By Matt Gerardi
Happy New Year from everyone here at the New York Videogame Critics Circle, and welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. This week, we’re kicking of 2020 by digging into our members’ looks back at the year (and decade) that was. Plus, we excitedly look a few weeks forward to our New York Game Awards!
The Roundup may be back from its brief holiday break, but most publications around the web are still in deep post-GOTY hibernation. So today, we’ll spend most of the column dipping into our writers’ end-of-the-year (and end-of-the-decade) retrospectives. First up is Whitney Meers’ list of the 2019’s biggest, most memorable esports moments. Sure, you’ve got massive wins, like 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf coming out atop the first ever Fortnite world cup and the San Francisco Shock dominating the Overwatch League grand finals with a brutal shutout, but there were also plenty of emotional moments brimming with cultural meaning: Pakistan’s Arslan Ash emerging as a global Tekken master and putting his country’s competitive scene on the map, Xiaomeng “VKLiooon” Li becoming the first woman to win the Hearthstone Global Championship, and more.
Austin Walker and the rest of the Waypoint crew unleashed a barrage of Game of the Year podcasts over the past two weeks, featuring fantastic discussions on their favorite releases of the year and decade, plus a few more unusual, super-specific topics. What was the best Dark Souls/Souls-adjacent game of the decade? What was the best immersive sim of the decade and could it possibly have been The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild?
At Geek.Com, Jordan Minor dropped a double best-of on us. First, he lays out his top ten of the year, a great list full of fun, unconventional choices. Then, it’s his top ten of the decade, with Jordan piecing together a wonderfully eclectic list with at least one brilliant, off-the-board pick.
And for The Washington Post’s Launcher, Harold Goldberg ran down his list of the 10 best virtual reality games of the year. Noting that this is the year “the medium’s promise is finally being met,” Harold broke down the most inventive and engrossing games from across VR’s multiple platforms. Oculus’ major banner releases, Vader Immortal and Asgard’s Wrath, secured top spots, but it was also another big year for the PlayStation VR, with its range of polished and varied exclusives dominating the top 10.
Finally, at CNBC, Annie Pei walked readers through the massive transformation games and gaming culture have gone through in the last decade as social media, esports, livestreaming, and free-to-play all emerged and coalesced into a paradigm-shifting force. It’s led to a radically different-looking industry then we had at the start of the decade, she and her sources argue, one where games can have much longer shelf lives and publishers speak directly to their players, whether through their own digital channels, esports events, or even Twitch stars. “All of these factors, along with technological developments behind gaming […] mean that the next games will have differing success criteria that are often unpredictable as the space rapidly evolves,” she wrote.
This week, the Critics Circle was pleased to announce the full list of nominees for every category (other than our journalism award) at our upcoming 2020 New York Videogame Awards. It’s a beautifully varied list this year, and with Reggie Fils-Aimé on hand to receive our legend award, it’s lining up to be a fantastic show. You can get your tickets now – all of which include promotional game codes and entry into the afterparty (with free drinks for those over 21) – right here.
From Beyond The Circle
As the calendars turn to 2020, we’re less than a year away from the commercial videogame industry reaching its 50th anniversary (assuming you count Computer Space as the starting point). Those years have, of course, been colored by incredible growth and change, but the question of who is and who should be documenting that history has been a constant source of concern. As the new decade begins, The Hollywood Reporter put together a solid overview of the challenges facing game preservation and some of the most influential institutions attempting to tackle them. Author Patrick Shanley spoke with directors of the Strong Museum of Play and the Video Game History Foundation about their efforts and the complete lack of interest game publishers have shown toward preserving their histories—at least, outside their own walls. Fittingly, none of the publishers Shanley reached out to for comment responded, nor did the ESA.
Speaking of preserving the history and stories of games, Polygon’s Colin Campbell did a great job of doing just that with his recently published profile of the late, uncelebrated developer behind the original Castle Wolfenstein. Today, Wolfenstein has grown into a bold blockbuster series, but nearly three decades ago, it began as the biggest project of a three-person PC development team and a gifted programmer/designer named Silas Warner. Campbell spoke with Warner’s widow and other people who were close to him to put together the story of his early life and love of computers, and how, after hitting it big, he drifted away from games and struggled with his health.
And for one last specialized decade-in-gaming retrospective, we turn to RADII, a publication aimed at promoting life and culture inside China without the influence of the state’s regime. Writer Krish Raghav assembled a list of 10 Chinese-made games that he argues defined the country’s output and gaming culture. It’s an enlightening look at a frequently misunderstood market, featuring games that were huge hits both inside and outside China, as well as a special shout out to two soon to be released indies with crossover potential.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next week.
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.