The GOTYest games of 2014
2014 is dead, and our 2014 Game of the Year Awards are over—but those weren't the real awards. You thought we liked Alien: Isolation? Ridiculous. No, here are our real awards, with praise for all of this year's true achievements in gaming, such as excellence in clipboard design (what an honor—read about it on the next slide).
Clipboard of the Year
Dragon Age: Inquisition | Awarded by: Evan Lahti
It takes a hell of a lot of paperwork to keep an Inquisition running smoothly. As your diplomatic advisor in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Josephine handles all the boring-but-necessary letter-writing and medieval tax form-filling-outing so that you can spend your time developing meaningful romantic relationships with elves and throwing jars of bees at demons. But why should Josephine have anything less than the Bugatti Veyron of clipboards to do that work? This ‘board has it all: a solid gold body, a candle holder that can accommodate candles up to one foot in height, and a stylish, 6 oz inkwell filled with 100% pure spider blood.
Best mod support
Spacebase DF-9 | Awarded by: Chris Livingston
It's always great when games arrive with built-in mod support, but this year Double Fine went a step beyond. Not only did they release the full source code for their Early Access game Spacebase DF-9, but they left hundreds of planned features incomplete, giving modders the exciting challenge of finishing the game themselves. It's rare to see that sort of selfless generosity from a developer, and we salute Double Fine for passing the torch to modders, or at least hurriedly chucking the torch at modders from the window of their limousine as they screeched away from the curb.
Most infuriating furniture
Alien: Isolation | Awarded by: Andy Kelly
You’re cowering under a desk listening to the stomp of the alien’s footsteps as it scours the room for you. Finally, it leaves, and its footfalls trail off into the distance. You emerge from your hiding place, only to bump into Isolation’s second deadliest enemy: the office chair. It only takes the slightest nudge to send this wheeled bastard sliding and clattering across the floor, and suddenly the alien is making a dinner date with your face. Thanks, chair. Thanks a lot.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare | Awarded by: Chris Thursten
There are the obvious fantasies: what if you were an augmented near-future spec-ops soldier? What if only you could save the world? What if you were locked into an awful jet sequence for no discernible reason. Daydream stuff. But the best games reach further, deeper into the subconscious, to where real dreams lie. Real dreams like ‘what if Kevin Spacey was my dad’. ‘What if Kevin Spacey was my best friend’s dad, but he totally respected me, almost like a son.’ ‘What if Kevin Spacey and I bonded over our shared grief when his son got stuck in the door of an evil helicopter’. ‘What if Kevin Spacey was evil, but I saw the good in him, and then he threw the Emperor down the reactor shaft’. What if, indeed.
I am Bread | Awarded by: Evan Lahti
2014 produced a wave of “mundane simulator” games, the chronologically last of which was I Am Bread, a physics-driven 3D platformer in which you are bread. Sexy bread. Sexy, bendy, ragdolling bread. The first thing you do in I Am Bread is shatter a butter container with your firm (yet absorbent), hunky hunk of wheat, and proceed to slide, grind and genuinely hump a stick of butter to make yourself slippery, increasing your tastiness. Never before have we been exposed to such jarring food eroticism in a video game.
Most iconic hat
Murdered: Soul Suspect | Awarded by: Chris Thursten
Back the hell up, Watch Dogs. Aiden Pierce’s hat isn’t iconic just because you say it is. No: a truly iconic hat transcends metaphysics. A real personal brand can’t be constrained by something as trivial as the boundaries between life and death. When men’s fashion advocate and sometime detective Ronan O’Connor is thrown out of a window and shot to death at the beginning of Murdered, his hat falls off. But does that stop it returning to him in the afterlife? NO. Because a REAL HAT NEVER DIES. AND IF IT DOES DIE, IT BECOMES A GHOST. AND NONE OF THIS MAKES THE GAME ANY GOOD.
Best comedy pig during a genocide
Valkyria Chronicles | Awarded by: Tom Marks
War is hell. A lot of good soldiers don’t come back and the ones who do are never quite the same. So, for the sake of squad morale, it’s important to adopt a flying pig as a mascot while out in the battlefield. Hans, the porcavian friend of Valkyria Chronicles’ Squad 7, brings the much-needed joy of a winged pig who can only say “moink” to the otherwise drab setting of genocidal war. Nothing cheered me up more than Hans’ enthusiastic moinking just after my favorite character died while liberating a concentration camp. I mean honestly, he’s wearing a little bow! Nothing can bring me down when Hans is around.
Largest divide between promise and reality
Air Control | Awarded by: Tyler Wilde
Air Control was boldly advertised as "the best flight simulation in the history of computer games today." It is not a flight simulation. Or any kind of simulation. It’s a nightmare of loading, bizarre cutscenes, shooting, and “flying” by way of pressing a button that makes an airplane perform a daring vertical take-off, flip end-over-end, and eventually clunk down on the surface of the ocean. You could tape a picture of an airplane to your PC and say “vroom,” which isn’t even the sound airplanes make, and it would be a better flight simulation.
Best reason to delay an investigation
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter | Awarded by: Chris Livingston
My name? Paul Prospero. I’m here in Red Creek Valley to investigate OH MY GOD look at those trees. That is beautiful. Just beautiful. Uh, anyway. I'm here because Ethan Carter has vanished and HOLY GOD look at that view. Spectacular! I gotta take some pictures and tweet them to people. This is just... wow! So pretty. Anyway. I'm blessed—or cursed—with paranormal HOO JEEZ check out the detail on that bridge! I'm just gonna walk around on this bridge for a while. I mean, wow. This is beautiful. Best bridge ever! Look, uh, I'm sure Ethan Whatsisname is fine. I'm just gonna hang around here and gawk at stuff for a while. Wow. Man.
Most shotgunny shotgun
Wolfenstein: The New Order | Awarded by: Chris Thursten
Shotguns say everything about a shooter. Counter-Strike’s are understated, situational, and demand technical expertise. Doom’s are punchy, direct, no-nonsense. Half-Life’s shotgun is a safety blanket and Deus Ex’s is emblematic of a combat system that values options over impact. Wolfenstein: The New Order’s shotguns are Wagnerian operas. They are everything the 90s FPS wanted to be made manifest as a gun. They fire speed metal and id; they’re the size of church organs and they make a sound like a gothic fortress collapsing somewhere in the Black Forest. They are the best shotguns.
Best time that other people are having
Eve Online | Awarded by: Tyler Wilde
I played Eve Online pretty rigorously for several months, and then I stopped. I guess I just couldn’t keep up with all the logging in to update my skill queue, responding to messages, making sure my insurance was up to date, scouting for good prices, thinking about how pleasant Iceland is, wondering what Björk is doing right now. All of that. Just too much.
But every time I’ve logged in since, I feel terrible guilt over all the unanswered messages, all the budding friendships I walked away from. And then I see something like this. The “This is Eve” trailer is such a thrilling expression of Eve’s teamwork and commanderie and brilliance that it’s painful to watch. I could be doing that stuff! But I’m not. I have too much else going on… like, I don’t know, feeding my cat. If I had a cat. I am running out of excuses not to reinstall Eve. Please help.
Slowest news day
March 6 | Awarded by: Phil Savage
It's so rare for a 24 hour period to contain absolutely no news of interest or value. January 13 looked came close, starting out with a trivial Battlefield 4 patch and a CoD: Ghosts DLC teaser. But then, SimCity's offline mode was announced. Boom. News. November 10, meanwhile, started out so slowly that I could get away with posting this. By the end of the day, though? Oh, just a Just Cause 3 announcement.
March 6, though... well, just take a look at the headline: “Battlefield 4 update rebalances weapons, tweaks vehicles, and improves stability (again)”. Again. The same story we'd been running throughout the first three months. Just throw in another Call of Duty map pack, and you'd have a day of pure, repetitious tedium. Oh. Right. And maybe it's that I'm not American—maybe I don't get it—but a Shaquille O'Neal crowdfunding campaign just couldn't save the day. At least we were able to push through the boredom to highlight the excellent free browser game Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly. There's always something going on.