Monday, January 10, 2011

The Year That Was: 2010

[Note: This post is a reflection on the entire year of 2010, as it was here on the blog. In it I'll reflect on how I thought the year fared, as well as add some thoughts on some of the posts I published throughout the year.]

Monday marked the third birthday of Raptured Reality.

Not many blogs reach their third month, let alone their third year, so the fact mine has is a feat that is both surprising and pleasing. I never expected this, I never intended to be writing for so long, yet here I am and I couldn't be happier. Life has been rocky for me in recent years and blogging, no matter how inconsistent or irregular, has been my outlet. Without the ability to convey my opinion or express myself, my life would have taken another path and I'm not so sure it would have been a pleasant one. To put it simply, blogging has been nothing but a positive aspect of my life and, since you guys have played a significant part in that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for engaging a passion that made me happy when other areas of my life were trying to bring me down.

But enough about the emotional celebration; what did 2010 mean for Raptured Reality, and did it pan out as I expected? To answer that question I thought I’d break the year down into each month, to offer how I feel about the way they went, and to comment on any individual post that I feel is worth focusing on.

January was a great month last year with quite a few interesting things happening throughout. To start with, it featured my first ever Games Of The Year series of posts. Normally I hesitate when it comes to these things but my unique approach made the idea enjoyable. Instead of following the expected template and selecting favourites, I elected to highlight a smaller bunch of games and explain why I wanted to see certain elements and trends that they exhibited continued in the future. This meant my choices were limited but in doing so it allowed me to think about why these games were important and convey that on here. The results were interesting, I thought, and due to their intended succinct nature, the posts challenged me to summarise my feelings concisely and effectively, something I believe I did do.* January also marked the beginning of a series that, unfortunately, wasn’t continued, in which I looked at the ways in which games could teach and how that could be enjoyable. If I’m to be honest for a moment here, that series came out of nowhere and really was born from my enjoyment of watching the Australian Open. It was completely unexpected and so was the strong desire I had to attempt the series and see what happened. Unfortunately life matters saw it go dormant after just one post but even so the experience was enlightening and definitely something I’d like to revisit in the future. January also stands out as an important month due to the beginning of another series, one that did go on to see future posts and one that is of particular importance to me. My Space Invaders series is yet another subject that I never thought I’d be writing about, but suddenly I realised that game spaces were important to me and that I needed to find out why. While all I really did is start the series -- with a short suggestion of what was to potentially come in the opening paragraph -- it’s crucial because it is, perhaps, the series I am most passionate about doing, even if I haven’t been able to do it as much as I have wanted to. Aside from that I had a quick muse on the importance of creativity versus profits, and I continued to discuss the Assassin’s Creed series with a good friend of mine. On that point, that conversation was never completed and I have more thoughts on the series, particularly ACII, which I plan on revealing in the near future.

February was also an important month, mostly because it marked the start of my Space Invaders series proper with an in-depth look at -- what else? -- the city of Rapture from BioShock. While on the outside it may be predictable that I’d start with such a place, on the inside it was fully intentional: Rapture is, without a doubt, my favourite place that I’ve inhabited in videogames and also the city that really enlightened me to what games could do in terms of immersion, curiosity and discovery. It was the inevitable choice not because I’m a fanboy, not because the city is so incredible, but because Rapture was the turning point for me and my interest in game spaces and, thus, my desire to understand them through analysis here on the blog. Despite everything I said in those two posts about Rapture, however, I didn’t cover everything I wanted to and now, with BioShock 2 showing a different side to the underwater metropolis, I definitely feel like it’s time to revisit it in order to further understand just why Andrew Ryan’s baby is so damn compelling. Speaking of BioShock 2, February saw the release of my most anticipated game ever and the game itself went on to become even more important to me than the original did. I haven’t explained the reasons why yet, but in that month I did offer my initial thoughts on the game and discussed the reaction others had, as well as the potential future of the franchise. In news that surprises no one, this is another area in which I have more to say, so look out for that soon too.

March rounds out the trio of important months but, in a move that surprised me, it was because of a different game rather than BioShock 2. I honestly was expecting to spend March discussing 2K Marin's new game at the expense of anything else, but then Heavy Rain came along -- another game that was high on the anticipation list -- and completely rendered any content I may have had irrelevant until further notice. Heavy Rain blew me away and because of this, I just had to write up my feelings even if it meant forgetting about BioShock 2 in the meantime. I talked about the story that felt unique and personal to me, as well as the mundane actions that make up a good portion of the title's interactivity. Both of those posts were surprisingly popular and, based on the comments I received about them, seemed to resonate with other people. This was notable to me because, prior to these two posts, no one really complimented me on anything I wrote. Sure they commented and responded to what I may have said, but no one really engaged the posts beyond that so it was particularly interesting to see such a change occur. March also saw me start the wonderful and overlooked Rockstar game Bully, as well as muse on what I saw to be an increasing trend in the industry: the proliferation of quality games and how the general standard had been raised.

Heavy Rain discussion wasn’t exclusive to March, the continuation of The Origami Collection starting April off with yet another popular post, this time talking about the themes the game contended with and, by extension, Quantic Dream’s attempts to mature the medium of videogames. The important thing for me with this one was the sheer amount of themes -- most of which are seldom seen in any other game -- that were included in Heavy Rain, and while not all were successfully implemented, the attempt to include them was certainly noteworthy. March also saw a discussion of my feelings about Super Mario Galaxy and MotorStorm -- the latter being a lot more popular than I was expecting -- as well as the beginning of my Preview Power series, a short bunch of posts explaining why I’m excited about certain upcoming games.

May was another interesting month, this time because of yet another series that was started but dropped quickly thereafter. The Friday Night Forza series was intended to be weekly and was created to talk about my thoughts on not just the game itself, but any other topic that it inspired, including but not limited to: rival racing game franchises, the genre as a whole or even real life racing. I managed to talk about the various mentalities that exist while racing, as well as a phenomenon that is hard to explain but easily understood if one enjoys racing around a track like I do. Was the series successful despite its short-lived existence? I’d say so as it gave insight into some of the thoughts and feelings that come into my mind while I revel in a sport and a genre that I absolutely adore. Why didn’t it continue? Well, I didn’t want to inundate my readers with a barrage of Forza related posts, and because it wasn’t the right format to discuss my thoughts on the game effectively. I also managed to continue my Heavy Rain series with a post on its unique use of weather; as well as consider what Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City would be like if it was viewed in the eyes of Jimmy Hopkins, Bully’s protagonist. That post in particular was a pleasure to do, both because it gave me yet another perspective on a city I’m so utterly enamoured with -- on top of the ones already offered by GTA IV’s downloadable episodes -- and because it’s a concept that I’d like to see experimented with in the future. May also saw an embarrassing moment for me in which I panicked more than necessary about a computer that, to put it nicely, wasn’t co-operating with me at the time. You win some and you lose some, I guess.

June was a quiet month, the massive distraction of E3 as well as the newly released Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake taking up the majority of my time. Even so, I did manage to have a rant about the biggest gaming event of the year, offering my thoughts on the show whilst also complaining about the sheer stupidity I thought was demonstrated by both Microsoft and Sony. I still fail to understand the appeal of Kevin Butler, all these months later, and have come to accept that either I just don’t get him, or that I do but just find the guy -- and the marketing material that comes with him -- uninteresting, overrated and simply unnecessary. I also posted another installment in my Space Invaders series, a post I’m particularly proud of as it looked at the town of Bullworth from Bully, a game most people wouldn’t consider when talking about interesting, compelling and unique game spaces.

July was also relatively quiet, the only thing appearing on the blog being a discussion of Quantic Dream’s other well-known game, Fahrenheit, with my good friend Michelle. Once again I’m proud of this series because it challenged me (and her) to knuckle down and find out the why when it came to my feelings on the game, and it was particularly poignant doing this directly after playing Heavy Rain. The series also marked the continuation of my interest in collaborations, something I still would like to do throughout this year.**

August was practically silent but particularly prominent for me personally as it was the month in which BioShock Infinite was announced. Predictably I reacted with a post discussing my feelings on the new game, showing my enthusiasm for the new direction Irrational were taking but also my disappointment that, seemingly, the developer had listened to the complaints of some people who found Rapture boring and believed the series should move on. I vehemently disagree, for reasons I didn’t really explain, but regardless of their thoughts or my own Infinite comes across as important both because of the new direction it is taking and because of what it may mean for the series going forward. I also posted a rather popular post talking about the advantages that silence can have in games, particularly titles intent on providing atmosphere and putting the player on edge.

September was key for a few reasons, the most important being the beginning of my F1 2010 role-playing series Living The Life. I did not expect to be doing such an experiment but the idea hit me after the completion of the first race in Bahrain, and the end result was a series that I’m not only committed to, but one that has brought to light some really intriguing, fascinating things. I won’t speak about what they are right now as I’m saving that for another post, but needless to say, this experiment and unique approach to a racing game has been nothing but a success, changing me as a person and illuminating the different ways in which games can be meaningful. It has also been quite popular with you lot, so there’s that too. Also popular was a post expressing my disdain and exhaustion with the consistent use of weapons and violence in the medium and in particular, how easily areas of the industry -- the media, publishers, developers, consumers -- are able to glorify the content without thinking about the consequences. It was mainly an excuse to show how bored I’m becoming with the notion that the FPS genre is the be all and end all of videogames, as well as my feelings that the medium of games should be past this point by now. Even so, it focused on an issue that in reality probably shouldn’t exist but as it does, was worth considering. My subtle post about how art directions can be timeless also received a positive response. Last but not least for this month, I talked yet again about BioShock Infinite, this time in reaction to the ten minute gameplay demonstration that was revealed to the masses. The game is going to be something, that’s for sure.

October was unintentionally and unfortunately quiet, the only posts to be published being a continuation of my enjoyable F1 series, as well as a “heartfelt” look into the emergent moments that Red Dead Redemption so easily creates, and the impact they had on me. While other games are also able to achieve such immersion and meaning with their own moments, there’s no denying that Rockstar’s Western is particularly special in this regard. November continued the relatively quiet trend, though it does stand out as the month in which I started to exhibit my strong attachment to, and affection for, the indie sensation that is Minecraft. To say I’m in love with this game would be an understatement, that’s for sure. Last but not least we have December, rounding out the trio of quiet months that finished my year. Still, I like to think I finished with a bang -- so to speak -- focusing for the third time on the R18+ issue that continues to arise in this country, as well as continuing, yet again, my F1 2010 series. The latter was important because it had been some time since the last post, the publication of the latest one proving that while I had fallen behind in writing them up, I was still absolutely dedicated to the series; while the former was key because it highlighted the absolutely appalling response and abysmal attitudes that gamers in this country seemingly have when they don’t get their way. It was important to do this, I feel, because of the irony that these people demonstrate when they irrationally and hastily react to key developments in this ongoing issue: these people are arguing for the introduction of the rating because they feel adults deserve to have access to mature content in videogames. Yet here they are acting immaturely when the result doesn’t benefit them, even if it could in the future. Impatience and childish behaviour doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help our cause of eventually getting the rating we’ve been so desperate to acquire -- if only these people could recognise and acknowledge that. I also talked about the impending narrative due to be introduced to Minecraft, though in hindsight the post fell flat -- despite being quite popular -- due to the fact that it hasn’t been added to the game just yet.

So there you have it. That’s a summary of the year that was and an insight into how I feel about what I’ve written, what I’m proud of and disappointed by, and where I feel things could improve. My goals for 2011 and beyond aren’t defined in any way just yet, but I do know what I want to work on and as such, they will be the focus going forward. At the very least, I’m as passionate about writing as I have ever been, I’ve gradually improved as the years have progressed and I’m definitely dedicated to continuing my writing for many years to come. I’m not the most prolific, popular or eloquent blogger out there, but I have established myself in the community and I hope to continue to exist within it well into the future as we celebrate the medium we all know and love: videogames.

Happy gaming.

*In case you’re wondering where my GOTY choices are this year, stick around for the next couple of posts.

**And on that note, if you’re interested in collaborating on a project then by all means get in touch and let me know -- I love doing it and am open to any ideas you may have.

10 comments:

Alli893 said...

Just found your blog, and what great timing! Starting with your recap of 2010 has me excited to see what you'll be writing about this year. I actually went back and read all of your Heavy Rain articles and I think I am finally ready to try again. Not to say that my first run through wasn't great; I loved it! But after learning that there are only certain parts where your characters can die and when they were; it took away the magic for me. But I do agree with your articles and I really hope developers continue to experiment with this structure.

Looking forward to future posts! Great article!

Michelle said...

I'm really pleased we were able to meet each other again and by some random amount of fortune we were doing the same sort of game website and writing on the same wavelength about lots of things.

Loved collaborating with you on Fahrenheit. It's something we must do again. But I think it's something we should definitely fall into again naturally when we find something we both feel like playing at the same time again. That worked out so well.

Congratulations on Raptured Reality's third birthday. I look forward to experiencing many more.

Steven O'Dell said...

Alli893 -- Thank you for the positive comments. I guess I was lucky in some respects as those issues you bring up -- when and where certain characters can and cannot die; the reality of the identity of the Origami Killer, etc. -- weren't revealed to me until well after I had finished the game, meaning my unique story (or what felt as such) remained effective and important to me. It's upon subsequent plays where the problems will arise and probably affect the experience, but I'm in no rush to revisit the game anytime soon. I will some day, but not just to experience a different outcome in the story.

Michelle -- Thank you, as always. I said it last year and I'll say it again: the fact you've been there for me in times of uncertainty and even stupidity means a lot to me, and I really appreciate your encouragement and support over the years.

I still can't believe we came into contact with each other again after all those years, but I'm definitely glad it happened -- it's one of the better things that has taken place in my short time blogging. :)

Jorge Albor said...

Congratulations on three years! I'm glad to see you so very prolific. Keep up all the great work into the new year. :)

Joseph Rositano said...

I still feel bad about our Assassin's Creed discussion falling through the cracks. I did honestly type up most of the next part of it, but sadly things kind of got out of control when I found myself with new responsibilities. Still, I manage to send you lengthy emails all too often!

Seriously though congratulations on your third year of blogging, Steven. As a writer you have come a long way. I can remember the nights where I used act as an editor/graphics advisor. ;) I may not comment or mention it too much, but I do regularly visit Raptured Reality and am sometimes left in deep thought about a topic you've discussed. Sometimes I even find myself linking to an article you've written.

You'll only continue to get better and I know your commitment to RR will stand firm and mighty over the course of 2011... But if you do have a few quiet moments again I'll be sure to dust off my old poking stick to get you writing!

All the best Steven.

*hug*

Steven O'Dell said...

Jorge -- As always, thanks heaps for the support and for being one of my earliest friends within this community. I'll always hold Experience Points and you and Scott in high regard, and I look forward to many more discussions in the years to come. Also, prolific? Your blog is the one that has the prolific output Jorge, not mine. :P

Joseph -- I don't need to say thank you to you because you know all too well how I feel about your support over the years already. So instead, er, hi! Seriously though, don't worry about the Assassin's Creed discussion falling through in the end. I know the reasons behind it and I still thought we had some interesting conversation about a franchise we both love dearly, so thanks for contributing! As I said in the post, I'll 'finish' the series off with a couple of posts anyway, so it is all good.

Sorry for the extremely late response guys but thank you, both of you, for being there. You're awesome!

Gaming in Public said...

I just found your blog as well through Alli893. Sorry I have missed the first three years but hopefully I can catch up.

I will have to agree that 2010 was really strong to start. 2011 seems to be the same way with Killzone 3, Dead Space 2, and Little Big Planet 2.

I think that 2010 was also the year that proved that the little guy can do it. Games like Minecraft, and Super Meat Boy have proved that some of the best games can be made from outside of the box rather than inside. Not to say that I hate the major titles like Red Dead Redemption, Halo Reach, and Donkey Kong Country Returns but sometimes we need a fresh look on gaming.

Steven O'Dell said...

Gaming in Public -- I agree that 2011 is also starting quite strong but it feels irrelevant to me as most of the titles coming out in these initial months -- aside from Test Drive Unlimited 2 -- I feel are ones that I can skip, for now, and get to when I'm ready. My immense backlog of games means a desire to slow things down and engage with titles when I'm ready, rather than because the new release schedule demands it. This means that while I have no doubt 2011 will be superb, I'm only likely to get a handful of titles unless things change.

I'd also suggest that things have been great for the little guy since around 2008 or so, but I agree that 2010 is probably the most clear (and thus, best) example that we've had so far. The success of Minecraft blew everyone away; the adoration and respect Super Meat Boy obtained within the community hasn't been seen since... well, I'm not even sure. It's great to see no-names becoming big names, as well as general gamer attention shifting from whatever has the most hype, to whatever seems to be the most interesting. It's a positive direction.

Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you like what you see.

Gaming in Public said...

@Steven- Yeah they are titles that I am skipping except for Little Big Planet 2.

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