We’re in the lull. In the week between Christmas and New Year, everything seems to slow down a bit: maybe we have some time off in which to wind down, or maybe we ate too much Christmas food and are having trouble getting our trousers on. In any case, this the time of year for reflecting on the last twelve months, and with that in mind, I’m adding to the already-enormous pile of 2017 awards lists with one of my very own; though, as I’ll explain in a little bit, it’s not entirely conventional. Many of my talented peers in the WordPress community have made similar lists of their own, and I’m certainly not the first to put one out that’s a little different – check out links to Falcon Game Reviews, Hundstrasse and GamersUnitedGG for some excellent compilations – but it feels like a good way to round off this year of blogging.
This has been a year of change for me in my personal life: my girlfriend Chloë and I moved to a new part of the country and we both got new jobs, and we’re adapting to the joys and challenges that come with those changes. In gaming terms, I haven’t played many new games that came out this year, and (to my dismay) I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, which has prevented me from experiencing a large chunk of 2017’s best offerings. As such, this isn’t a list of the best games from this year alone – this is more of a collection of some of the things that stood out to me this year, including other aspects of art and pop culture as well as video games. Let’s jump in.
The Game I Enjoyed The Most
Since I haven’t sampled a huge variety of games this year, this was a reasonably easy decision to make. Despite the impossible polish of Uncharted 4 and the addictive allure of NBA 2K17, there were only two games that I felt deserved to be considered as the best of 2017. And, despite the unending charm, memorable characters and edge-of-your-seat gameplay of Pyre, my vote has to go to Horizon Zero Dawn. A rare game which lived up to (and possibly exceeded) mounting levels of hype before its release, Horizon has everything: stunning visuals; deep, exciting combat; a kick-ass female protagonist; and an unexpectedly gripping narrative that evolves in a fascinating way, told through both traditional plot and excellent environmental storytelling. Well done indeed, Guerrilla Games.
The Game I Tried Desperately Hard To Like But In The End Just Wasn’t Very Good
Oh, Mass Effect Andromeda. You tried so hard to be a coherent, likeable game, but you just couldn’t pull it off. The behind the scenes struggles of this game are well-documented at this point, and unfortunately it shows in the final product. MEA had an impossible standard to live up to, which didn’t help, but even without that it’s still overly long, tedious at times, and its characters and story just don’t click. It gives me no pleasure to say that, but there you go. Here’s hoping for better from BioWare in the future.
The Game Trailer I Haven’t Been Able To Stop Watching Since It Came Out
In case you hadn’t realised, I’m a bit of a Spider-Man nerd. Unfortunately, the world of video games has been unable to feed my appetite for a good Spidey-themed game since Spider-Man 2 on PS2, but that may change in 2018 (assuming the thing isn’t delayed). Insomniac’s Spider-Man on PS4 has a ton of promise, which was showcased at this year’s Sony E3 conference in a rip-roaring gameplay demo that I can’t help but watch again and again. Here it is once more for your (and my) enjoyment:
The Character That I Fell In Love With The Hardest
I’ve already talked for far too long about Sir Gilman, the plucky Wyrm from Pyre, but among all the characters I encountered this year, he stuck out the most. Horizon Zero Dawn’s Aloy deserves mention as a relatable, no-nonsense badass with plenty of depth, but no character endeared themselves to me or made me laugh as much as Sir Gilman.
The Best Thing I Ate This Year
This was an extremely hotly contested category. Chloë and I travelled to couple of new places this year and sampled some truly delicious food, like true Neapolitan pizza in Napoli and a huge gravy-smothered burger in Copenhagen. But the best thing I ate in 2017 was much closer to home: for my birthday, Chloë whipped me up a dessert of her own design, with coffee-soaked amaretti, cream, condensed milk and toasted hazelnuts. It was unbelievable and I’ve been badgering her to make it again ever since.
The Book That Left A Little Hole In My Heart After I Finished Reading It
I started reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach at university, about three or four years ago, and for some reason I put it down about halfway through and never picked it back up until this summer. I’m extremely glad I did. It’s truly a book to get lost in: the characters and setting are near-tangible thanks to the beautiful prose, and it captures a moment in space and time like very few books I’ve read. Find it and read it.
The TV Series That Left Chloë And Me Speechless
Flowers, written and directed by Will Sharpe and starring Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman, came out in 2016 on Channel 4 and was recommended to us by a work friend of Chloë’s. The first episode plays out mostly as an eccentric comedy, but it hints at deep emotional undercurrents threatening to boil over. The next five episodes are some of the most powerful, brilliantly-acted, unexpectedly touching television I’ve ever seen. It’s available to stream on All 4 and I highly recommend it.
The Podcasts That Got Me Through My Work Commute
I’ve worked in several different places this year, and my commute has varied for each one; the longest I’ve had to travel was an hour and a half each way by car. To help with the monotony of the daily drive to work, I’ve listened to countless podcasts, and I felt it wouldn’t be a look back on 2017 without recognising those which brought me endless laughs and insight through the weeks and months. Special shout outs go to Back to the Futurama, What’s Good Games?, and Around the NFL Podcast. Keep up the good work in 2018.
These are just my musings on the year. I’d love to hear what you think of the list, whether you agree or disagree with my choices, and also what you’re looking forward to in 2018. Let me know in the comments. Until next year!