Yes it’s that time once again, a tradition as old as quite-young dirt: the best and brightest of 2014, which is to say of the things I saw, read and encountered in 2014, regardless of when they came out although usually fairly close. Got it? BECAUSE WE WILL BE TESTING YOU.
Best Table Top Game
Lot of great games joined the stable this year as I finally had more cash to spend on my main passion, but as always it’s the dark horse that rides supreme. I bought Suburbia because the slack bastards at Golden Egg Games dropped the ball on sending me City Council. At first I found it kind of cold and uninspiring, but it kept being pulled out and the restrained snacking became full-fledged pig-gorging. This game has DEPTH, and it keeps surprising; never plays the same way twice. And it’s great to pull people into gaming. The cheap expansion adds more meat in again, unexpected ways. I like it so much I’m building bits so we can play it with five. We also had a lot of fun with Shadowrift and Yggdrasil; and along with Suburbia they were all in the $60 region instead of the $90-$100 of most games these days. Bang for buck matters. I could get Fortune and Glory, but is it really worth two other games?
You know what, screw RPGs. I need a break, instead of trying to keep up with a hobby I’ve drifted from. The winner, therefore, is me, for being awesome. I accept.
Best Computer Game
Does it go to Beyond Earth? Just as my love with Civ 5 was waning from over use (it won the Stevie for 2013), Beyond appeared to salve the wounds. But this was also a year I got back into computer games on a wider level. I saw how exquisitely written the prose of Shadowrun Returns is, and how elegantly Divinity: Original Sin wired exposition into gameplay. The Goat Simulator came out and was everything it needed to be, and the simple majesty of Banished ate my mind. But the stand out, stand-up and applaud forever was that I finally played the masterpiece they call Gone Home. The mechanics were a bit forced but the WRITING in the game is amazing. Strong characters drawn from different angles and illustrated with subtlety, nuance and above all, cadence. Computer games have grown up not because they’re about “big things” but because they’re written like poetry. They understand that words matter.
Predestination. Hopefully getting a wider release in the US over summer, this is a SF thriller that flew far too low under the radar. Yes, you’re all very clever and figured out the “twist” (both of them/all three?) but that’s not the point. Not everything is cool suits, violin cases and awesome time travel plots, combining the slick visual style of The Matrix with the cleverness of The Usual Suspects. No, Predestination is MORE than that. It’s got a cool alternative universe setting that are ever so subtle, perfect performances from the three leads and a compactness that means it can deliver its message like a bullet to the head. And WHAT a message. One of the most complex psychological commentaries to ever come out of Hollywood, and nobody fucking noticed because it looked like a time travel film. Five months later, I still can’t get it out of my head.
2014 is the year of Parks and Recreation. Been watching all six series since about June and it has been a beacon in the darkness. Yes, the show is now ending, which means you can watch the whole thing unfold without interruption. And what a story it is. After a shaky start when it tried to be a wry, cynical show about good people failing to achieve anything in the face of crippling bureaucracy and apathy it suddenly found its heart and became a show about good people achieving moments of glory despite the bureaucracy and apathy and negativity around them. The apathy and negativity grounds the show so the moments of love and triumph and beauty don’t become schmaltz – yet shine forth with the goodness of the world. Pawnee is the new Cheers Bar; everyone wants to live there because that world is a better, kinder, more loving world. Despite the racoon problem and the high obesity rates and the occurrences of Lou Gherig’s Other Disease.
No contest: Rat Queens. Look, Saga is good, but Rat Queens is SEXY. Page one, panel one, these people are ICONS. This shit is bananas.
New hope on big cures, and a robot on a comet stealing the headlines but I gotta give this to the Indian space launch, for reminding the world that science ain’t done, but it may be done with white guys in suits. Asian women in saris are running mission control and the Chinese are putting robots on the moon. That’s your future, right there: the US century is over, and nowhere is that more clear than in space.
The dik-dik continues to have a lock on this category. Adorable, great name, big eyes, fits in your pocket. The tea-cup giraffe is science fiction but a domestic dik-dik in every driveway is a future I can believe in.