For the video game industry, this terrible pandemic has been “a catalyst”, proof that “gaming is mass entertainment and is here to stay. Some people will enjoy it more, some less, but now they see it as just as good entertainment as Netflix or the movies or whatever. ”
These are the words of Marcin Iwinski when I told him about his new game Cyberpunk 2077. Although his game has been criticized, his analysis is correct: 2020 has been a pivotal year for the game.
When the pandemic hit, all outdoor entertainment was gone overnight. Galleries closed, festivals canceled and film production closed. But development of the game continued at a steady pace, and the quarantine brought curious new players to their crowds who found solace in fantasy worlds after the onslaught of bad news. Covid-19 didn’t create the game’s skyrocketing popularity and cultural legitimacy – it was already happening – but it certainly accelerated the process.
Industry analyst Newzoo has struggled to keep up with the massive industry boom, recently revising his 2020 market estimate for the second time to bring the projections to $ 174.9 billion. Many online games have listed the number of turntables this year, and even when the lockdown restrictions were lifted, the numbers haven’t gone down. Gamers may have been drawn to Pandemic Boredom at first, but they stuck.
It was hard to miss the headlines for the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles this fall. While questions are raised Over how much life the console format really left, both were quickly adopted by fans and remain sold almost everywhere. The start of a new console cycle tends to be an odd time as expensive new hardware becomes available, but games don’t yet exist to make the most of the technology, but the potential of these devices will be revealed. in the years to come. For anyone looking to get a new console, the best advice is probably to wait until the prices drop and the developers start releasing powerful games that you can’t play anywhere else.
It was a year when the rest of culture began to embrace play spaces as virtual stages, at a time when physical events were mostly written off. Fortnite hosted a massive gig with rapper Travis Scott in April, with Lil Nas X following suit in the online game Roblox in November and Stormzy launches a new track in Watch Dogs: Legion. The worlds of online games are increasingly seeing their horizons broaden, seen no longer as mere play spaces, but as platforms with huge and impatient audiences where creators can organize art exhibitions, theater and film screenings.
As the line between the real world and virtual culture became more porous, our politics entered the gaming spaces. Players organized their own Black Lives Matter events in The Sims, while the industry itself has pledged to support the cause – with varying degrees of cynicism – by issuing statements, donating money, and delaying events to make room for protest voices.
The reverberations of #MeToo also hit the industry hard this year, with several leading companies facing allegations of sexual misconduct from executives and French gaming giant Ubisoft. firmly in the reticle. These have opened the door for a notoriously opaque industry to start behaving more transparently and can speed up the process of games themselves dealing with the low representation of women and minorities.
Yet despite all the talk about how the game’s position in the cultural firmament is evolving, it’s the sheer quality of this year’s games that has attracted new players. No game converted more non-players to the fold in 2020 than Animal Crossing: New horizons, which was released just as the pandemic hit a moment of impeccable kismet. The game places you on a remote island and tasks you with nothing more dramatic than fishing, planting gardens, and landscaping your home. In the spring, when the anxiety of Covid-19 reached its peak, players and their partners, children and parents were comforted by the steady rhythms and the gentle breeze of Animal crossing. If there was one “pandemic game”, it was this.
Animal crossing was also notable in that it gave players the opportunity to socialize without breaking the quarantine rules – they could travel to each other’s islands virtually, getting people to have weddings, birthdays and even reunions. business in the game. It was one of the few social games that took off this year, alongside the noisy quiz game Jackbox, ridiculous obstacle course Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and spaceship paranoia simulator Among us, who asks a group of players to spot a murderous impostor among them.
The reach of these games has been greatly expanded by their popularity on streaming services such as Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming – fans have spent millions of hours watching their favorite streaming personalities recount their gaming experiences, and Among us even attracted American Democratic politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar at the party.
While some of the simpler games have had the biggest impact this year, 2020 has also offered gamers some of the most sophisticated cinematic experiences yet. The leader among them was The Last of Us Part II, which recently won the Game Awards, offering a morally complex take on the zombie genre. While its obscurity and relentless violence isn’t for everyone, the game has undoubtedly reached new heights when it comes to scriptwriting, voice acting, and dramatic storytelling in the medium.
Somewhere else Ghost of Tsushima gave players an amazing world of samurai honor and drifting cherry blossoms to explore, and the lavish remake of Final Fantasy VII rekindled beloved characters for a new audience and sent fans of the series into a frenzy of nostalgia. While the recent version of Cyberpunk 2077 was assaulted by Failure, for those who could play the game on good material, it presented a rich storytelling exercise in a dystopian and gritty California.
the indie gaming community has become a hotbed of innovation over the past decade, combating sterile tropes and bland mainstream aesthetics with fiercely personal visions. This year, they joined the big leagues with independent offer Hell, an ingenious brawler who turns you into a prince of the underworld trying to make his way to the realm of mortals. He’s been acclaimed beyond the usual independent circuit for his wonderful writing, characterization, and perfectly balanced combat mechanics.
Meanwhile, the living literary experience of Kentucky Route Zero, which turns you into an aging delivery boy navigating a surreal landscape of rural American poverty, has come to an elegiac, appropriately elliptical end. This year’s best indie games are like new masterclasses, sweet and poignant family vacations from Ocean Big large jacket to hand drawn, experimental If found. . . , one of the few games that brought LGBTQ representation to the forefront of gaming.
If we’ve learned one thing from the game’s explosion in 2020, it’s that gamers aren’t a monolith. There are teenagers in their basement, yes, but also mothers working on their commute, old people doing telephone puzzles on their chairs, children trying to relax with a game of Fifa in Baghdad and young girls organizing a Minecraftparty in Texas. Games aren’t just dungeons to shoot at – they’re concert halls, sports arenas, and clubs to hang out and hang out with friends. For countless people trapped inside, games have become their default social space, an invaluable lifeline for the outside world.
Looking back on the year in the game, I remembered something visionary game designer Jenova Chen told me in a meeting last year: “You don’t ask someone, ‘Do you watch movies?’ or ‘Do you listen to music?’ You just ask what genre they like. Someday we will just ask ourselves, “What kind of games do you play?” This day now seems closer than ever.