Okay, I’m late, but, hey, every year we argue that these “best of the year” lists are arbitrary, so what does it matter anyway. But then again, I suppose these lists do matter as a retrospective of how you
wasted enjoyed the year and how your relationship towards the best form of throwing away time—the interactive video game kind—has changed.
Personally, 2016 was a surprising one as I made peace and evolved from lifelong hatred of turn-based gameplay—sans Pokémon. Maybe it’s my aging reflexes, but the year’s strategic cause and effect prediction games left me unprecedentedly gratified. This in large part due to the excellent, emasculating XCOM 2 and the painterly horrors of Darkest Dungeon. Credit for my reconciliation with the genre also goes out to the turn-based sensibilities of Alien-esque drone operator simulator, Duskers. So does that mean I have turn-based games on my list? Of course not. Some biases die harder than others, I suppose.
2016 was by most metrics an objectively awful dance around the sun, but luckily it wasn’t for our cherished and expensive medium. If anything we were saturated with too many worthwhile games. 2016 held up game’s proclivity for violent verbs—run, gun, shoot—but the action lived alongside and among an expanded emotional range.
Is the medium still more inclined to produce power fantasies? Certainly, but the likes of Overwatch, Watch Dogs 2, and others hinted at nuances beyond man-boy reveries. And there were plenty more that avoided gaming’s apparent natural inclination for adolescent self-aggrandizement altogether. Like the (or any) year itself, the games of 2016 had me feeling triumph, awe, terror, melancholy, joy, calm, humor, and surprising sadness.
And it is for the above spattering of prattle that these lists become important. Our individual and collective criteria for these lists change with the capitalist’s world’s internal clock—the tick-tock of Q1 through Q4—provoking a historical recordkeeping. And as the machinations come to their imaginary stop, it helps to think about and support those things we enjoyed, but more importantly highlight those examples that validate game’s existence as human ingenuity and craft. After all, video game creation may be what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. So while the wars wage, inequality fissures, ideologies clash, and the only timeframe that matters—mortality’s—ticks away, let’s take a moment to celebrate our leisurely pastime as an act of living.
That being said, my Best Belated Games of 2016 will start rolling out today and into the next week, so you can look forward to agreeing with all my totally and absolutely objective choices. That’s how this usually works, right? Here’s #10 on the list.