2012 will most likely be remembered as the year that humanity triumphed over a Mayan Prophecy. We banded together and stood proud in the face of imminent extinction with a smattering of Twitter snarks and Facebook snorks. In a single day an entire group of Mayan Prophecy book authors were put out of work, hopefully being handed a big dunce cap to wear on the Tube. It may also be remembered as the year of the London Olympics or the Queen’s Jubilee. It’s been a good year for historical importance, but also one of great games, movies and TV. That said, 2012 was not a stellar year for console gaming, despite the fact that we are hitting the end of the next-gen generation.
Highlights for me include Spec-Ops: The Line, Far Cry 3, Dishonored and Mass Effect 3. All great games, but ultimately all representing a new take, or refined take on an established format. What impressed me most has been the rise of quality regarding iOS apps. The Room – as we’ve mentioned a couple of times – impressed most of us with it’s tactile exploratory content, while the Freemium model finally became less of the ‘Big Bad’ of the industry and more the ‘necessary evil’. Giving developers the chance to sell the game to an audience and *then* monetise it is a revelation. Zynga may have tarnished the name with it’s consistent ‘Pay to Win/Enjoy’ business models, but now we face a future where the games we play are playable for free, and offer extended life via an in-app purchase. Perfectly fair and almost essential now we are seeing the fall of the AAA retail release.
The AAA release used to be the mainstay of Quarter Four, but with the pressure to compete with online retailers and the sheer amount of new games flying towards shelves, coupled with a wobbly economy that has generated a more savvy customer base we have seen huge games perform poorly. Not down to bad game design or critical failure, but down to the fact that more and more people are looking for the bargain. Tesco ran a promotion to get Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for just £25 when bought with a selected digital product. Twenty-five Pounds! For a game that has a RRP of £54.99! Hitman Absolution was a critical success yet is already around the twenty pound mark. Sega released Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed at around twenty five pounds, resulting in better sales for the brilliant little race game. AAA usually translates to £40 game. Not so much any more. As the next-gen generation comes to a close we are seeing that a lower launch price can often make all the difference in sales terms. Which is brilliant.
Now 2013 is supposedly the year in which we get a new Xbox and perhaps a new PlayStation, but details are scare as I write this, existing mostly as rumour and speculation. This is brilliant. I cannot wait for these machines to be unveiled, and I want the unveiling to be complete and fresh. When Microsoft announced the 360 S model by simply lifting up the old shell and revealing the sleek slim successor I was astonished. There had been rumours of something new, but the launch was kept under wraps – literally – and was all the better for it. The ever-on status of the Internet has led to a culture of torturous reveals by way of slow leaks and rampant speculation, and I hate that. I don’t want to know about a game before it’s revealed. Why would I? What benefit is there to knowing all the playable characters that I can discover in a game, before the game’s even on sale? Hopefully the console giants can keep the leaks minimal and use E3 effectively to wow the world and loosen up my purse strings.
So as I spent more time on my tablet, and look forward to a new selection of consoles you might think I’m all sorted game-wise. Well no. PC gaming has also started to become popular again, both through the rise of Indie Bundles and the fact that Steam are pushing the PC platform into the living room – which incidentally is what made the difference for home consoles too. I now have over three hundred games in my Steam game collection. That’s more than the Wii, WiiU, PSP, PS Vita AND PS3 games I own combined, and yet I’ve spent very little thanks to aggressive pricing reductions – which are both a blessing and a curse, but that’s for another day – and bundles that exist solely to offer value, convenience and the opportunity to try something new for very little outlay. Were I on a better machine I’d definitely be gaming far more on the PC than I am right now, but my collection is awaiting the day that I upgrade. I like the fact that my collection is there, awaiting discovery, and thanks mostly to the Humble Bundle folks the steep rise in uptake has led to indie devs being able to make a good profit from low price points. Everyone wins!
Speaking of everyone winning, 2012 has also seen the rise of Kickstarter – something I’ve discussed before – and while some notable games didn’t get funding, Dizzy Returns among them, the process has led us a potential future in which the consumer has a lot more power over what does, or doesn’t get made. The phrase vote with your wallets is often banded about when criticising a company’s decision to include DLC or charge an unfair price for a release, but now it can also be applied in an actual real-world sense instead of just figuratively. Now we have the power to support games, movies, books and more by putting some money up and stating proudly that ‘We want this!’ Not since the days of bedroom coding have we had the ability to affect the industry in such a positive way, and crowd funding is something I expect to see develop even further in 2013. Will we see former AAA devs taking to the platform? Very possibly. I would put down £30 if it meant that an Xbox 360 port of Bayonetta 2 went into production, paying for the game up front and then getting the game I desire. It is an interesting time, that’s for sure.
Movies have been a hit and miss affair with ‘huge’ movies both impressing and depressing me in equal measure. The Avengers (I refuse to call if Avengers Assemble) was constructed well and thoroughly enjoyable, but it was a mess with plot holes the size of the Hulk’s trouser bulge and the obvious pressure to give fair screen time meant that some characters were lost in the plotting. Prometheus managed to be the movie I’ve discussed in more detail than any other this year, and I love it for that, but I’m honest enough to say that it is very clearly a flawed movie, which is made worse given the fact that the original screenplay was leaked after the release and certainly came across as vastly more coherent and exciting. The Amazing Spider-Man impressed me with it’s darker tone, taking details from the Ultimate comic-book run and making it work very well, but it lacked some of the ‘show’ I expected. The Dark Knight Rises took my favourite comic book run – Knightfall – and placed it into the real-world Gotham universe that Nolan has created, thus rendering the fanciful plot moot as the ‘recovery’ seemed so implausible that I literally scoffed. Had I not been watching it on iMAX (thanks to the venerable Dr Hock for that) I may have not enjoyed the film at all, but the sheer scale meant that I couldn’t help but enjoy the adept camera work and stunningly staged sequences. Similar to my tastes in gaming I’ve enjoyed a lot of smaller movies, mostly on DVD or Blu-Ray, ranging from gut-wrenching foreign cinema to low budget British zombie movies, but 2012’s highlight for me was Markus Schleinzer’s seminal Austrian film dealing with a child abduction and paedophile’s relationship with his prey. What could have been needlessly controversial overtly visceral or, in the case that I was more concerned about, sympathetic simply came across as a snapshot of real-world horror. While it officially is a film from 2011, it is the best film I’ve seen all year, and I reckon it will be hard pressed to be bettered at all this decade.
TV has been a solid bunch throughout the year, with Twenty-Twelve, Peep Show and The Thick of It bringing me a lot of chuckles while The Killing (Forbrydelsen III) and The Bridge impressed on the European front. Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Sherlock kept my attention as well, but my show of the year may come as some surprise. This year I adored The Great British Bake-Off. I fell in love with the show from the first series, and last year introduced Holly *shakes hands excitedly like Wallace off of Wallace and Gromit* Bell, but this year I was dragged in by the baked goods bonanza. I make no apologies. I bought the books, including the one in Morrisons that came with an exclusive tea towel, and my mother bought us some branded cake decorating equipment. It’s an easy sell, who doesn’t want to see cakes and pies being constructed in glorious HD? No-one, that’s who.
So 2012 was a good ‘un for entertainment. It’s also been good for us here at The Lolocaust as we launched a podcast/live web radio show that has since split into to two, better, shows. and we’ve seen our listeners and readers flock over to us as the months have passed. With Series 3 set to kick off 2013 in style we hope you’ll join us for many more articles and adventures as time goes on. We wouldn’t be where we are without your support, so thanks!
From all of us at The Lolocaust we wish you a Happy New Year!
Now, go get drunk and have fun.