I’m Martin, and this year I mostly stopped having public thoughts about video games. Here are some games that were important to me in 2015.
This game was too much. I feel like I cry – or at least, get choked up – much more easily than I used to. Undertale just pulled my heart out over and over. I can’t bring myself to do a kill everything run and instead watched other people do it on youtube, and even then it made my heart hurt. This is a game that made me evangelical; I bugged people to play it, and I try not to do that. It’s so pretty and nice and warm, everything about it feels like it was made for me, and I love it.
Fallout: New Vegas
Knowing that Fallout 4 was about to drop, I replayed New Vegas to prepare. When Fallout 4 eventually did come out, it was such a crushing disappointment, a tangled mess of nothing with nothing to say and layers and layers of time-sink nothing on top of it, I played New Vegas yet again to get over it. It’s so well written and interesting and it’s honestly a dang tragedy that Obsidian’s next project was a fucking South Park game.
Here are some really good tweets about architecture and spatiality in New Vegas.
I think one of the problems with Bethesda games is that they only ever want to convey awe with their design, rather than explore deeper or more interesting spatial messages? Everything is about the scale of the destruction, or the wonder of a huge technological / magical marvel. The furthest they go message-wise is, like, ‘this dungeon is dark because they are doing dark magic’. Bethesda want you to take screenshots of the big things, Obsidian put in big things because they felt right. I love that series of tweets because it made me realise how much New Vegas does with cultures and borders, with spaces being actively contested in ways other than military.
The other day I was playing and I found a whole sewer network that I’d never explored before. New Vegas is big, and often sparse, but it never feels empty.
I still love this game so much. I’ve poured a billion hours into building decks and thinking about strategy and listening to podcasts and watching streams. It’s a perfect card game for me, and it devoured so much of my life in 2015, and it probably will continue to do so in 2016.
Jackbox Party Pack
Just an excellent time with friends. In 2016, I want to stop using it so much as a crutch when there’s a lull in conversation among people, but it’s a really fun way to get everyone laughing and on the same page.
Cobra Club is sort of standing in for all of Robert Yang’s games for the past year or so here. He’s doing really interesting and playful things with games about sex, all funny and hot and silly in a way which nonetheless expresses a lot of warmth and affection for his subjects. His games manage to walk a fun line where they are, on the face of it, attractive for streamers and youtubers to gawk at – “A game about spanking! A game about taking dick pics! A game about scrubbing down your bro in the shower!” – but which possess a sincerity which resists passive consumption. These are games that are silly, but which are also sexy, games about recognising that desire is a little awkward and funny but also much more than that. It’s about knowing that what you’re into is kinda goofy, but that goofiness is also something to be treasured and protected. I love Robert Yang’s games so much.
The Beginner’s Guide
Not interested in going into here if it’s Real or not, but this game spoke to me and made me sob big ugly tears for the times I’ve felt like an unloveable bastard man, for all the people in my life I’ve hurt for no reason, and for failing. I’m getting older – sorry to the people reading this and rolling their eyes – and every day I feel like I’m making decisions which close some doors and open others. The Beginner’s Guide made me think about a lot of things and it hurt my soul, and I like that in a game.
This is probably the best war game I’ve ever played, in that it’s completely exhausting and horrible, and everything is a huge slog, and the only way to win is to rig the game so six of you attack one person at once until they quit. Subterfuge is a game about being a bastard, and not necessarily in a fun, sneaky, way; you win by bullying and cajoling and tricking people, by lying out of hand, and by exploiting weaknesses. If there’s one thing Subterfuge teaches you about war, it’s that it’s basically fucking unfair. Subterfuge taught me a lot about myself, and I don’t think I like what I learned.
I played a lot of Fallout 4 and Metal Gear Solid V and they certainly occupied a lot of my time, but weren’t very good. The Talos Principle was good but should’ve been smaller. I’m going to play Her Story some time soon and I’m looking forward to it. Gang Beasts, Nuclear Throne, Nidhogg and Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes are all excellent and perfect. I think I want to play Alien Isolation again? I liked that so much last year. Twilight Struggle is a really cool boardgame that I’d like to play more of, especially considering I can play it online now. I feel bad about leaving the podcast so abruptly, but I think it was for the best; I was feeling so Done with video games this time last year, and I think I’ve felt better for ambling along without concentrating too much.
I’m looking forward to 2016. Here’s a song (epilepsy warning for the video):