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Welcome to Pushing Buttons! I’m Keza MacDonald, The Guardian’s video game publisher. I’ve been a video game journalist for 16 years, and my extended family recently stopped asking me when I was going to find a real job over Christmas dinner. I guess they have abandoned me now.
In December, as usual, the release schedule was as sparse as the hair on Agent 47’s head. Last year we at least had the Cyberpunk 2077 launch fiasco to distract us from the doldrums. by the end of 2020; you can only hope it gets better when the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions are finally released in the spring. On the plus side, right now it’s actually time to catch up without getting distracted by some shiny new things coming out every week. Soaking up a video game has always been a good way to avoid end-of-year boredom in the festive perineum between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
These Christmas games hold an important place in my memory – one year it was Mass Effect 2, which I played for days straight wrapped in a quilt in my frigid Edinburgh apartment; One Christmas as a teenager, I persuaded my parents to buy me American Import Animal Crossing and spent the next few days completely ignoring my family in favor of my strange new animal neighbors. (I have my own kids now, and last year I did the same in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Some things don’t change.)
It’s been an odd year for games, in part because the ripple effects of Covid-19 have delayed the game’s development process so much that most of the things we thought we were playing now have drifted into next year. Game development is an extraordinarily collaborative endeavor, especially when there are 100 or more people on a team, and working from home has slowed things down dramatically at many studios I’ve spoken with.
Playground Games has spent the last year completing the excellent racing game Forza Horizon 5, and designer Anna Poliakova explains that testing multiplayer was much, much easier when everyone was playing together in the studio: “You can know if one player sees something completely different from the other three. At home, you have to describe it to yourself, like: “What can you see? Wait, what color is my car on your screen ?! ”Even things like figuring out how to make the latest version of the game playable on every developer’s computer has become a logistical nightmare.
So applause for the teams behind the great games that actually came out this year: Forza, Hitman 3, Deathloop, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, the long-delayed and brilliantly surreal Psychonauts 2, which rivals an intimidating space shooter Returnal time loop for my personal game of the year. Our games correspondent Keith Stuart and I recently picked our 15 best games of 2021 – read it and decide what to occupy you as the year draws to a close.
The ongoing pandemic has changed my relationship with video games, and I know I’m not the only one. If 2020 was the year games saved us all, providing a safe and fun way to socialize and entertain ourselves when everything was terrible and no one was allowed to go out for more than 20 minutes a day, 2021 was here. year in which we provisionally began to live again. I found myself less drawn to virtual worlds; I ditched my Animal Crossing Island, only shamefully returning from enduring the resentful spikes of my neighbors when Nintendo released a slew of cool new stuff for the game in November (who would say no to a pigeon called Brewster serving coffee?) .
Psychologically, however, being back in Animal Crossing was like stepping back into the depths of the mentally brutalizing blockages of last year. Back then it was my escape, but now it feels like an unwelcome callback. I wonder how many people will have a similar reaction when they rethink Among Us, or Fall Guys, or Fortnite, or any of the other games that have helped them through the pandemic, in the years to come.
What to play
I will remember the beginning of the year to recommend olija, a game that missed our list of games of the year but still remains etched in my memory. It’s a short, nostalgic, and rather weird action-adventure game about an aristocrat who sails to an abandoned place trying to find a better future for his people, and it has the freshest, most beautifully animated pixel art that I have seen for years. You can tell when a game is a passion project – Olija was mostly made by one person, Japan-based developer Thomas Olsson, and while it was over quickly, it’s so atmospheric, enigmatic and lively to play. well worth the time it takes.
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Approximate playing time: 5 hours
What to Click – Some 2021 Guardian Games Favorites
What to read
The end-of-year lists have been streaming from all the specialized gaming sites for the past few weeks. I particularly enjoyed Polygon’s, partly because it looks gorgeous, and partly because many of the 50 games on this list are ones I didn’t know before.
The Xbox Game Pass continued to prove its worth in 2021, putting Microsoft ahead of everyone in a rush to become the “Netflix of the game” (sigh). (Google Stadia seems increasingly under siege; Google has shut down his only development studio at the start of this year after an extremely short period, and confidence in the service does not appear to be high.) Kotaku makes a case for 2021 marking the start of Xbox’s death – and why that wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing.
Another landmark story of the year in gaming has been the flood of revelations about the toxic work culture and harassment at Activision Blizzard, the company behind Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and many others, which is now facing to several pursuits. The allegations reach as far as longtime, famous and very wealthy CEO Bobby Kotick, and have sparked walkouts and a surge in organizing among his 10,000 employees. If you’ve had a hard time keeping up with all the ongoing and very revealing news stories about any of the giants in the gaming industry, this CNET preview will catch up with you.
This week I asked our games correspondent Keith stuart the question which preoccupies the belligerents of the forum since the 90s: what’s this best, consoles or computer?
No one who considers themselves to be a serious video game specialist would attempt to answer this question – which is why I am doing it. In terms of sheer technical strength, a cutting edge PC is unbeatable as a gaming platform. You’ll need to spend between £ 1,000-2,000, but that will give you the Imax of the game, with stunning visuals and animation. ultra fluid.
Within two years, however, your system will start to creak, and you’ll be thinking about upgrading – then you’ll be chained to the treadmill. In terms of value and ease of use, the rule of consoles: you get an expertly designed system that will last between five and eight years, and every game you buy will work perfectly on it. For most people, the visuals will be perfect – in fact, for a few years they will be spectacular – and standout games that won’t be available anywhere else for years to come. What is better? For the experts, the PC, for the rest of us, the consoles. Don’t @ me.
I would be happy to receive your questions for Question Block in the New Year – press reply to this newsletter to submit them, and I will find someone interesting to answer them!