Hell of a year, huh? But a year with some very good video games. And a handful that brought out the very worst in people, too. But I'm not here, now, to dwell on the downside of 2020 - I want to look ahead to 2021, think positively, and propose how we can all make gaming a better place to be a part of. Call them resolutions if you like, and take whichever you need.
As we saw with our reader-voted Game of the Year polling, games with the biggest marketing budgets, and the most substantial history, often emerge as favourites. Nothing wrong with that. But if I could suggest one thing that everyone who plays video games does in 2021, it's that you play more of them.
And by that, I don't mean five play-the-same first-person-shooters, because that's where your tastes are right now. I mean, dare to shift out of your usual lane, your established comfort zone, and see what's happening in other genres. There are always enough sales, bundles and other discounts for anyone to take a punt on a game that's getting great reviews but might seem a little niche; and with services like Game Pass offering a diverse array of titles to try each month, there's really no reason not to be a little adventurous.
One of the best ways to play something new (to you) is to do so with friends. I rarely play online games myself, but will hop into multiplayer lobbies in a few titles when the social aspect of those games is a factor. I didn't play Among Us, 2020's breakout indie hit, until I was able to with people I knew, and who could show me its ins and outs - and now I see what all the fuss was about.
Friends are important at the best of times - and at the worst, even more so. A good friend's account of how they experienced a game can get anyone else who loves this medium excited to dive in themselves. I know I'll be playing more Assassin's Creed Valhalla over my Christmas break, because of how peers and pals have raved about its side-missions, which I've barely scratched the surface of, so far. I'll be playing more Yakuza: Like a Dragon, because people whose perspectives I trust and whose tastes align with mine are constantly saying how fantastic it is (I mean, I've played enough to know this - but if I hadn't, I'd still be locked in).
Several games now have healthy, passionate communities full of friendly, supportive players - games like Sea of Thieves, No Man's Sky and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But the game doesn't even need to be one you play simultaneously with other people - it can be more like watching a show on Netflix, in your own time, and then catching up with your pals to discuss over Zoom. TL;DR: play more games!
Here's a novel idea. We already know the stereotype of the gamer in a basement - their parents', their own, it doesn't matter, but it probably smells of cheesy corn snacks - is insultingly outdated. But when the springtime rolls around again, why not fully shake that stigma off by taking your games outside?
Okay, you're not going to drag your PS5 into the garden on a trip-hazard extension lead (unless...); but with mobile gaming never better, cloud-streaming possibilities and 5G services coming online, and this little thing called the Nintendo Switch (hooray for cross-saves), you can easily play brilliant games, outside the home.
And why should this matter? Fresh air. Sunshine. Birds singing. The rustle of the pebbles on a beach as the tide recedes. The background buzz of an A-road just the other side of the high street. It's good to be outside, healthy even (assuming you're not too close to said A-road), and I'd be lying if playing the same game in different spots didn't change my relationship with it, and never for the worse.
Picross at the seaside? Brilliant. Some Zelda on the morning train, as and when such commutes are back on the cards? Absolutely. Streaming your Xbox Series X to your mobile while you wait for the barbecue to heat up? This is the future, today. Well, next year.
Here's an easy one: don't feel like you have to tell someone, be they stranger or pal, that you really don't like that thing that they do like. It's fine, of course, to observe differences in your experiences, but if we could all move on from your experience representing the experience, gaming would be a much happier place. (And hey, I write this from a position of Being That Person, in the past.)
There's a level of fun to be had when talking about what's the better console, or what's the best entry in a certain series, stuff like that. I mean, us writers, editors and video makers, we love all that stuff, too. To a limit. We're pleased that the big new game ran perfectly on your PC, but that isn't what others have been seeing, and it's important that you understand that.
Vice-versa, that game you love? Don't let anyone, whoever they are, explicitly tell you you're wrong for loving it. If a reviewer gives one of your favourites a modest score, or outlines their own criticisms of the end product, this isn't an attack on you. Likewise, if some rando-chump in a comments section leaps down your throat to argue that your current game of choice is a load of cobblers, ignore them. Different opinions, that's good. Getting unnecessarily aggressive over them? Yeah, let's try to leave that amid the chaos of 2020.
And please, people in the comments, please: less of this, you'd never have survived a Call of Duty lobby a decade ago. Nobody. Cares. Live in the now, and respect each other's right to have a good time, however anyone chooses to have that good time.
This feels especially appropriate given the recent Cyberpunk 2077, um, kerfuffle? Video games are made by humans - fallible, imperfect, uncertain humans. Humans when, if pushed too hard, begin to crack, and their work crumbles. There are lots of reasons why Cyberpunk 2077 hasn't been the game it might have been, on all the platforms it released for - and developer crunch is absolutely one of them. (Related: watch our video explainer on crunch.)
It's not easy to understand how a game's made, what makes it work behind the screen where all the action's playing out. And, really, unless you want to make your own games, you needn't get too deep into things. But it's crucial, I think, to keep in mind how a game is made, the size of the team that made it, the working conditions they've been under, and the pressures they've faced, before anyone goes about sticking a knife in.
Or, even with games you love - learn a little about who made them, as you may find creators, designers and directors, who've other games that you can check out, and maybe enjoy just as much. I know I've played a game before, loved that game, looked up a director online and found more that they've done, to play next. That can go broader, to studios, design teams; but just like you might follow the work of a certain band or film director, you can do so with games. Their names might not all be Kojima-big, but their work can be just as fascinating.
It's our job here - right across the games media - to tell you about big new games that are coming up, and smaller gems just waiting to be discovered, and we're just as guilty as anyone of getting excited about things. But it's essential that we all keep that excitement from getting out of hand.
It really feels that 2020 saw a few games come out where pre-release anticipation had reached a dangerous, toxic fever pitch; and when these games weren't universally adored, those who'd invested so much time and passion supporting them felt cheated in some way, or like they had to defend the games.
With the cost of games only increasing in the next generation of consoles, the habit of pre-ordering could be tempered somewhat, too. Now, I pre-order things - games and collectibles - but I only do so when there's a clear picture of what it is I'm getting. Would I pre-order a AAA video game that's months and months away from going gold? I might have done, in the past (indeed, I did - Mass Effect 2 says hi) - but after 2020? No chance. And I think that's healthy advice for anyone, really - save your pre-order until there's a definite impression of the end product.
Being excited for new things is brilliant - and we're obviously not going to stop covering pre-release projects that we think you should know about. But always, always, keep the hype on a simmer, so it's less likely to boil over at release time.
Okay, this one's a little selfish - but if there's one thing that we'd love you to do, from the GAMINGbible team to our millions of followers, it's to read the articles and watch the videos, just a bit, before you leave a comment. (And yes, we know a lot of you do.) We put so much of ourselves into what we do here, every single day; and there are times where it just doesn't feel worth it, as comments are posted that deliberately twist headlines, our intentions and perspectives, and exist solely to attack us. (It makes us wonder why such people follow us at all.)
Please, do leave any kind of comment you like on our output, subject to the established restrictions on Not Being A Dick (terms of service are a thing). But give us a chance, before you do. We do this because we love this, just like you do. We're not out to 'get' anyone. We set this website up to fully embrace the belief that anyone and everyone can enjoy video games. We hate to see the comments turn nasty seconds after a post's gone live. Nobody needs to be so angry, so quickly, over video games. So take a breath. Make a cuppa. Gaze out the window. Then, say whatever you need to... So long as you're Not Being A Dick about it.
Featured Image Credit: CD Projekt Red, Sony Interactive Entertainment
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