It’s January, another holiday season is fading into the distance in the rearview mirror. There’s too much chocolate in my house, the bins are full of empties and the barbeque still smells like ham. People are starting to go back to work, kids are being dropped off at day care again and the shops are starting to transform back into places that you are more likely to have an enjoyable shopping experience. Well, most of them anyway. Welcome to 2016!
Before we dive head-first into our calendars, colored sharpies in hand ready to feverishly scribble our most anticipated titles into their relevant spaces, let’s take a quick look back over 2015 and the growth of the independent development scene before we go back to mulling over what to play next from our collective pile of shame.
It was quite the year as far as videogames go, there were titles that were in development for ages that truly lived up to their potential, some that perhaps missed their mark slightly but were still enjoyable nonetheless. There were also some that were a little more under the radar but still managed to impress me in a number of different ways.
It was a year that, even with all the usual top-tier, massive budget games on the shelves such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, smaller games managed to find a bigger audience.
This, I believe, is a good thing.
With digital distribution growing in popularity and becoming increasingly widely accepted across the globe, more people are jumping on board every day and also publishers are becoming more inclined and willing to produce retail copies of some of these lower budget efforts.
This, I believe, is a very good thing.
Games are becoming more diverse, which can only improve as time goes on. More subject matters are being touched upon, some of which are those which are only talked about in private conversations with your closest friends. It feels like the medium is growing up, not quite into full adulthood yet, where all subjects become fair game and can be treated with enough respect. It is however getting there, closer and closer every year. Gamers aren’t the social pariahs we once were, we’re not seen as equals yet, but things are improving and when games grow up, so too will the non-gaming public’s opinion of them.
This, I believe, is a very good thing.
In my opinion this can be mostly attributed to independent small teams and their ideas for a better tomorrow… of games.
2015 was a great year for these smaller games, here’s a list of the few I managed to get around to.
Contradiction: Spot the Liar! (iPad, PC, MAC)
Contradiction is a game that takes place almost entirely in video form, imagine you’re playing a darkly comic episode of Midsomer Murders and you’ll be most of the way there. It can be quite goofy at times which actually made me enjoy it all the more. Catching out interviewees in their lies via the contradictions (get it?!) in their testimonies always makes you feel good, like you figured it out and that your one step closer to solving a murder. Some of the characters are almost caricatures in their over-acting but that does nothing but add charm to them and to the game as a whole. Surprisingly great to play with a group!
Rocket League (PS4, PC) (Xbox One: Febuary)
It’s football (soccer), in cars, with rocket boosts and jumps. It really is some of the most fun I’ve had all year, coming for free in its month of release if you subscribed to PlayStation Plus I honestly didn’t expect all that much. What followed was 6 months of playing almost everyday so I could get a couple of matches in, with matches that only last 5 minutes, its easy to think “I’ve got an hour, should I start Fallout 4, or get a couple of games of Rocket League in?” The answer is almost always “ROCKET LEAGUE!”
Life is Strange (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
My favorite story in videogames last year. Time manipulation is the base mechanic at the center of this tale of Donnie Darko-esque impending doom, teen angst, bullying, and more. It’s a game full of choices that are actually meaningful, not arbitrary, making genuine impact on either the life your character Max(ine) or the lives of those around her. The subject matters it handles make it a somehow incredibly grounded tale despite occasional bouts of melodrama, the characters are taking it incredibly seriously and you in turn end up doing the same. Suicide and assisted suicide, whilst of course incredibly sensitive subjects are handled unbelievably well, especially given the context of a game built upon choices, it does not shy away from the mechanics in those dreadful situations, often forcing you to make very tough decisions, even those you might be uncomfortable with, yet I respect the game all the more for going there. You owe it to yourself to experience this story.
Life is Strange was initially released episodically, over the course of 5 episodes. You can purchase it episode by episode or it can be bought as a season for slightly cheaper. Jonny Robot reviewed Episode 1: Chrysalis shortly after its release earlier this year, it was featured on a Febuary episode of Player Attack TV!
Of course, there are far more than these scant few titles that have come from equally incredibly talented and hard-working developers just trying to make it amidst a plethora of likewise talented people, these were just a selection of those I managed to get around to and enjoyed.
Make 2016 the year that you decide to give independent games a chance, support the small development teams that will hopefully become tomorrow’s game-making giants, treat yourself to a good story, a challenge and a fresh perspective.
2016: A vote for Independents is a vote for the future.