We here at Perpetual Geek Machine think life as a nerd has been pretty spectacular in 2012. Great movies, games, tv shows and more. We’ve made friends with Nicole Kline, and then put her to work writing here! Rich got engaged, Dan bought a house. There’s a good chance Ryan and/or Bryan did something adorably Canadian. Kevin spent most of the year brewing beer and Adam made it through the latest Mayan apocalypse mostly unscathed!
Just like last year to celebrate the end of this trip round the sun we got together to run down our top 5 favorite things of the year. We then presented those during part 1 of our spectacular year end podcast. In part 2 of that podcast we whittle out lists down to a Top 5 to represent the site as a whole, and then 1 singular item that is Perpetual Geek Machine’s favorite thing of 2012. Last year The Muppets was our winner. What will take the crown this year? Listen to the podcast to find out!
5. The Double Fine Kickstarter.
I’ve never shied away from my love of the old school point and click adventure game, and my unabashed love for Tim Schafer of Double Fine games is something I’m quick to point out as often as I can. His time as Lucasarts helped turn out Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle… these are some of my favorite games of all time.
While I love that Telltale Games was giving it the old college try in bringing back Sam and Max I had to admit to myself what I was afraid might be true, that the adventure games I loved so much just didn’t have a market anymore, that like a silent film maybe their time had simply passed. Maybe it was time to just forget about getting a well funded and well produced one into the marketplace. Hell, no publisher was willing to give adventure game maestro Schafer the financing to do it, then clearly the big-wigs know what’s what… right?
In comes Kickstarter, and the ability for Double Fine and Schafer to speak directly to the fans that have been begging him to make an adventure game for YEARS. No company would believe in him and front the money, but maybe the fans could crowdsource enough to eek out a tiny game. He asked for 300k, the community responded with 3.3 million. Adventure games weren’t dead, and in addition an entire industry realized there’s another way to raise money to make games, and robbed the powers that be of a little of their power in the process.
4. Super Hexagon
I respect a game that respects me, hands down. I don’t care if it’s devilishly hard, I admire the audacity to throw that kind of challenge at me this day and age. We’re complacent, us gamers in 2012. Million of continues, hours long tutorials, constant handholding, time rewinding, player assists, etc. Somewhere in the evolution of games someone somewhere decided you can dumb it down to make it palatable to more people, and therefore sell more copies. But we lost something in that process.
Super Hexagon reminds us in one second that we’re fallable, and human. The game is not there to make us feel better about ourselves by pandering. No stupid pat on the head and a “good job buddy!” chime to cause you to bark like Pavlov’s dog. Aren’t we better than that? Isn’t there a greater thrill in conquering rather than having victory handed to us? Super Hexagon will make you wish you never asked that question, and it will kick you in the teeth over and over and over and over for thinking it.
You’re going to fail at Super Hexagon, that much is guaranteed, it’s only a matter of how long you can put off the inevitable. So “conquering” Super Hexagon really means lasting longer than you have before. In the beginning, you’ll last around 2 seconds. Then maybe 4-5. Eventually you’ll feel incredible when you hit 10, and like a god when you cross 20 seconds. Pound your head against it long enough and you just might hit 60 seconds, at which point you get the achievement… and then a MUCH harder difficulty opens up. Rinse and repeat for even harder runs. Bear in mind the game starts on hard and gets tougher from there.
Super Hexagon does not suffer fools easily, and makes you pay for every single tiny mistake you make you a soul-crushing game over break. No continues, no second lives, no rewinding, no nothing. You mess up, and you start over. The defeats are many, the victories fleeting. But oh man, the elation at those highs is oh so sweeter for having lived through the lows.
3. The Walking Dead video game
Until very recently, the statement “Game X has a really good story!” really silently included “Ya, know… for a video game.” Even the best examples we had to offer up typically were pretty terrible, just better than usual. Then The Walking Dead shows up, sort of out of nowhere. Telltale Games had been foundering a bit as of late. The Back to the Future games were largely a miss, and the Jurassic Park game was god-awful TERRIBLE. I’m a lover of the Walking Dead comic and show, but after the last few outings I just didn’t see Telltale doing much.
The Walking Dead not only offers players a legitimate honest to goodness great story, the tale is told in such a way that you feel like it’s being created just for you based on your choices. And oh what terrible choices they are. Characters remember how you treat them, and depending on how long they survive may even repay you in kind.
Turns out in a zombie apocalypse, things are not going always end well. Actually, here they typically always end badly. People die, things don’t go how they should, the hero doesn’t always win. What makes this game so special is that when things do go bad, it hits you right in the chest. These characters are character you care about.
An episodic experience that truly works, with 5 episodes of about 2 hours each doled out over the past few months. Some of them are such an emotional punch that you’re happy to have a break, and the time between made you excited about the next part. Truly satisfying and one of the most gut wrenching (in an awesome way) gaming experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to have.
2. Wreck-It Ralph
It’s been a long time since I was this excited about a movie. I mean, how could I not be? It’s from Disney, it’s animated, it’s an homage to old school arcades, and it takes place inside a video game! Wreck-It Ralph had the capacity to either be a fantastic love letter to games gone by, or a terrible cash-in of characters making pixel and game over jokes.
Gods be good Disney went the right way, and created a fantastic story that happened to take place inside a game, but wasn’t simply defined by it. The story was heart melting, and left me misty eyed on more than one occasion. At one point about halfway through the movie I realized I was just grinning like a drugged up child, just having a blast with what I was seeing and just wishing it would never end. I loved loved loved what Wreck-It Ralph had to say not only about video game culture and it’s roots, but what it means to be a good friend to those around us. The lesson of “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle” is one we should all take to heart, and it’s told here sweetly without being condescending.
I can’t think of a single way you could improve Wreck-It Ralph.
1. Curiosity Mars Rover
6 vehicle configurations, 76 pyrotechnic devices, half a million lines of code. Entry, Descent, Landing – The 7 minutes of terror. The shell slams into the atmosphere at 1600 degrees, deploying a supersonic parachute that can withstand 65k pounds of force. Once it’s slowed from 1000 to about 200, part of the module detaches and uses rockets to lower/stabilize.
Then, the sky crane comes out to lower the rover 21 meters to the surface of Mars. As a final act so as not to run out of fuel and crash down on the just landed rover, the descent module fires up and away to land safely elsewhere. And this is all done automatically, since the signal takes so long to go from Earth to Mars.
Watching it live on the web and scanning Twitter one late Sunday night may not have matched the awe of watching the 1st moon landing on TV, but it was a huge thrill. There was genuine excitement, and the elation on the faces of scientists was infectious. We put some of the smartest nerds into the same room together and look what they attempted. And it worked. IT’S WORKING.
Science is Awesome.