Pip: Alice, you know the thing I like the least about Game of The Year Awards?
Alice: Is it the itchy gowns? The gift bag of tat? Developers straining to wring out tears at the podium? Walking the red carpet in the rain?
Pip: Yeah – those are all pretty harrowing except the gown. The gown was fine this year but that might be because it’s actually a slanket with a belt round it. What I was ACTUALLY going to say though, was that I hate that you’re only supposed to talk about stuff from this year. I spent bloody ages working on my Steam backlog and I’m not letting that go to waste! We need to do a Games Of Whatever Year Awards so we can talk about the other things we liked this year and didn’t get a chance to bang on about because they were too old.
Alice: But surely old is bad, Pip? That’s why they keep making new games. Why, I bet you can’t even name me one good old game you’ve played this year! [This is great, I feel I’m reaching Oscar-level podium banter.]
Pip: 1. If your first point was true why would there be a whole website called Good Old Games?
Alice: They had to change it to GOG, ‘cos Trading Standards.
Pip: 1.b That is a lie. 2. I can name, like, more than one. Perhaps three!
Alice: 1.b obvs. 2. I bet you can’t come up with unlikely names for award categories you’d celebrate them in though.
Pip: That’s where you come in.
Alice: “That’s where you come in?” Are we running a Kickstarter? Hash tag podium bants.
Pip: What would our stretch goals even be? Dinner with us? You know how dinners with us end up.
Alice: Can we move along to the awards that everyone can see we intend to dole out? We didn’t even conceal them behind a velvet curtain. And I feel far too sober for the last afternoon of work, so let’s bang these out.
Ladies and gentlemen, you all know I enjoy talking in a calm, relaxed, slightly eerie, and deeply-irritating-to-Pip voice while playing video games. But which game started it all? Which game brought the Bestest Best Giving Alice A New Way To Rile Up Pip?
Alice: That’s right, Pip! It’s Dark Souls!
Pip: I hope you realise this applause is ONLY for Tom Hanks because of the great job he did handing you the award and not for anything else at all.
Fine. What did you like so much about it?
Alice: Dark Souls is as difficult as you are unfocused. I finally played Dark Souls early this year and got off to a really rough start, sliding down a spiral of dying then being annoyed then rushing then dying even harder then being more annoyed then… it wasn’t pretty. Then I discovered the secret to playing Dark Souls: stream it pretending you’re a chill graveyard shift radio DJ spinning soul, jazz, and funk greats through the night, taking everything in your stride.
Pip: Dark Souls Nites was pretty amazing, I must say. I’m sorry I couldn’t stand more of it but I think I have the opposite of ASMR and soothing voices stress me out beyond belief. Are there any videos on this here internet for people who want to know what it was like?
Alice: I’d butted my head against the Bell Gargoyle (and then the OTHER Bell Gargoyle) for hours before I started Dark Souls Nites, then it all came together with a little calm focus. I rolled on through the rest of the game, slipping deeper into character and staying mostly calm. Speaking quietly and slowly while throwing out cheerful motivational slogans made me play carefully. Then the persona got a bit out of control. I ended up offering overly-familiar and horribly patronising advice to some small mushroom people, if you can believe that.
Pip: I can believe that. Also, I’m not a mushroom person.
Alice: With that red-and-white Christmas hat you’re wearing lately…
Pip: Did you know Dark Souls would probably have made my list too but I’ve not finished it yet. My strategy for getting on with the game has been playing it with my friends Craig, Craig and Rory who are watching my stream on a slight time delay. It means they can’t backseat drive too much because they can’t see what I’m doing but we can chat and they can offer advice when otherwise I’d get frustrated and quit.
They also do things like not telling me about the Capra Demon, though.
Alice: It must make you realise the value of a true friend like me. I could be your Dark Souls mentor as well as your greatest chum, you know.
Pip: What’s that? The next category, you say? OF COURSE, Amy Pohler, we’ll move it along. Thanks for handing this one out, by the way – it’s the Bestest Best Game For Weeding Out People Who Don’t Understand How Stealth Works But Still Letting Them Complete It Anyway award.
Alice: I can’t read the winner. I did start drinking and have somehow already lost my glasses. Who is it?
Pip: It’s Dishonored. Lovely, lovely Dishonored.
Alice: Disaronno? No, rum.
Pip: I knew you shouldn’t have skipped the awards canapés earlier.
Alice: I was drawn to the shiny silver platters, then repulsed by the miniature hamburgers. So… Pop? Pap? Can’t read this. Anyway, you, tell me about this game with the hiding.
Pip: I didn’t really do any hiding. That was part of the problem. I’d heard such good things about Dishonored, though, and once I started playing I was really enjoying the story, as well as exploring the world. It can be very beautiful, especially the lighting as you’re getting Samuel to give you boatrides to mission destinations. Thing is, if you’re like me and you really really try hard for stealth and still cock it up, the game doesn’t stop you from progressing, it just reacts to your actions. You’ll encounter increased enemy defences later on, perhaps, or the rat plague gets
Alice: Ah! Found my glasses. They were under my cat. The autocue says “rattier”. “The rat plague gets rattier”. So I’m assuming your rat plague got rattier. As an accomplished sneak, I never saw that happen. What does happen? And what’s it like to have your failures quantified in rats?
Pip: I guess I don’t have much to compare it to because I only did one playthrough so far but the amount of rat action definitely increased as I got further through the game, and then there were all these electrified pylon defences I had to deactivate or rewire – stuff like that. I mean, I wasn’t trying to, but this is what happened when I attempted to stealth my way through the Golden Cat mission:
Alice: This year’s Tribute To Those Who Are No Longer With Us is brutal. Did you grow to enjoy callously murdering people who could’ve gone on to lead full and productive lives?
Pip: They knew the risks when Arkane hired them.
Alice: Monster. Moving on to our next category, which I’m hastily renaming Bestest Best Oh No The Envelope Is Open I Can See The Winner And I Have To Ask Why: Why Were You Playing Thief: The Dark Project When Even Dishonored’s Fluffy Stealth Vexes You So?
Pip: I was trying to do that thing of playing all the previous games in a series when the new one came out. With Thief that’s been an odd one because the graphics make it feel like I’m sitting at my computer in a time warp. I mean, back when it was originally released I would probably have been nowhere near a PC – I’dve been on the floor in the living room gawping at Ocarina of Time. But I’ve thus far really enjoyed the actual missions, creeping about, listening to guards, trying to shoot water arrows at torches… It’s elderliness means the game seems creaky at times but generally I just pretend I’m controlling an episode of Knightmare or something.
Alice: Pip, sidestep to your left for this observation: even as someone who was hunched over a PC at the time, I get grumbly about people saying “Oh you HAVE to play Video Game! It’s a classic!” because no, you don’t. Half these games are only held in such high regard because they’re lounging atop a heap of nostalgia, but I’m glad to hear Thief held your interest.
Pip: It’s not the *best* experience, and clearly a lot of what made it great at the time will be lost on me – I won’t know if it was an amazing graphical experience, for example because it’s marooned out of context in the future. But the reason I thought I would include it here is that I’ve done that thing of going and trying games people rave about and this one still feels… lively in some way, you know?
Alice: Have you played Deus Ex, Pip? Oh you HAVE to play Deus Ex! It’s a classic!
Pip: I refuse. George Clooney looks like he might be up for the challenge though. He’d finished presenting this award so he’s got an entire evening to kill now!
Alice: Pip, I think you should introduce this next award, because I know how much it’ll pain you to express fondness for me in public.
Pip: Can’t I watch the Dark Souls Nites video instead?
Alice: Ladies and gentlemen, 2014 was a landmark year in… friendship.
Pip. The autocue says this next bit is yours.
Pip: NNNNNNGH ThisistheBestestBestOnlyGamePipAndAliceManagedToPlayCo-operativelyAllYear – can I go now?
Alice: That’s right! It’s Dog of Dracula 2!
Pip: Did you know I only found it because I was installing random games from Game Jolt while I waited for you to turn up with the wine?
Alice: Then it is the perfect mascot for our friendship. Which one of us is the down-on-their-luck dog groomer and which is the megalomaniacal canine hacker in this grim cyberpunk future?
Pip: I think that largely depends on how you feel about the illegal condiment trade?
Alice: You know me, Pip: I whip out the akimbo middle fingers like I’m the master of suspense and show him what fighting the system looks like. That’s a quote from the game. I quoted it. I made a reference. Look, Pip, a reference.
Which, surprisingly for something overflowing with references to snack foods and anime and video games and all that, is a level of obnoxiousness Dog of Dracula 2 never reaches.
Pip: The story itself is pretty bleak but the energy with which it’s told makes it a really joyful experience.
Alice: It’s a super-serious hard-boiled/cyberpunk tone keeping silly elements in check, then magnifying them with the contrast. I want to embed a load of screenshots or quote half the lines. But my Have You Played already did that. So.
Pip: Did we miss anything not playing the original?
Alice: Only a whole load more fun, I suspect. We paused to reflect on the mediocrity of our life and have a cry. Several times. Over and over. Because we couldn’t believe how ridiculous and amazing that moment was as the story reached its climax. Cram your subtext.
Pip: Alice, I’ve just read ahead – there are two more bloody awards.
Alice: Even when I was sober this seemed like a whole lot of fuss. Oh look, Nicolas Cage was snubbed again, can we go home now?
Right, fine, let’s do this. The next award is Bestest Best I’m Sorta Secretly Glad This Is So Old I Can Only Play The First Act Before A Weird Error Makes It Crash Out And Maybe It’s Best I Can’t Play It All Because This Bit Is Great And The Rest Might Sully My Memories.
Pip: So Blade Runner, then?
Alice: We could use someone with your skills in Rep Detect.
Pip: I’ve never watched Blade Runner and I don’t know what Rep Detect is.
Alice: Don’t Watch Blade Runner, it’ll only make you disappointed when you notice how many games copy its look but can’t pull it off at all. Except Blade Runner, that is. Mostly. Ish. Sorta. Anyway. The Blade Runner of my memories is an awfully exciting game running parallel to my movies, not even acknowledging it at first but increasingly trying to show you every big character and location. This excited me a lot at the time, as a sprog dazzled by dirty cyberpunk futures, but I suspect it’d grate a lot now.
I started replaying it recently but, semi-thankfully, even with the best community patch it crashes after the first of five acts.
Pip: Lost in time like tears in rain.
Alice: Which is for the best, really. Is the running theme of all our end-of-year awards that I want everything to end and leave and go?
Pip: It’s a running theme of your conversations with everyone! More to the point, why do I know the bloods tears in rain monologue when I’ve never seen the movie? Stupid pop culture osmosis.
Alice: Yes Pip?
Pip: Why is our last category the Bestest Best We Were Totally Going To Celebrate Games From Any Year But 2014 But What The Hell Is This award?
Alice: Because With Those We Love Alive came out this year but I really like it so when we decided to host our own awards I thought it might be funny to tell the story of how, having (as instructed) covered my arm in mystic symbols reflecting decisions I made in the game, I started dwelling on one particular choice that I know was a lie and not what I’d do in that horrible situation but a lie I find comforting to tell myself – and then cried a little staring at my arm during a boring art exhibition with you and was really concerned that someone watching might think I was crying over that boring art.
I guess that’s probably why.
Pip: I understand why you would want to use an awards ceremony to set the record straight.
Alice: No awards ceremony is complete without someone getting over-emotional on stage. “WHAT A MESS!” the tabloids might lead with tomorrow “TEARS BEFORE LEVELLING UP” or look I don’t follow gossip so I have no idea what sort of headline they write or their grasp of video games so I don’t know.
Pip: I reckon they’d go with “It’s only a game, love!” but really I think they would be focusing in on my trendsetting slanket idea. You’d be page 9 or something.
Alice: My flatmate gave me studded fingerless leather gloves for Christmas. We’ll see who’s self-parodying now!
Pip: THE END
Alice: STRONG ENDING