The first games I played were games of memory. My English grandfather was full of them. Parlour games, mainly. There was one in which each chair in his living room became a station and his family became trains. He would stand in the middle of the room and direct the trains between the stations, and you had to remember which train you were and where the station you were headed to could be found. At five or six, I found it overwhelming, but also intoxicating. (At 39, I now look back and suspect my grandfather wished he hadn't spent his life as clerk of the local magistrate's court.) Then there was another game - I've since learned that it's called Kim's Game, but as a kid I assumed my grandfather had invented it - in which he arranged a tray with bits and pieces from around the house, gave us a minute to study them all and then covered the tray with a cloth and quietly removed one item. When he uncovered the tray again we all had to spot what was missing.
2013 will be the year when indie developers reclaim their rightful place as the creative engine of the industry. I'm not going to claim any great powers of prognostication for this one, since it really feels like stating the obvious, so much so that it barely even qualifies as a trend, which suggests a fleeting fad to be seized, exhausted and abandoned. This is more of an inexorable march, the inevitable result of the commercial entropy that is demolishing the games industry systems that have endured for over twenty years.
You lot have your fun with this. And we do, too. So it's only fair that game developers, the people who smash the virtual hammers onto the virtual anvils, get their chance. What are the games of 2012 according to the likes of Ken Levine, Peter Molyneux and other game design luminaries? Read on to find out.
It's been kind of an angry year, you know? First everyone went mental about the end of Mass Effect 3, driving BioWare's founders into exile and appointing the internet as lead designer of the next one. Then E3 rolled around and every new trailer was like Saw vs. Hostel, the peak of which was Sam Fisher wiggling a knife around in someone's shoulder (presumably it's "Better with Kinect", too), and of course at around the same time Square Enix began to establish itself as the discerning choice for the discriminating gamer. Then there was that other business...
Everything is wonderful and games are fantastic. We are in a video game golden age.
Back at the start of January, we wrote of our hope that 2012 would bring us more Actual New Games. As much as we like stuff like Diablo 3 (when we can play it), we also want games that "invent new styles and genres", as I said at the time.
It's been a long time since we've had good cause to reach for a pen and paper while playing a video game, and we certainly can't recall the last time so many of us were compelled to do so at once, so Polytron's Xbox Live Arcade sensation Fez has really rolled back the years. We're used to lateral thinking, but relative letter frequencies and substitution ciphers? Most of the time we can barely hold enough variables in our heads to cross the road successfully.
Ready your accusations of bias, because this week's Eurogamer.net podcast is a bit of an Xbox-fest - by accident, not design, we promise. That's if three awesome 360 sort-of-exclusives releasing in the space of six days is an accident! (It probably is.)
Back in the early '90s, the definition of 'indie' music went under a transformation. What had started as a tag for any act that released music without the help of a major record label became a way of describing - and selling - a sound and a lifestyle. Once it was all about crudely recorded cassette tapes and direct, intimate fan interaction; today it's Coldplay, with all the corporate fixings.
I'll let you in on a secret. Recently, I haven't liked video games very much. No - scratch that. I'll always like games, I'll always be fascinated by them, I'll always have admiration for their creators and take professional satisfaction from trying to understand and articulate how, and why, they work.
In much the same way that the music industry struggles to define indie music, so indie games is a term that's increasingly slippery in the hands. Most would agree that an indie game is one produced without the financial backing of a publisher, but as the lines of sales and distribution blur with each passing year, so the indie label becomes less trustworthy. Your game may be wearing Converse, but does it bleed My Bloody Valentine?
Back in December the Eurogamer editorial team had a massive public fight about whether 2011 was a good year for games. Well, we had the closest thing we're capable of having to a massive public fight - we wrote polite editorials disagreeing with one another. One thing we all agreed upon, however, was that we would very much like to see more Actual New Games in 2012.
Canadian developer Brian Provinciano spent two months negotiating his contract with Microsoft to get Retro City Rampage on Xbox Live Arcade. It was, to say the least, a tough process - and one that he could have done without. It delayed the creation of the game, but in the end he thought f*** it, and signed on the bottom line.
Having played most of the Seumas McNally Grand Finalists for the Independent Games Festival next month, I really don't envy the judges. Entirely smitten by what I played of World of Goo, I presumed it was a shoe-in. Then Walker let me have a crack of the code of Crayon Physics Deluxe which is plain magical, and technically an enormous leap on from what I'd played in the freely available early prototypes. Finally, with Jim acting as a facilitator, I found myself introducing Audiosurf to my MP3 library. They may be getting married. It's technically and conceptually a tour de force. Any one would be a worthy winner.