The best blogs of the year!
As we once again reached the end of a year, it’s time to look back on the past 366 days (leap year, fool!) to see what it has brought us in terms of Destructoid Community blogs. And who better to summarize the year – recap it, if you will – than the Cblog Recaps team?
Over the course of 2016, just like in any other year, these fine lads and lasses have put in the work to give all of the blogs that get posted on Destructoid the attention they deserve. That’s a lot of reading!
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So before we get into things, let’s extend a big thank you to the team. More importantly, let’s also extend a big thank you to all of you people who put in the work to write some awesome blogs. Finally, remember to go read other people’s work and poke your representative Community Manager to help them promote the best writings to the front page!
Now then, 2016. What is there left to say about 2016 that hasn’t already been said? Well, you know what? 2016 was a damn fine year for video games. We’ve seen the release of at least three games that many people thought would never see the light of day, and it seems like Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian and Owlboy were all very much worth the wait. Paper Mario: Color Splash did the impossible by using the Sticker Star formula to make an actually good game. Both Titanfall 2 and Watch_Dogs 2 also provided massive improvements over their originals. Indie darlings such as Hyper Light Drifter, Inside and Shantae saw their release. And Overwatch struck the fear of 12PM into gamers the world over.
2016 was a year that may well live on in infamy, but perhaps its video games will live on even longer. And at the end of the day, isn’t that why we’re all here? To forget about the worries of the day and just talk about games with people who also like to talk about games? It seems so simple, but in a divisive world like ours it’s really not. So once again, a big thank you to all of you who make this place what it is, and by all means keep on giving us your words about your favorite games of late. We’ll be reading them.
– The Cblog Recaps team.
And so it ends, the terrible year of 2016. With four or three days to go (depending on your timeline when this is published), I wouldn’t be surprised if further terrible things happen before its finally over.
This is the year where an ongoing trend that marginalizes the middle class and further polarizes the haves and have-nots finally show results in the Brexit vote and the US election. These two events are the symptom of a much deeper trend, one related to technological and philosophical forces that are causing a steady decline in middle class income. Basically, it will only get worse. This is of course even without considering the potentially disastrous effects of probable climate change. Closer to home for me, things are even worse. The forgotten war in Yemen is depressing, and the well-known battles in Syria are the same. Oil prices are down, signaling a probable escalation in conflicts as a way to distract people form the shrinking funds and increasing “taxes.”
In my personal life, this is my first year in a new job. Someplace where I am not satisfied in my work, and where my time is steadily shrinking as I spend at least 11 hours of my day on the job. Also, I am now realizing what it means to be a third-class citizen in the country, where I have to work twice as hard as the rest just to get the chance of getting what my work deserves. At the start of the year, I suffered through seeing my grandfather shrink and disappear between my eyes. A powerful man, and someone who I idolized, withered away and literally became a shell of his former self. In some ways, his death was a relief. Yet, his memories still linger on, and I still grieve for him.
I guess it wasn’t an entirely bad year in video games, mostly because I am actually playing last year’s excellent games (I have not played any game released in 2016).
Anyway, the good thing is, next year can’t be much worse. Or maybe it can.
One constant that I enjoyed, but which did also occasionally put extra pressure on me, was the weekly Recap duty. Honestly, it does take some time doing these Recaps, and when everything else in your life isn’t going as well as you would like, I sometimes get the inclination to half-ass it, which is a little evident in my last few recaps. One thing I never half-ass though is actually reading all of your blogs. Clearly, you put in enough time, effort, and passion into writing these blogs that I would feel bad if I didn’t actually spend the time to read and comment. Even though the number of blogs reduced over the year, there were still some pretty good blogs to read through.
- I enjoy reading about game design theory, and that’s why I enjoyed reading Terry 309‘s blog about how games often borrow heavily from each other. As with any other medium, games do not exist in a vacuum, and by extension they often copy each other liberally in a non-intentional way. Hence, it requires true skill to actually differentiate a game and stand out from the crowd.
- February was a good month for blogging. We had excellent music reviews from Larxinostic. Also, I Topsauced two blogs dealing with translation in games (a topic I am very interested in). One from our own TheBlondeBass and another from atranslator.
- TheGreenSphere wrote an interesting blog about the responsibilities of gamers towards the game they are playing.
- As someone who dislikes the current trend of making an open world game out of everything, James Internet Ego‘s blog about how that trend is diluting the quality of content (mostly quests) in those games particularly interested me.
- In a year that confirms our most cynical thoughts, its good to have some community feel-good blogs such as this one by RocketKnight.
- Then there are those blogs that remind us that even when things get tough, we need to get going, like this blog from StumpFreak. It never gets easy, and it never lets go, so we might as well learn to live with it.
- Japanese games are simply different from Western games, and they should continue to be different as jtompkins notes in this blog. We need variety, and Capcom should take note of that.
- GWJosh‘s blogs about game design were consistently good, but his blog on Fair Use and the legal background related to game design was one of his best.
- Alphadeus made many theme tunes for Dtoid community members, and his latest album has some great stuff. Go show him some support.
- A good blog to end my yearly Topsauces is Holy Shadows‘ blog about how gaming in his grandparent’s house began his love for games. Since this was a similar story to my own, it naturally appealed to me.
Well, that’s it for the year. Please make the next a better one by reading more blogs, commenting, and writing your own.
2016, what a year. I shall keep this short. 2016 was a year where ignorance won out over scientifically proven facts, a year where everyone good seemed to die, a year that has seen the highest number of refugees since the second World War. It’s been shit. 2017 won’t be any better. It would be very easy to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that we could help people but don’t because humans are lazy and selfish creatures by nature. I urge you not to, and instead ask you to consider giving to one of the many charities that helps those who suffer.
But Destructoid is not representative of wider humanity. Here, on this little corner of the internet, there exists a scale of mutual care and tolerance that does not exist in the real world. Unfortunately, the blogs have been in decline as of late, mostly because they are tucked away where most people cannot see them. Attracting new members into the blogs is therefore difficult, because I’d wager many of you do not even know we exist. So, the Community Blogs are right here. Type whatever game-related ramblings you desire.
For me, the year has been mixed. University has brought me many changes to my life. For a start, I’m so much busier. The start of the Christmas holiday was the first time in about two months that I had sat down to play games for actual fun, rather than as a mere reprieve from the churning out of essays. I’m also enjoying the second year far more than I enjoyed the first, for reasons that I choose to keep to myself. In last year’s recap I wrote “Next year should be good for me” and I was right.
However, this has also resulted in my blogging output plummeting, which is a shame, though I try to publish a non-recap every now and again. I think I also take the prize for least reliable recapper – the number of times I have sat down on a Wednesday to write a recap and gone ‘oh fuck I need to finish that essay’ is simply too high to count. But hey, I’ve managed. It’s a time-consuming thing to do.
Now then, onto a handful of my favorite blogs of the year. I have high standards and so I did not Topsauce many blogs. For the three of you who are worthy – well done.
- Community regular Torchman wrote this excellent blog about the business practices of Nintendo. Specifically, its habit of creating gimmicky spin-offs that have a nasty tendency to damage the original franchise and wear them out, especially the Metroid franchise, and Torchman does an excellent job of explaining the problem.
- I also found this blog about the appeal of achievements in games by Wraithkal to be well worth a read. I have never felt the compulsion myself, though I am very tempted to get 100% completion on my current The Witcher 3 playthrough. Regardless, Wraith does a great job of looking at why we bother, and why publishers seem to take great interest in them.
- RedHeadPeak wrote this outstanding blog about how games challenge their players, and how this makes games greater (or at least potentially greater) than other mediums. As you can probably tell by now, I like blogs that go the extra mile to be analytical and tackle an interesting topic that is profound to the way we make and think about games. This blog does that excellently.
What a year, huh! I only started recapping this year after StriderHoang passed away in a tragic rollerblade incident, but with how much has happened since…
Time went by in an instant, and yet so much stuff happened that it’s hard to believe it all fit into a single year.
Destructoid has always been a special kind of website for me. While not as popular as something like IGN or GameSpot, I feel like the focus on community elements like the Community blogs (which, by the way, are nearly impossible to find when logged off now. Please change this!!!!) and Quickposts allow the website to have a more positive and comfortable atmosphere, if that makes sense. Through happier and through rougher days, it’s that feeling of not having to take yourself too seriously on this website that keeps me coming. As 2016 comes to a close, I especially want to give a special shout out to Nekro, who just started to write for the front-page with articles that have just the kind of silliness I’m craving for.
Outside of the website, so much stuff happened this year! I survived one internship and two semester-long projects. Two video games that have been in development hell for years, Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian, both released very close to one another. On the Nintendo side, the Nintendo NX was revealed. I’m not yet fully convinced of the concept, but the internet pretty much exploded at that time. Plus, the company started going full speed ahead with mobile games, with Miitomo and Super Mario Run leading the way. A shit ton of interesting games released, which contributed to my ever-expanding backlog. Two new Star Wars movies! Homestuck ended! And Persona 5 got delayed -again-. A sign that the more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess.
On the Destructoid community side of things as well, things were pretty crazy. There were about one million Ask Me Anything blogs and Quickposts by the community. The interesting thing is that a first wave came out around May, and it took until the past month to pick up again. These are always fun, and it’s always neat to learn more about community members. I asked the same question a couple times to test you guys, he he he. A bunch of Quickpost trends started popping up, some more safe for work than others.
The Blog editor died, but got better. I died, but I got better. Blaze disappeared, then came back. Disqus is still on life support. Crazy world, huh! Anyway, let’s keep going with my favorite blogs and writers of the year.
- To begin with, let’s start with Larxinostic, a Dtoider who was pretty special to me. He was my first follower! His interactions with the community were always fun and positive, and he knew how to enjoy the good things in life, like Guilty Gear, Punchline, and Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. His Which OST series really showed his passion for video games. While the concept is fairly straightforward, being a series that focuses on his favorite game soundtracks, the amount of effort and the care that went into these blogs is undeniable. Unfortunately, he kind of vanished after summer was over. I hope you’re doing well, buddy.
- Some blogs I loved from this year, hm…. Well, I like myself some good meta. And I’m not talking about following a metagame, since that’s actually pretty lame. I mean discussion about a medium from inside said medium. I have to say, Fuzunga’s review of review scores delivered!
- Tony Ponce‘s return was also a highlight, with this nice write-up of Mighty No. 9‘s troubled development.
- Surprisingly, weslikestacos‘ reveal of multiple new Konami games to come has yet to be picked up by other gaming websites. Not only did he find some insane scoops for the Destructoid community, but the colorful images really helped bringing these games to life.
- All in all, though, I have to say that my favorite thing to come out of this year in terms of blogs was HypnoCoffin‘s monthly giveaways. 2016 had a lot of negativity going around, with heated political discourse and celebrity deaths joining the usual platform wars and such. So blogs like Hypno’s giveaways that ask the community to complete some fun little challenges to win games really help raise the mood. I tried as much as I could to chip in some games to help Hypno too, so he wouldn’t have to shoulder the whole cost of these blogs ^^. Hypno’s blogs in general are some of my favorite, they’re lighthearted, fun for the whole community, and barely related to video games at all! Definitely check his stuff out, it’ll bring a smile to your face guaranteed.
“It was a year with ups and downs.” Does there exist a bigger cliché than that? I don’t know, but I’m going to use it anyway: sometimes clichés are simply true.
Because it really was a year of ups and downs, at least for me in my personal life. At the beginning of this year, it seemed that I wouldn’t be able to get my Master’s degree until a full six months after I needed it. Then I made a few calls, laid out my case, and I could get it in February after all. Graduated cum laude, even! In March, I started a new job that was exactly what I’ve always wanted to do (and with great pay to boot). Then a month later I was let go for not being ‘social’ or ‘communicative’ enough, which was a massive blow not only to me, but to my parents as well. I later learned that the company never filled up the position that I was supposed to get, so in actuality it was more like they simply couldn’t afford another employee.
I went to see a therapist for social issues anyway, and I learned a lot about myself there. I then applied for a PhD position at my old university, and I actually got the spot. From September onwards I’ve been working as a PhD researcher, with below-average pay but a lot of job security, and I now have my own place as well. However, just a short while after I got the spot, my dad was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in five years. His surgery went according to plan and the overall outlook is positive, but he has gone through a big trial and there is still some treatment to come. In the mean time, I met a cute girl at my new university position and even had a semi-date with her, but then I never managed to get something going with her afterwards.
And then there’s all of the stuff that you’ve undoubtedly already seen in the news and that I’m not going to bother you with.
So yeah, ups and downs.
But even in a year like that, I still put Destructoid firmly in the “up” camp. For me, Destructoid is a place where I leave my worries at the door and just be myself for a while. I talk about what I want to talk about (mostly video games, of course!), I don’t have to worry about being let go for not fitting in, and I can just hang out with like-minded people for a while. I even became a Community Manager this year, and that’s an up if there ever was one!
I still don’t know a lot of you half as well as I would like (because socializing is hard), but I’ve nevertheless learned a lot about you people from your Quickposts and blogs. I think the best blogs are the ones that you can tell had a lot of heart put in. It doesn’t have to be personal per se, but if you put yourself in a story it always shows.
Here are a few blogs of 2016 which did this really well.
- My favorite blogger of the year was definitely Michformer, who wrote quite a number of excellent articles on a wide variety of topics. Examples include movement options in first-person shooters, longevity and how to keep a long game fun, and Japanese horror. Really solid year, and I hope to see more!
- Voltech is always a favorite of mine as well. The man writes like a champ, and I don’t think I’ve ever found myself disagreeing with him. This year saw one of his best blogs yet, about the character design of Overwatch and in particular the elegance embodied by Mercy (who is literally the best).
- Speaking of Overwatch, I’m a complete sucker for grimdark backstories for characters. When Dwavenhobble wrote this blog I didn’t know about all the things the Overwatch characters had gone through, but it was actually one of the many little pushes that finally got me to buy this game.
- And speaking of character design, the first blog I ever put on the front page as CM was courtesy of Jinx 01. He wrote a great blog on the infamous chainmail bikinis, and why they’re sometimes okay.
- On a more random note, Electric Reaper had an interesting take on realism in games. Realism should go out the door when it isn’t fun, but when a little bit of realism would make things (particularly weapons) better, why wouldn’t you do it?
- Manchild pops up every once in a while with a new blog, then disappears back into the shadows. This year was no different, but whenever he appears I sit up and take notice. His blog on VR shows exactly why I do that.
- I always like in-depth looks at certain elements of games. Load of Bollocks delivered that this year with this blog on the sound design in The Last of Us.
- Similarly, Elia Pales provided a look at the marketing strategy that might be behind the Nintendo Switch reveal and the upcoming Nintendo Direct.
- And on a purely silly note, TheSkeletalBaron listed the best Scotsmen in video games, which of course has to include Kirby.
But honestly, I wouldn’t have had to compile all these blogs this year, because OverlordZetta already did it for me. He listed 100 of his favorite blogs, and broke the Cblog editor in the process.
What a year huh? I’ve talked at length about the shittier aspects of this year, leading to it being considered one of the worst years in a while. And yeah, in terms of politics and celebrity deaths it’s been a pretty awful year. And as we deal with the consequences and the fallout, things are probably going to have ups and downs. But regardless, it hasn’t been a terrible year for me personally.
This year I finally graduated from college after 1.5 years of finding out what I wanted to do, and more than 2.5 years of some of the foulest agony and highest highs that chemistry/microbiology can provide in my quest to graduate a Micro Major. My graduation was mainly due to my own gumption and talking to professors to figure out what to get into.
It was a long hard road but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one I derived enjoyment from when it was in my chosen major. So much so that I’m considering going back next year for grad school to climb more into academia. I followed up my graduation by finding a professional job after much searching, one that will help pay for said grad school. So I guess we’ll see where we are next year. It’s been hard having to live away from home, but it has helped me grow and learn as a person, so it’s still valuable experience. Where it all leads, I cannot say. But I have a few notions…
And then there’s Dtoid. Yes, things have happened on this site that have also been exciting or interesting.
At the beginning of this year Jed shared around news of a Discord server. I ignored it at first, as I didn’t have much interest in a chatroom per se, but eventually I bit and tried it out. There I met some people who I consider to be good friends now; people that I just wouldn’t have the level of closeness I would have had through Dtoid alone. I used Discord constantly, and still do, talking with buddies in real time and getting some good friendships to keep strong. It’s been a wonderful thing for me, and hats are off to Jed for getting the ball rolling. Even if that original server is dead, it has been made into a more community-open form and Discord is still a big part of my life. It helped my four weeks in a hotel not drive me insane, helped ease me into the less social form of life I have now (which I am trying to fix even now) and it’s been an amazing thing for me and hopefully for others. Torchman, HypnoCoffin, Malthor, LinkSlayer64, DeScruff, Nekro, TheAngriestCarp, Lawman, Vxxyman, TheBlondeBass, RicoThePenguin, Sarah Jane Farron, Robo Panda Z, RadicalYoseph, Amna Umen, and probably others who I am regretfully forgetting at the moment; all close buddies I’ve been brought close to by Discord.
I also became a recapper this year, which was an exciting thing in its own right. Getting more into the community of a site I love has been an interesting experience, and one that’s been interesting to watch evolve and shift to deal with changing tides or patterns. Additionally, it’s been interesting to see my buddies slot in: some others, such as Amna and Bass, are also Recappers now.
On to my collected Topsauces of the year!
- Dr. Mel provided an overview of the demo of Dragon Quest Builders and I found it a good read with some interesting perspectives on the whole thing. After actually playing the full game myself I find it interesting to go back and see what his predictions and conceptions turned out to be in the final game proper with some being pretty spot on.
- From our very own James Internet Ego came a blog about KOTOR: a series I’ve had more than a little fondness for, and one that has been an interesting field for discussion as it turns out. With a nice look at Knights of the Fallen Empire from the online version of KOTOR, more discussion is had and more consideration is put forth for a series that has continued to somewhat intrigue and interest many; myself included.
- With a look at the logic of franchises came Asterion, with an interesting consideration for why franchises are and will probably continue to be a thing for a long while still. Always interesting to consider the flipside and look at potentially why companies do what they do.
- Uncharted 3 was a game whose quality I found lacking and whose critical reception I found a bit surprising. To each their own, but I found the game rancid. Hence people shitting on the game or its missteps is a good way to get my attention. Forgotten Bastion did just that by exploring one of the really unpleasant aspects of Nathan Drake’s behavior in this game.
- Procedural generation has its time and place, but I think it’s certainly got some issues that need to be considered, especially considering how often it can pop up. GWJosh had some good perspectives on its issues and I tended to agree.
- Community Weeb JuIc3 provides his thoughts on Japanese shows and games that formed their interest in more stuff in that vein. A pattern that continues to this day, as does an occasional drunken voice chat discussion that slowly dissolves into brain fried drunk revelry.
- Voltech gave an interesting look at art and how it connects people; I tend to still agree. People gather to discuss art, games, books, etc and share their passions with each other here or on the discord. Through that people get closer and understand where others are coming from better.
- Some would say that Torchman‘s obsession with Super Robot Wars and games of its ilk, as well as mechs generally, is unhealthy. And perhaps that’s true. But as someone with an obsession with microbes it’s not to me to point fingers, now is it? With another pretty good blog about SRW’s trailer (part two of a several thousand word set of blogs for a five minute trailer) it’s hard not to admire the passion on display.
- And how fitting that after Torch comes his soul waifu Zaboru, to talk about some of life’s struggles and how you should keep trying and stay positive. I think it’s a good blog and one that added some positivity to a day that had some negativity. Or hell, a year that had some negativity in spades.
Here’s hoping for a better year after this one, or at least one as jam packed with good games as this one!
It’s weird spending an entire year chugging through the weekly recaps. Even though some weeks I was burnt out, I felt shocked sifting through all the recaps I’ve done through the months, most of them having a subject I wanted to bite into hungrily. This includes one recap that went on for 4,000 words because I wanted to really dissect the PSX. I admit I still feel proud of it, even if it feels horribly snarky, cynical, and pessimistic; three characteristics that are natural to me, but I try to smother due to how I can end up destructive in the process.
Which if there was a year to maybe put on the fake grins, forced optimism and stick halfhearted thumbs up, it might be this year. I cannot judge if it was one of the worst years in a long time like others have, but the belief it is is a common one. What with Brexit, the US election, various celebrity deaths (including David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Terry Wogan), several terrorist attacks, and the passing of one of the most privacy-infringing laws in the west (called the Investigatory Powers Act). Even within our community we’ve had our ills. To be blunt, no matter if it actually was or is just our depressed collective conjuration kicking in, 2016 was simply awful. Just absolute shit.
So I had a quick little shuffle through my Topsauces and picked the ones that tickled my pickle. Naturally I couldn’t pick every single one I loved or I’d be here until the end of time. I admit I couldn’t even look through blogs I didn’t recap for a very similar reason. So I tried to focus on the two things I love you for: diversity and soul. That no matter what, you find new ways to present things that all have one thing in common: you’ve all put yourselves into it. So here’s to you:
- Military shooters have a bit of a dim reputation to them. They’re bombastic, loud, and proud. As well as this, they usually having the subtlety of unwrapping a card only to find out it is an adoption form. So it makes finding anything meaningful a bit of a tricky task, especially one rooted in the narrative. It was therefore particularly interesting to read jthompkins‘ analysis of the hoorah friendships in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Star Wars: Republic Commando.
- When I write reviews, I try to at least put a bit of me into it. An opinion, a sign of my background or even if it is just my bizarre sense of humour. However, well, the personalised nature of where Bardley goes with his review of Kubo and the Two Strings (a fantastic film by the way! Easy recommendation!) makes me feel foolish, awkward, and cold in comparison. It was definitely something for me to learn from.
- I have a particular gripe with Battlefield 1. I do not like when settings are utilised haphazardly with little care, especially when key parts of the setting are sacrificed on the altar of fun. It’s something I admit I’ve pushed around but not managed to formulate the argument in a clear coherent form. Fortunately, James Internet Ego not only gets the complaint but also bounces off it to do something cool with it.
- Adulthood has crawled upon me slowly, like 1958 film The Blob. First the requirement to get a job, then a requirement to pay bills, and now both my brothers are married with kids (including my younger one). Phew. Yet I don’t want to let go of my hobby no matter what. Which made RedHeadPeak‘s look at being a “grown-up” gamer a thought-provoking nudge, as it delves into having a lot more money but a whole lot of less time.
- I love this blog for three rather specific reasons. Firstly, I can totally relate to weaning back on the games you love due to journalism, as I definitely don’t play as much Payday 2 as I used to. Secondly, I think it is always fantastic to hear about a particular game people value greatly as it does tend to lead to some really lovely interpretation and personalised perspective on things. The type of analysis that has impacted someone’s life, even if it is just their taste of games. Thirdly, and perhaps a very strange reason, I love having that chance to stop him throwing his love to the wind, as that kind of love is very powerful, potent, and useful in games journalism. It can make you a fountain of knowledge, give you an unique perspective and make you particularly strong at analysing a topic. I really hope The Stantonator is out there somewhere still playing the hell out of World of Warcraft and carving out his career nicely!
- While I am the type to really love grit, I think sometimes writers forget people are a spectrum of emotions. That sometimes people do enjoy pure joy, and that of itself can be a fleshed-out character trait. Even if I personally don’t like Kingdom Hearts, it’s this emotionally comprehensive writing style that makes me dig Forgotten Bastion‘s love of Goofy in Kingdom Hearts.
- Now for something very dry by Dr Mel. I think it is interesting to consider how the play habits of reviewers/YouTube personalities may lend to higher sales. After all, as a reviewer, I don’t have time to complete every game nor to dwell too much on one. So it can lead to slower-burning titles to get panned while explosive ones to do well, which leads to sales differences. It’s definitely worth mulling over as a weakness of reviewers.
- I think there’s a rumour that I don’t like fun. That the daft, silly, and absurd just isn’t my thing. Well, I believe that’s nonsense. So here’s ChrisHannard abusing What-Dog.net to look at character design.
Here’s to another year of dick-jokes, nonsense, and dry-as-gin video game analysis.
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