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The 50 games that defined 2012: Part 3
When we think back on 2012, which games will we be able to say left their mark on the industry? Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine staff continue a thoughtful examination of the games that defined the year.
Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine staff continue the year-end series: The 50 Games That Defined 2012. At the end of every year, you can count on Gamasutra for our annual series of retrospective roundup lists. Typically, at this point, we'd recognize the best games by platform -- PC, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, etc. etc. This year we're doing things differently. We've nixed those platform-specific lists in favor of compiling (in alphabetical order) the 50 Games That Defined 2012, starting with the first 10. This isn't just a list of awesome video games from 2012 (that much shorter list comes later). There will be some not-so-great games listed here as well. There will be some games that didn't release in 2012, but still made a mark on the year regardless. There will even be some games that will never release. What all of these games have in common is that they're representative of a trend or interesting story that captured the zeitgeist of 2012 -- they all say something about what happened this year. [See part 1 and part 2.] -- Kris Graft, Editor-in-Chief, Gamasutra
Hitman: Absolution may be remembered for its decent action and stealth sequences, but that's not really what it makes our list for. The biggest mark the game left in 2012 was through its marketing, specifically the "Nuns, Guns, and Agent 47" E3 trailer, in which a bunch of sexy dominatrix nuns are bloodily dispatched by Hitman's Agent 47. And there was the game's ill-advised Facebook app that encouraged people to put "hits" out on their friends who would be identifiable by their "small tits," "hairy legs" or "tiny penis." The reaction to these initiatives was resoundingly negative in the game criticism sphere. So negative, in fact, that developer IO Interactive apologized, and changed the level the sexy nuns appeared in, to give them more backstory, while the Facebook app was pulled within an hour. Both controversies kicked off a wide-ranging discussion of portrayal of women in games, which some might say is a net positive result, but they're also evidence that game marketing needs to grow up.
With its previous visually-unique, dreamlike titles flOw and Flower, Thatgamecompany was clearly aiming for something in particular, but it wasn't until Journey that it felt as if it had truly attained it. Journey bore many of the same signatures -- the lightness of air or water, a focus on introspection, for example. But it had the very specific goal of creating a cooperative online experience that was specifically about players acting with and not upon one another, while remaining at a level of abstraction that permitted meditation.
The result is beautiful, and a pleasure: Every player's experience is unique, yet the monomyth throughline is universal. Proving that a game about interaction doesn't have to be yet another brawl on yet another map, Journey's world of light and sparkling sands felt markedly like evolution in a year when too many fans were thirsty for something new.
When BioWare's Mass Effect 3 arrived this year, it landed in the hands of some of the most loyal fans in all of games. The trilogy would be complete and the saga of Commander Shepard would be brought to an epic finale. But a swath of these loyal fans were not willing to accept the creators' finale. And these most loyal fans were also the most vocal, signing petitions and taking to social media to generate such an uproar that BioWare -- known for listening so closely to its audience -- said "Alright, we'll fix this," promising to patch the game with an ending that the studio hoped would better deliver on player expectations.
Mass Effect 3 raised hard questions about the relationship between players and creators: Did BioWare do the right thing by giving the most vocal fans what they demanded, or did the studio cave, and compromise its creative vision? And did BioWare over-promise when it said Shepard's story belonged to the players? These are questions that were prompted by Mass Effect 3 that still warrant discussion in the years ahead.
Nintendo Land isn't Wii Sports.
It sounds obvious, but it's important to remember. Where Wii Sports was constrained, simple, elegant, Nintendo Land is expansive, varied, confusing. Instead of showing players the simplest possible way to enjoy its new generation of control, Nintendo Land brims with ideas -- some unrealized, some robust -- and says, "Why don't you decide what you like best?"
It's hard to argue whether it's an effective proof of concept for the Wii U GamePad, then. Because the GamePad itself is a complex, original way of looking at console games that straddles many modes of interaction and play, so to does Nintendo Land. But that may be the best representation of Nintendo's new system -- so unusual, so complicated, so full of potential that may never be realized.