2014 in review: Games4Life’s best reports cover war, flood, The Hobbit and Satan’s schemings
Looking back over a year’s worth of news, a lot happened in 2014.
Studios fell apart, others rose from the ashes. Game makers worked through war, floods, even — according to one team — the schemings of Satan.
Gamers celebrated the history of games in art, in museums; we even dug some of it up and sold it on eBay.
But most noticeable among the many trends in video game culture this year was the rise of the gamer themselves. We watched as eSports continued to blossom, tracked down the first million-point Xbox Live achiever, celebrated with the fans of Tecmo Bowl and the Gran Turismo players turned professional racers. Ghost stories of Kinect as spirit tracker intrigued us and, I’ll be the first to admit, the tale of a soldier who grew closer to his son through games made us cry.
This year was an amazing year for games, made all the more amazing by the people who make and play them. Over the course of nearly the entire year, Games4Life and its staff investigated, interviewed and wrote more than 200 reports.
Reports are the sort of stories that usually involve a bit more leg work, a few more interviews, to get to the story that counts.
Below you’ll find a sampling of some of those works, more than 30, arranged by the month in which they were published. Take a moment over the holidays to sit down and read them. I think you’ll enjoy what you find.
The 50 gaming newsmakers who shaped 2013
Festooned with the launches of two major consoles from Sony and Microsoft, 2013 was always going to be a memorable year for gaming. But it wasn’t just the machinations of massive corporations that shaped the last 12 months.
Much of the news last year was drafted on social media, around creative individuals who have managed to make wondrous things that have become popular by force of public will, rather than via marketing might.
2014’s most innovative games by the people making them
“We’re working on some of the most ambitious content I’ve ever had the pleasure to think about,” said Destiny design lead Lars Bakken. “We’re taking a lot of cues from other genres and combining them in ways that make players rethink how deep an action-oriented first person game can be. A kick-ass shooter that has RPG elements, character customization, menacing alien combatants, a killer story, matchmade co-op activities, challenging end-game content, competitive multiplayer, and is tied together in a persistent world where I run across other real players as part of my daily routine.”
Ukrainian game devs in the thick of violent protests
Arteym Luxenburg, one of Excalibur’s four developers, provided pictures of the scene as it was the night of Feb. 20. Piles of shipping pallets and old tires formed a layer of defense against what he calls “government bandits.” He and other citizens were bracing for a counterattack when he says that the Ukrainian army and the local police came to their aid.
The final years of Irrational Games, according to those who were there
When the studio’s co-founder and president, Ken Levine, invited the team of nearly 100 employees into a meeting about the company’s history last month, many were surprised to realize, as the presentation progressed, that this very history was coming to an end.
Abraham game makers believe they are in a fight with Satan
“I need to be clear on this point: Are you telling me that Satan is literally working to confound your plans to release this game? You’re saying that the actual Devil is scheming against you?”
What is Bruce Lee doing in a UFC video game?
“We understand that the UFC has fans of that sport, and Bruce Lee fans are fans of Bruce Lee, and people are protective of Bruce Lee, and people are protective of the UFC,” Shannon Lee, the daughter of the martial arts icon, told Games4Life. “But when this opportunity came about, I thought, you know, it’s a video game, and it’s an opportunity to live out a fight fantasy. People are always saying, ‘How would Bruce Lee have done in the octagon?’ Well, they can find out.”
The people who stare at video games
Jon Bailey, the tournament’s director, could not see either of the the participants, the crowd was so thick around the main competition screen at Badger Bowl, Tecmo Madison’s home. “As I’m looking out over a sea of people, my job is to make sure James and Matt are at the TV. And I can’t pick them out of the crowd.
How GT Academy’s growing legacy is legitimizing the Gran Turismo program
In the long history of simulation sports video games, the Gran Turismo series stands alone: It’s the only one that offers a path from playing the game to partaking in the sport professionally.
Why E.T. wasn’t the worst game in history
Howard Scott Warshaw is a man with many achievements to his name: licensed psychotherapist, published author, award-winning documentarian, former real-estate broker and developer of the supposedly worst video game ever made: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600.
Meet the Kickstarter whales, the people who spend $10,000, $100,000 to launch dreams
There’s a part of every Kickstarter page where giant, leaping whales cavort among their merry waves of moolah.
This is the place where the $10,000 backer level lives, for those with the wealth and the commitment to drop that sort of cash. If you’re an average American, $10,000 is about three months worth of post-tax household income, but if you’re a Kickstarter whale, it’s a top-level treat tied to the project or producer you really care about.
How chess shows that gender segregation in eSports might encourage more female leagues
Chess historically has featured gender-segregated tournaments; This has nothing to do with differences in skill levels between the genders, however, MindSports International development manager and chess coach Eduardo Sajgalik tells us. Rather it’s the best method of helping smaller demographics grow.
Dwarf Fortress will crush your CPU because creating history is hard
Like much of the collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Dwarf Fortress is a baffling, inscrutable mess. But with proper interpretation, even the most intimidating forms can provide for moments of admiration.
Games4Life sat down with one of the creators of Dwarf Fortress, Tarn Adams, to talk about his work. We wanted to take just a piece of the whole — world creation — and unpack it. To make it digestible.
There and back again: A history of the Lord of the Rings in video games
“As far as I am concerned personally, I should welcome the idea of an animated motion picture, with all the risk of vulgarization,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a letter to a friend, taken from Humphrey Carpenter’s collection The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, “though on the brink of retirement that is not an unpleasant possibility.”
In subsequent letters to his family and friends, Tolkien expressed both hesitance and excitement at the prospect of Hollywood adopting his Hobbits and magical rings for the silver screen. He passed away in 1973 — before the release of the now-famous Rankin/Bass Productions and Ralph Bakshi adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, respectively — and left his youngest son, Christopher Tolkien, to surmount the next big media mountain: making his father’s works into interactive experiences.
Less than 10 years later, video games began their bumbling trek through Middle-earth.
The science of fear: How to measure scares in gaming
From the lackluster scares of Resident Evil 5 to looping dread of P.T., fluctuations in the quality of horror games have made the genre a notoriously unreliable venture. But what if you could ensure your video game would feature genuine scares?
How first-person shooter fatigue led to the serene beauty of Adrift
Serene, thought-provoking, almost meditative at times — the first video game from fledgling studio ThreeOneZero owes its impetus not to the lingering space drama Gravity, to which it bears a striking resemblance, but to a complete opposite: the white-knuckled gunplay of virtual war.
Human Rights Watch would prefer we not have to go back in time to stop killer robots
With today’s technology, with our electro-optical devices, advanced computers and robotic systems it is possible to bring these kinds of autonomous weapons systems into reality. And for that reason a team at Human Rights Watch has launched the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
Laugh all you like. It’s a subject that even Stephen Hawking is thinking about.
Mary Wareham, advocacy director of HRW’s arms division, is deadly serious about stopping killer robots before it’s too late.
Hatred, free speech and one developer’s connections with Poland’s far right
In an effort to learn more about the social landscape in Poland, and to properly understand the political leanings of several members of the Hatred development team, Games4Life reached out to Never Again, an organization that monitors Polish hate groups. They describe the groups which members of the Hatred team “like” on Facebook as racist, neo-fascist and violent.
This piece is part of Games4Life’s 2014 in Review series. Throughout December we’ll be exploring the games, people and events that shaped gaming in the past year. You can check out more 2014 in Review stories in our StoryStream.