2005 - a brief inaccurate history

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have "… the 2005 year-in-review. Or, more accurately, the highly biased, completely subjective, and woefully incomplete Elysium-flavored look back at 2005. Writing for a website such as ours, you are always faced with the choice of slaving over the keyboard to create clever and engaging content, or writing easily familiar and formulaic pieces that depend on established clichés. Sometimes you are strong, and other times you are weak. Sometimes you take the road less traveled by, and other times you realize the DMV hasn't paved the road less traveled by in twenty years and there are no good fast food joints where you can grab a burger. You get where this is going, right? Clicheville.

I'm hoping my self-effacing manner will disarm your well manicured cynicism. And, now I'm hoping that my unrestrained honesty is refreshing and will augment my established self-criticism, mitigating the complete averageness of my concept. Now, my postmodern authorial monologue is probably just getting on everyone's nerves. Let's just roll this thing, shall we?

2005, the highlights and lowlights:

Jack Thompson:
I love Jack Thompson. Really, I do. I love him in the way that professional impersonators love Jack Nicholson, as a wonderfully iconic but ultimately impotent target of limitless material. I've never met the man, had a conversation with him, or had the inclination to engage in either activity. After all, every indication is that he's a delusional jerk with a sharpened sense of moral superiority and a law degree that was, perhaps, given to him by accident. Whether that perception remains accurate should you sit down to Christmas dinner with the guy is completely irrelevant to me. He is to gaming as Bill O'Reilly is to politics, or journalism, or western civilization, a person so repugnant in his public persona that to imagine him as anything civil or likeable in his personal life is like trying to draw a four dimensional shape. Is that fair? I don't care; I'm a guy who runs a small gaming website, and he's some media chasing lawyer with an ego problem and a functional impairment with reality.

Jack Thompson is the PETA of the anti-video-games movement, a figure that can't even seem to get what should be his most ardent supporters from backing slowly away like a guy that accidentally walks into an Ani DiFranco concert wearing a No Fat Chicks shirt. And yet, through his sheer force of narcissistic will, Thompson has wedged himself into the role of spokesperson for those seeking to legislate the videogame industry, and as gamers that's a great thing for us. Should that movement ever find someone reasonable, informed, and charismatic to spearhead their legislative and public relations efforts, the gaming industry might find itself in a publicity fight doomed to failure. Thank God we can rely on Jack Thompson to be such an incompetent and unpleasant figurehead!

We love you, Jack. Seriously.

Serenity: You're crazy if you didn't think I was going to include this film.

As many of you are painfully aware, Serenity and Firefly discussion dominated our forums this year. Woe unto thee that breathed ill of her stalwart crew, and long may your bunions ache thou whoest says nay of the Whedon. But, lo the unwashed heathens that did cast their ducats upon lesser films, verily they shall be smote. And yay, tho I walk through the valley of cancellation, I shall fear no Fox Executive. Well, if we're to be accused of turning this stuff into a religion, then we might as well ride that train full speed straight into the station.

Serenity, despite the nonsensical and notably isolated ravings of one immense forum primate, was an outstanding movie. This is not an opinion, but an empirical fact. You might as well try to convince Jean-Paul Sartre to adopt a Positivist methodology as try and tell me that Serenity didn't f'ing rock.

And, though movies like Hitch and The Longest Yard remake managed to gross well over 100 million each, Serenity "… um, didn't. No, Serenity made only 25 million back during its domestic release against its 40 million dollar budget, which makes it neither a flop – unlike Doom the movie which ended its US run at only 28 million off a 70 million dollar budget. Eat it, Dwayne! – nor a particularly successful movie. What this means for the future of the franchise is anybody's guess, though it seems that most of the anybodies with a reasonable, informed, or objective perspective suggest that this, truly, is the end.

I say screw those guys. Who's camping out with me for Serenity 2?

Nintendo: It's hard not to start getting excited about Nintendo, and this from someone who had virtually zero faith in the company as it launched the DS last year. Nintendo may be busy milking tired franchises as it lets the Gamecube slip into a well-deserved obscurity, but the strategies it's employing in the handheld and next-gen market smack of greatness.

The DS spent much of this year soundly trouncing Sony's far flashier and higher-tech machine, by making strides where it counts: gameplay and diversity. As developers finally devised clever and fun gameplay interfaces that matched Nintendo's unusual system, the overall creativity and fun-factor of the DS's offering increased. The DS has become virtually the only system on the market with something new, innovative, and worthwhile to consistently offer. It's not just that the control medium forces developers to expand their horizons, which, frankly, would be good enough considering the stale cookie cutter methods of design across other platforms lately, but the system itself seems to invite creativity from developers in every facet of the process. Games on the DS are often not unique only for their implementation of the stylus, but also their presentation, gameplay, and concept. It may simply be that engaging developers by forcing them to take nothing for granted, has opened the door on creative output.

Better still, Nintendo seems ready to engender that same style of daring and creativity in the Revolution. With an absolutely brilliant controller, and a focus on accessibility above techno-stats, the Revolution is distancing itself from the more-of-the-same with more textures mentality of the PS3 and Xbox 360, and instead seems to be trying to do something inventive with gaming.

Obviously, this is a tactic met largely with scorn from a gaming public that places far too much value on texture mapping and poly counts, but I think it's kind of a neat idea anyway.

Sony: While Electronic Arts has become public massive corporation enemy number one for gamers, and not without good reason, Sony has been all over the place this year. Kicking off the spring with a huge portable launch that was destined to redistribute the handheld wealth forever, the PSP exploded on the scene and then just kind of sat there looking at us. With a remarkable string of outstandingly average games, tired franchises, and firmware updates that crippled the best reason to buy a PSP, emulation, the system was quickly and surprisingly obscured by a Nintendo DS that hit its stride. Granted, it plays movies, but so does my portable DVD player. On a larger screen. Without running out of battery quite so quick.

But, the PSP was just the beginning for Sony, as they prepared to whip consumers into a lathered fit of Playstation brand loyalty and enthusiasm. Sony employed amazing new marketing strategies that mere mortals like myself obviously can't comprehend, because it seems to me all they've done is create fictional and inconsistent promises, withold any kind of gameplay footage, and tell us all to expect some overtime work to afford the PS3. Hooray for Sony!

Sony, which still claims the PS3 will launch in Spring 2006, is either a) lying, or b) has come up with a new marketing strategy for launching a console not unlike the methods employed in putting together a surprise birthday party. Who knows, maybe next March I'll walk into a Best Buy one morning, and all the lights will be off. Then, suddenly, blue-shirted employees will leap out from behind cashwraps, standees, and end caps wearing party hats, blowing noisemakers, and holding PS3 boxes. But, to be honest, I'm leaning toward the former theory, and don't expect to see the system for at least a year.

Also, nice job Sony, on exposing millions of computers to viruses and identity theft with your overreaching efforts to subvert fair-use laws. Fight the power!

Xbox 360: Ugh, I hate to even talk about it, that's how tired I am of hearing about the 360. I mean, what can I say about the 360 that hasn't already been said? Well, I suppose there are any number of things I could say, like: Every 360th Xbox 360 is armed with puppy killing death pheromones, or the 360 is colored white because J. Allard is a screaming racist, or that Xbox Live's network has grown so vast and sophisticated that it became self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. Unfortunately none of these things would be true.

Here's the skinny. It was a bad launch with not enough product to satisfy demanding consumers. I'm just going to check my Big Book of Painfully Obvious Events here and "… yes, that's a solid description of every single significant console launch of the past two decades. Shame on us for being surprised.

Games of 2005:

The Elysium Game of the Year – World of Warcraft: Oh, I hear all you purists now, calling foul. You say WoW wasn't even released in 2005, or that's it's the dumbed down, overhyped, childish step cousin of a real man's MMO. Well, let's check with the judges. Judges?

Year-in-Review bylaws Article 1, first paragraph: "Elysium can choose whatever the hell he likes, and if you don't like it, you can bite him."

There were plenty of good to great games in 2005, but nothing dominated my time like World of Warcraft. A completely absorbing game; a life consuming, mind altering piece of work, against which all other titles were barely passing interests against the colorful backdrop –

Oh, OK! Fine, I'll pick another game.

The Actual Elysium Game of the Year 2005 – Civilization IV: It's really quite something to take one of PC gaming's most storied franchises from one of PC gaming's all-time great designers and not just breathe new life into the series, but create a game that surpasses its predecessors entirely. This is exactly what Civilization III did not do. Not by a long shot.

That's why I really wasn't anticipating this fourth iteration quite so much. Oh, what a pleasant surprise. Civilization IV is so impossibly good, that I'm willing to wait as much as an hour in the multiplayer lobby for Fletcher to figure out what's wrong with his connection this time, as Gaald offers well-meaning, but ultimately fruitless advice, just for the opportunity to play. This is made all the more remarkable when you think about how much World of Warcraft I could've played while waiting!

Any game where the phrase "Sextown founds Buddhism" might appear, is by definition an instant classic.

Honorable Mentions:

God of War: A premier example of how to craft an action game on a console. Bloody, engaging, and intense, God of War is like Ninja Gaiden, only they replaced the frustration with fun.

Psychonauts: A game that harkens to better days of gaming. Clever. Quirky. Inventive. Fun. Naturally, regurgitated franchises with minimal improvements sold far better.

Well, I could go on and on about 2005, with no lack of material. I didn't even touch the EB/Gamestop merger, or the Hot Coffee mod, or Mark Rein, or Katrina and so-on. I invite you, if you're so inclined, to think of your own high(low)lights of 2005, craft witty acerbic banter on the topic, and post it below so that all may bask in the cynical glory of your insight. Frankly, just thinking on the topic has left me tired of 2005.

So, with that I sign off and leave you to enjoy the final icy days of the year. I'll see you all in the bright promising future of 2006. Til then, stay gold, Ponyboy.

- Elysium

Comments

God of War is like Ninja Gaiden, only they replaced the frustration with fun.

Terrible!

Anyway, I think the highlight of this year, for me, has to have been the whole Killzone 2 trailer thing. Never has one short piece of video sparked so many UTTERLY FANTASTIC forum arguments. Everything from sexuality to eyesight to technical knowlege to sexuality was questioned in this no holds barred, fish-hooking encouraged brawl.

I haven't played a single one of the games you mentioned.

God of War looked cool, but not buy-a-ps2 cool.

Elysium wrote:

Jack Thompson is the PETA of the anti-video-games movement, a figure that can't even seem to get what should be his most ardent supporters from backing slowly away like a guy that accidentally walks into an Ani DiFranco concert wearing a No Fat Chicks shirt.

Nice

Someone should make Readers Digest versions of these.

I may just have to give Civ 4 a shot.

God of War was not buy-a-ps2 quality game. For one it was way to short. Maybe a rent, as it will give you about 12 hours of amazing gameplay.

Civilization IV is so impossibly good, that I'm willing to wait as much as an hour in the multiplayer lobby for Fletcher to figure out what's wrong with his connection this time, as Gaald offers well-meaning, but ultimately fruitless advice, just for the opportunity to play.

You forgot to mention the part where the advice is often the solution but only gets followed when Certis repeats it 15 minutes later and than takes all the credit for coming up with the idea. That never gets old.

Great article. I too am really excited about the Nintendo Revolution. After seeing what the DS has done for gaming invotation I can only hope the Revolution will force gaming inovation even more.

Too short, Elysium. I want more. Don't string me along for a bit with your very fine material, then just leave me hanging like that. It's not right.

I say screw those guys. Who's camping out with me for Serenity 2?

I'll get my coat, my brown coat.

Quote:
I say screw those guys. Who's camping out with me for Serenity 2?
I'll get my coat, my brown coat.

I'll call up my Companion ex-girlfriend that I still have feelings for.

Edit- Great article Elysium! The Jack Thompson section was writing perfection.

Deadend wrote:

I may just have to give Civ 4 a shot.

God of War was not buy-a-ps2 quality game. For one it was way to short. Maybe a rent, as it will give you about 12 hours of amazing gameplay.

I mean, how long do you want an action game to be? Part of the reason God of War is so good is because it stays fresh all throughout, and you never get sick of the gameplay mechanics. Many times longer action games get criticized for dragging on too long, losing their novelty, containing a bunch of filler, etc. Woe is a game designer. Even if your game is a 10 out of 10, someone's gonna complain.

As for your game of the year, Elysium, I didn't even know you played World of Warcraft. Not that I'm some encyclopedia on all things Elysium, but I never saw you mention it in any of your articles this year. What type of characters do you have? I'm thinking about getting back into WoW. I left back in April with a 59 Hunter. Makes me kinda wanna get in there and try out some Battlegrounds.

my take on the above:

this jack thompson crap is the gaming industry's CNN moment, i.e. making the news rather then reporting it. he was/is/and will be a nobody, if anything, the gaming industry gave him credibility, and probably some book deal.

serenity was great, better then the new star wars junk.

nintendo, well, they're still nintendo, marching to the tune of their own drummer, all the more power to them for not being like the other 2.

sony, well, they need a serious bitchslapping, acting like one of those overly feminine hysterical gay men (visualize) after finding out his favorite pink slippers got wet.

360, like putting a v8 into a repainted ford focus, still a sh*tty car which will deliver sh*tty results (game quality), just now with more noise/smoke/heat.

WoW, the "aim it for the middle school audience" in complexity formula seems to be paying off, but seeing how in this country that is the average intelligence level of the typical consumer, it makes sense that its such a success.

Civ4, none of them were my cup of tea, i'll pass on passing judgement.

God of War, looked interesting, was going to get it for my little brother, but then saw the rating and decided to skip it.

Psychonauts, tries too hard to be different.

WoW, the "aim it for the middle school audience" in complexity formula seems to be paying off, but seeing how in this country that is the average intelligence level of the typical consumer, it makes sense that its such a success.

Now now...you can say you're not into a game without trying to insult those who play it.

God of War: ...Bloody, engaging, and intense, God of War is like Ninja Gaiden, only they replaced the frustration with fun.

I would agree with the notion that God of War is more fun... but that would force me to forget how painfully frustrating the game became half way in to it. I think once you get to the Pandora's Box... developers didn't know how to finish the game. There fore we got blender level, cheap clone fight and horrible last boss. I never actually threw my controller before"… even when playing Ninja Gaiden but the last two major fights made me do just that. Although I'm a Ninja Gaiden fan, I think that it's a great and fun game"… it does have flaws as well but not as bad as GoW.

hubbinsd wrote:

Now now...you can say you're not into a game without trying to insult those who play it.

Have been to the Internet before? If this is your first time, welcome! Sharpen your insult stick and oil your ego armor, you're gonna need it!

Elysium wrote:

Also, nice job Sony, on exposing millions of computers to viruses and identity theft with your overreaching efforts to subvert fair-use laws. Fight the power!

Perhaps I'm not familiar with this situation? I understand all the other Sony complaints, but could someone explain this one to me?

Luda wrote:
Deadend wrote:

I may just have to give Civ 4 a shot.

God of War was not buy-a-ps2 quality game. For one it was way to short. Maybe a rent, as it will give you about 12 hours of amazing gameplay.

I mean, how long do you want an action game to be? Part of the reason God of War is so good is because it stays fresh all throughout, and you never get sick of the gameplay mechanics. Many times longer action games get criticized for dragging on too long, losing their novelty, containing a bunch of filler, etc. Woe is a game designer. Even if your game is a 10 out of 10, someone's gonna complain.

That is quite true, but a game that sells systems should generally last a little bit longer. Resident Evil 4, now that is a system seller. The game did have some frustrating bits, and the Aeries fight could be one easily, by using cheap tactics and turtling, which is just wrong. End bosses should be defeated by pumping the style to 11, not turtle-fighting.

araczynski wrote:

360, like putting a v8 into a repainted ford focus, still a sh*tty car which will deliver sh*tty results (game quality), just now with more noise/smoke/heat.

I'm curious to hear you elaborate on this. Have you curb-stomped yours yet? Do you own one? There's a lot of rage for a machine many of us are very content with.

WoW, the "aim it for the middle school audience" in complexity formula seems to be paying off, but seeing how in this country that is the average intelligence level of the typical consumer, it makes sense that its such a success.

I've had a great time playing this game and reading about all the best gear combinations, stat crunching, and boss strategies. What makes WoW so kindergarten compared to 95% of the other games out there?

Great article, and very fun to read. I wish there was more. But Psychonauts? For real? Psychonauts? I started playing this game this week and after a few hours with it I decided to seek out every mention of its supposed-greatness on the interthing and just ask the following...

Psychonauts? For real? Great? Are you sure you really meant Psychonauts?

araczynski wrote:

...stuff and things...

Sumbuddy's gwumpy!

Luda wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Also, nice job Sony, on exposing millions of computers to viruses and identity theft with your overreaching efforts to subvert fair-use laws. Fight the power!

Perhaps I'm not familiar with this situation? I understand all the other Sony complaints, but could someone explain this one to me?

http://www.sysinternals.com/blog/200...

Psychonauts? For real? Great? Are you sure you really meant Psychonauts?

Did you get past the coach's training level? Some of the later levels are really brilliant, when you start going into random people's heads.

Also it was different in a year of sameness, which really tends to excite people.

Boy I forgot about the coach's level-- I think that was the worst part of the game. After that, it's a lot of fun.

Luda wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Also, nice job Sony, on exposing millions of computers to viruses and identity theft with your overreaching efforts to subvert fair-use laws. Fight the power!

Perhaps I'm not familiar with this situation? I understand all the other Sony complaints, but could someone explain this one to me?

The rootkit problem.

Part of the reason God of War is so good is because it stays fresh all throughout, and you never get sick of the gameplay mechanics.

Exactly. I thought God of War's length was perfect.

What type of characters do you have? I'm thinking about getting back into WoW. I left back in April with a 59 Hunter.

You know, I really haven't mentioned it much on the front page. I have, however, been playing pretty regularly since I left EB this spring. I never had time to play while running the shop, and really was burned out on everything gaming. This was my gateway drug back in. I have a 60 Tauren Hunter named Glyson on the Blackhand server.

Deadend wrote:

I may just have to give Civ 4 a shot.

Try the demo. It's got both the tutorial and a limited number-of-turns game. It confirmed for me that I really just am not into turn-based strategy games, but to each his/her own.
----------------------------------

Elysium wrote:

Elysium can choose whatever the hell he likes, and if you don't like it, you can bite him.

Oh you tease!

World of Warcraft: Oh, I hear all you purists now, calling foul. You say WoW wasn't even released in 2005, or that's it's the dumbed down, overhyped, childish step cousin of a real man's MMO. Well, let's check with the judges. Judges?

Ok then, let the "real" men play the buggy, poorly designed, boring, content-starved job - uh, I mean "games"; us "plastic" people will continue to enjoy WoW.

It's not their fault someone finally figured out how to make a MMORPG. No complaints on a 2004 game being nominated here. "It's just an article, dammit....it's just an article!"

Mixolyde wrote:
hubbinsd wrote:

Now now...you can say you're not into a game without trying to insult those who play it.

Have been to the Internet before? If this is your first time, welcome! Sharpen your insult stick and oil your ego armor, you're gonna need it!

It's not the Internet, It's Gee-Double yew- Jay (cue HBO theme music).

WoW has thus far kept me from devoting much time to Civ IV. I just hope y'all are still playing multiplayer once I let it sink its hooks in!

Luda wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Also, nice job Sony, on exposing millions of computers to viruses and identity theft with your overreaching efforts to subvert fair-use laws. Fight the power!

Perhaps I'm not familiar with this situation? I understand all the other Sony complaints, but could someone explain this one to me?

I know others have responded to this already, but you can find some very thorough and interesting coverage of this story over at the Digital Culture/Digital Rights/Random Crap blog http://www.boingboing.net/. Actually, Boing Boing in general is a must read for anyone who is interested in the culture of the Internet. Their sociologist's approach to the "Random Links" blogging genre is also very refreshing, especially once you tire of the witty headlines at http://fark.com.

Point of fact is, I bought a PS2 precisely to play God Of War myself (well, and to play Ico and Shadow Of Colossus with my son).

Also, Serenity sucks.

WoW, the "aim it for the middle school audience" in complexity formula seems to be paying off, but seeing how in this country that is the average intelligence level of the typical consumer, it makes sense that its such a success.

dunno...some say I'm a pretty smart guy...savy gamer and I find WoW to be (so far) the ultimate MMORPG simply because it bridges the gap between hardcore and casual better than anyother game so far.. it allows all types to play together and have a good time..

If that makes me an "average intelligence" person then so be it.

360, like putting a v8 into a repainted ford focus, still a sh*tty car which will deliver sh*tty results (game quality), just now with more noise/smoke/heat.

Hilarious.. I love how Nintendo who doesnt have top of the line hardware specs can immediatly deliver "great games" but somehow Microsoft having top of the line specs means "a sh*tty quality game"

Get a clue.

TheGameguru wrote:

Hilarious.. I love how Nintendo who doesnt have top of the line hardware specs can immediatly deliver "great games" but somehow Microsoft having top of the line specs means "a sh*tty quality game"

Get a clue.

GG, you've really got to tone down the condescending attitude, it's been driving me nuts lately. You're usually alright, but between this and the use of the word "smartypants" the other day, you're getting a bit... overboard.

"smartypants"

smartypants was toning it down...you should have seen what I wrote before

I simply resent the tone that if one enjoys WoW they must be of middle school level intelligence....when clearly I'm around high school level.