RKD on… 2010: Part 1 – The “meh” year that was?


If annual videogame retrospectives were a party, RKD would be that fashionably late arrival who everyone pays attention to because they’ve already exhausted the conversation (and alcohol) for the night. Probably.

Fortunately, this is The Internet. For every day of the upcoming week, the whole RKD crew will be sharing bits of its sweeping generalisations and opinions stated as fact regarding the year that was 2010, along with its bold predictions for the 11.3 months to come. Let’s get this party started… again!

Fraser: I don’t really know where to start, as 2010 seemed like an oddly uneventful year in retrospect.

Harry: I feel 2010 was a bit of a “meh” year too. We need another 1998 or 2004, dangnabbit.

Fraser: And yet there were plenty of Things happening and Big Games being released in 2010, from the crowded first months of the year to StarCraft II, Minecraft, CODBLOPS (significant for its acronym if nothing else) and Red Dead Redemption. Not to mention Activision’s continued descent into Evil Superpower status.

Somehow, though, I didn’t have a strong personal reaction to any of that stuff. I’m not sure why. That could be just me, but I picked up a distracted vibe from other games writers last year as well.

It’s like things happened this year, but not much of it felt memorable or historically significant. Except Minecraft, for some people.

Harry: I’d like to think that as the average age of people who contribute to the industry grows older, we’re slowly but surely getting closer to the level of “higher brow”, somewhat retrospectively “tougher” criticism other mediums benefit (heh) from. Maybe someday Metacritic won’t need to make laughable excuses.

Fraser: Am I the only person who still thinks the clustering of game reviews around the 7-9 out of 10 mark is perfectly reasonable and not about to change?

Daniel: Yes. Yes, you are.

Harry: It could also just be that 2010 was slightly tainted by the “We’re late, but still great!” motion controller celebrations held by both Sony and Microsoft. That’s an instant 7.5 on the Fond Look-back scale.

Fraser: Aside from Mass Effect 2, I can’t think of any game that I played that actually came out last year, until I got Red Dead for Christmas. I’ve been meaning to try StarCraft II and Civilization V, but somehow that hasn’t happened yet.

Actually I haven’t played many games at all, by my standards, since winter. I think I burnt out my brain writing a thesis on Mirror’s Edge.

Harry: Personally, I’ve slowly reached a point in the last few years where my time and interest in playing games the videogame hivemind tells me to — yet I did not ask for — is getting smaller and smaller. BioShock 2’s release in 2010 best exemplifies this feeling. This year, I’ve come to understand that the videogame medium is one that thrives on iteration; but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be obligated to indulge in every single revision of a given idea.

Tristan: And because of these feelings, I imagine you haven’t played what is one of 2010′s best games, which is Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (a game that is not without it flaws, mind you).

Fraser: I’ve been uninterested in Brotherhood because the bits and pieces I’ve heard haven’t made it sound very different from Assassin’s Creed II. I assume it’s a good game, but I think “I’ve already been there.”

Harry: Yeah, pretty much what Fraser said (jerkface).

Daniel: I actually look back on my time with Brotherhood with some kind of nervous twitch. I enjoyed it enormously for the first three quarters, but it’s one of those games where the developers clearly ran out of time (especially given the one year development timeframe) and decided to leave the end of the game pretty rough. In fact, the end of the game is so bad that it’s pretty much soiled the rest of it for me.

Harry: I just don’t find the Assassin’s Creed games interesting (blasphemy!). It doesn’t help that the growing convoluted narrative elements of the series is also making it that much harder for newcomers and estranged players of the first game to jump back in. I admire the world design they’ve gone with (especially since Assassin’s Creed II), but I’d just be forcing myself to actually play through them. Which again goes hand in hand with my sentiments of flipping my finger off at what people think I should be playing.

That said, in 2010 I learned to embrace the types of games I enjoy (sequels and all), and quit trying to (begrudgingly) play through things I dislike; and simply appreciate from afar. For example, 2010 marked the umpteenth time I’ve tried and failed in getting past the first few painfully slow hours of Planescape: Torment (thanks a lot, GOG!). On a more contemporary note, StarCraft II, while an enticing prospect from most accounts, will likely join its predecessor in non-engagement on my behalf.

Daniel: I played two games this year that I really, honestly loved. The first was Red Dead Redemption, which I now think is probably my favourite game ever. I’m not sure how much I need to say about this game, though – either you’ve played it and you already have an opinion, or you probably will play it in the near future anyway

The other game isn’t technically a 2010 game, but it came out in December 2009 and was pretty overlooked at the time so I feel justified in including it – Pandemic’s The Saboteur. This is surely the best hidden gem I’ve played – though it is very rough around the edges, none of that overshadows the experience of the game, even if the writing is very pulpy (read: rampantly sexist and racist). However, the sense of place in wartime Paris is nearly unparalleled – even the Assassin’s Creed or Zelda games don’t, for me, evoke a sense of time and place as well as The Saboteur does. Red Dead does, of course, but whatever, I’m just a fanboy. In any case, The Saboteur didn’t sell well and is now clearly in your local bargain bin, so there is no reason not to try it.

Harry: Unless like me, you keep confusing the The Saboteur for Rogue Warrior, for some irrational reason. Remember: only one of them features a rapping Mickey Rourke.

Mickey: I #$%*ing do what I #$%*ing can.

Tomorrow RKD continues its belated 2010 retrospective by pondering the fine line between last year’s “iteration and innovation“. Can Dan last without mentioning Red Dead Redemption at least ten times? Will Tristan have more than a sentence to contribute? Tune in to find out!

Related posts:

  1. RKD on… 2010: Part 4 – Portable preferences
  2. RKD on… 2010: Part 3 – There’s something about Minecraft
  3. RKD on… 2010: Part 2 – ‘Iteration’ vs. ‘innovation’

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Harry Milonas

A writer from Melbourne, Harry prefers you follow him on Twitter rather than home.

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  1. Hey, loved the piece. (Although the wrong apostrophes hurt me – my secret weakness is grammar)

    As for most important thing this year, I’d say it’s looking like a good place to point to for how the economic systems began to change (again). Things like Killscreen launching from Kickstarter, Notch making a fortune from the Minecraft Alpha (and the associated DOS attack, maybe), the launch of the ipad and the war for the magazine-style market. Not all game related, obviously, but I foresee interesting times in content systems as much as in the content.

    I suppose you could say that’s true for the last decade or so as well, but I think it’s especially so this year.

  2. Aaaand I should have had a full stop. In my sentence about my weakness being grammar.

    God damn it.

  3. Apostrophes fixed! On the internet, history can be changed at will.

    You’re not wrong. Later in the week, we’ll have a whole post on the rapidly changing economic landscape of games. Brace yourself for some big calls.

  4. [...] “meh” to “ooh!”, in part deux of  our 2010 retrospective series, RKD dons its pseudo [...]

  5. [...] both the highs and lows of last year already (somewhat) covered, the next instalment of RKD’s 2010 retrospective [...]

  6. Finally getting around to catching up on my monumental virtual pile of things to read.

    Loved the piece, this is a great style and I think is quietly indicative of how the approach to gaming is changing. There are still masses of people keen on the usual massive releases and the inevitable PR shower that they generate, but it’s the things a little left of centre like Miecraft and some of the economic shifts that Ak mentioned that are shaping a decent chunk of the industry, developers and participants both.

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