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!
Some in our group said they had a difficult time picking a top five geeky things in 2012, but this year I found my list very easy to make. That’s not to say, 2012 was a slow year for me. Quite the contrary actually. I saw and did a lot of great, geeky things this year, but my choices below were several cuts above other contenders on my short list. It’s not every day that I play one of the greatest games ever made, or see the greatest entry in a long running spy franchise. There was a lot of great stuff that happened or came out in 2012, but these five things are what made 2012 for me.
5. The Disney Acquisition of Lucasfilm
To say Lucasfilm had an impact on my childhood would be an understatement. George Lucas created one of the most entertaining and memorable movie experiences of my life and it forever changed me as a nerd. As I grew up, a part of me stayed a child when it came to Star Wars. Sure, the Ewoks seem a little silly, and much of the dialogue is hammy, but the magic that these movies created stuck with me. When George Lucas announced he wanted to make Episodes I, II, & III in the late nineties, I was 100% on board and couldn’t wait for fresh entries into the beloved series. As each terrible new entry came and went, I slowly started to accept that the fact that George Lucas did not know what he was doing anymore. I still loved the original trilogy, but with how horrendously bad the new trilogy turned out, I had little hope that Star Wars would be able to deliver the goods ever again.
However, that all changed when George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for just over a cool four billion dollars. I was just as shocked as most everyone when I heard that he had sold my favorite franchise to Disney, but I suddenly had hope once again. The same man who created some of my favorite movies of all time then dashed away any hopes of new entries being good again, had actually given me a new hope that Star Wars could be great again with Disney at the helm.
I know that little has been done since Disney acquired Lucasfilm aside from the announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars starting in 2015. I know that these movies could actually be worse than what old George put out in the early 2000s. I know I’m an adult now and these things really shouldn’t matter this much, but it feels good to be excited for the future of this franchise again. I like knowing that fresh talent who likely grew up with the same look of awe from these movies that I did will be helming this project. What’s even better is that maybe my kids might grow up loving Star Wars the way I knew it when I was younger. Nothing has happened yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic about the future.
4. Mark of the Ninja
I have played through a variety of stealth games, but few have ever been as clever, or as well done as Mark of the Ninja. This 2D side-scrolling action stealth game seamlessly blends atmosphere and gameplay together for one of the best and most surprising games of the year.
When the game was fist described to me, I didn’t fully understand how a 2D stealth game could work beyond simply hiding in or behind a box to avoid detection. The creators at Klei Entertainment employ subtle uses of light, darkness, and line of sight to keep the player hidden from enemies and vice versa. Sound is visually represented to the player with a quickly expanding ring. If enemies are within that ring when you break a light, or run, they will respond investigate accordingly. Stealth kills, employment of different tactics, and treasure hunting are all rewarded with extra points, and additional abilities. As the players’ abilities increase, so does the difficulty of the enemies. So it the game always feels challenging, but never unfair.
With multiple ways to complete the game’s challenges, cool art style, and clever blend of gameplay and atmosphere, Mark of the Ninja is an absolute must play. It has a solid story, and it was a total blast to play.
It’s no big secret that I am not a huge James Bond fan. They’re fun action movies, but not much more to me. That is, until I saw the latest installment into this franchise, Skyfall.
Skyfall proved to me that a James Bond movie can be more than vodka martinis, clever quips, and villains who cry blood. Rather than being another exercise in effortlessly defeating the bad guy, this movie asks and answers the questions of can an aging super spy maintain his edge forever, and, if so, will he even be relevant in the face of new dangers?
There are very few action movies I’ve seen in the last decade let alone the last year that are as intelligent, exciting, and engrossing as Skyfall. Daniel Craig knocks it out of the park by finally coming into his own as James Bond, and Javier Bardem is one of the greatest villains this franchise has ever seen. From Adelle’s titular song, to the famous gun barrel shot, Skyfall is by far my favorite movie this year. It’s a must see if you’re a Bond fan, or if you just like movies in general.
2. Cards Against Humanity
I can only speak for myself on this, but I imagine every card game playing person out there has had their fill of Apples to Apples. It’s a fun wholesome game for the most part, and it’s a decent time killer for a family event. However, we can all only play the “Challenger Explosion,” or “Helen Keller” cards so many times before the game doesn’t seem as fun. Luckily for the world, a group of creative minds got together and realized that people are evil and love to say terrible things to each other. This was the genesis for one of the most offensive and hilarious games I’ve ever played, Cards Against Humanity.
I was first introduced to this game at PAX 2012, and it clearly stole the show. After the convention was finished for the day and geeks were looking for more to do, I saw people sitting on floors, and in bars playing this game, and breaking out in to raucous laughter. After the convention I found myself telling everyone I knew that they had to find a copy of this game and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever played. Cards Against Humanity started to become a staple at many parties and gatherings for the rest of the year and as new people started to play it, sometimes new and offensive ways to play cards would show themselves.
Two expansions and a Christmas set later and the game is still going fairly strong. Dan made the point of saying the game is starting to suffer the same fate as Apple to Apples. You can only see the “Masturbating into a Pool Full of Children’s Tears,” card so many times before it is not all that funny anymore. The game might require new blood and/or a constant stream of expansions to help it stay fresh. Even if the game is not played by me as much in 2013, there’s no denying how much fun, and how big of an impact Cards Against Humanity had on me in 2012.
In terms of video games, 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was tremendously disappointed in big budget games like Mass Effect 3, and Assassin’s Creed III, but smaller, more independent developers really stood out in the crowd to me. Chief among them is Thatgamecompany’s Journey. Journey is game about a mysterious robed figure who sees a light coming out of a distant mountain, and he must travel through a desert and ancient ruins to get to his destiny. There are some plot points told through pre-rendered cut scenes, but nothing is clear except that you need to move closer to this mountain.
One of the most brilliant things the developers of this game did was strip the story, characters, and setting to a bare minimum. By doing this, the waters don’t get muddied with a convoluted plot or the ghost of your clone brother living on through is reattached arm. It also allows the player to use their imagination to help push the mood and atmosphere of the game forward. Some of the best scary movies and thrillers do this by not showing the killer, and holding back. I think it was a brave creative decision to allow the gamer to fill the game with their own thoughts, and ideas. That’s not to say Journey doesn’t bring any of its own atmosphere to the table. Its moving score and themes play very well into setting the stage for one of the most emotional and triumphant endings I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Journey is one of the most perfect games I have ever played. I don’t know that it would play as well with a second play through, but I don’t think it was meant to be played again. It was a wonderful one-time experience and an absolute privilege to play. If you’ve ever tried to make an argument about video games as art, you’ll find compelling evidence with Journey, one of the best games I’ve ever played, and certainly the best of 2012.