If nothing else, 2020 produced some fun media and art as a way of coping with all the crap we’ve had to put up with.
Tiger King was a maddening romp that finally gave Tampa the spotlight it needed, just as the Bolts geared up to win the Stanley Cup. The Strokes had a phenomenal return to form with their aptly titled album The New Abnormal. The lack of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally given movie fans an opportunity to breathe before being subjected to more well-executed-but-nevertheless-mass-produced kitsch that Disney has been cramming down our throats since 2008.
And on the gaming front things were… interesting.
No, much to our dismay, despite two new consoles launching, the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, this was not a year as good as 2017 was. Rather than a year that represented mastery over the current crop of hardware, the games that made the biggest waves in 2020 were the ones that found the best way to ease and acknowledge the pain that this year has caused.
Months of being shut-in led to Animal Crossing New Horizons dominating the sales charts, allowing gamers to enjoy in the simple pleasures of fishing, interacting with a community, checking on their friends, playing the stock market with alarming intensity, engaging in human trafficking, and passing the time with a nice fishing session.
Inversely, Doom Eternal was able to satiate a frustrated general public, allowing them to shoot demons in the face with a shotgun, producing a virtual level of catharsis that most games will never achieve.
Most surprising though was how much of a cultural buzz was caused over smaller games, that simply executed a simple concept very well, as opposed to the bigger-budget games that attempted to encompass literally everything a gamer could ever want. While Fall Guys gave the feeling of competing in a fun Japanese game-show, and Among Us gave people a safespace to engage in petty bullshit arguments, the higher fidelity games like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last Of Us Part II failed to reach universal acclaim either as a result of poor technical performance, or abhorrently sloppy story-telling.
All of these factors are to be considered when deciding the actual Game of the Year for 2020. Rather than simply what game played the best, we here at GSC would like to take a more aesthetic approach, looking at the trends and culture that were pervasive in games as well as the world they occupied, and see which game best incorporated both of those aspects into its overall product.
As such, our Game of the Year for 2020 is…
Hades, by SuperGiant Games.
A dynamic soundtrack, genuinely beautiful art, writing that drips with tact to compliment an enticing narrative, and visceral white-knuckle gameplay, it’s all there.
The mechanics of the rougelike genre have never been better incorporated into a game’s story than they have for Hades, with each death sending our protagonist back to square one, but filling the player with a sense of defiant ambition as they gear up to go at it again, ready to get revenge on the game for kicking their ass.
In an era where things seem to get slightly better then slightly worse at a maddeningly fast rate, in a time where many of the dejected and the disenfranchised feel stuck, in a world that feels like there truly is no escape, Hades stands as a stark reminder for what genuine pissed-off persistence can bring, always giving the player a reason to give it one more go.
Failure in this world, much like in Hades, sucks. It’s frustrating and painful in ways that can put a person on the brink of their own sanity. Still though, for all the pain and failure in this world, there’s so much to be discovered and experienced. All that’s required is that the person just tries again, that they find that reason to keep pushing on.
It may not even be when they were planning it, but sometimes with the right help, good execution, and enough luck, good shit can happen.
Keep grinding. Find a reason to start again, and get back at it.