Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Most Lasting Moments of 2010

I know you've probably seen hundreds of lists by now noting the best/worst/memorable games of 2010, but as my first official article, I seemed like an appropriate way to describe the kinds of games I play and why I play them. Also, instead of the traditional "Best Games" I will list moments within games that made me feel something profound in some way. The kind of moments that make you think, "This is why I play games."

Completing All Light Levels in Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is definitely one of my favorites from this past year. But it was the final completion that really gave that boost of adrenaline and confidence that made this moment so great! I couldn't count how many times I died in that last level before finally completing it. You may associate that with the term "grinding" which many MMOs and RPGs use to describe repetitive actions in games. I hate grinding. So when I enjoyed this game so very much I questioned myself. Why do I love it so much if I hate grinding? The difference is in MMOs and RPGs, the reason you grind is to level up your character before taking on a difficult task. You repeatedly kill enemies over and over until you reach that desired level. In Super Meat Boy, there is no leveling. Instead, the repetitive action is simply trying to complete that particular level. With such precise controls, you start to memorize the path you want to take, making very slight adjustments with each attempt. I would call this a type of mastering rather than grinding. You are repeating the task to gain the skill needed in which to complete it. Not just killing the same monsters to get to a higher level. That is why when I completed the light levels, the accomplished feeling I felt was astounding! I'm still working on the dark levels, but I anticipate having a similar moment after their completion as well.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (SPOILERS)
One of my favorite aspects of this game is the characters. Andy Serkis does a wonderful job with motion cap and as creative director when it comes to making believable characters. I truly cared about them felt the emotions that they were feeling. The moment I enjoyed the most is when Trip turns off Monkey's slave headband. Monkey looks directly into Trip's eyes and simply states, "Turn it back on." With those few words I felt like I could see right into Monkey's thoughts and feelings. He understood. He knew the risks involved but felt devoted to Trip. There is also a sense of love, whether it be romantic or unconditional friendship, I felt it. The fact that this scene sent a shiver down my spine made it a lasting moment, and I actually remembered that feeling throughout the entire last chapter. It made the last battle more emotional for me. Not that it made me play any better, but I felt more connected with the game. I love that kind of impact.

Bioshock 2 (SPOILERS)
I love it when developers prove us wrong. Many players across the internet didn't like the idea of a sequel to Bioshock. They felt that Rapture had run its course and there was no need to go back. And while re-visiting Rapture wasn't as glorious as the first time, Bioshock 2 is one of my favorite games. In fact, many people who once thought that a sequel would ruin the franchise turned around very quickly once they got their hands on the game. While I could ramble about all the improvements made to the sequel, I will instead get to the point. Towards the end of the game, you find yourself captured and restrained by Sofia Lamb. In order to rescue yourself, Eleanor has a Little Sister inject a solution into you so that you can control that Little Sister yourself. All of a sudden, your perspective changes dramatically. Because you are now looking through the eyes of a child addicted to Adam, the world looks very different. Instead of a dreary, haunting looking place, everything appears white and fuzzy. Long, beautiful drapes line the corridors, large statues fill the halls with pride, and corpses look like angels. I actually took some time to take in what I was seeing and explore all the areas that I could. Having a new perspective on things really helps you to understand peoples' actions. In the first game I found Little Sisters to be frightening, and in the second game I found them to be adorable! Seems like such a dramatic change in opinion, but I probably feared them because I didn't know much about them besides they said creepy things and stuck needles in dead bodies! This moment stuck with me because 1) I did not see this coming, 2) gave me a new perspective of Little Sisters, and 3) I thought it was a very creative direction for the developers to explore.

Entering Mexico in Red Dead Redemption
You've just barely made it across the river alive, but you've made it to Mexico. All the "friends" you've made in New Austin are behind you, for now. You have a new place to explore, a clean slate. As I got on my horse and started riding to the nearest town, something extraordinary happened. All of the in-game sound effects lowered to almost mute, random encounters were shut off, and a song came on. "Far Away", by José González. I will now and forever recognize this song as soon as I hear it. That's the kind of impact I love. The way it set the mood for the scene was very unexpected, but perfect. The song lasted until I was just short of reaching the town, and as that moment came to an end I started to look at this game differently. I started to actually think about the situation John Marston was in. Before I was simply enjoying the mechanics of the game and exploring my possibilities. This song really pulled on my emotions for Marston and I started to really feel his frustration for all the shit he has to deal with when all he wants to do is settle as a rancher with his family. I began to wonder what his wife and son were doing all this time. What did they look like? Did they know where Marston was? Will they live through this? Will Marston ever get the life he dreams of? But Mexico was waiting.

So that covers my most lasting moments of 2010. Please note that these may not be my favorite games of 2010. Plus, I have yet to finish highly rated games that came out such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. I hope you enjoyed these moments and please feel free to share your own!


  1. I have to agree that entering into Mexico is a magical experience in Red Dead Redemption. The great outdoors never felt so great until you cross that river.

    For me I am going for a more simple experience with Donkey Kong Country Returns and Super Meat Boy. This might seem crazy but I think the most exciting moment is the sheer fact of getting to the end of each level. Getting ready to shake the wii mote as you hit the barrel at end makes me feel like a kid again! Finally getting to Bandage Girl at the end and seeing her smile before she is taken away is just so magical. I just think games don't reward you anymore unless you beat the whole game. Super Meat Boy and Donkey Kong Country Returns brings me back to my glory days where games told you were good for even beating one level.

    Heres to your 2010 best moments and a toast as well to 2011!

  2. @Gaming in Public - Thanks! 2011 looks to be a great year!

  3. While owning it, I'm yet to play Super Meat Boy beyond its opening few levels (just to try it out) so I can't comment on it, and likewise for Enslaved. I can comment on the other two though, so here goes.

    "Having a new perspective on things really helps you to understand peoples' actions."

    While you used the above sentence to describe the Little Sister moment -- which, by the way, impacted upon me in a similar manner -- I think it highlights why BioShock 2 itself was special, too. I always hesitate (I shouldn't, I know) to comment on anything in depth with regards to the franchise because of my obvious bias, but the beauty in the return to Rapture wasn't necessarily that you got to return in the first place (though that was also special for me for obvious reasons) but that it offered a new perspective in which to view the characters and, of course, the city itself. Instead of focusing on the big-wigs and luminaries of Rapture, BioShock 2 focused on the 'normal' citizens and the underclass, framing Rapture from their perspective and consequently framing our own interpretation of the city differently to our discoveries in the first game.

    Minerva's Den only continues this approach and demonstrates, to me at least, just how much potential Rapture still has and the stories it is yet to tell, as well as how remarkable and wonderful the city remains despite claims to the contrary.

    As for RDR, I never actually got that moment unfortunately. My first moments in Mexico were as quiet as life out in the wilderness was in New Austin before that; no special music and poignant moment for me, just the random events and expected gunshots in the distance as per usual. Not sure what causes the moment to happen for some and not others but, as someone who missed out but keeps on hearing about it anyway, I can't help but feel disappointed.

    But then, my time with RDR has always felt like a fight even though I've always tried -- and wanted -- to enjoy it. I have, too, but it's been harder than it should have been and I'll explain why on my own blog soon enough.

  4. @Steven O'Dell - I actually just finished Minerva's Den a few days ago, and it was incredible! Porter is an amazing character =D

  5. @Steven O'Dell - So I was watching my boyfriend play RDR and he just got to the part where you cross the river into Mexico. Apparently, it is possible to miss that moment I was talking about with the song Far Away. As you land, there are horses waiting for you. As he mounted his horse I could hear the song start playing. I was so excited! Then, he saw the guys he killed and decided to get off his horse to loot them. The song stopped. Looks like the game was programed that way. I'm going to make him do that mission again so he can hear the song! =P

  6. That's strange as I used one of those horses -- no getting back off to loot the bodies or to take in the new environment or anything like that -- and I still didn't get the song. At the time I thought I might have gone in the wrong direction (at the path that branches off in a few directions) and stuffed it up that way, but having investigated it a little further that doesn't seem to affect it at all so I really don't know what happened. What can you do, though?