2014 in Gaming News

First of all, Rest in Peace the father of video games Ralph H Baer, the creator of the Magnavox Odyssey, the world’s first video game console. Mr Baer, aged 92 died last month. Thank you Mr Baer, the reason why we’re all here.

There seems to be a consensus that 2014 was not a good year for games; not just the software themselves, but for the community as a whole. Looking back, I would have to agree. Next gen consoles appear to be holding us back, rather than pushing things forward, and that’s almost parallel with gaming culture as a whole this year. Lets hope 2015 is a better year.

November saw the one year anniversary of next gen. Apparently the Wii Who, I mean Wii U’s launch two years ago didn’t count, neither did the 3DS back in 2011. Or if you’re exclusively a PC gamer it’s an ongoing thing. But what the hell is going on? Most of the good titles this year were remasters of 2013 games, essentially double dipping.

What’s the point of buying a new gen console if it’s same game after game. It’s like buying a Nintendo console (hehe). New stuff tended to be disappointments such as Destiny and Watch underscore Dogs, more like Watch Underwhelming Dogs.

Both Microsoft and Nintendo finally made their consoles worth a look this year. Wii U finally getting some games actually worth playing, and Microsoft selling a Kinectless Xbox One allowed it to finally outsell the PS4 last month. I’m glad you learned your lesson Microsoft, but we will never forget you trying to justify shitty DRM last year. The Xbox One wasn’t sold to gamers like a powerful product meant to improve our gaming experience, instead Microsoft acted like a political party trying to convince us that their shitty policy is good for the country. Glad you figured out that contempt for the consumers is not a good business practise Micro-dollar sign-oft. Oh and while the PS4 is a great console, seems to be a lack of a quality exclusive games to play on the bloody thing.

In other news Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, meaning the device will benefit from near infinite financial resources. Not included with the company’s plan is the ability to see just how our data will be sold to other companies, that idea’s more virtual than virtual reality. Minecraft was also acquired by Microsoft, with the Playstation Poor and Indiestation Vita versions of the game still releasing and receiving regular updates, meaning that the Vita has more support from Microsoft than Sony itself. But don’t worry gamers, Microsoft RARELY ruins once great companies. It’s Rare. Minecraft is now on almost every platform except Nintendo’s, what a shame you guys, if you can’t even get that one game that every kid is playing, what are you good for?

On the mobile gaming front, King, the company behind the oh so creative and brilliant Candy Crush Saga, spent the early part of the year bullying companies using the words Candy and Saga in their title. This is what an absolute monarchy feels like. Flappy Bird became a global phenomenon at an absolutely unprecedented pace, before almost ceremonially being taken off the App Store because its creator felt uncomfortable by its success. The 3DS continues to sell well, especially in Japan where the New 3DS has taken off, proving that handheld gaming will not be replaced by mobile devices anytime soon. Good, because I’m sick to death of fremium games treating me like a stooge.

You know that console wars between fanboys are becoming ridiculous when framerate and resolution are the number one concern for Xboners and the Playstation Poor. Xbox One was shown to not perform as well as the PS4 in many cases, probably because much of the Xbone’s costs lay in its Kinect voice control wiggle thing. Companies weren’t being upfront about these differences as they preferred to cower in fear of the two big companies and “avoid debates and stuff”. Don’t think that PS4 was immune to all this, with one customer suing the company for $5 million because the Killzone Shadow Falls multiplayer wasn’t in native 1080p as the marketing suggested. Storylines and gameplay aren’t the most important thing people, just the numbers.

Many so-called next-gen games launched full of bugs, incomplete codes and botched servers. 343 Studios couldn’t even get a collection of ports right, with Halo Master Chief Collection shipping with incompetent online multiplayer. Ubisoft finally released a patch to fix all of Assassin’s Creed Unity’s issues, but it may be too little too late as the game has been out for weeks. You know Ubisoft, I know it’s the most financially rewarding thing to release an Assassin’s Creed game every year for the holiday season, but you gave us at least two this year, surely gamers won’t be mad if you postpone the game for a few months to iron out all the bugs? Look at mostly positive response to Witcher 3’s delay. On the other side of the coin, Driveclub on the PS4 is still incomplete. You know what else is missing Sony? Sales!

Oh and speaking of Ubisoft, they are essentially the new Electronic Arts now. Well done Activision, you’ve avoided second fiddle to EA this year, slightly redeeming yourself with a less disappointing Call of Duty.

The depiction and roles of women in games have been at the forefront of the gaming press. Is Bayonetta’s hypersexualisation empowerment or exploitation? Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is not only an expensive demo, but apparently violently sexist. Assassin’s Creed Unity had no playable women, and Ubisoft’s response only added fuel to the fiery debate.

Australian gamers continued to face barriers in playing the same versions of games that were released overseas. South Park Stick of Truth was censored and Target and Kmart removed GTA V from stores.

On a more serious note, of course we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Gamergate. Is Gamergate about ethics in videogame journalism, driving women out of the industry through misogynistic harrassment or is it about whether politics or social agendas have a place in this industry?

Gaming has been around for decades, but unfortunately has not yet received the same legitimacy by the general public compared to other forms of entertainment, such as music, film and literacy. I do not wish to generalise all gamers, but many have fought hard for video games to be considered on the same intellectual level as the aforementioned forms of entertainment. When you look at the double dipped games this year, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and GTA V, for example, it’s clear that the medium of video games have narrative and immersion qualities that are matched by no other.

The banning of GTA V in Aussie Target and Kmart stores perpetrate the lack of knowledge that many in the public have about video games, channeling their viewpoints from what appears on the surface. It is unfair and a double standard that one game is removed yet many films and books with just as, if not more objectionable content, seem to be untouched.

My thoughts about Gamergate have changed over the many months. Many websites have changed their ethics policy and I see more disclosures on Internet articles, but this occurred near the very beginning, so why is the debate about ethics ongoing?

Once again not generalising to all, but many gamers also wish for social issues and agendas to stay out of gaming. My view is that if gamers want gaming to be seen as a legitimate art form, it needs to be subjected to the same kind of review and social criticism other forms of entertainment experience. Why should ethics in video game journalism even be up for discussion if some don’t want gaming to evolve beyond the status quo? In my view, it seems that the contradictory message of GamerGate is that video games shouldn’t be subjected to political discussions, because they are just video games, but should be free of corruption, because they are more than just video games.

Gamergate as a whole has become this unfortunate stain in the already patchy reputation of the industry and gamers. Gamers aren’t just seen in the eyes of the uninformed gaming public to not only be lazy and nerdy, but vicious misogynists. The good things that should be talked about, such as the integrity of video game journalists, have been largely overshadowed by women being forced out of their homes in response to death threats.

Gamegate has been one bizarre ongoing episode in the history of gaming, and I don’t think in hindsight it will be seen in a positive light in five years from now. There’s no doubt the gaming community has changed, and because video games are a big and influential multi-billion dollar industry, so has the world at large.

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