As a gamer with a family and a growing list of professional responsibilities (2010 was a very good year for me as a writer), I always feel out of touch when the annual Game of the Year conversation begins. 365 days is a long time when you actually sit down and attempt to remember everything you read, watched, or played. So in 2010, I tried to get a jump on things by documenting my entire year as it happened by listing every game I sat down and played. This experiment taught me a lot about how my gaming habits have changed and showed me that my 2010 was The Year of DLC.
2010 began with my usual attempts to play catch-up. After a New Year’s visit to the US, I came home to Japan loaded with stuff I had been meaning to play but didn’t or couldn’t due to regional restrictions. By far, the game I spent the most time with for the first two months of the year was Borderlands. With three friends eager to pillage Pandora I raced through the main campaign and all of the the add-on missions.
Next up were two expansions for Resident Evil 5, which finally prompted me to buy the game after having relied on a borrowed copy back in 2009. While these were nowhere near the depth of Borderlands’ RPG level-based gunplay, my friend and I played through both DLC chapters repeatedly until we had all the trophies. It didn’t matter that the games had no save points; we’d complete each level in a single sitting and do it all over again the next night.
It was right around this time that I began to notice a pattern. 2010 featured an unusually strong early lineup of AAA titles postponed from 2009. Why hadn’t I flung myself into BioShock 2 or Heavy Rain? Initially I thought the allure of online co-op was simply too strong to ignore in favor of dedicated single-player games. I wasn’t prepared to call my friend up on Skype and say “I’m too busy playing video games to play video games with you tonight.”
The turning point came when I found myself dedicating every night to the Xbox indie RPG Breath of Death 7 while disc-based games like Red Dead Redemption and Singularity were gathering dust on my bookshelf. Co-op play was no longer the issue anymore; clearly, there was something more appealing to me about a $1 “parody RPG” than there was in a pair of $60 shooters.
What I’ve come to terms with this year is that I prefer games that are up-front with their fun — games that I can enjoy with only an hour or less of time invested. DLC, indie, and other downloadable titles accommodate me better in this regards. Furthermore, the smaller length of these games means that spending an entire hour with them feels like a major accomplishment rather than a drop in a bucket.
For example, I probably spent an hour just learning to ride a horse in Red Dead Redemption, and everywhere I went prompted pop-up text regarding stuff I couldn’t do yet because I didn’t have enough money or guns. It was as if the game’s open world was taunting me rather than enticing me to keep playing. By contrast, I could easily complete two or three chapters in Castlevania Harmony of Despair during that same hour and feel like a bad-ass because I found new equipment or leveled-up a character.
A part of me regrets not finding time in 2010 to really sink my teeth into any of this year’s major releases. I loved what little time I invested in Mass Effect (the first one) and dream of somehow finishing it and part 2 in time to join the collective conversation when Mass Effect 3 arrives this fall.
However, less than a week into the new year I see where my gaming loyalties lie: new Castlevania HD DLC is on the way, a new parody RPG named Cthulhu Saves the World is out, and I’ve recently been smitten by Shiren the Wanderer 5 on the DS. Throw in continuing 2010 temptations like Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and forthcoming titles like Journey, and I see very little time for spinning discs in 2011.
My 2010 at a glance
Favorite games: Castlevania Harmony of Despair, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, Costume Quest, Breath of Death VII, Protect Me Knight.
Professional Highlight of 2010: A tie between writing my first professional review and getting published in GamePro Magazine (thanks to Bitmob).
Geektastic Moment of 2010: Shaking Koji Igarashi’s hand at a party in Tokyo.
Humbling Moment of 2010: Buying UmJammer Lammy after hearing it was better than PaRappa the Rapper only to discover I couldn’t beat the first stage.
Brilliant Idea of 2010: Demos that unlock Achievements, bonus content or otherwise count towards playing the full game. See Crackdown 2, Valkyria Chronicles 3, even this free web version of Shiren the Wanderer 5.
Squandered Idea of 2010: Singularity’s Time Manipulation Device deserved a game unto itself rather than playing second-fiddle to guns in a mediocre shooter.
Deja Vu Award: I played two of my favorite games (Portal and Castlevania Symphony of the Night) on Xbox 360 because I could. Achievements were a welcome bonus.
Non-Regional Diction Award: Heavy Rain and Dead Rising 2 both took place in an alternate version of the United States where everyone is Canadian. What’s that aboot?
Games are Art Award: I never want to play Deadly Premonition in its entirety, but even scratching the surface I found it brimming with fascinating material. Would love to watch someone finish it for me.
Bold 2011 Prediction: I will not turn on my Wii once this year.
How was your 2010? Leave a comment below or, better yet, tell everyone on Bitmob with a post tagged "my 2010"
Daniel Feit lives in Japan with his wife and son. His written work has been featured on Wired Game|Life, 1up, GamePro and Film Junk. Follow him on Twitter @feitclub for gaming news, Japanese oddities and photos of things Mr. Feit has eaten.