlayStation Store at the San Francisco Metreon among others I may be forgetting (and I apologize in advance if I have). In other cases, we saw massive layoffs at major outfits like Electronic Arts and Microsoft, as well as at other studios, such as Sega, Funcom, NCSoft, and numerous others (and again, if I've omitted mention of a studio you know, I apologize; it wasn't intentional). It's a very scary time to be in…well, just about any line of business right now--not just the game industry. So for what it's worth, everyone who was put in a bad spot by the downturn has my full sympathy and best wishes for a quick recovery to land on their [respective] feet. And so, I guess the first thing I'm thankful for is still having a job to which to report, at a company that's still here.Here are some other individual items I'm thankful for: Big Huge games was apparently rescued by a white knight from Boston, Bub and Bob didn't win GameSpot's All-Time Greatest Game Hero competition, and the "Big E3" of old--located in the Los Angeles Convention Center--made a return this year. Though, again, with the economic downturn, I might have mixed feelings about that last one. It's also disappointing to see that many of the absolute best first-person shooters of 2009 were primarily console exclusive, despite the fact that my gaming platform of choice--the PC--offers the potential for better hardware as a better technical showcase and unquestionably offers the superior control scheme in the keyboard and mouse. But the PC did see some excellent games in different genres, such as The Sims 3, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Hearts of Iron III, and Plants vs. Zombies. And, really, irrespective of platform, 2009 has been an amazing year for games of all stripes. These include big-budget action games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Assassin's Creed II; music games like The Beatles: Rock Band and the surprisingly good DJ Hero; quirky downloadable games like Flower, Trials HD, and Splosion Man; and equally memorable handheld games like Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? for the PSP and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the DS among others. For those of us who enjoy playing fantastic games like these, there are a lot of reasons to be thankful this year, and I'm also thankful there's still a game industry around to produce them.
Brian EkbergSenior Editor
I've got lots to be thankful for this year, but instead of rambling on at length, I'll get straight to the point.
- Forza Motorsport 3's community storefront--a continuing source of amusement, envy, and entertainment.
- Rubi Malone
- Mark Hamill in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
- Madden NFL 10's upcoming Ultimate Team downloadable content add-on. Looks like fun and will cost nothing. Here's hoping it comes out before Christmas.
- The Abbey Road medley DLC in The Beatles: Rock Band.
- House of the Dead: Overkill. Hands down, the funniest game of the year.
- Nostalgia for the Nintendo DS. Despite being a dead-simple jumble of bland Japanese role-playing game cliches housed in a unique Victorian setting, I'm still playing and enjoying it.
- DiRT 2's incredible windshield and splash effects--terrifying and absolutely engrossing.
- Demon's Souls--2009's masochistic masterpiece.
- NFL 10. The only place I can pretend the Jay Cutler trade was a good thing for the Chicago Bears
- Football Manager Online, which did more to turn me onto soccer… *cough* football… than every FIFA game before it.
- UFC 2009 Undisputed's pristine fighting engine and great controls.
- The "Play the Pros" feature in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3.
- The never-ending supply of iDOLM@STER vinyl designs in the Forza 3 storefront.
- "No Russian"
- Every voice actor who plays a dwarf in Dragon Age: Origins.
- NHL 10's inexplicable lag when playing in the corners.
- My cruddy home PC that couldn't handle The Sims 3.
- DiRT 2's pervasive and exhausting "action sports lifestyle/festival atmosphere." Also, the needless capitalization in "DiRT 2" really tightens my jaw.
- Tony Hawk RIDE.
- Jack Black as Eddie Riggs as Jack Black.
- Paid team improvements in Madden 10 and NCAA Football 10.
- UFC 2009 Undisputed's lame, menucentric Career mode.
- The myth of a recession-proof gaming industry and the resulting studio closures/layoffs.
- More plastic accessories.
- Advertising overkill in Need for Speed: Shift killing most of the goodwill it garnered as a racing sim. The Nurburgring doesn't need your signage, people.
And while I'm grateful (or not) for all of this and more in a great year for gaming, I'm most thankful for the birth of my daughter. In a couple of years, I hope to give her all of the Ubisoft tween girl games that inexplicably continue to pile up on my desk. She'll thank me later. Maybe.
Kevin VanOrd Associate Editor
Even in 2009--a year of financial hardship for so many--it wasn't difficult to reach out and sense the wonders of the gaming world at your fingertips. From Killzone 2 and Modern Warfare 2 to Dawn of War II and Dragon Age, this year's great games encouraged us to open our hearts and minds--as well as our pocketbooks. But even if you're not fond of the lightness of your wallet, the joy of playing games like Uncharted 2 and Dead Space Extraction eases the sorrow.
Even in light of this burgeoning cornucopia of quality, there's a development house that consistently surprises me: From Software. In the past, From has showered us with innovation and variety, with such action classics as Otogi and undersold gems like Chromehounds. Not all of its chances work out (see Tenchu: Shadow Assault), but over the years, From has produced work across multiple genres and platforms. This year, we saw two new franchises take shape: the gleefully over-the-top Ninja Blade and the exquisite Demon's Souls. No two games could be more different, and yet, they've provided some of this year's finest moments. I'm thankful for From Software, not because I can count on a flawless game every time, but because the studio is unpredictable in the best possible way. Need proof of its fearlessness? Consider the upcoming 3D Dot Game Heroes. Good or bad, it's just one more intriguing game from a developer that consistently surprises. Thanks, From.
Sophia TongAssociate Editor
It's been a long and hard year for everyone, especially in this economy. But despite the financial woes, there are still some incredible games coming out this holiday season so that after we've stuffed our faces full of turkey, we have something to keep us entertained until the new year. Each year I host an orphan's Thanksgiving for those who don't head home for the holidays--a place to hang out and eat some food. I'm grateful for all these fantastic competitive/cooperative games so that my guests can entertain themselves with hits like Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3: ODST, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This year, there will be an indescribable amount of griefing going on so that everyone should be thankful for being in the same room to take out their anger in person. If things go well, my guests will be too distracted to eat all the leftovers--and that means more food for me.
It's been a rough year for just about the entire gaming industry (and elsewhere), so I'm immensely thankful that 2009 is nearly over and hoping that 2010 marks the end of all these negative trends. Naturally, I'm also thankful for just the sheer amount of variety we have and that games like Flower and Noby Noby Boy coexist in the same ecosystem as games like Modern Warfare 2, Resident Evil 5, Killzone 2, and Halo 3: ODST. I'm also thankful that most publishers are still willing to take chances and produce original IPs even when the safe money is still on sequels. Of course, games like Borderlands and Dragon Age: Origins come from well-established studios that have pretty good track records (particularly BioWare). But the very fact that these games even made it to shelves and were met with widespread acclaim (and in the case of Borderlands, great sales numbers) bodes well for new properties.
Lastly, I'm thankful for the continued resurgence of retro gaming. More and more companies (or Konami and Sega, at least) seem to like the idea of revisiting old games in their catalogs and updating them for the current platforms, but they do so in a way that essentially creates a new game that remains faithful to the original. Heck, even New Super Mario Bros. Wii seems to fall into that mold, and I hope it's something that continues.
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