As we head into the Christmas period, the games industry is doing the equivalent of wandering around in its pyjamas, absentmindedly brushing its teeth as it gets ready for a nice seasonal slumber. And I'm really happy about that, because it's been a funny old year. The protracted tailing-off of the outgoing generation created summer gaming doldrums the likes of which we haven't seen in decades, and soon after we were lashed with a veritable winter hurricane of new-generation brouhaha. Now it's all over, bar some sales-numbers-shouting, and it's time to take stock.
The industry's year-end kip is always a challenge for us poor, hard-done-by journalists. We have to wrack our withered brains to come up with non-news news pieces (like this story about the Mega Man board game Kickstarter project that went gangbusters the moment it launched), and retrospective lookback remember-o-thons to fill the editorial void. And we've been doing a lot of that this week.
First up, it was Doom's 20th birthday. If you're of a certain age, and had access to a then-still-rare thing called a PC, you couldn't call yourself a gamer unless you were playing id's cutting-edge FPS. Only it wasn't called an FPS then, because the term wouldn't be invented until journalists realised that they couldn't keep calling every new FPS a "Doom clone". Anyway, we donned our rose-tinted reading aids and waxed lyrical about what Doom meant to us. What about you? Did you play it at the time? Did you discover it later on as it was ported across to other systems? Or did your mum draw the line and ban its satanic, mass-murder-simulating ass lest you grow horns and eat babies?
We also talked about old games in our look at the current state of video game history and preservation. Being a crusty old geezer-type, I'm very much an advocate for recording our history and making old software freely available so that everyone can experience and perhaps even learn from the best - and worst - that history has to offer. Nobody knows what might be historically significant until history itself decides, and that's why I think it's important that we archive things so history has them to judge. The designer of a minor game of today might go on to become hugely influential decades later - and we might want to be able to look back and enjoy that person's early work. Or a game might introduce a concept that is barely recognised today, but goes on to help change the way we play games tomorrow. We need to be able to trace those roots.
Another area we delved into this week was the state of the Japanese games industry. Back in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, the most exciting games hardware, the biggest and most successful gaming franchises, and the most influential arcade games were all produced in Japan. However, as time wore on, while its hardware continued to be important, its games became increasingly less interesting and relevant to western gamers - to the point where many felt “Japan is over.” Which is clearly not true. Or is it? That's what we discuss.
What was your favourite game of 2013? Jeremy talked about one of his - which he also thinks is stupid, messy and a glorious trainwreck. When you read why, you'll understand.
Mike also talked about a flawed, but great game he ended up liking - and that's Ninja Theory's reboot of the Devil May Cry series. The name of his feature is 'Right game, wrong name,' which clues you in on what he's talking about, should you be interested in listening with your eyes.
Rounding out our sideways looks at games, we also had a bit of a gander at the upcoming Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Rather than follow the usual neutral-viewpoint, descriptive preview format, our Bob ended up trotting out a long quite opinion piece that I found really interesting.
Another preview that turned into an opinion piece was a byproduct of Cassandra's experiences while playing the new Wildstar MMO. She was all excited for it, but ended up having some issues with character customisation. After reading her piece, The Case of the Too Pretty Alien Females, I can empathise with her.
Characterisation was also the subject of this week's last article - in this case, that of Ms Lara Croft, as articulated in her latest game. Yep, we're back in retrospectiveville, putting Tomb Raider under the microscope - and asking the simple question: do we have to kill a classic in order to save it?
You know. I'm beginning to think these retrospective filler pieces are actually more interesting than everyday content.
See you next week.
Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, a version of Eurogamer from the land where the national anthem is sung before every major sporting event. Can you imagine singing God Save the Queen before watching Rotherham United vs Gillingham? You would if it was played out here.