This week is a time to be thankful, and in the spirit of the season, we're hoping that you can tell us what in gaming you're thankful for. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you.
While you formulate your response, here's what the USgamer team would like to show appreciation for.
The word "diversity" has become quite the hot-button topic. The mere notion incites a number of frothy rants about accursed social justice warriors and corruption and god knows what else. As ever, the mere notion that video games as a medium might be better off if they felt a bit friendlier to the vast majority of humans who aren't straight white males has a tendency to send a certain breed of straight white male into apoplectic fits.
But the "diversity" I'm talking about has nothing to do with these zealous word-wars. It's a much quieter, more subtle interpretation that appeals to me: The existence of games which slip beneath the radar of the gaming Internet's cultural shouting matches. While gamers work themselves into a rabid frenzy over boob sliders and butt slaps, the medium continues to grow outward in other, healthier directions. 2015 was a banner year for games that people who don't necessarily think of themselves as "gamers," and that's fantastic.
Unsurprisingly, Nintendo offered up some of the most visible examples with the likes of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Yoshi's Woolly World, and Super Mario Maker. I find the latter two particularly fascinating, as they revolve around mechanics and ideas that are very much intrinsic parts of traditional gaming's DNA—I mean, Super Mario Bros. helped create video games—but Nintendo has presented and recontextualized them in a way that manages to be true to the source material while remaining accessible for people who aren't necessarily steeped in the medium's vocabulary. Yoshi's Island has always been the most intricate of the Mario action titles, and Woolly World is its direct sequel… but the new game's fuzzy-wuzzy appearance helps it go down smoothly despite maintaining its predecessor's mechanical complexity. Meanwhile, Super Mario Maker excels at the challenging task of making game design intuitive by turning the design process itself into a game… and, of course, by drawing upon iconography that's been baked into pop culture as a whole over the course of decades.
There's more than just Nintendo out there, though. Xbox and PlayStation have admittedly been pretty light on this sort of content, but Steam and mobile more than make up for their shortcomings. Whether farting around in an infinite array of Minecraft clones, turning FMV shlock into a compelling detective mystery with Her Story, or testing the boundaries of what a video game can even be with kitty-luring simulation Neko Atsume, the games of 2015 continue to make headway toward turning this medium we love into something everyone can love. That's awesome—and, frankly, to hell with anyone who thinks games should be limited to one style, or to one audience, because those people don't love games. The entire point of Thanksgiving is that love should be about sharing and joy, not surly jealousy.
As someone who spends a huge amount of time gaming online - Hearthstone, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, World of Tanks, and Forza Motorsport 6 are on my current rotation - I'd like to give some thanks to the poor souls who work in the data centers maintaining the servers and ensuring that they're up and running all hours of the day and night. It's a pretty thankless task - everyone expects servers to work flawlessly, but when they don't, all hell can break loose, and that means endless rushing around for those involved in keeping them up.
I've known a few people who've worked in this kind of capacity over the years, and it's demanding work. When everything works well, it can be quite a tedious job - just monitoring everything and making sure things are running smoothly. But the moment there's a glitch, you have to go into overdrive to diagnose the issue and ensure things are fixed as quickly as possible. And since that can be at any hour of the day or night, that can mean some long hours - and sometimes even having to get out of bed in the middle of the night to rush into work to figure out a serious issue with the rest of the team.
So props and thanks to everyone who works behind the scenes to keep my favorite games up and running - I'll try to remember not to curse too loudly the next time I start getting server-side lag!
A decade ago, adventures games were a dead genre and space combat simulators were a total non-starter. In 2015, one of the biggest (potential) games around is Star Citizen - an insane but incredibly exciting throwback to the good old days of PC gaming. I love that these games exist.
Plenty of deserved criticism has been heaped on crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter, but many of these games could not exist otherwise. Divinity: Original Sin, Shovel Knight, and Elite: Dangerous are just a few of the games that would not have had a chance as recently as five years ago. It's not a perfect situation by any means, but I'm thankful that the hobbysists and hardcore gamers have a voice again.
2015 has been a particularly good year for video games—not that it's possible for any year to be bad in our wondrous future, mind you. Even if the thing or things you want most get pushed months into the future, every twelve months brings about more good games than you could possibly play in said twelve months. (And if you don't believe me, you're not looking hard enough.) Still, 2015 has featured a generous helping of Cool Things thus far, including but not limited to the following:
- Bloodborne released and continued From Software's amazing, six-year streak—and the new DLC continued it even further
- Nintendo and Sony got me back into multiplayer games with the phenomenal Splatoon and Rocket League
- Fallout 4 finally launched, giving me another worthwhile trip to the post-apocalypse after five long years
- Metal Gear Solid V delivered on the promises of Peace Walker with its fantastic take on open-world action
- Undertale came out of absolutely nowhere and became one of my favorite games of the year
And, perhaps most importantly, I managed to stay employed for the entirety of 2015 (so far). That may not seem like a big deal, but you try tricking people into paying you money to write about video games—it's surprisingly difficult.
I'm thankful that there are so many good games out there. I've reviewed a ton of game this year and there's still more to play! I'm rocking a stack of physical games around 7 deep at this point and my Steam backlog is even worse.
This year I've wanted to or had the chance to play: Dying Light, Life is Strange, Homeworld Remastered, Resident Evil Revelations 2, Olli Olli 2, DmC Definitive Edition, Hotline Miami 2, Pillars of Eternity, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, Axiom Verge, Titan Souls, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, Chroma Squad, The Witcher 3, Devil Survivor 2, Galactic Civilizations III, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and Splatoon. That's only up until the end of May.
2015 may not have been one of the best years in gaming, but there was more released than I'll probably ever get to play. There are happy developers who have my love and money, though I'll never load up their game. (Still sitting on copies of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Hyrule Warriors that I have to get to.)
It's great that I spend the year getting to talk to people who make all these great games and then I get to see the fruits of their labor. Our industry is full of passionate, wonderful people and it's (usually) a joy to interact with them. So I'm glad to be doing what I'm doing and I'm glad there's tons of great games to play.