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Top 10: 2009

by Aaron Simmer


It's that time of year again, when Top Ten and Top Whatever lists appear. This year in particular is seeing a flood of lists, thanks to the fact we're leaving 2009 for 2010 and everyone's getting in on the Top X's of the Decade. Aaron's not going back that far though -- just a review of personal highlights of 2009 as they relate to gaming.


E3 2009: BAM!

Who was to know that comedy gold was about to happen when Kudo Tsunoda took the stage at Microsoft's E3 press conference to introduce the motion-tracking Project Natal and asked "Ever wonder what that bottom of an (Xbox 360) avatar shoe looks like?" His answer of "BAM!" while his avatar writhed like a mini black hole had opened up near its liver, snapping limbs in some kind of electronic seizure livened up an otherwise awkward demo. It also gave rise to a host of animated gifs and remixed videos that are amusing, but the original clip is still the best.


e3 2009

CGW/GFW Radio "The Brodeo" Reunion Live! at PAX '09

Big surprise here. After months of work, email, and stress, the way this came together is more than I could have hoped for. If you're a regular reader, you'll already know about my involvement, seen the videos, and heard the audio so I



won't belabour this point. It was awesome and a huge highlight of 2009. (Check here for a full collection of links and please buy a commemorative poster)


E3 2009: *cough, cough*

Nintendo's E3 2009 press conference, which really pulled out all the stops when it came to pleasing the long time Nintendo fan. More Zelda, a new Metroid,


New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Galaxy 2.  When the crickets weren't chirping, there was some chronic cougher in the back to take the place of enthusiastic fanboy applause.  My thought: The tone was set by Nintendo President Saturo Iwata when he announced the vitality sensor, which handily fulfilled Iwata's predication that the vitality sensor would help people relax. To the point of sleep.


brodeo reunion          new super mario bros wii

The Brodeo Reunion (left); New Super Mario Bros. Wii (right)


Thanks, You're Closed

A worldwide recession didn't help things, but 2009 seemed to be a bad year for studio closures. Lair developer Factor 5 flamed out; Pandemic Studios blew up just as Saboteur reached stores; Bottlerocket, in the middle of Splatterhouse, was splattered; the smile was wiped from GRIN's face; 3D Realms couldn't duke it out; and Shaba Games is attracting flies. Which is to say nothing of closures that happened just prior to the end of 2008, like Skate developer EA Black Box and Ensemble Studios. It was a tough year for a lot of developers. Hopefully 2010 turns into a year of growth rather than cuts and reductions.


Red Faction Guerrilla

I'm not sure I even knew anything about Red Faction Guerrilla before the final game landed on my desk. I'd heard mention of it on podcasts, I think, but I had no expectations whatsoever when I started playing it. Many hours later, I finally put down the controller convinced that every game should make use of its GeoMod 2.0 technology, especially after acquiring the Nano Forge rifle, with its disintegrator shots. The completely separate and fully-realized multiplayer was an awesome addition. Having the ability to bring down a building to flush out the opposition or smash through multiple walls as a shortcut is clearly the kind of genius that needs copying.


Left 4 Dead Again

When a sequel to Left 4 Dead was announced at E3 2009, the bizarre outcry from the hardcore crowd that a sequel was coming too soon -- from Valve, a studio known for taking forever to finish anything -- made me think gamers had finally plunged into insanity. And a boycott was organized!  I waited in anticipation of Left 4 Dead 2's release on November 17 because I had spent countless hours playing the original.  Amazingly enough my high expectations were met. If I had to choose, Left 4 Dead 2 is my Game of the Year selection.


red faction guerrilla          left 4 dead 2

Red Faction Guerrilla (left); Left 4 Dead 2 (right)


PC Gaming Gives Me a Hug

I got a new PC this year. Nothing liquid-cooled, no over-clocked parts, just a stable quad core rig with lots of RAM and a decent video card. For the last 18 months or so I've had to scale back my PC playing or turn the details down so far to make games barely run, that the first time I played a visually-maxed Half-Life 2 a shiver traveled up my spine.  And now dabbling with Dragon Age: Origins and playing a lot of Left 4 Dead 2, I can't help but think of all the games I've missed out on or the ones that I should "rediscover" with all the bells and whistles turned to 11.


Orson Scott Cadre of Complex Shadows

This one I observed from the sidelines simply because I almost couldn't believe it was brought up in the first place. As far as I know, a poster on NeoGAF was the first to bring up the connection between the side-scrolling shooter Shadow Complex and the apparent homophobic position of sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, who was involved in creating the backstory of the game. The poster asked the question: "Should we boycott Shadow Complex?" because of Card's involvement. The original thread got more than 2,500 replies and the issue was taken up on podcasts and gaming outlets all over the place. A serious question? From gaming forum no less? Gaming is growing up.


iPhone Home

2009 was scorched with an explosion of iPhone games. The Armchair Empire doesn't cover iPhone games but that hasn't stopped many companies from contacting us about covering their latest app or game. The requests keep coming! I suppose my question to iPhone users is, "Are any of these games worth it? Or unique enough that a similar experience couldn't be had on a PSP or DS?"


A Life Well Wasted

The Internet is awash in gaming podcasts. With only one or two exceptions, they all sound pretty much alike. The same format, the same topics, the same responses and quips. Breaking that mold is Robert Ashley's podcast, A Life Well Wasted. The first episode came on the heels of the closing of the venerated EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly) and Ashley has managed to produce only five episodes of the podcast in 2009 but each one has brought new stories and unique people to the attention of the gaming public. Laboriously and expertly produced, this was another direction you can point to when people wonder if gaming is growing up.


(December 21, 2009)


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