2021 in Gaming and My Game of the Year

Another year of gaming in the books.

2021 will go down as a year of gaming for many reasons (yes that sentence doesn’t make any sense and I’m totally okay with it).

On a serious note, compared to last year, 2021 flew by. A lot happened (that I can’t spoil at the beginning of the post) that will change the landscape of gaming for years to come.

Wait.

That last sentence actually made me do a double take because I really feel like this year had some repercussions but enough dwelling. I wrote a similar recap last year, and this year’s post will follow the same format, but you’ll see some esports news in here also as I expand my knowledge of the gaming world.

Today’s post is going to be a look back at the high points and the low points of the 2021 year.

The Great Video Game Boom part 2

Like I mentioned earlier, I wrote a similar post last year discussing the year of gaming 2020 brought to us. 2020 was the start of the global pandemic that forced a lot of people inside and helped them discover the world of gaming. The video game market boomed because of it, obviously at a good time too with next generation consoles launching.

This year, gaming took another massive leap forward with Forbes dropping their 30 Under 30 including a ton of prominent figures in the video game industry. I was today years old when I found out Forbes has been including gamers in their 30 Under 30 for years, but given the massive surge the industry has experienced due to COVID (which I’m not giving COVID props), this is a massive W for gaming. Congrats to all of those who made it!

Also, we can’t ignore all the professional athlete gaming crossovers millions saw. So freaking cool man!

Master Chief has returned

Master Chief is back, and he brought the HCS with him.

I’m going to be honest; I’m not that big of a Halo guy. I’ve tried the older ones and got pretty bored of them. I’ve played Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer, and while it’s good, I’m bad at it on mouse and keyboard so I don’t play it for extended periods of time.

So you’re probably wondering why I included this here. Well to be honest, I’m mentioning Chief’s return for a two reasons.

Reason one: Good vibes for Xbox/Microsoft.

This point is going to be a bit hard to explain, but Xbox/Microsoft has been kicking ass with their Game Pass (no this is not an ad) allowing gamers to play a variety of new and old titles (one of which I will reviewing very soon). It’s a solid service, and one that conveniently includes Halo Infinite. I think this is great, and it gives Xbox gamers a solid exclusive they can enjoy since Xbox typically lacks in that department (at least in my opinion).

Reason two: Halo esports is back.

I’m no Halo esports expert, but since it’s launch, I’ve been watching a lot of it. It’s pretty entertaining! That being said, to shamefully plug a previous article, Halo’s multiplayer launching with fully fleshed out esports support put Call of Duty and their shameful excuse of a league on notice. I’m not one for drama, but when you’re complacent, I’m all for somebody coming through and wrecking your setup.

Let’s not forget they held their first LAN since February 2020 with the Halo Championship Series Kickoff Major Raleigh which saw Cloud9 win the event. “Championship Sunday” drew a peak of 267,000 viewers across all platforms, which is pretty good for your first event in almost two years.

P.S. who remembers when Killzone was supposed to be the Halo killer?

P.S.S. I won’t ignore the fact that the Battle Pass system has drawn some immense flack. Supposedly, they’re working on it, but you know how that goes.

VALORANT’s first year of esports is done

If by any chance you follow me on Twitch, TikTok, Twitter, and/or read my Dignitas interviews (jeez so many shameless plugs I’m sorry), you’ll see that I pretty much only play VALORANT; Riot Games’ attempt on the CS:GO/Overwatch genre of FPS’s.

I love the game a ton, and I’m heavily invested in the esports scene as I hope to compete in small tournaments one day.

2021 brought us our first full year of VAL events, and boy were they good with so many good battles between each region and internationally. Of course there were some low points like the NA LCQ and how a few teams got shafted or the whole confusion surrounding Vivo Keyd/Ascend match with the Cypher cam. I assume that a lot of this year’s issues will be ironed out so that they don’t happen again. Champions was the last major event of the year, and EU’s Ascend was crowned the inaugural world champions. Congrats to them, but next year, NA’s only hope will bring home the chip.

It’s been a few weeks since Champs at this point, and Riot has released their plans for next year aiming to provide more matches so that the offseason/time in between events doesn’t drag. Fingers crossed they deliver, and here’s hoping 2022 brings us an even more hype year!

The Game Awards Orchestra

I gushed about this in my recap of the 2021 TGA, and I’m going to gush about it again. This was incredible, and I cried while watching it. Real gamers cry damn it!

Also shout out to Josef Fares. The guy is just overflowing with passion and is straight comedy (in a good way).

Splinter Cell will be back

In the most low-key announcement ever, Ubisoft announced that they are finally bringing back Splinter Cell after stuffing him in every Ubisoft title they could. The announcement came in December with key information such as:

  • It will be a remake of the first Splinter Cell game
  • It uses the Snowdrop Engine: the engine that will be powering the new Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and their future Star Wars game (I had no idea Ubi is doing a Star Wars game)
  • They are working on a VR Splinter Cell game and hope to set up a new future for the series with this new Splinter Cell game
  • Ubisoft Toronto will be making this title (Splinter Cell: Blacklist)

While this is a highlight, Ubisoft has been one of the many big names who have been ruining their reputation with questionable decisions (more on this later). I’ll hold on to hope for this, but if it bombs, remember this post.

Xbox Game Pass

Not an ad, I promise (I’m not big enough to get sponsors anyways).

That being said, the Xbox Game Pass is amazing, gave me the opportunity to play a bunch of games, new and old, and it saved me a crap ton of money. I don’t own an Xbox; I don’t plan on buying one either (jokes on me with the console shortage). However, I got to play all of the newest titles on my PC. Sick!

PlayStation is rumored to be working on their own version of this system, and I’m definitely interested to see how they run it. I’m assuming it would be a rework of the PlayStation Now service, but who knows.

A good year for non multiplayer games

I was going to hold off on this category because I couldn’t figure out exactly how to put it into words, but I decided against it. We’re going to word vomit it folks.

When I look back at what released this year, I’m actually moderately surprised at what we received. Despite a ton of delays, we got some real bangers which I’ve struggled to keep up with in regards to my posts. Here’s what we got:

  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Ratchet and Clank made their glorious return, after a 5 year break, introducing a new new pair of heroes with Rivet and Kit. I loved it, and it really proved to us that Insomniac Games is committed to push any and every PlayStation console to its limits. They have a busy slate coming up with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and the Wolverine game so it might be some time before we get the dynamic duo, now squad, but here’s hoping we see more of this series soon. But please for the love of everything, bring back the Resistance games. I’m begging you Insomniac.
  • Returnal. Okay this game was pretty divisive at first due to it’s difficulty or lack of checkpoints, but despite that, the game has actually received a ton of praise and become a highlight for the PS5. I will go back and beat it when I increase my PS5 storage!
  • Psychonauts 2. If you don’t count the VR title Rhombus of Ruin, it’s been 15 years since Razputin and his mind bending teammates charmed their ways into our hearts. We finally received a direct sequel, and it worked its way into consideration for Game of the Year. I just beat the first game a month ago, through the power of Xbox Game Pass, and the sequel is spectacular sitting at spot #10 in the highest rated games of the year at a 91 on Metacritic (I guess that rating is for the Xbox One version, but the PC version sits at an 89).
  • Resident Evil Village. I thoroughly enjoyed Resident Evil 7. That being said Resident Evil Village didn’t create the same feeling of enjoyment, but I will admit it’s a solid game. Also big vampire lady took the world by storm.
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Scroll down to my Game of the Year.
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: This game is and always will be freaking awesome. Check out my review and play it.
  • It Takes Two. Winner of the Game of the Year award, It Takes Two blew up due to its charm, its consumer friendly practice of allowing you to play with one friend for free, and people were still stuck at home due to COVID giving this game an extra metric ton of exposure. That last point sounded like a burn, but this game is such a joy to experience (I’m playing it now fresh off the bandwagon hype) I highly advise you play it for yourself.
  • Hitman 3. Okay I honestly forgot this came out since it launched right in January. My brain only functions from October to December. I did play a little bit of this one, and while it was good, I stopped for some unknown reason. I love what developer IO Interactive has done with the series so I definitely will go back to complete this one.

So I know this section is about single player games, and the inclusion of It Takes Two here is me drawing a line in the sand between multiplayer/co-op experiences. I will also never let go of the questionable take that “single player experiences are dying”. I can never find who said the quote, but I remember it and will always bring it up.

That being said, not everything was peachy this year.

Let’s get negative folks.

Video Games Giveth and Taketh Away

2020 ended on a high note (or low note depending on which side of the fence you were on) when CD PROJEKT Red launched Cyberpunk 2077. The game had been in development for a long time, and after numerous delays, it launched and imploded the internet. Broken, shady, and disappointing were common themes as well as gamers shouting from the rooftops “NO MORE PRE-ORDERS”.

Well, 2021 built upon that betrayal arc with Call of Duty: Vanguard, Battlefield 2042 and a surprising bomb from Rockstar Games with the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition (this one is subjective to how you feel about Rockstar as of late with their GTA 5 milking strategy).

The above games launched in such poor conditions, and all at the same time, the holiday season was absolutely ruined.

This screen shot was taken during launch, and it’s updated rating is “Mostly Negative” with over 81,000 reviews.
Update: The trilogy sits at a 55 Metascore and a 0.9 User Score.

I can’t even rank these on a scale of lowest to highest disappointment. It was an all around pity to see these games release in those conditions, but this is the age we live in now. If it’s broke, release it, “apologize” and fix it later after they got your hard earned currency.

Biggest Villain: Activision

Somebody said this looks like Bobby Kotick, and I can’t unsee it.

I think we all know where this section is going, but for the uninformed, I’ll give a quick recap.

Activision Blizzard was hit with a lawsuit, in July 2021, over sexual misconduct and poor work conditions. Progress was pretty slow until a few weeks ago, the internet broke when the Wall Street Journal (here’s a summary link since WSJ makes you say to view there article) published how awful the conditions were at the company. I won’t type what was discussed but it was disgusting, and at the head of all this was one CEO Robert Kotick (you know the guy who makes too much money). The internet broke and was rightfully disturbed, and while the big wigs at Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo publicly condemned the company and employees walked about citing they would not return until Kotick was gone, the company publicly backed him and would not force his resignation.

Let’s not forget that thousand of employees have been laid off, including recently in a rather tragic story as many relocated for a Q&A position, were told they would receive raises, and then proceeded to get laid off.

I could go on for hours about how Call of Duty will never be the same, how Activision ruined competitive Call of Duty, but at this point who even cares. On a personnel standpoint, the whole company is scummy and such a stain on the gaming industry. There are plenty of companies who are like this; I just hope mounting pressure causes worldwide changes so Activision can be one of the last.

The Rise (and fall) of NFT or “No Fucking Thanks”

Ubisoft is for the people (that was a joke by the way).

I’m going to be honest: I don’t understand the full scope of NFTs aka “non-fungible tokens”. From what I understand, an NFT is supposed to be a piece of art or media that is stored online. By definition, non-fungible is supposed to be something that cannot be replaced as it is unique. Think of money (easily replaceable) and think of a unique one of a kind trading card (not very replaceable). After that, I lose track of the meaning because it’s too much for my small brain. One thing I will note is I guess there is some sort of environmental impact from NFTs, which I’m still trying to understand how it all works, but yes it hurts my brain.

Small brain aside, I do know that when video game developers such as Ubisoft start to implement such technology into their games, it can only mean one thing.

Cash grab.

Ubisoft made headlines this year when they implemented Quartz in Ghost Recon Breakpoint stating it was a way to claim “true” ownership of digital items adding a helmet you could claim after sinking 600 hours in the game. If you even had that much time in that mediocre game, I played it so I’m not just roasting it for fun, then I salute you. Their announcement video has a 96% dislike rating, Ubisoft still pushed it out, and now they’ve raked in $400.

Developer GSC Game World, heads of the upcoming S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2: Heart of Chernobyl, announced they were implementing an NFT system allowing you to become a character in game after winning the opportunity through an auction. Public outrage was immense, GSC tried to justify their decision, and then eventually went back and canned the whole system after public outrage was ginormous.

Listen long point aside, and this is my personal opinion, game companies will be trending in this direction no matter what. That being said, the current implementation of any form of NFT will be shitty as all of the money hungry, non consumer friendly companies will be first in line trying to justify this addition to their garbage game. The fact that Ubisoft Quartz even raked in $400 is enough to make Ubisoft think they’re doing good, and they clearly believe this is the way of the future. I just ask you all to do your research and form your own opinion.

From what I’ve seen and from who I’ve seen it from, screw this NFT crap.

Here’s what Keanu Reeves thinks of NFTs.

My Game of the Year

I felt Keanu Reeves laughing at NFTs was a good way to transition to this part of the post.

I’m not going to lie; this was a lot harder to decide on after beating Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and starting my playthroughs for Psychonauts 2 and It Takes Two. That being said, I stuck with my original decision, and my game of the year goes to Kena: Bridge of Spirits.

I tried making a post to explain why, but I physically could not find the words to describe how much I enjoyed this game. I still have the writing in the drafts, but I don’t think it’ll see the light of day because it read so generically so poorly that I was embarrassed and frustrated.

I think what elevated this game for me over the other two titles was the story behind this game, as first time developer Ember Labs put out a game that I believe rivals the work of a Pixar film. The music is sensational, the world is absolutely stunning, it plays pretty damn well, and it has a solid story that left me feeling some type of way. I enjoyed my time with this game and find myself booting it up to experience the beautiful world Ember Labs created even after beating it.

Having won the award for “Best Independent Game” and “Best Indie Game” at The Game Awards, this game has some serious buzz around it. If you haven’t played it, I strongly recommend that you do.

Like now.

Also, let’s get a sequel going.

My runner-ups in no order:

A few other notable news from this year

  • Netflix enters game streaming services.
  • Delays galore for a ton of major titles, but on the plus side, 2022 should be a good year. Right?
  • Besides Activision, Bungie developers came out about toxic work spaces and Ubisoft is losing a ton of developers.
  • Okay I forgot this even happened this year, but GameStop’s stock was through the moon for a bit due to r/WallStreetBets. I’m not a stock person, but it was kind of funny yelling “GamesStop to the moon!” while it lasted.
  • YouTube got rid of the “Dislike” button on the site, brought it back but decided to keep the total dislike count hidden. I’m going to sound like a boomer, but I think it’s stupid they did this. It defeats the purpose of me trying to find a good informative video about pizza toppings (this is a joke, but apply this to anything you try to do your research on).
  • New World released, and…. yeah. I thought it was an okay experience, but some graphics cards said otherwise.
  • Console shortages are still a thing, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll remedy anytime soon. A friend of mine actually asked me for PC (crazy right???) recommendations because he hasn’t had any luck with getting the new Xbox.
  • This writer explaining why Ghost of Tsushima is Sony’s worst game due to it being “repetitive and bloated”. He’s on an island far far away from civilization on this one especially since I and a few other gamers happened to like Days Gone, and public reception of Ghost of Tsushima was/is through the roof. I will reason with the writer that this game plays like the older Assassin’s Creed games, and honestly, maybe that’s why this game did so well. It’s a better Assassin’s Creed game than what Ubisoft has put out in the past 7 years. I loved Ghost of Tsushima though so no slander will be allowed.

Final Word

Listen the year is almost over, or already over for some of you time travelers, and I just want to say a couple of things before class is dismissed:

  • COVID does not seem to be going anywhere, whether you like it or not (no idea why you would like it but yeah). Please do your best to be kind on the internet, in the gaming ecosystem and everywhere in between. Everybody is struggling one way or another; don’t take it out on your fellow humans.
  • Think with your wallets!!! If I see another year of this, and people still go out supporting shady studios then I will cry.
  • This year definitely was a year to remember in regards to developers and what they had to endure due to COVID and crappy work conditions. The industry needs to change, and I hope we see those changes happen soon.
  • Go play some more video games, and if my recommendations/opinions on covered titles helped you, let me know!

I should definitely be doing this more often (new year, new me), but thank you for all the support this year. I love writing, and I am fortunate I can even do this blogging. You all make it so much more fun and worth it!

The next couple of posts are going to be me releasing my takes on a lot of the games I had in my Game of the Year categories, and a surprising review of a game I thought I’d never touch. It’s going to take some time, but it’ll get done. Scout’s honor! Also, I hope to improve my writing as the year progresses so that every post doesn’t read like word vomit or feature the same generic adjectives.

Did I miss anything else this year? Let me know in the comments below.

If not, I’ll see ya next year!…..

I save this meme for the sole purpose of December 31st.


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