Games of 2014

I completely failed at Last Year’s New Year’s resolution (which is why I try not to make them), but I am going to do an end of year writeup.

Similar to last year, I only played two AAA games and tended to focus more on indie games that had unique gameplay or themes. I had a bunch of games that I started at the end of the year, but didn’t really get into because the first game in my list destroyed my ability to play anything else. With no further ado, here are my most memorable games of 2014!

Game I couldn’t stop playing: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

This game was a short term addiction. I played it for 157 hours in the span of two months, got 100% of the achievements (which only 0.9% of players accomplish), and got ridiculously good at this game. I played the original in 2011 for at least 100 hours, so it’s easy to say that Rebirth was a huge step up for me to have played it as much as I did. The entire game was redone to make it a silky smooth experience and a bunch more was added that the original didn’t have. I can’t recommend this game enough; it’s a combination of The Legend of Zelda original meets fucked up Christian theme meets bullet hell meets randomization. Fantastic stuff.

Game that made me question everything: Desert Golfing

I thought this two color game would be something easy to write off. I thought it’d be a waste of time. All you do in this game is try to put the ball in the hole. The game doesn’t change. So why am I still playing? Does the score matter? It doesn’t seem to. Does it matter if I fuck around and don’t try very hard? I seem to be getting good at this game. Wow, that was a difficult hole, but I made it! This doesn’t really seem to have a purpose. I don’t get it, why am I still playing this game? This is quite relaxing, I almost feel in a zen state. Wow, a cactus!

Best looking game on the Playstation 3: The Last Of Us

Not only was this game stunningly gorgeous, it was also an amazing experience. I loved the dynamic of the two main characters – it felt much more real than most games do. I actually cared when they got hurt. The zombie theme got a little old, but the game kept me enthralled all the way to the end. I highly recommend this game, especially if you can pick it up on the PS4. For 2015, I’ll have to try out the DLC as I hear it’s quite good.

Game I was most disappointed in: Super Time Force

I loved Capybara Games’ last big release: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, so when I saw trailers for Super Time Force I was ecstatic. It looked like everything I wanted in a throwback to the old Contra and Metal Slug style games. Unfortunately, it turned out to not be anything like what I thought it was going to be. It was more of a puzzle game about how to progress through a level and save your guys than it was a bullet dodging side scroller. Sounds fun, but in practice it didn’t play nearly as well as I thought it should have. Most of the heroe’s abilities I didn’t care about, which made the game feel lackluster even though it had exceptional quality all over the place. Sadness.

Best choose your own adventure game: The Stanley Parable

The way this game was made astounds me. You can beat it in the first ten minutes you play it, but that doesn’t stop you from replaying it over and over and over again. It is very polished and was a delight to play. Some of the situations I found myself playing through in The Stanley Parable were completely unique from any other game I’ve ever played. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if the game was fucking with me or if I was in on the joke, but I enjoyed it all the same. Everyone will like this game, and if they don’t, they have something wrong with their sense of humor. So very good.

Favorite game of 2014: Papo & Yo

I didn’t know what to expect from this game since I got it out of a Humble Bundle and hadn’t heard of it before that. I watched a trailer before playing that showed me a cute style, but not much else and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t have possibly guessed that Papo & Yo would affect me the way that it did. There is a very, very short list of games that have been able to make me feel a specific emotion powerfully, and Papo & Yo is high on that list. The gameplay is a bit light, but the childlike wonder of the game shines through like no other game I’ve played. The makers of this game were going for something specific, and they hit it out of the park. I don’t think this game is for everyone, but it is easily the most memorable game I played of 2014. Even though I played The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth 50 times longer than I played Papo & Yo, this game is more memorable to me.

For reference, here are the games I beat this year:

Nintendo 3DS
     Shovel Knight

     Hitman GO
     Monument Valley
     Pixel Dungeon
     The Room

     Papo & Yo
     The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
     The Stanley Parable
     To The Moon

Playstation 3
     The Last Of Us

Xbox 360
     Super Time Force
     Trials Fusion

Here are the games I played but didn’t beat (or couldn’t “beat”):

Nintendo 3DS
     Cave Story

     Desert Golfing

     1001 Spikes
     DOTA 2
     Joe Danger 2: The Movie
     Legend of Grimrock 2
     Never Alone
     Risk of Rain
     Road Not Taken

What’s in a name?

When my girlfriend (now wife) and I were talking about getting married, the question of what we would do with our last names seemed to come up quite a bit. Mostly, the questions were related to whether or not she was going to take my last name of McGee. In our culture it’s the norm for a woman to take the man’s last name so much so that some people even expect it. Each culture has its own way of choosing a family name. My wife and I aren’t firm believers in tradition for tradition’s sake, so we talked a lot about what we would like to do with our last names.

The Choices

My original last name: McGee
Her original last name: Kolberg

  1. She takes my last name
  2. I take her last name
  3. Neither of us changes our name
  4. We hyphenate our last names (hers first, mine first, or original last name first for each of us)
  5. We take a last name and put the other last name as a second middle name for each of us (ie: Austin Daniel Kolberg McGee)
  6. We combine our two last names into a mashup of our two original names (ie: KolGee, McBerg, etc)
  7. We combine the letters of our last names in a scrabble type way to make up a new name
  8. We make up a completely new last name

The Reasoning

Right away, we knew that neither of us wanted to do option 1 or 2. The origin of a woman taking a man’s name is not a particularly happy one. As a tradition it’s moved away from the origin, but we still didn’t want to do it anyway. I didn’t want to take her name because I quite like McGee and the genesis of the name. Neither of us had a problem with option 3 except we both really wanted to have the same last name. It’s annoying to have people assume that you have the same last name when you don’t which was already happening to my wife before we were even married. We also had to deal with small things like not being able to have both of our names on the call box at our apartment. At our apartment complex, deliveries must be addressed to the person on the callbox, which meant that whenever I ordered something I had to address it to my wife. We decided that if we couldn’t come up with an agreement, not changing our last names would be the fallback that we’d both be ok with, but it wasn’t our preference.

Neither of us particularly liked the idea of hyphenating our names. We didn’t like how it’d look and it didn’t solve the problem of whose name would come first. Option 5 had the same problem (unless you come out with the awesome name of Troy Adam West Lawlor, of course), so we nixed that as well.

That left us with options 6, 7, and 8. I don’t think we ever seriously considered option 8 as we didn’t have any ideas that sounded like us. We define ourselves by our last names, so it was hard to think of giving them up entirely. We had kidded about doing option 6, but the names that we could come up with didn’t seem to fit either. They seemed lighthearted or frivolous instead of being awesome.

The Favorite

When we looked at option 7 (the scrambling of names together to create an entirely new name), it fit all of the criteria we wanted in a last name. We got to keep parts of both of our birth names, we would have the same last name, and we’d come up with something that both of us would like. We sat in a bar on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Ashley drinking Baileys and me drinking Jura scotch, and wrote down all of the combinations of our names that we could come up with. We eliminated them one by one until we found the one we liked the most. Using Kolberg and McGee as the origin of the letters, we came up with Kelmore.

We didn’t immediately decide to change our names, even after we had the name picked out. I make big decisions at a glacial pace, so it was a month or more before I decided to go through with it. Filling out the paperwork (a LOT of paperwork) and going in front of a judge at the courthouse to get it legally approved finalized the whole process.

A Year Later

It’s been almost a year since we changed our last names. It took a while to get used to the change, but I definitely feel like a Kelmore now. I’ve come to really like our shared last name. We seem to be the only people in the world with it, and yet it sounds like an Irish last name (of which we’re both descendents from). When we’ve told people about our choice, we’ve gotten responses ranging from: “That’s awesome!” to a family member calling me their greatest disappointment. It’s a strange mix of reactions.

I’m writing this post mostly so that people know that there are other choices out there. When I told one of my coworkers, he didn’t realize what we did was even an option, and now he and his fiance are planning on making up an entirely new last name when they get married. Choosing the traditional method of taking the man’s last name is not a bad choice, but thinking about your options first is always a good idea. Choose what you think is best for you and your partner, you’re going to have that name for a while.

New Year’s Resolution

I don’t really like New Year’s Resolutions, but I think in this case, I’ll make an exception. I want to make an in-depth post about every game that I finish/play over the course of the year. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, so hopefully this will give me the impetus to do so.

Games of 2013

I beat 19 games this year, which is more than any other year since I started keeping track in 2006. What’s most interesting to me is that there’s only one that I wouldn’t consider indie (The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds). I’m really close to beating Dishonored, but I didn’t get around to finishing it before the year ended. I think it’s mostly because I don’t actually spend a tremendous amount of time gaming these days, so I really like shorter games that I can finish in a couple of play sessions rather than giant RPGs or something similar. I also tend to like new games (not sequels) because I value unique gameplay over almost everything else. I love seeing new game ideas done well or a tweak on something old to make it feel fresh. Sequels rarely deliver that, so I tend not to play them as much.

Now for the awards!

Worst Game of the Year: Starseed Pilgrim

I picked up this game because Jonathan Blow said it was one of the best he’d played in a while, and I generally value his gameplay opinions. Starseed Pilgrim is one of those “I can’t tell you anything about the game because it’ll ruin it” type games. It’s also an exploration game. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly painful to play, and not in a Dark Souls type of way. It’s just more frustrating than enjoyable, and even though I found myself getting decently far, I wasn’t really having fun. I was incredibly disappointed with this game, especially because of it’s high praise from Blow.

Most Enjoyable Game That Made Me Work: Papers, Please

Remember when I said I enjoyed new gameplay ideas done well? This is the shining example of that. I had fun doing work, and it was all because of the environment that existed in the game. Am I going to be arrested for letting someone through a checkpoint when I shouldn’t? Who is the quirky guy that keeps giving me obviously fraudulent passports? What is the “right” thing to do? I know a bunch of people didn’t like this game because it felt like work, but I think that was an absolutely necessary component of the game in order to get you to feel the pain of the decisions you had to make. This game is going to be one in which people will point at it many years down the line as something truly unique and charming.

Game I Love Watching More Than Playing: DOTA 2

I really only played maybe 10 matches of DOTA 2 last year, but the number of hours in which I watched people play it has to be over 1000. I love incredibly complex games that also require teamwork and a ton of skills, so DOTA fits the bill. What I don’t like is how my behavior changes when I play those styles of games. I get angry at people and frustrated to the point where it ruins my day. Watching people play, however, rarely does that. Putting The International‘s finals on my big screen TV and watching them was one of the highlights of my year. That was such an amazing tournament to watch. Competitive gaming has come a long way. The game itself is a testament to how Valve can still put out quality games. Everything about it is top notch from how well it’s balanced to how it looks and how well supported the community is. Having played DOTA for over 8 years now, I have to say I’m still not tired of it. Such good stuff.

Best Throwback Game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

My favorite game of all time is A Link To The Past, so I pretty much had to pick up A Link Between Worlds. This is the first game I’ve played for more than five minutes on my 3DS, and while I enjoy the system, I don’t think it’s something I’d have bought for myself. The game itself is quite fun, but I was slightly annoyed that the layout of the world in ALBW is incredibly similar to ALTTP. That being said, I enjoyed myself immensely and recommend this game if you like 2D Zelda games.

Best Multiplayer Game: Towerfall

The OUYA console is a piece of shit, but my coworker picked one and brought it to work to play Towerfall. If you ignore the system it’s played on (by getting ps3/xbox controllers), this game is an amazing multiplayer game. The depth to a simple mechanic of having limited arrows, one hit kills, and powerups is quite amazing. Towerfall reminds me a bit of Super Smash Bros. in the best possible ways. I can’t count how many times we had people pick up the game for the first time and fall instantly in love. I’m excited to see that it’s coming to the PS4/PC in 2014 as more people need to experience this game.

Favorite Game of the Year: Thomas Was Alone

The premise of you being a bunch of blocks with different abilities seems weak at first, but then when you actually play the game, you realize how well executed it is. The game is gorgeous, and that’s a really strange thing to say considering it’s mostly just blocks and simple levels. The way the story is told, and the puzzle mechanics that are created from these simple blocks are really well done. In the same way that I have Bastion’s narrator’s voice forever stuck in my head, I have Thomas Was Alone’s as well. The game was a delight to play the entire way through; I wish I could do it again anew. I highly, highly recommend Thomas Was Alone.

For reference, here’s the list of games I beat this year:

     Clash of the Olympians
     Ridiculous Fishing
Nintendo 3DS
     The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
     Dear Esther
     Gone Home
     Hotline Miami
     Legend of Grimrock
     Little Inferno
     Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine
     Papers, Please
     Rogue Legacy
     The Swapper
Playstation 3
XBox 360
     BattleBlock Theater
     Dust: An Elysian Tail
     Mark of the Ninja
     The Walking Dead: Episode 2

Here’s the other games I played but didn’t beat (or couldn’t “beat”):

     Candy Crush
     Kingdom Rush
     Punch Quest
     Don’t Starve
     DOTA 2
     Starseed Pilgrim
XBox 360
     Bioshock 2
     Runner 2