Dara O Briain is the fast talking Irish comedian known to us for his passion for video games, a hobby he sends up frequently during his renowned stand-up routines. O Briain also hosts satirical telly show Mock the Week, and this evening he'll host the GAME British Academy Video Game Awards (BAFTA) - a post he's filled every year since 2009.
Was 2011 a great year for gaming or wasn't it? Regardless of where you stand on that particular debate, it's been responsible for some of the medium's finest efforts. Going through our Games of 2011 has provided some heartening reading, and the likes of Bastion, Quarrel and Clash of Heroes HD go to show that when it comes to "Actual New Games" we've had our fair share over the last 12 months.
We've had our say. You've had your say. But what about the people who made the games? What were their favourites of the year just ended? Yes, it's that time of year again, when we pester our favourite creators for their reflections and then watch them show us up with their witty and insightful explanations.
You can tell everything about Portal 2 from the lack of cake. There's one gag in the whole game, and it's a fakeout - a door marked 'cake dispensary' that, if approached, falls flat on the ground. Portal was too perfect and its punishment was death by meme, the inane chanting that transforms a joke into a catchphrase. Portal 2 doesn't preach to the converted and retread past glories - the cake doesn't matter. And nor does much else.
A couple of weeks back, Oli told of how he spoke to a friend who believed that 2011 was the finest year for gaming since 2001 - and then promptly disagreed, saying how this year, for all that it's offered in terms of excellence, hasn't really offered anything particularly new. Games are now bigger and better, yes, but that heady thrill that defined gaming's last golden age is now gone.
Gabe Newell sits proudly inside Valve's Gamescom booth knowing his company's latest game, Dota 2, has a fantastic chance of being a huge hit. Outside, hundreds are watching it being played live in a tournament with a huge $1 million grand prize. Online, thousands are poring over every detail. Things are going well.
Get your payment method of choice at the ready, for here's another bountiful selection of cheap games that are worth your attention. This week we've got a few of the best games from the last year or so getting their first big discounts, and this week's hot releases at an affordable price.
Which one was it for you? Most of those who've made it through to the end of Valve's brilliant sequel will have encountered at least one test chamber whose solution remained so unfathomably elusive as to induce genuine despair.
SPOILER WARNING! This interview is about the plot, characters and script of Portal 2, so it necessarily contains spoilers right through to the game's ending. You should wait until you've completed the game to read it (which is why we've held publication back until today).
When Gabe Newell asked Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw of Old Man Murray fame to come work at Valve, they of course answered the call - the developer was about to ship Half-Life 2.
Although the developer will always be known as the house of Half-Life, it's Portal that increasingly looks like the quintessential Valve game. It's both clinical and funny, like a shaggy dog story told by Stanley Kubrick, and its complex folds wrap geography and narrative together so tightly that they become two sides of the same object. Its ingenious puzzles are peculiarly action-packed, and if Gordon Freeman's adventures served to make realistic physics an indispensable part of modern videogames, the GLaDOS saga shows you the fun that can be had with entirely bizarre physics, too.
Everyone's smart at Valve. The designers are smart, the art teams are smart, and the lady behind the reception desk can answer the phone in Latin or Aramaic if she has to - trust me, I've made her do it. Most of all, though, the games are smart, and the smartest of them all is Portal: chic, goofy, devious, practical Portal.