IT IS THE NEW YEAR. For the majority of us, it is our very first year. We didn't exist until hours ago, but now blink in the hazy sunlight and wonder what to do with all these flappy bits that are attached to our bodies. A tiny fraction of our audience, however, lived through another year proir to this one. It was called 2014, and it is remembered... variously. Let's share some memories of it below.
- The year Kickstarter games became flesh. Some were great, some were pretty much as expected, some underwhelmed. Broadly, PC gaming is more diverse for it, but it doesn't quite feel that we escaped an old world of identi-sequels to fulfil decades of untapped promise. Really though, we didn't get let down: those remakes and sequels happened, and they probably wouldn't have happened otherwise.
- The year that Assassin's Creed won. Even though it was Assassin's Creed's worst year ever - Unity's launch issues were such that Ubisoft was willing to give away free copies of its other huge Winter game, Far Cry 4, as apology. But the Assassin's Creed model took over - Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age Inqusition, Far Cry 4 again were just a few games which turned fully to the icon-strewn map model of action game. This effectively creates the illusion of endless content, and keeps us busy for hours and hours, determined to clean up that map. We sure weren't short of things to go and collect in 2014. I'd quite like to see big fat action gaming try other structures out now, however.
- The year space came back. 2015 will be the same, to be honest, but if there was a resurgent genre in 2014 it was the space sim. It's gone from niche interest to headline factory, and disproved the long-standing belief that spaceships can't be massively profitable.
- See also: the year joy/flight sticks come back. I do hope we get a resurgence of crazy hardware as a result.
- The year YouTube became the new everything. It's an exciting new, barrier-free frontier for games coverage, but a perilously unregulated one too. I don't think anyone has an accurate sense of where it's ultimately headed.
- The year a hashtag happened. I'm not going to say much about it, as it only darkens any doorstep it's invoked upon. It was a faith-shaking year though; a year in which many people who work in or with games questioned whether it was worth it. Whether or not the worst is truly over, it's a relief to shut the door on 2014 for that reason.
- The year 'indie' finally became meaningless. It covers too many things, too many people from the penniless to the LA mansion-owning. Now it's just 'games' again. Maybe that's not such a bad thing - it means the stranglehold of big publishers has been broken, and the industry is now this vast spread of different-sized businesses, which anyone can be a part of. Labels don't matter now the doors are open.
- The year esports crossed over. Esports have been The Next Big Thing for years, but these days they are simply A Big Thing, and growing bigger all the time. It's not my world at all, to be honest, but as a sign that games have moved out of their dark corner of the room and fully into the light of the world, this is it.
- The year of Early Access. The game release date, at least on PC, is almost extinct. In its place is this strange, rolling entity that can weave in and out of existence as it pleases, that can have a new fuss made about it at any point, that can change direction even after it's become publicly available. Similarly, the time between a game being announced and a game being playable is shrinking. It's too soon to really tell whether Early Access is a net gain or a net loss, but now the barriers are down, and the precedent for unfinished games making bags of cash is there, they're not going back up.
- The year Half-Life 3 finally came out. It was alright, though I'm still not sure about the Vortiguant dating mini-game.
Oh, by the way: Happy New Year from RPS. Thanks ever so for reading us.