Sunday, November 6, 2011

Game of the Year Time is Going to be a Pain

I didn't used to think about Game of the Year things until a couple years ago when it came around that time on Penny Arcade where He Who Keeps The Logs (I forget his forum name) came around and started taking votes for what everyone thought was game of the year of that year.  The first year, I just short of threw my games in some order that I don't even remember because I barely remember what came out that year specifically.  Last year, well, you all know my Game of the Year List since I made several posts listing them because, well, I wanted to throw my list out there and my reasons for them.  Of course, I plan to do this again come January when the voting's taken once more, so I've been thinking in those terms to be better prepared this time around.

I've mentioned it quite a few times, that I want to make sure I have at least Ten Games from this year to have what I could call a full list, and with any luck I'll end up surpassing that since I have the goal mostly done and there's still quantifiable amounts of time left.  The real problem lies within the actual games that I have played because 2011 has offered quite a few games that could be labeled as 'damn good' that I've played, and even by January I won't have played them all.  Yakuza 4, LittleBigPlanet 2, inFamous 2 and, yes even Uncharted 3 (unfortunately it appears I will be in the minority on this one) are all in my "Likely to be top four" games, but they're just the ones that spring to mind and it's entirely possible that the expansive list of games from this year will hold a game that would force me to reconsider.

All four games have things that make it entirely possible to give them the number one spot just like that.  My problem is figuring out what game I A) -want- to be number one and B) think -should- be number one as a game based on my experiences.  It's a subtle difference, but I am pretty used to dealing with subtleties, as I was just saying to someone else.  I didn't want to get off into a mini-whinge about Uncharted 3, but I guess I will because it's on my mind and I'm thinking about it.  Besides, it'll be something I can look back on in January and use as justification for wherever it ends up.

The problem I can see with a lot of the complaints coming up about Uncharted 3 can be explained away with a very, very simple answer:  subtlety.  Uncharted 3 is a much more subtle game with subtle changes and subtle ideas when compared to Uncharted 2 as everyone is doing.  Comparing the two games isn't a wrong thing to do by any means, but doing so borders on being a fool's errand because they are mired in completely different ideals and themes.  Even at its basest level, its subtitle, Uncharted 3 manages to be more subtle than its predecessor.  Uncharted 2:  Among Thieves may as well read Uncharted 2: Cold Snow or Uncharted 2: Wet Water, because in all three examples, they are saying something so profoundly obvious about the game or reality that they may as well be interchangeable.  Of course you're Among Thieves in Uncharted 2; you're among Thieves in the other two games.  You are a thief.  You're a Thief with Thieves trying to thief things from other Thieves.

It's that very In-Your-Face brand of obvious that fills out the rest of the game, which is not a bad thing of course, but from the very start, where you wake up in a train hanging off a cliff, there is exactly, precisely no room for anything 'subtle'.  It is anti-subtle by its own nature and it's a very different brand of 'awesome' than what real subtlety can do.  The attitude is the main theme of the game and was prevalent anywhere you looked since they focused on showing you all the truly epic moments, like fighting in a building that was dynamically coming down around you or running away from a truck barreling down a narrow alleyway to catch you and smash you as only a truck can do.  While there is substance aside from that, it's safe to say those are the moments crafted purely to be remembered, to be re-discussed in awe-filled tones, and to be shown to any who would disbelieve such a thing was real not only because it was a visual masterpiece, but a technical one as well.

Drake's Deception is the first clue that, perhaps a more subtle under-taking is on the way and while there's still those In-Your-Face moments, they are not on showcase.  They're not intended as being the main focus, simply there to be the things those to provide the Ooos and Aaahs we've all come to expect from the Uncharted franchise thanks to its humble beginnings, where one of the most impressive features talked about was the dynamic wetting of Nathan's clothing based on when, where, and how much of him was exposed to water.  A subtle thing, but a thing that we all had to respect, which is why I would suspect that Uncharted 3 was an attempt to return to the first game's subtleties while still making those who came for 2 and stayed for 3 happy.

That people have, and will continue to, completed Uncharted 3 and wonder why it was subtitled "Drake's Deception" is the proof enough of its subtlety at heart and in my opinion, that's its strength.  Where some would say it's "Too subtle" if they play the game and don't catch that, I would say that if you can play Uncharted 3 from start to finish and then wonder -why- it's called Drake's Deception, I would suggest that you are the one at fault here and not Naughty Dog.  That really, as I said earlier, seems to be the core explanation I can offer for any and all complaints that come out.  "Elena doesn't look right" (I've seen accounts go so far as to say she now looks Half-Asian), well, her appearance has been updated.  Subtly.  "The aiming feels different", well, it was changed to be more useful.  Subtly.  "I don't get (various points of the story or the story itself", well, that's because it's subtlePay attention next time.  There is nothing (outside of an obvious plot hook for another game, potentially even Golden Abyss) that is not explained within the confines of Uncharted 3 any less than anything from the previous two games.

With that out of the way, it is precisely that type of verbosity that will make picking one game out of the four I mentioned to take the top slot a near-impossible task.  Because I could do that with all three of the other possible games and, as they're -my- games of the year, the only person I have to justify -my- reasons to is -myself-, which is as hard a task as you could imagine.  Still, it's one that I'll likely be able to manage and manage properly so that, in years from now, I'll look back and say "Yes, I still feel that way because it's based in my own personal truth, and not just my feelings".  Not that any of us do that, but still, I -could- do it, and that's what matters.

Aside from even that, there's still the task of organizing the -rest- of the games I've played this year which will likely be as arduous as the part I'm fretting over even now.  After all, what does "Best DS Game I've played" (Ghost Trick) -mean- in a list of 10-20 games that I feel similarly as strongly about?  Does its great story, presentation and music mean it ranks 11 or 7 or 9?  Does the fact that I prefer playing (now anyways) another game affect whether or not I thought Ghost Trick was one of the best games of the year or where it -should- place in the ranking?  I don't know.  I really don't know any of these things and as of now, all these games of 2011 are just a swirling nebula of possibilities and greatness waiting January when I will finally pluck them down and put them in their ordained order that will only make sense after proper reflection and remembrance.

And it's going to be hell.

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