A Year in Gaming
As 2017 draws to a close, it is time once again time to reflect upon the subject of gaming as it has remained a primary form of entertainment for me over the last twelve months. I have enjoyed most of the new titles that I’ve bought this year but not all of them. There’s been some that have failed to please and others that have proven to be flawed. Then there has been my ongoing relationship with the MMO genre as I still have a handful of these games installed on my PC. Let it suffice to say that only one of these titles has managed to maintain my interest. I suspect that the MMO genre per se is in for a year of change in 2018. As for the wider aspects of gaming, I wouldn’t say it has been an especially edifying year for the game industry or the associated fan culture. The “goodwill” based band-aid that has remained in place for the last few years was finally torn off in 2017, exposing a festering self-inflicted wound.
I started off the year by purchasing The Elder Scrolls Online Imperial Edition, as I fancied spending time in an MMO. Sadly, the game failed to grab my attention. This was mainly due to having spent so much time playing Skyrim and being somewhat burned out on the entire Elder Scrolls vibe. I also found the requirement for mods somewhat troubling, feeling that a game should have adequate UI facilities present. It’s also a very solo friendly MMO, which in some way negates its multiplayer status. Why not just play a fully customised version of one of the earlier games in the franchise? I also tried in 2017 to make a sustained return to LOTRO. Northern Ithilien held my interest but once the game moved onto the Black Gates it soon waned. Mordor is a great zone on paper but its grindy requirements and relentlessly dour environment killed my passion. STO remains a casual friendly experience and due to there being regular events throughout the year, it facilitates setting goals and achievements. I also jumped on the Destiny 2 bandwagon and was surprised how agreeable it is. Its genre spanning nature scratched several of my gaming itches.
My single player experience was also varied in 2017. For Honor proved to be exactly as I expected; gripping in principle but beyond my personal skillset to play to any degree of success. However, Sniper Elite 4 proved to be a sound buy. The main game and DLC were well conceived and their extensive game maps allow for multiple and varied play throughs. I also dabbled with co-operative play which proved a very interesting experience. Overall this was rewarding purchase as I clocked up over 91 hours in-game. Thanks to discount key sites, I managed to purchase several titles at low prices. I bought Mafia III after it was reduced by 75% and enjoyed the games central story. I also pre-ordered the Gold Edition of Middle-earth: Shadow of War and secured a discount. Although the structure of that game has been compromised to accommodate microtransactions, I still liked the gameplay and the preposterous lore-breaking narrative. 2017 also included some minor surprises. I was not expecting further DLC for Two Worlds II but Topware released both new single player and co-op content. I was also intrigued by the recent update to Star Trek: Bridge Crew, allowing the game to be played in conventional desktop mode, rather than VR.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a year in gaming without some sort of controversy and man did 2017 have one. The blight that is microtransactions which has been slowly spreading from mobile gaming to the so-called Triple A scene, reached a head November. Star Wars: Battlefront II received such a backlash from its customer base that the story even appeared in mainstream news. Disney eventually intervened and ensured that EA suspended the real money loot boxes in the game. It would appear that the genie is finally out of the bottle and loot box culture is now coming under the scrutiny of legislative bodies all over the world. Apple has recently waded into the debate as it wants loot box odds to be fully disclosed. What happens next is anyone guess but I think that game developers may have to rethink the monetisation of their games. I also think that the tide is slowly turning with regard to early access and games that launch in a patently broken state. I avoided buying Friday the 13th: The Game until six months after it’s problematic release and I still feel that it is very much a work in progress. Several high-profile gaming commentators are loudly advocating a boycott of this trend and I think it may be getting some traction. Time will tell.
2017 once again validated my position of distancing myself from parts of the gaming community. The past twelve months have shown that a substantial number of gamers remain unreconstructed, self-centred, emotionally illiterate man-children. Developers, journalists and You Tube personalities are still regularly threatened and abused if something that is vaguely controversial is said. Outdated and blinkered views about gaming and its culture still abound. You only have to see how Jim Sterling’s Commentocracy has raised the hackles of the usual suspects, to recognise that gaming culture is still far from united. However, I believe this stems from a broader malady that seems to be permeating all aspects of modern life. But the hate, bile and stupidity are not the total picture and there are still many bloggers, streamers and content creators that celebrate and promote the positive side of gaming. I intend to make such individuals my focus in 2018. I’m not one for making predictions but I have a feeling that 2018 may be a milestone year for gaming. Potentially it presents an opportunity for the industry to either get on track or alternatively implode and suffer a slow long death. Perhaps next year’s review will have the answer.