Appreciating the little things
Gamers have a lot to be thankful for at any time of year. The mere fact that consoles and TVs are everyday conveniences to us, allowing us access to sprawling virtual worlds, is reason enough to be grateful for all you've got in life. But come Thanksgiving, it's always nice to reflect on some of the specific benefits that brighten up your game-playing experience on a regular basis. To commemorate Turkey Day, we're giving some staff shout-outs to some of the little things in gaming culture we might otherwise take for granted. And even if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving per se, there's value in taking a moment to reflect on what you're particularly thankful for in your own life, game-related or otherwise.
Anthony John Agnello is thankful for 2015's bounty
I am thankful for the apparently bottomless variety in games in 2015. Every now and again, I see someone on the Internet complaining about how the economics of the games industry have stifled creativity to the point that there are only two types of games: huge-budget major console and PC games or small indies limited to whatever cartoon style is popular at the moment (these days its the Westernized anime milieu of Steven Universe). While I can see why theyd think that, theyre also not looking hard enough. In 2015, we can see games like N++ and The Witcher 3 live side by side with stuff like Her Story and The Beginners Guide. Even some of the biggest releases of the best year have been filled with an adventurous, experimental spirit. Is Metal Gear Solid 5 really just another shooter? Not everything is perfect in the world of games, but we certainly live in the mediums golden age; were still figuring out what these things have the power to do, and I couldnt be more grateful.
Maxwell McGee is thankful for his Vita
It's been a hard year for Sony's misbegotten handheld. Last May, Sony President and Global CEO Andrew House referred to the PlayStation Vita as a "legacy platform" leading many to speculate the handheld was officially dead. Sony later clarified this statement, stating it was only referencing certain models, but it nonetheless spawned several articles around the web eulogizing the Vita. Sadly, when viewed through spreadsheets and earnings reports, this high-powered handheld is a proper failure. But when I'm curled up on the couch, cup of cocoa in one hand and my Vita in the other, customizing Ramza in Final Fantasy Tactics or tearing up the Midnight Stage in Persona 4: Dancing All Night it feels pretty damn successful. It's by far my favorite way to enjoy a PlayStation classic or lose myself in an RPG. The Vita may be dead, but I'm happy to ride with it into the sunset.
Susan Arendt is thankful for collective XP gains
I am thankful for RPGs that grant XP to party members who arent with you at the time. There really is nothing worse than collecting a bunch of different characters and then essentially getting stuck with whichever ones are strongest because you took them with you more often. Oh, wait, yes there is: when the game finds some reason to cut off your access to your higher-level characters, forcing you to brute force your way through encounters with puny compadres. Maybe there are people out there who constantly mix up their party before entering a dungeon, I dont know, but I just plain cant be arsed to make sure everyone gets their turn so that everyones around the same level. So thank you, RPGs who provide ways to get XP to the bench-warmers, even if its just a fraction of what the first string gets. Thank you.
Ashley Reed is thankful for games that demand to be shared
I often feel that my experience with a game doesn't vary much from other who played it at the same time - a few silly glitches and an extra hour of play may be the only things separating your playthrough from mine. But something magical happened in 2015, and we were gifted with a hefty pack of games that each player experiences differently (either by being intentionally obtuse in their storytelling, or having so many different paths you can't experience everything on your own) so we really only get the full experience when we sit down and talk about it. This year I've had delightful conversations about characters' choices in Life is Strange, laughed heartily at the silly workarounds people found in Metal Gear Solid 5 (who knew Quiet's one weakness was boxes), and am still having hours-long discussions about exactly what the hell is going on in Bloodborne (I think I might get it, which means I definitely don't). Getting to share games on that level is an absolute treat, and 2015 was generous in dishing out opportunities for it.
David Roberts is thankful for Metal Gear
It's strange to think of Metal Gear without Hideo Kojima, such is the indelible mark his series has left on the game's industry and its fans. But for decades, the Metal Gear series has been pushing the boundaries of conventional video game storytelling, and I'm grateful that Konami has allowed this strange man to make his fourth wall-breaking experiments while disguising them as mainstream blockbusters for as long as he has. Metal Gear Solid inspired me to think deeper about the games I play, eventually leading me on the path that brought me into games writing. When other games come and go, Metal Gear continues to occupy a significant portion of my thoughts, and likely will for the rest of my life. So thanks, Metal Gear and Hideo Kojima, for being weird and thought-provoking and unique. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
Sophia Tong is thankful for easy modes
I am thankful for easy modes in games. Im grateful to have so many fantastic games available to me but Im often wondering, what game should I play first? because I dont always have the time to play everything to completion. Thats why any kind of "mode for babies" or a mode for people who just want to experience the story instead of wasting bullets is the best. I didnt enjoy Uncharted the first time around because I spent most of the time shooting. Id much rather spend my time experiencing the cutscenes, the dialogue, and the banter between the characters. Would I rather spend more time in Fallout 4 getting through the missions to find out what happened to Shaun instead of rummaging for ammo and being very careful around anything that wants to kill me? It depends on the game and the amount of time I have, but sometimes I just want to know that everything ends happily so I can sleep at night.
Ludwig Kietzmann is thankful for a silly little dongle
Weve had a solid decade with each other, Xbox 360 controller, but its time for me to move on. One of my favorite pre-holiday acquisitions this year, and one that Im truly thankful for as I assume a bad posture beneath a blanket, is the Xbox One wireless controller adapter thingy for PC. Sure, you could just hook the pad up with USB, but in an effort to obscure the annoying nitty-gritty of PC gaming and instead treat it like a beefy console, I prefer to play from the couch - and at a long distance from the desk, which Ive unavoidably associated with work work work. I guess I should also be thankful for the ridiculously long HDMI cable I have snaking around my apartment wall to get to the living room TV from the computer, but lets not pretend anyones going to be excited by a cable. But a dongle? A mother-effing dongle that lets me pair a great controller with PC-exclusive delights like Tinertia, Undertale and Downwell running on a big screen? Thats my kind of turkey day.
Lucas Sullivan is thankful for independent used game stores
I'm thankful for all the brick-and-mortar used game stores that are still fighting the good fight. They're few and far between these days, but that's what makes it so special to finally track one down, walk inside, and gaze upon rows and rows of classic cartridges, PS2 game cases, and ancient peripherals all lined up for easy browsing. Sure, you might be able to find cheaper prices online, but I always make a point to spend some cash on whatever random oddities I stumble upon, because I'm voting with my wallet to keep these shops alive. The employees don't offer me rewards points or ask me incessantly if I'd like to pre-order upcoming games while they're ringing me up. They simply share in a steadfast passion for games, letting me peruse their eclectic libraries to my heart's content. Whether I'm in New Jersey, Las Vegas, or Japan, I always make a point to seek out used game stores and buy something you simply can't find at garden-variety Gamestops, Best Buys, or Targets.
Lorenzo Veloria is thankful for Destiny patches
Looking back at my time with Destiny, I can't believe I'm still playing this game.. And you know what? I'm thankful I have a game that's grabbed so much of my attention. It's because of the patches. Ever few weeks or so, there's something new to see or experience in Destiny - whether it's new weapon balancing that completely changes the competitive Crucible environment or the Halloween decorations that get added to the Tower. Right when I think I'm done with Destiny, something pulls me back in. Oh, the Daily has a secret path that gives you an exotic weapon when you complete the extra hard challenge? I'm in. Bungie is adding Year 2 stats to Year 1 exotic weapons? Time to finally get some use out of that Hard Light assault rifle. I haven't been this entrenched in a game, for this long, in forever. Thanks, Bungie. You've made quite a game.