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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.