2012 hates the gamer. It believes that we’ve had it too good for too long and it was time that we come down to reality. The year to show us the consequences of our actions and remind us of the blood we accumulated on our hands. Some of the best games this year served only to test our endurance when facing the evil actions we’ve committed and we ate them up because I believe somewhere in our hearts we were waiting for this day to come. 2012 is the year of self-loathing and it’s only poetic that our sins come crashing down on us at the end of a generation and at the dawn of a new year.
Take the military shooter. The genre has seen its primary success this console generation and built its grip over our industry on our thirst for gunpowder and tendency to adore anything that falls from the sky and blow up. Along comes a little military shooter with the same guns we’ve used the past eight years, the same characters we’ve embodied, and lets us sit back comfortably as it corroded everything we once thought about the genre. Spec-Ops: The Line shined an ultraviolet light on our hands and we saw a near decade’s worth of blood that we thought we could wash away.
Or how about the humble zombie game; another genre that seemingly rose to prominence alongside its military cousin. Several games came out this year trying to turn the genre against us but only one succeeded. It wasn’t the Buffy inspired cheerleading zombie blaster, it wasn’t the MMORPG human interaction, survival sim. It was the innocuous point-and-click adventure game and it showed us how powerless we really are against a wave of moving corpses. We’ve been fighting the zombies since WWII (apparently) and always, whether in a bunker or in a mall, we’ve had the audacity to toy with these meat targets. 2012 was the year in which they decided enough was enough, that in the face of a mindless horde, they could tear down the one thing we needed most in the face of any disaster: The distinction between humanity and monsters.
Maybe it could be seen as the year of the Indie games?
However, even descending down the ages and reverting back to the pixelated era could we not escape being reminded of what we’ve done since the dawn of this “next-gen”. The bodies we’ve piled up were presented to us in Hotline Miami, an acid soaked joy ride that left an empty feeling as it forced fed us neon colored corpses.
Large industry juggernauts kept up their campaign against the gamers with Max Payne 3. It came along and brought a storybook cartoon character down to our level: As weary, miserable, dirty, and human as the lot of us.
Of course, bad feelings weren’t just reaching us from the plane of fictional reality. How about the real-life drama surrounding the space opera Mass Effect? The rancor of its fanbase which cried out for so much blood? How many of us were embarrassed?
Maybe the flood of gender issues gave call for alarm at the community as a whole? #1ReasonWhy gave me a reason to look at the community I loved and hang my head. How many of us were appalled by the seemingly violent voices fighting against equality? For a medium that always seemed to accept the outcast to in turn reveal itself as a very unfriendly environment?
There was something about this past year that wanted to shine a light on something I believe we’ve been trying to escape: reality. With fantasy RPGs fighting for release and every shelf stocked full of tomes dedicated to violence, games that came out this year wanted to remind us of how badly we’ve been behaving in these games and in general.
2012 was a year in which we got a clear view of who we really are and what we really did. As it turns out, none of it was pretty.