One of these things is just like the other
2013 was one of the most important years in gaming's history. For one, it saw the launch of the next-generation of consoles--which is pretty huge, considering it took forever to get there. Besides that, it had more huge, fantastic AAA releases than any year in recent memory. Eventually, when we run out of Top 7 ideas and re-do the Top 7 best years in gaming's history, 2013 will likely slot in the two or three slot. It was that good. But despite being stellar, it was fairly tropey.
Many of the best games of 2013 share common threads you might not have noticed. The zeitgeist surrounding several gameplay elements and concepts aligned perfectly, making for a slew of hits that, while different in many ways, followed strangely similar concepts. The result was something unique: a handful of ideas that randomly popped up in seemingly unrelated games. Let's take a look at 2013's biggest trends, and the games they showed up in the most. There will be some minor spoilers throughout, but we'll try to keep them light.
Watching after someone because it's your job
No, you're not related to that youngin. Some people might look at you and say, "that your kid?" and you'll be all like, "Nah, just lookin' after her." Maybe you're protecting them because it's your job (note: you're probably protecting them because it's your job), or maybe it's because you feel an attachment not unlike that of a parental bond (note: there's probably an attachment not unlike that of a parental bond). Either way, you're watching after 'em until the credits roll.
In Killzone: Mercenary you're watching after Justus Harkin, who hides behind crates as you mow down armies of Hellghast; in BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth tosses you health, ammo, and coin as you slay the Founders; and in The Last of Us, you're trying your best to keep Ellie out of harms way. Other years might have danced with this trope, (Lee and Clementine, obviously) but 2013 went all-in.
Swimming in blood
Gross. Super gross. Blood is gross, you guys, for a bunch of reasons. A) it's a sign that someone died, which digs into your hard-coded psyche to cause you to feel uncomfortable and icky, and B) it's potentially full of diseases, and if dirty blood gets inside of your viens, you could get that disease, too. That's why swimming in blood, which happened in not one, but two games in 2013, is so gross.
Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft wading through human blood, which is especially unnerving considering how many cuts and scrapes she has. I don't care if she makes it through this whole island thing, she's definitely going to want to see a doctor as soon as possible to find out if she has a blood-borne disease or ten. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons' blood-swimming is slightly less unnerving since we're pretty sure that giant diseases can't transmit to humans, but it's still yuck as all get-out.
Troy Baker musical numbers
Troy Baker is the voice of gaming in 2013. The actor's mouth noises were featured in two of the top 10 games of the year, and could also be heard in a slew of other games. But we've seen that before when Nolan North appeared in every game from 2008 to 2011. What made Troy Baker's role in 2013 more interesting was how musical it was.
He plucked away at the guitar and sang "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" with Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite at the start of the year, and then screamed out the lyrics to a number of different tunes in Saints Row IV. That, alone, would have been enough for us to call it a trend, but he didn't stop there: he also sang a song during the credits of Batman: Arkham Origins, and improvised a song in the (spoiler-filled) cut ending from The Last of Us. Oh, Troy Baker, never stop crooning.
And no, we don't just mean games where you can take pictures--we mean real, full-blown selfies. Three different games this year gave you a camera and let you turn it around on yourself to take a real, Facebook/MySpace/Google+? selfie. This trend didn't hit until later in the year, but once it started it felt like it would never end. And the weird thing? It... all sort of made sense, even though the games it appeared in couldn't be more different.
GTA 5'sselfie could be construed as a commentary on social media because, let's face it, that's sort of GTA's thing. Tearaway's makes sense too, what with the game's emphasis on creativity, sharing, and customization. The most random selfie comes with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, which randomly tosses in the ability for Link to make silly faces while he snaps pictograms of himself. Sure, it's random, but it led to the creation of Hylian Skinhead by LinkYe West, the best machinima of all time, so we're cool with it.
Go back in time a year and tell me that three games in 2013 would feature fantastic, memorable sea shanties and I'd hit you over the head with a bone and steal your time machine. But after I've pillaged ancient history and explored the robot-ruled future I'll come back, do a double take, and tell you I don't believe you. And yet, here we are in December, and I'm listening to a 57 minute-long YouTube video of all of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's shanties on repeat and singing "Bully in the Alley" over and over again.
It wasn't the only sea-shanty filled game, either. Media Molecule's sound designers say they mixed some shanties into Tearaway's soundtrack, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf gave you a shanty every time you went to and from the island. You could skip Kapp'n's shanty if you wanted to, but, let's be honest, you listened to it every single time. And then you watched our music video of the songs a few dozen times because, for real, Kapp'n is the shit. Too bad Troy Baker didn't sing any of these...
The tutorial child
The first ten minutes of every action game is basically identical: you walk, you jump, you crouch under a thing, you aim, and you do all of the other basic actions that, for some reason, need to be retaught every time you pick up a controller. Sure, they'll dress it up in different ways (crumbling building, jungle, calibrating your helmet) but it's still a trope that the last generation relied on super heavily. This year, two different games took a slightly different approach by putting you in the shoes of a child, which lets you learn these things in an interesting way.
The Last of Us let you waltz around the pre-post-apocalypse landscape as Joel's daughter in one of the best openings of the generation. It's great, and might be the only game ever that begins with you exploring an empty house as a seven-year-old. Killzone: Shadow Fall's opening is even more surprising (since it's a Killzone game, which no one really expects to be surprised by), letting you control your younger self during a life-changing event. It's a nice touch, though one we hope doesn't become overplayed.
Bows, bows, and bows
Last year was almost the "year of the bow", but then stuff got delayed. The result was that 2013 inherited the title with the release of a number of different games that had protagonists ditch guns in favor of arrows. It makes sense--bows and arrows allow silent, one-hit kills that rely on more skill, meaning you'll be able to grow and learn throughout the game. Plus, what's more satisfying than watching an arrow fly 200' into the head of an enemy?
Crysis 3 was the most bow-iest thing to release, and included several varieties of arrows and different ways to customize your bow to let you choose the right tool for the situation. It didn't make a ton of sense, since your character was way too powerful to justify throwing arrows at people, but, you know, it was fun anyway. Tomb Raider's bows made more sense thanks to the survival-focus, and The Last of Us's bow was immensely useful, even if it was hard to keep track of your arrows. Oh, and there's technically a bow in Gears of War: Judgement, so, you know, bow.
There are plenty of other things we noticed, but these are the trends that stuck out the most. Besides the games themselves, these are the things we think we'll remember the year by--what about you? Are there any trends you noticed? Let us know in the comments, below!