Feature

We're about this happy we got to make Gameological for you last year

The Best Of The Gameological Society 2012

Or at least some of the best. Don’t make us choose!

By John Teti • January 3, 2013

We like to think we did some fine work here at The Gameological Society in 2012, and we’re not above recycling some of that fine work while we try to recover from our hangovers, or from illnesses we contracted during holiday travel. Delta Airlines—more like diverticulitis, am I right?

Hey, look, you try writing puns when your sinuses are this clogged, smart guy.

As I was digging through the archives of our inaugural year, I remembered a lot of cool stuff that I’d forgotten. I kept saying, “Oh, right! We should do more of this! And more of that!” So consider this my pledge to you that we will do more of this and that, but also more of the other thing. Because part of the fun of last year was trying things that we’d never done before, and I’d like to keep having that fun.

For now, however, let us shake away the last vestiges of our crapulence with this exercise in self-puffery—a brief and abridged look back at the year in Gameological. Seriously, it’s abridged, so if I forgot something big, don’t hate me. Just tell me in the comments.

Feature Articles
Captain Power gun follies

One of the great things about being Gameological editor is that I get to bring creative people together and see what happens. And one of my favorite ways to do that is with our feature articles, which pair longform writing with bespoke illustration. Shortly after the site was born, we gave the custom-design treatment to Drew Toal’s story about a forgotten ’80s TV show that blended Duck Hunt and sci-fi and Anthony John Agnello’s exploration of urban design in games. I also dig the fringe feel of Richard Hofmeier’s illustrations in Ryan Smith’s look at the cheating culture of Dungeon Defender and the weathered medieval look that Keith Vincent put together in Ellie Gibson’s Knightmare retrospective.

Decadent
Red Baron II and Snoopy Flying Ace

Decadent is a fairly cumbersome concept for a recurring feature, but that’s why I love it. The idea is to compare two games, released about 10 years apart, that are united by a common theme. Among my favorite decade-spanning excursions this year were Aces High, which compared an assiduously realistic vision of World War I’s Red Baron with the Snoopy version, and On A Wire, which contrasted the most famous grappling-hook game against one of the most obscure.

On The Level
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Water Temple

Where Decadent goes big picture, On The Level zooms in close, poring over a specific stage (or world, or chapter, what have you) in game history. This year, the feature’s subjects included a bizarre tribute to roadside Americana in Sam & Max Hit The Road, an early Tomb Raider stunner that could never recapture its initial punch, and an infamous Zelda level that functioned like a TV “bottle episode.”

For Our Consideration
EA Medal Of Honor partners page

We’d like to do more For Our Consideration op-eds in 2013 than we did in 2012, but one of the commentaries we ran last year had an outsize impact. After Ryan Smith reported on the cozy relationship between Electronic Arts’ marketing department and weapons manufacturers, the ensuing media attention prompted EA to remove the direct links from its website to the online stores of its “partner brands.” One of the prime directives at Gameological is to use games as a way of exploring the larger culture—not merely games themselves—and this is one example of that philosophy at work. (Plus, as a result of this column, the New York Times name-checked Ryan and Gameological in its top story on Christmas Day, which was nifty.) Another highlight for me was Dan Whitehead’s thought-provoking take on Double Dragon as a reflection of our changing attitudes toward big cities.

Inventory
Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Arkham City

I had forgotten how many Inventory features we’d run last year—more than I realized! They’re fun to make, so I guess time flies and all that. My favorite is the Bechdel Test Inventory, which took a famous test for female representation in films and applied it to games. We examined 15 video games that passed the test and, as always, invited the readers to come up with some more. This one garnered some great attention for the site, not just because it was a cool idea—Anthony John Agnello’s brainchild—but also for the discussion that ensued in the comments thread. Onlookers were baffled by the notion that people could debate gender issues on a games site without verbal bombs being thrown. I also liked our list of affectionate gestures and the rather cynical matched pair of terrible-moms and terrible-dads lists, timed to coincide with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, respectively.

To The Bitter End
Klonoa: Door To Phantomile

2012 was a divisive year in regard to certain game endings, but there is no way I am dragging us all back into that morass. To The Bitter End largely steered clear of controversy, analyzing final moments that were sometimes moving—like Klonoa: Door To Phantomile—and sometimes poetically prosaic—like R4: Ridge Racer Type 4.

Best Bracket Ever?
Best Treasure Ever: The winner is crowned

Well, so far, at least. Our Best Treasure Ever Subjective Judgment Bracket was a hit, with all readers in unanimous agreement that every winner of every round in the competition was clearly the superior choice, and that the Wabbajack is the best video game treasure of all, so there, it’s settled forever.

Music To Our Ears
VVVVVV

Derrick Sanskrit spearheaded two cool recurring music features in 2012 that will of course be returning in 2013. There’s the weekly Game That Tune, which highlights one notable track of game music that’s worth rotating into your playlist—the VVVVVV writeup made me finally get around to playing that great game. And of course there’s the ambitious Alternate Soundtrack, in which Derrick suggests a novel game-and-album pairing. Derrick edits the videos for these himself, and while the blend of audio and video is always stirring—not least in my favorite entry so far, the Limbo/Radiohead pairing—my favorite part is seeing the new Gameological-themed record label he designs for each one.

The Video Vault
Assassin's Creed III

Last but not least, the moving-picture department. Our video efforts kicked off on day one with The Digest, our monthly rip-off of Siskel And Ebert that includes snacks. Probably my favorite episodes are the Lollipop Chainsaw debate with Steve Heisler and the Assassin’s Creed III episode with Stephen Totilo, who came on to rebut my review of the game.

Pete Strackmeier's Living-Room Video-Game University

Two of the oddest characters in the Gameological universe were also established early on. VHS “joystick master” Pete Strackmeier, who demonstrated How To Play Your Station 3, and voice acting enthusiast Arthur M. Gameological III, who reflected on The Great Performances of this proud art form. They both returned for the treasure bracket for a very Gameological take on Antiques Roadshow, the Old-Time Treasure Appraise Show. And they will be back in 2013—Pete’s working on something right now, in fact.

Murder Report: Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference

At the big E3 trade show, we tallied the body counts for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in our daily Murder Reports. There was a lot of murder!

The Seeds: GoldenEye 007

And of course, one of my proudest achievements of the year, a bunch of comedians and a bunch of us critics reexamined some seminal games in the inaugural season of The Seeds—hard for me to pick one highlight here, but I’ll go with the GoldenEye 007 episode.

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  • PaganPoet

    Well done, GS, this has quickly become my favorite video game site/community.

    I’m especially fond of Derrick Sanskrit’s Game That Tune features, being a vg aficionado and musician myself.

    • Sleverin

       Same!  If it wasn’t for the Persona 4 track some time ago I wouldn’t have begun commenting on here….or been reminded to get the soundtrack, the brilliant Reincarnation version or start looking into J-Pop just to simply own a bunch of albums that sound like the Persona 4 female singer just soothing my ears with happy pop sound.  What instrument do you play Pagan?  I myself do guitar, but I’m hoping to expand into keyboard, flute, harmonica, mandolin…and maybe something else soon.

      • PaganPoet

        I play piano and trumpet, sing baritone, and actually got my undergrad degree in music composition. Haven’t written anything in over a year, to be completely honest, but I am just finishing up an arrangement of the Swedish folk song “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa” for my best friend’s choir to perform this spring (she went to school for conducting). I should try to post a piece or two of mine, I actually am quite inspired by video game music.

        Persona 4 fan and musician, eh? You and I are two peas in a pod. You ever get a chance to perform?

        • Sleverin

           I’ve done a few open mics.  At first my nerves were racking, but it was always a good and encouraging crowd so I went from barely playing what I want to, to playing and singing with little trouble.  Actually it was a bit of training because my friends whom I met in Final Fantasy XI decided to invite me to their wedding and have me play solo!  Thankfully the pressure wasn’t all that high, even though I was playing during the ceremony itself.  It was a good time and a fun experience, second time in my life I got to get out of state (California is incredulously hard to escape x_x).

          I wish I could say I knew arrangements, composition and such but I’m slowly learning, independent study and all.  Thankfully one of my friends who got married is a Masters in music, and she’s been very helpful in my education.  Also, I’ve been blasting the Persona 3/4 OST albums and the Incarnation versions, even at work.  Turns out my coworkers love it and were asking me where I got this great music!  Love sharing the music love!

  • Cloks

    Hopefully this is the year of Pete Strackmeier.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      For the last decade I’ve been staring at the Chinese Zodiac placemat whenever eating at Hong Kong Noodle, just waiting for the year of the Strackmeier to arrive.
         “Far of vision, though near-sighted and mildly astigmatic, the Strackmeier is a loyal friend always ready with aid or a bulbous-tipped microphone.  The Strackmeier is inquisitive and scholarly, though prone to Kermit the Frog-esque bouts of slump-shouldered exasperation in the face of comical adversity.
         Prone to vanity, the Strackmeier tends toward the collection of enthusiastically printed and non-flame retardant Sport coats.  Hence, they are not often compatible with Dragons.
         The year of the Strackmeier promises a bounty of movable crates, double-jump upgrades and at least 35 of the 200 hidden Bursar’s Trophies.  Beware of poisoned mushrooms disguised as one-ups and no significant game play improvements from the previous year of the Strackmeier.”
       

      • Cloks

        Clearly I haven’t put much thought into what the year of Strackmeier would entail. I now await it more eagerly than before.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Don’t forget delicious sweet rolls!

    • Captain Internet

      …and also Arthur M. Gameological. The two bring the cocktail hour vibe that the Internet is so sorely missing

    • George_Liquor

       Check it out: I found Pete Strackmeier’s dad on Youtube:

      http://www.youtube.com/user/drh4683?feature=watch

  • HobbesMkii

    But what about the podcasts, John? What about the podcasts? I vote for Episode 5, which featured the genesis of both Beat the Interns and John Teti: Stud Fiend.

  • Citric

    I like To The Bitter End. I’d like it even more if it had more games I’ve finished in it. JRPGs from the ’90s and early ’00s are things I’ve finished. 

    I need to finish more things. Possibly just to enjoy that feature more, possibly because I’ve got lots of unfinished things.

    • PaganPoet

      I might be wrong, but isn’t To The Bitter End for games in which it was generally a chore to finish? The 90s and early 00s being the golden era for JRPGs, I’d imagine most people who played them were generally pleased to see them all the way through.

      • Citric

        I don’t think so, going by what was covered already, it’s more stuff that had something interesting to talk about in the ending. Klonoa, for example, was a joy from beginning to end.

        • HobbesMkii

          @PaganPoet:disqus might be a little off in the use of the word “chore,” which conveys a slightly more loaded meaning than the description the GS used for To The Bitter End:

          Games are often left unfinished. Sometimes they’re too difficult, too vast, or too repetitive to see all the way through to the closing credits. To The Bitter End is The Gameological Society’s look at those endings that are worth fighting for—or at least worth reading about.

        • PaganPoet

          Truly, I’m a little off in just about everything I say. =]

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        TTBE is basically a column where we talk about interesting endings. There is a general spirit of “You made it all the way! Whew!” as indicated by the name and the boilerplate at the top, but I’m not too precious about that. If someone has a good angle on a game ending, we’ll publish it.

        I do tend to prefer somewhat lesser-talked-about endings. There’s a reason, for instance, that you never saw a TTBE about That Ending.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Yeah, because the ending of Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday was terrible!  “Congratulations, you win!” *DOS prompt*

    • The Guilty Party

      Eh. For a while I was concerned about Finishing Things because I felt Things Should Be Finished. Then I thought about it and decided to do things until they weren’t fun anymore, and it’s worked out a lot better.

      • Citric

        Yeah, but I also have this “but I paid good money for that” instinct so seeing stuff I never finished just lying there drives me batty.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          My cheapness sometimes goes the “clean plate club” route you describe, but sometimes goes the other way and makes me want to squeeze everything out of a game before finishing to get my money’s worth, meaning I’ll often get distracted and not actually finish the game.

          (I did this SO MUCH with JRPGs in the 90s – they always have that point before the final battle when the whole map is accessible and you can do all of the sidequests you missed…I would dither around trying to do everything, not actually beat the game, and put it aside, only to much later guiltily beat the final boss and watch an ending cinematic which I’d long forgotten the context for).

        • The Guilty Party

          Right, but did you enjoy it? If you got X hours of pleasure from it, you got your money’s worth, for certain values of X and Money. And forcing yourself to finish something (i.e., not have fun) to see some cinematic… is that a good use of your life?

          I know where you’re coming from, but you might end up happier if you manage to break that habit. Or not.

        • Citric

          @The_Guilty_Party:disqus Usually if I don’t enjoy the latter half of something, I didn’t enjoy the first half. I’m completely comfortable abandoning GTAIV, for instance, because I hate that game, but something I like but just never finished makes me feel bad. Like Legend of Dragoon, I enjoyed that but I always drifted away at some point, never really hated it. I finally finished it last year, after 12 years of not finishing it, and I liked the whole thing.

  • Kahoutek

    Could you guys steal the “Tom vs. Bruce” column idea from the old Computer Gaming World magazine?  The idea was that two writers played a game against each other, with one guy invariably knowledgeable about the game while the other is clueless, and they alternated writing a play-by-play of their gaming experience.  

    • EmperorNortonI

       That sounds like a really fun idea, providing the choice was well made.  League of Legends 1v1 newb vs vet wouldn’t be all that interesting.

      Perhaps, though, it would be best paired with a co-op game and a silly in-character gimmick for the writeup.  Let me think . . .

      Left 4 Dead 2, all players can only use melee, written as if they were the last surviving members of a baseball team.

      Crusader Kings 2, one player is Richard the Lionhearted, the other Evil Prince John.  Or pretty much any dramatic family in all of European or Middle Eastern history.  The sons of Saladin dealing with the later crusades, while vying to be top dog in the Middle East?

      A Borderlands 2 playthough, in which the players agonize over the moral decisions glossed over in the side-quests, and resolve their arguments using the dueling mechanic.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        League of Legends or Dota would work as a co-op walkthrough thing. Actually, I think there already is something sort of like that over on eurogamer.

        An aside, 1v1 in those games is pretty pointless, as the entire game is balanced around having a team of five with different roles for each player. Or at least Dota is, I haven’t played lol in a while.

        • EmperorNortonI

           Co-op walkthrough would be interesting, either straight up or with a gimmicky in-character writeup.

          Yes, 1v1 is pretty pointless in those games, but it is nonetheless done in LoL.  Players who talk a lot of smack will call each other out and have a duel – they set up a custom game, join different sides, and fill the rest of the team out with bots.

    • Aaron Riccio

      I always preferred the Kenny v. Spenny treatment, wherein one person tries to accomplish the challenge legitimately, whereas the other one attempts to cheat. Can a good gamer ever finish first? 

  • yanmeimei
  • Raging Bear

    Congratulations on your 3/4 birthday, Teti & Co. Here’s to many more! 

    *clink*

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    I’m a tad disappointed you didn’t highlight some of your best reviews!  Watching John trash Assassin’s Creed III had a sort of vicarious “That’s-what-you-get-for-putting-out-a-sequel-each-year-ya-jerks” effect, and that extremely off-topic but entertaining none the less, Tokyo Jungle review was gangbusters!

    Also, unlike every other 2012 retrospective on a gaming site this one has a glaring omission of Hotline Miami. Please rectify this or I’ll leave you a voicemail that implores you to murder.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Coming in 2014: ASSASSIN’S GREED! Features include:
      - THOUSANDS OF COLLECTIBLES. Feathers, scrolls, book pages – you name it, it’s in here for you to find.
      - Unlock POWERFUL UPGRADES that will allow you to unlock EVEN MORE UPGRADES.
      - HI-TECH STABBING. Assassination is simpler than ever before with the new ONE-CLICK KILL™ feature.
      - Craft DOZENS OF ITEMS. Build a pair of binoculars to help you find more collectibles.
      - MORE SCI-FI. Use special powers to repel an ALIEN INVASION in ancient Mesopotamia.
      - Sneak around enemies using STEALTH TACTICS to steal even more collectibles.
      - Uncover WORLDWIDE CONSPIRACIES. Discover the missing link between the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and the Teamsters.
      - Unleash DEVASTATING ATTACKS with thirty-two different kinds of knives and seventeen different kinds of swords.
      - See every crack and blemish on your collectibles with a NEXT-NEXT-GEN GRAPHICAL ENGINE.
      - INTENSE VEHICULAR COMBAT. Fight exciting battles on ships, trains, planes, sleds, horse-drawn carriages, and hovercrafts.
      - Complete ERRANDS FOR IMPORTANT HISTORICAL FIGURES to unlock ALL THE COLLECTIBLES.
      - HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF CONTENT. Keep playing our game. Please.

      • Juan_Carlo

        -TONS OF NEW ECONOMIC TASKS.  Buy everything from Banks to Brothels to Lemonade stands, then spend hours running back and forth to each one, all to generate money to buy weapons and armor that have absolutely no practical in-game use.

        -AWESOME NEW COMBAT.  Hey kids, do you like Rock, Paper, Scissors?  Well we got your rock, paper, scissors right here….in Assassin form! Or, better yet, just say fuck it and “hold block” every time you are attacked until you see the opportunity for a counter instant-kill move (that’s what we do).

        -EPIC STORYLINE.  Do you love it when we interrupt your historical adventure with a bunch of boring, modern day, sci-fi shit?  We thought so.  That’s why we added three new characters.  LEARN about the new Assassin guild secretary’s upcoming surprise party that she’s total going to throw for her husband.  THRILL to the Assassin guild janitor’s stories of bathroom maintenance.  BECOME EMOTIONALLY INVESTED in the edgy new Assassin guild accountant’s tales of how she was molested by templars as a kid and that’s totally why she has all these tattoos because she doesn’t want to let people too close but she might just take a chance on you if you keep choosing the right dialogue options…or something.

        • HobbesMkii

          -Experience INCREDIBLE ASSASSIN’S GUILD MICROMANAGEMENT as you recruit people without doing anything close to approaching thorough background checks into your secret organization and then send them to other parts of the world on important and fantastically described missions that you will never see yourself! And then they’ll come and have more experience, or something like that. Plus, they’ll have a bunch of money you can use to destabilize the…

          -ABSURDLY COMPLEX ECONOMIC METAGAME SYSTEM we’ve created! Now, when you purchase a shop, you’re allowed to “invest” in the company that owns that shop. But if too many other players, playing their copies of the game that in no other way influence yours, also invest in that same company, they’ll cause overspeculation and the economy will undergo rapid inflation and you’ll lose everything you invested. For no apparent reason! It’s amazing!

          -AWKWARD SEX CUTSCENES. No, you didn’t see nipple, we were very careful about that. Butt only. Maybe some sideboob. There is also a suggestive dagger extension after that quick-time event we put in there.

    • The Guilty Party

      If everyone else has already talked about it, why bother doing it again?

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I think he was just joshin’.

  • D3ADP0OL

    We’re also looking back at The Best Games (You Never Played) with a feature on the most underrated game of 2012!  Come check it out at http://www.thebestgamesyouneverplayed.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

    Thanks for a year of great material. My favorite articles were The Seeds, even if I had a bit of a problem with their format. I love seeing games thought about critically because I feel it brings legitimacy to them. I hope we get more scholars and people talking about the importance of video games because they deserve to be recognized as important pieces of art.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1514409307 Joel Araujo

    I would have also included the feature profiling Merit Entertainment. It was my introduction to The Gameological Society and I thought it was pretty good.