31 December 2013

A Top List of Five Top Five Lists of Top Things What Happened in 2013

Writing a personal Game of the Year (GOTY) or Top Ten 2013 Games post is really popular around this time of the year, where you pick a select number of games that made 2013 fantastic. I'm not going to do that, though, because
  1. everyone will already be sick of seeing Gone Home, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Saints Row IV and The Walking Dead in various configurations and combinations, and
  2. I haven't actually played any of those games, because
  3. I was dirt-poor for most of the year and couldn't afford them even if I wanted to, and
  4. I realised that this is another facet of this "it's too late to talk about games that are more than two years old" idea that the games industry encourages, which vastly limits critique and criticism of the whole medium.
So, instead of a Top Five List of Games of 2013, I'm writing A Top List of Five Top Five Lists of Top Things What Happened In 2013.

Top 5 Things I Wrote In 2013

I think 2013 was probably my busiest year yet with regards to writing. Up until April, I'd been working for SquareGo, a Scottish games review site; then, in May, I joined GayGamer.net, a queer-interest game culture site. Becoming part of the team at GayGamer feels like a massive personal victory - I'd been following the site for years, never once thinking I'd actually get to be a writer there.
  1. Fear for the Flesh: Francis Bacon's Influence on Silent Hill, a thorough breakdown about how the artist Francis Bacon was a direct inspiration for a lot of Silent Hill's art direction. The first thing I wrote for GayGamer!
  2. A Silent Hill Queer-y, looking at what Silent Hill would look like with a queer protagonist.
  3. Queer Mechanics #1: Identify As..., discussing how gender/sexual identities could be represented mechanically in games, which was the focus of my Honors year project until it had to be changed.
  4. A Review of Dear Esther, which I wrote after reading and absorbing a lot of New Games Journalism inspired pieces, and which made me realise I prefer analysing games and talking about my personal experience of them rather than writing supposedly-objective reviews about them.
  5. Easter Egg Apocrypha, examining the culture of secrets, cheats and tricks in games.
Top 5 Games I Made in 2013

I made a few more games this year than I did last year, which include:
  1. Hypnagogue, a Twine horror game where the protagonist has to escape from a labyrinthine construct that swallows up their room one night. This was my first ever Twine game, and I seriously doubt it'll be my last.
  2. The Loch: A Scottish Fishing RPG, a game where you play as Angela, a fisher at Loch Saor, who aims to catch the 18 fish required to become a seasoned pro at the Fishing Club. The Loch was initially made for the 7-Day Fishing Game Jam, but I enjoyed working on it to the point that I decided to stick with it and keep developing it for a couple more months, which I documented over here!
  3. Ava Martin VS. The Binarist Hegemony, where you play as Ava Martin, using her gravity-based superpowers to infiltrate the secure facility of the Binarist Hegemony. Ava Martin was made for the Strong Female Character Game Jam 2013, which I wrote about over here!
  4. cRUNch!, an endless-runner-style game made for a university project focusing on spreading awareness of academic stress. cRUNch! was voted 3rd in the Top Three of the Integrated Project 3 module, and was showcased as part of Caledonian Creates! 
  5. Apartmental: Okay, technically I'm cheating with this one, since I didn't finish it at all; rather, it was an idea that was finally put to rest. Apartmental was an idea I'd had for a good long while, where the player would try to escape from a labyrinth surrounding their apartment (which later got rejigged and recycled into Hypnagogue) - it was a very ambitious concept, and eventually, it really started making me feel drained. At the start of 2013, I decided to let it go, which game me back the resources (time, energy, etc) to work on the other games I made this year. I do feel disappointed that I didn't get to finish Apartmental; I can only hope one day I can go back and finish it.
Top 5 Other Game-Things I Did in 2013

I also managed to do a fair bit of other cool games stuff that wasn't development per se, both as part of and outwith my games degree at uni in 2013, including:
  1. Created and undertook a university experiment using SCP-087b to test pre-emptive terror in horror games.
  2. Created the underpinnings of a system of game mechanics to represent gender, sex and sexuality in games.
  3. Stopped writing standard game reviews.
  4. Rented a desk at Hayburn Studios in Glasgow to have a dedicated space in which to work on games in the future.
  5. Completed a module on New Venture Creation by looking into the possibility of "games art galleries".
Top 5 Other Art-Things I Did In 2013

I got up to a bunch of other art-related things during 2013, my faves being:
  1. A set of five photographs I took were included in the I Am... exhibition during this year's Glasgay! event in October, collecting together work from participants during the I AM ART project. This was the first time I'd really done photography and photomanipulation, and I think it came out really well; there was a lot of positive feedback from folk during the exhibition, and it's definitely made me consider doing more in future.
  2. During the I AM ART project, we had a workshop session about collage, during which I made this collage piece; it was the first time I'd done collage in yeeeeears, and it was a tonne of fun! It also made me think about the possibility of using collage in game mechanics and aesthetics - which I might be talking about soon...
  3. The pixel-art avatars I did for the Loch were a major success for me, simple though they might be; I'd never done much pixel art before The Loch, but it was interesting trying to work out how to animate some of the avatars to get them to work in-game.
  4. My Avatar image, which started out as a wee experiment in photoshop, turned out so well that I ended up using it all over the place during 2013!
  5. Shorn, which was a submission for the I Am Art Zine, was a follow-up to the previous image, and came from an idea that myself and some of the other participants in I Am Art had discussing (of all things) hair and hairstyles. 
Top 5 Games I Played In 2013

In all honesty, I didn't play a whole lot of games that came out in 2013 - but I found out about a bunch of games I'd never heard of before then which seriously changed my perspectives on gaming, as well as my own game development.
  1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf. In all honesty, I bought AC:NL on a whim while waiting for Pokémon X&Y to be released, based on occasional tumblr posts about how relaxing and fun it all felt. I played it religiously for a few months, and, while I've stopped playing because I feel like I've exhausted most of the activities in the game in a short space of time, I really enjoyed every minute I played it, from the bug-catching competition to fishing on the tropical island at night-time. It made me feel really nostalgic for the way I played games as a kid, spending hours in Majora's Mask watching how people in Clock Town went about their day, or getting to know the ins-and-outs of games like Final Fantasy X like the back of my hand.
  2. Space Funeral (not a 2013 title), an RPG Maker horror game by thecatamites, opened my eyes to the weirder, more avant-garde side of games - and it's a side of games I'd like to immerse myself in more. It feels arty without feeling forced, eerie without relying on horror tropes, and funny without constantly cracking jokes.
  3. Dear Esther (also not a 2013 title), is a game I finally bought and played at the start of this year, which made me realise how impactful games can be without much player agency or game mechanisms other than "walk forward". It's a very atmospheric game, and I really enjoyed just being able to explore the game setting.
  4. Positive Space (a 2013 game!) by Merritt Kopas, is an autobiographical Twine game that features sex involving the inguinal canal, which I had 0% awareness of prior to playing the game. Positive Space is an amazing game not only because it's so intensely personal, but because it shows that personal games and independent developers have a wealth of experience to draw upon that AAA games titles simply can't or won't tap into anytime soon (or to the same degree of sincerity that indie developers often do).
  5. Starwhal (also a 2013 game!) is just fucking fun, no two ways about it.
So there we go - things I made, wrote, accomplished, played and created this year. As a whole, 2013 has been a really, really good year for me, and I think 2014 will be that much better.

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