Game Fight! is back and I'm happy to announce that this week's column will be about the much anticipated Game Fight Game of the Year. This is the time of year when every outlet polls its staff to come to a consensus on which game will be crowned. Since it's mostly just me writing about games here, I went ahead and asked myself, "hey, which game did I love the most in 2012?" Before I get into that, however, I need to talk a bit about the great games that didn't quite make the cut, and since I want to at least pretend to have some level of professionalism, I'm going to follow the GotY formula and let you know which games I really liked, but not enough to make the GFGotY (geh-FIG-ottee).
Borderlands 2 continues the winning formula from the first game of mixing an FPS with elemental-damage guns, rare loots, and co-op raiding. I've put many, many hours into BL2, and have helped kill Terramorphous the "Invincible" dozens of times. As much as I love it, I can't give it GotY because of Tiny Tina. She is the worst, most grating character in video games. Lots of people love her over-acted hip-hop dialogue, but they are simple people who don't understand comedy. To me, she sounds like a character someone made up in an improv group, an improv group that consists entirely of WASPs whose exposure to hip-hop culture comes from watching Black Eyed Peas videos. No thanks!
The Walking Dead
Telltale Games went ahead and made the best adventure game of 2012. Sort of an easy thing to do given the low output of adventure games in this day and age, but they decided to do something different. Instead of simply looking to make a great adventure game, they made a great experience where choices have consequences that actually matter.
"WE'RE NOT INTERESTED IN ANY MORE COPIES OF 'THE WATCHTOWER.'"
The "good" choice you thought you made comes back to punish you later, and there's nothing you can do about it except realize that life is a total jerk. They also get bonus points for creative use of a tired trope. The game isn't so much about surviving hordesof zombies as it is about human interaction. It doesn't get my GotY, though, because Spike gave it that honor and I still don't understand how The Nashville Network got into the business of giving out video game awards, nor do I want to be associated with it in any way.
And now, Game Fight!'s Game of the Year is...
I love Fez. You should love it, too. Yes, it has some technical issues that may pop-up randomly, such as deleting your save file or locking-up your Xbox. There was a bit of a fiasco when Polytron tried to fix it, and Microsoft really earned their derisive "M$oft" name on forums due to the high cost of their certification process. But all technical issues aside, and ignoring the fact that Phil Fish can sometimes come across as a bit of a jerk, the game is exactly why I started playing games in the first place.
Why Fez? Is it because I am a pretentious jerk who wants to claim that Fez marks the moment when games could be considered "art?" That's half true, sure, but I'm not going to try and describe my affection toward Fez in the frame of artistic expressionism. Fez capably and accurately recreates the exciting feeling of unfamiliarity and discovery that used to exist in nearly every video game. In the past, before the advent of gamefaqs and YouTube walkthroughs, games were often approached with little knowledge of their mechanics beyond the exciting adventures promised in the art on the box cover. Playing games used to be a bit of a crapshoot. Limited coverage of gaming outside of a couple enthusiast magazines meant finding a good game was either the product of a playground recommendation or the result of sheer luck. How many of us were captivated by the idea of playing as our favorite X-Men, only to get home from the rental place and learn that the NES X-Men game was 8-bits of perfected sadness?
Stumbling across a good game was a real-life power-up. It was opening a chest and discovering it held more than just a healing potion. Learning the backstory of a game was limited mostly to what was read in the manual or introduced on the screen. Fan fiction existed, as it always has, but it wasn't so readily disseminated or awarded a blessing of officiality by the Lore Keeping Dept. at Gamemakerco. Inc. The lack of resources meant that the gamer ultimately decided the backstory to the unexplained elements of the game. This wasn't done intentionally, it was just there as a byproduct of the limited external resources that were available.
Fez is able to faithfully recreate the feeling of unfamiliarity and discovery that used to be a part of gaming. Entering into the game with a blank slate, and avoiding an Internet's worth of spoilers, is the recommended way to play; it's almost an augmented reality experience, since you need to apply certain conditions to the real world that wouldn't otherwise come into play.
Not knowing what comes next and figuring out puzzles without the help of FAQs is something that, for me at least, has been largely lost to the ages. Which is weird, because aren't we supposed to get more patient as we age? It used to take an awful lot begging for me to get my parents to agree to the long distance charges associated with calling the Nintendo Game Counselors Hotline. I had to be hopelessly stuck. Now, if I run into the slightest inconvenience in a game, I hammer away at it for five minutes and if I haven't figured it out, bam, straight to Google. Fez and I have an agreement, though. I promise not to cheat, and Fez promises to reward me with genuine feelings of discovery, accomplishment, and surprise.
For that, Fez deserves the title of Game Fight! Game of the Year. Now, please, let me know exactly how wrong my opinion is in the comments below.