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Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012

The Top 10 Video Game Moments of 2011

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God, I hate end-of-the-year lists. But I'm making an exception for this one because the world of video games produced so much awesome, bad, and strange stuff that it's almost impossible to have caught everything. So let's take an Xbox-heavy look back at 2011 and see if we can get caught up to speed.

1. Skyrim. Jesus Mary Mother of God, this is it. This is what you've been waiting for. I've been playing this sucker for a month and I still haven't finished it. Why? Because I'm hunting down dragon priests. I'm taking over the wizard college. I'm trying to build a frost atronarch. And then there's the Brotherhood, trying to murder me. Oh, that's right … I will wipe out the Brotherhood. They want to send assassins my way? They get it all back, paid in full.

2. Gamepro is gone. Another gaming mag bites the dust thanks to the corporatization of all that is good. Gamepro was a nice little magazine. It wasn't really my style, but I respected it. And I respected the people who ran it. I'm sorry to see it go. That's just one less gaming magazine we get to rely on when we're looking up news and reviews, and it's a total bummer.

3. Dark Souls sucked. I'm sorry, but it really isn't that good of a game. That is, unless you really enjoy hurting yourself in the darkness. While I admit that there is a small minority of “hardcore” gamers who take pleasure in the incredibly high difficulty level, the rest of us really would rather not break a dozen controllers in frustration. One is good enough.

4. The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword. Man, I wish I still had a Wii just to play this game. Yes, the graphics are still awful by today's next-gen standards, but man is it hard to dislike a Zelda game. Especially a Zelda game that lets you swing your controller like a sword. Imagine what one of these games might look like if Nintendo actually built a system for gamers? Given the most recent rumors about their next system, that could soon be a reality

5. Everyone Loves Catherine. Some critics called it “sexy.” No. It's a cartoon. It's not “sexy.” It's creative, sure, but cartoons aren't sexy. Some critics say Catherine “pushed boundaries.” No. Boundary pushing belongs to movies like Shame.

6. Gears of War, MST3K style. Yup, it's funny all right. Not as funny as I remember MST3K, though. Maybe I'm just getting too old.

7. Game writing is growing up. I thought this was pretty important, especially given that in a few short months, we're going to pick up the last “episode” of Mass Effect, a game that's arguably better than just about every science-fiction movie that's come out in the last decade.

8. Penny Arcade is still going strong. This is an example of why. The comic strip speaks to gamers on a level no other comedy genre does. They play games, they make funny comic strips about the games, and then we laugh. They've been doing it for so long that it's almost criminal.

9. Batman: Arkham City. If you like Batman and you are alive, then you will not be disappointed by this game. It's not just that you get to play a great Batman game, which is a feat in and of itself; It's the fact that for a handful of exciting hours, you get to live inside the world of Batman. You get to fight the best villains, take down criminals in a “Batman” sort of way, and you're treated to some of the best voice acting out there.

10. Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, Fallujah … blah, blah blah. There's nothing better than playing a realistic war game that takes all those troublesome, pesky “downers” out. Instead of leaving wounded and dead soldiers soaked in blood on the map, they just disappear! Minimal civilian deaths? Check. Don't worry—your friend fighting alongside you will re-spawn somewhere else healthy and happy. He definitely won't be horribly disfigured by an explosion and have to live the rest of his life knowing people are staring at him wherever he goes. Hooray for video game warfare. My only hope is that we're not being secretly trained to fight in the next World War.

Well, that's it. Another year of gaming under our belts, and I barely scratched the surface. It won't be long now before we're all sitting in front of our TV's playing Mass Effect 3, the word “awesome” no doubt escaping our lips. It better be awesome. We've waited very patiently.
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