Best indie game (smaller priced games that we loved (i.e. no more than $20))

Winner: Olli Olli

January started off with a bang for the Vita, which saw the timed exclusive release of Olli Olli, and awesome 2D skateboarding game… that’s also kind of a rogue-like? It’s fast, it’s hard, and if you bail, you fail. It’s the perfect little game to pick-up for a quick play on your Vita, and it’s now available on Steam, too.

Runners Up: Nidhogg, Fibbage, Sportsfriends

Best game that’s available through early access (games that are not quite finished but are fun so far)

Winner: Of Guards and Thieves

I actually didn’t play many new early access games this year, so Of Guards and Thieves wins by default. One night, we were getting the crew together for some gaming, and Albert graciously gifted me a copy of the game. We played for about an hour and had an absolute blast – think spies vs. mercs meets Monaco. It’s all multiplayer, with the thieves trying to steal something specific while the guards are trying to stop you from stealing … well, they’re not quite sure which of the valuable artifacts the thieves are trying to steal, which means they need to spread out and guard strategically. I feel like there’s a lot of promise for this game in 2015.

Runner Up: Starbound… still in beta, still awesome.

Most Interesting Gaming Moment

Winner: Twitch is acquired by Amazon for nearly $1 billion

In a post-dot com boom world, it feels like digital properties and services are getting snapped up for insane valuations all the time (look at matt‘s winner, Occulus getting bought by Facebook). But this one really seemed to legitimize two things (in my mind): 1) The nature of gaming is changing, and 2) We’re going to see massive changes in the space in the next 5 years.

For 1, it’s becoming obvious that broadcasting what you’re playing and watching others play is a new dynamic, afforded only by advances in technology from the past couple of years. And for 2, I feel like the gap between each of the “next big thing”s is closing as more and more massive corporations start to get involved in the industry. Amazon and Facebook are not known to sit back and enjoy the view. They will continue to support and innovate thanks to their new acquisitions, and they won’t be the last. Look for more big money acquisitions this year and a great set-up for 2016.

Runners Up: Facebook buys Occulus Rift for $2 billion, Microsoft buys Mojang, creators of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion

Best Character

Winner: Clementine – The Walking Dead: Season 2

I don’t think it’s ever felt so weird and awkward to control a video game character as it was to control Clem. Not because the controls were clunky (they weren’t), but because she’s a little girl, without any family, in a scary, zombie-infested world. The way her character developed, the situations she was in and the choices she had to make had me appreciating Telltale’s video game and it’s star character more than anything else I played last year.

Best Art Style/Graphics/Prettiest/Nicest Looking

Winner: Far Cry 4

I make my way along a hillside. I can see the outpost 300m or so in the distance. I bring up my camera to help me see what kind of resistance I’ll be facing, but mainly, it’s to see what kind of tools I’ll have at my disposal. It’s a small outpost, only 7 or 8 of the king’s men. I start thinking about how I’ll need to sneak in, disable the 1 alarm, and pick them off silently as I go along. And that’s when I see it – the idiots have a tiger caged up. For what purpose, I couldn’t tell you, but to me, it’s my ticket out of a firefight. I get out my silenced sniper rifle and aim at the lock on the cage.

The next few minutes is glorious. An orange blur of destruction and chaos whirls around as gunfire rings off in the back ground. I decide he needs some help, so I get a bit of meat out from my backpack, inch a bit closer, and toss it into the middle of the outpost. A big, hungry bear decides it’s worth the trouble and meanders into the outpost for the easy meal. Instead, he gets a butt full of bullets, and changes his mind, now eager for the fresh meat. When the shooting subsides, and all that’s left are two of mother nature’s most efficient killing machines, I help them forget the ordeal with the same sniper rifle that get things started.

Welcome to Kyrat. Beautiful. Unpredictable. Deadly.

Runners Up: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Destiny (the skyboxes specifically), Tropico 5

Funniest Gaming Moment

Tie: South Park: The Stick of Truth and… South Park: The Stick of Truth

That’s right, a tie! Of course, both moments come from the same game… and so would the runners up, if there were any for this category. My two favourite bits in this game came right at the start, and closer to the end. Trying to name your character – a classic piece of RPGs – lead to a great bit with Cartman, and of course the visit to Canada resonated with me, as did all of the stereotypes and call-back gags. This game is worth your time just for the writing, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s also fun to play!

Game I want to see a sequel to

Winner: South Park: The Stick of Truth

I didn’t play a lot of games this year, and this was definitely one of the better ones. It’s also the only one where I’m pretty sure we’re not guaranteed a sequel (I know we’ll see Destiny 2 and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor 2 or whatever, for example).

Really, I just want a sequel to Red Dead Redemption. Even a PC or PS4 HD re-release would make me the happiest gamer alive.

Game I never want to see again

Winner: None

One of the benefits of not playing a lot of video games is you get to be pretty choosy about the games you do play, which means I don’t really end up playing games I hate. Yay me, I guess.

Best Audio

Winner: Insurgency

Knowing where the enemy is is half the battle, and in Insurgency, with a good pair of 5.1 headphones, that directional cue can mean the difference between another kill marker or a waiting screen while your buddies mop up your mess. The gun sounds and explosion audio, as well as the ambient map sounds, all contribute to a really good atmosphere.

Runner Up: Olli Olli, Far Cry 4, Orc speeches in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Biggest disappointment

Winner: No new Red Dead Redemption rerelease or sequel announcement

This past May, CEO of Take-Two Strauss Zelnick called Red Dead Redemption a “permanent franchise” for the company. Of course, in a year when we saw GTA 5 release to the PS4 and Xbox One (missing it’s PC release date in favour of March 2015), I thought we’d see an announcement for a franchise that has been left idle for over 5 years. But the rest of the year came and went, and here we are in 2015, looking at a release calendar that, for Rockstar, only includes the release of GTA 5 on the PC. Sure, we might see some expansions à la GTA 4, but where’s the yearly “big release” from Rockstar? Take 2 will focus on the PC release of GTA 5 and the launch of Evolve in calendar Q1 this year – I can only hope that either a rerelease or a new release for Red Dead is in the cards in 2015.

Biggest surprise (in games in general or a specific game)

Winner: Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor

I’m piggy-backing off of Albert’s pick here. This game was on my periphery for a while, but it absolutely exploded into view in the few short weeks leading up to release. The introduction of the Nemesis system has changed the way I view A.I. in video games for the better. I can’t believe this came from a licensed franchise like Lord of the Rings, but I can’t imagine gaming going forward without learning from M-E:SoM, either. (Stupid name and stupid acronym, though)

Game I’m most looking forward to in 2015

Winner: Star Wars: Battlefront

Yep, it’s my year again. A year in which I’ll get a new Star Wars movie. The last few times that’s happened, I was a sad, sad person. I have high hopes for Disney and the Star Wars franchise though, so I’m keeping my spirits up! As part of the announcement that Lucas Films was being acquired by Disney, we got a couple new game announcements. One of them is a sequel to one of my favourite PS2 games of all time, and one of the first console games I distinctly remember playing online. The new Star Wars: Battlefront is being handled by DICE, makers of the Battlefield series, and I can’t think of anyone better to trust a sequel to. Put all the Star Wars into my veins.

Best co-op game/Multi-player game

Winner: Destiny

Despite what some of the critics say about Destiny, it’s a pretty big success. Maybe it’s the shooting controls, or maybe it’s because it was the first major fall release in 2014 for a new batch of consoles, but whatever the reason, people – myself included – can’t get enough of Bungie’s shooter. It’s best played in a fireteam of 3, and that’s pretty much exclusively how I played it last year. It’s how I’ll play it going into 2015, too – there’s still too much to do!

Runners Up: The Crew, Insurgency, Gauntlet

Most addictive game

Winner: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Think Civilization’s “one more turn” syndrome, but with orc captain’s who need to get … demoted. I couldn’t get enough of this game when it released, and I know it was addictive because I purposefully woke up early on workdays to get my time in. When you’re willing to miss sleep and social obligations to play through some more fortresses full of Mordor’s best and brightest, you know you’ve got a digital addiction on your hands.

My dirty little secret game (which game were you most ashamed of liking?)

Winner: Crossy Road

It’s easy. It’s kind of dumb. I can see the microtransactions every step of they way. It’s the best thing on my phone right now. I need to cross that freaking road.

Best handheld / mobile game

Winner: Crossy Road

I like the classic frog. Or possibly the wizard.

Runners Up: Hitman GO, Monument Valley, 80 Days, Kingdom Rush Origins

The 2nd Annual Wall Punch Award (which game made you so frustrated that you wanted to throw a controller or punch a hole in a wall?)

Winner: LittleBigPlanet 3

Don’t get me wrong: I like the game. But it’s trying so hard to make me not like it. It’s just begging for me to put it aside and forget about it. It’ll get patched and fixed up and more playable, and when it does, I’ll probably be there with matt and Degenetron to pilot our little sack people.

Best 2014 Game

Winner: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

No surprise, really. It was the game that signaled a new generation of gaming and next-level story telling, and I’m excited about the prospect of seeing the Nemesis system in other games. It also looked pretty, and was a blast to play. I felt like a badass, stumping orcs and manipulating their society at my will. Playing this game on PS3 or Xbox 360 would be a waste, which again tells me that this is something that we get to experience thanks to modern technology. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.

Runners Up: South Park: The Stick of Truth, Destiny, Far Cry 4

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