NBN-tendo: Gaming in 2011 and what’s coming next, pt. 1

    Jordan's pick for Game of 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Screenshot by Colony of Gamers on Flickr. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Here's Jordan's take today. Return tomorrow for DJ's take.

    Video game culture likes to rank things. After all, it's a place where the high score is valued above all else. So naturally, when a year ends, game culture decides to compare it to other years in terms of importance. However, that's not really fair. Interesting stuff is always happening in the gaming industry, whether it's 2010, last year or next year. That said, the following represents, in my opinion, some of the most interesting takeaways from last year as well as what to look forward to during the next twelve months.

    Long Live Handhelds

    Last year saw the release of the next generation of handheld gaming systems, the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita (out in Japan, coming this February to America). However, last year also saw the release of a slew of new tablets and smartphones that analysts say will continue to please those interested in portable gaming but not enough to buy a dedicated device for it. While the Vita's initial sales have been a little soft, so were those of the 3DS, and a retooled strategy has managed to turn Nintendo's portable around, so do not count Sony out yet. As for the phone threat, as long as consumers obsessed with sleek minimalism are repulsed by buttons, such as on the Xperia Play, the all touch interface will still limit the games phones are capable of playing. As video games and other consumer electronics continue to become more indistinguishable from each other hopefully whatever future is coming is one where no group is shortchanged for the sake of another.

    Biggest Surprise/Disappointment of 2011: The Release of Duke Nukem Forever

    The saga of Duke Nukem Forever is one of the most amazing, stupidest things that has ever happened in the world of gaming. Announced in 1997, the game burned through more engines, developers and piles of money than one could imagine for a shooter starring a blonde, muscle-bound doofus who hangs out in strip clubs and spouts movie quotes. What's surprising isn't the fact that it finally came out last year, after events such as the entire Harry Potter, Matrix, Spider-Man, X-Men and Lord of the Rings series, as well as the election of the first black president. No, what's surprising is the fact that when a game that took a dozen years longer than needed, probably due to sheer incompetence, turned out to be horrible and dated, a group of people inexplicably came to its defense. Search the web to see just how messed up this game is, and then realize that there are people defending it. Who are these people?

    Game of 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

    In a year full of great sky games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, Link's latest quest stood out not only due to its beautiful painterly look and delightful music but also because of its ingenious Wii Motion Plus-powered gameplay. The way players interact with this world through movements of their hands is consistently engaging, inventive and just pure fun. Despite what some may say, there are several very good games on the Wii (Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories…), but it's a shame that a game this good has only come now, at the end of the system's life.

    Biggest Upcoming Story: Wii U and the Next Generation

    Stupid name aside, everyone interested in video games should be excited for the Wii U, expected to hit shelves later this year. Even if one doesn't actually care about the console itself, it marks the start of the next generation of gaming, a very exciting idea indeed. Nintendo will most likely have somewhat of a head start but Sony and Microsoft won't wait too long to catch up. There are already (incredibly vague) rumors of a next Xbox (Xbox Loop?) making an appearance at this summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. With a whole new class of games on the horizon the only thing not to look forward to is dropping hundreds of dollars to buy a box to play them.

    Most Anticipated Game of 2012: Bioshock Infinite

    The great string of sky games continues into this year with Bioshock Infinite, the true sequel to the 2007 first-person shooter classic Bioshock (Bioshock 2 was handled by a different team). Swapping a 1960s undersea objectivist paradise with a jingoistic, turn-of-the-century city in the sky, the game looks to further the original's winning formula of combining scarily realized worlds with fun and varied shooting gameplay. Just zooming across the city on the skyhook rail system looks incredible. Oh, and there are also random time portals to 1983. It's proof that this generation still has plenty of life in it.

    Biggest Surprise of 2012

    So far Duke Nukem Forever, after 14 years in development, has received downloadable content eight months after release. It's only January, though. This year could still be full of unpredictable changes for the world of video games. I'm hoping that the sky trend continues and the Skyfall game based on the new James Bond movie turns out to be the next Goldeneye. Like I said, interesting things are always happening in the world of video games. It's not too often we get to witness something as exciting as the early development of an entirely new medium.


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