2007: Year of the Year!
This is to be my final article for 2007, and as the year winds down to a calm denouement I want to put it to bed with the following proclamation: 2007 is my Year of the Year! I had entertained the idea for a while of imbuing any number of games with any number of epithets like Best FPS/MMO of the Year; or Best Game Featuring an Evil Fast Food Mascot; or maybe Best Aerodynamics in DVD Production, but it occurred to me recently, upon reading some wisely written words, that the only fair way to proclaim the best of anything is to have tried a statistically significant portion of what came before, and I'm a boy with limited time and attention. While I've played some absolutely stellar games this year, I have, employing a skill I learned when I was four, avoided other things that did not seem as fun to me like Puzzle Quest and books about accounting. My horizons are perhaps too firmly 'unbroadened' to be able to say that any one thing must be superior to all those other things over there in that bucket that I didn't even bother to look at. And, to be fair, I recognize that there are games others find fun, which I do not, and although it warps my world view like a fun-house mirror, I must entertain the possibility – in much the same way that science must at least entertain the possibility that light is a form of Jell-O – that other people are right and I am wrong.
But, years! Now, I've been through every year since Nixon left office and the BeeGees still seemed pretty cool, which makes me older than all current pop-stars and the modern age of video games. I am this close to declaring 2007 the best year for video games of all time, based solely on games like Bioshock, God of War II, Rock Band, Crysis, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, Portal, Metroid Prime Corruption, Team Fortress 2, Peggle, Crysis, Guitar Hero 2 (Xbox 360 edition), Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4, Jeanne D'arc, Crackdown, Super Mario Galaxy, The Witcher and a dozen other games I'm forgetting. It's nigh impossible to walk away from ought-seven and not feel like you got your money's worth. For that, I proclaim Two-Thousand-and-Seven, at the very least, my Year of the Year. Let's look back.
The year began inauspiciously enough with the release of Windows Vista, an operating system which may be even less popular now than in January. The sort of thing one apparently avoids like a tax audit, my few experiences with Vista have been unanimously annoying. It's not that the OS doesn't show promise, and perhaps as compatibility and performance improves there will be a compelling reason to shift over, but it seemed like Microsoft released a new OS just to do it, which is, in retrospect, a very Macintosh sort of thing to do. Speaking of which, Mac also made its own leap to start the year with Intel based machines that could officially support a Windows boot, which many purists probably avoided and the rest of the Mac-nation embraced, effectively increasing the potential software for their over-priced electronic desk sculptures by orders of magnitude.
My wife is a Mac person, and that last sentence is carefully designed to annoy her. Merry Christmas!
On a gaming front the year opened with the expansion of World of Warcraft into the untamed Outland, and by extension the filing of many forms for unemployment. As a decent measuring stick for the coming year, we could have done far worse, which we did the very next month with the release of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, a game for which my venom at the time could not have been too potent. It would be easy to forget that we actually had a reasonable Spring of gaming with titles like God of War II, Command and Conquer 3, Forza Motorsports, and Lord of the Rings Online, but to do so would be criminal. The fact is, we've enjoyed an extraordinary year of gaming from start to finish, and while the late summer months were predictably flat, the bookends of the year were cast from solid gaming gold.
2007, among its many achievements, brought us a rejuvenation of the PC with top-tier games and exclusives throughout the year. World of Warcraft and its expansion obviously describe a huge chunk of the PC gaming market, but with its return to campy FMV we got a taste of Command and Conquer 3, and though Valve released its overachieving Orange Box on consoles as well as personal computers, Team Fortress 2 just seemed at home with mouse and keyboard. World in Conflict, a game that deserved far more attention than it received, flung us into a late-80s Ruskie Invasion scenario, and Hellgate: London, for all its stumbling from the starting gate, is continuing to evolve into its own. And, if you had a PC somehow stolen from the future, you were able to play Crysis, as well as win any number of significant lottery jackpots.
Another defining trend of the year was the renaissance of the First Person Shooter, a lewd exploration of endless carnage with heavy caliber bullets, with the likes of TF2, Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, Halo 3, Bioshock, Unreal Tournament III, Call of Duty 4 and, again, Crysis leading the way. This genre, which I must admit to have assumed had recently signed a Do Not Resuscitate order, suddenly seems as virile and unapologetic as it did in the days of Quake and Doom.
But, our year was not just defined by the games we played but the news that, in the worst cases filtered down through carefully tuned PR channels and in the best cases came to us brash and naked, covered in Vasoline and tartar sauce speaking of unholy plastics. The Playstation 3 price drop debacles made for a nice blend of PR and crazy-town, as gamers rode approval and scorn like a roller-coaster launching between peaks and valleys a half-dozen times in an single week. The stories of Sigil employees being fired in a parking lot (only to be largely rehired by Sony later) and the nearly legendary Gerstmann firing at Gamespot stirred their own significant ruckuses (ruckesii?) that, if nothing else, gave us all a good opportunity to put on our self-righteous coats-of-many-colors and strut around as though we were gaily clad paragons of virtue. And, of course, we'll end up forgetting about both as quickly as we forgot about the Digg user revolt earlier this year over the pulling of DRM related articles. Electronic Arts bought out Bioware, and Vivendi bought Activision and gave it to Blizzard as what I assume is some kind of frat party gag gift. Wil Wheaton entertained at PAX, and E3 managed to fill the void left by the neutered E3.
But, in the end, this year is a symphony of memories for me, perhaps more populous and brighter than in recent years. Four player Rock Band. The first time I faced the choice of what to do with a Little Sister. My Heavy shouting "Cry some more!" while I dispatched fellow goodjers in TF2. Realizing it was three in the morning and I was playing Peggle. Coming through the clearing into the rising sun over a tropical paradise in Crysis. Standing at the Dark Portal waiting for the launch of The Burning Crusade. "It says so right here in your personnel file; 'Unlikable. Liked by no one. A bitter unlikable loner whose passing shall not be mourned.' SHALL NOT BE MOURNED." Leaping from building to building like some flubber-infused superhero in Crackdown. The Halo theme in the heat of combat, cheesy C&C FMV, hours lost to the growing joy of casual games and more.
I say unto you, 2007, you were greater than your peers and your passing shall be mourned.