Finding New Thrills in Gaming in 2011

Confession time, gents and ladies. Playing Batman: Arkham City makes me feel like a kid again, and I don’t really care who knows it. As of right now, it’s my game of the year. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Arkham City Concept Art

But first, there’s something you may have already guessed about me, but I thought I should confess that as well: sometimes I can be a bit of a cynic. I always try to look at the brighter side of things, but in this day and age, the overwhelming cynical voice of the Internet can be a bit of a bog that all of us get stuck in. Especially when it comes to gaming.

Whether it’s some element of design, DLC releases, betas, demos, pricing, downloads, character dialogue, specific words, themes or even the number of sequels, gamers tend to have a lot of negative things to say about a past time that they profess to love dearly. Often times, the voices in which gamers cry “foul” in great unison are at odds with the mania and unabashed joy that they claim to experience together when they play.

I imagine some of this has to do with the overall tone of our culture and generation. We’re cautious, we’re jaded and we demand more for our money. But it also has to do with the games. As games have gotten bigger and better, it’s hard for titles, no matter how big their budget or new their concepts, to eclipse that “been there, done that” impression that swarms over us like thick fog. Part of this is that gaming has grown more cookie cutter in nature. Everything has its mold, and that’s just what we expect. But a lot of it has to do with just how good game design is, and the way the bar gets consistently raised each generation.

We are much harder to thrill than we used to be. And games aren’t quite as thrilling. So when a game comes along that knocks you out of your seat, pushes you from the normal zombie-like monotonous cycle of playing and enjoying a new title, it’s like getting a jolt of adrenaline straight into your heart.

That’s what Arkham City has done for me in the last few days.

Arkham City

It’s really hard to pinpoint what it is about the game, but it just puts a huge smile on my face when I play. Whether I’m zipping around Arkham City with the Gotham skyline in the background, sneaking up on thugs, duking it out with iconic villains or just enjoying the game’s top-notch presentation, I am grinning like an idiot with wild abandon. While most of the time during games I’m analyzing element x, or dissecting game design aspect y, my mind during Arkham City is pretty much just saying “wheeeeeeee!”

It’s embarrassing, but I love it. I miss this feeling. I don’t want this to be a “let’s crap on modern games” feature, but rather, I want to celebrate the games that thrill us and surprise us. The games that make us remember why we love gaming so much that we take off work, avoid social contact, stay up for all hours of the night and obsess for months on end.

Already this year I’ve had several moments that have done that for me. Co-op puzzle solving in Portal 2. Horde and Beast mode in Gears of War 3. Stealth gameplay in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Interrogations in L.A. Noire. Co-op anything in Little Big Planet 2. Let’s face it, 2011 has had plenty of thrills for gamers.

So what about you guys? What is the last game you played that totally thrilled you and made you celebrate video games all over again? What are some of your favorite moments in games so far this year? Go!

Written by

I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

8 thoughts on “Finding New Thrills in Gaming in 2011”

  1. Deus Ex Human Revolution really enraptured me like games of yore used to. Shootouts between little old me and a giant mecha or squad of mercs were exhilarating, ghosting by guards was nerveracking and badass at the same time, the environments were so gorgeous that I literally stopped for a few minutes to admire the view atop Tai Yong Medical, and completing the game gave me a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that no swarms of CoD could ever hope to achieve. Yes, there were flaws with DXHR, but after playing it again on “Give Me Deus Ex!” difficulty as a Pacifist, I enjoyed the atmosphere and game design of DXHR even more than my first playthrough.

    Man! I wish I could erase my memory of DXHR and play it again!

  2. I hate to bring it up again and again, but Xenoblade Chronicles has been the game to blow me away this year. I’ve put about 20 hours into it and I don’t think I’m even halfway through the main story. Every time I enter a new area I just sit and stare at the landscape and just let the visuals and especially the soundtrack just wash over me. Sure there are some flaws, like the British accents being a bit jarring, but really when everything else is so brilliant, I just don’t care.

  3. Deus Ex thrilled me in that way but Cossack has that covered so I’ll try another one.
    I shall say: Assassin’s Creed 2.
    It was the first game in a long time that I really obsessed over in such a way that I was willing to stay up ’till all hours of the morning playing even just to leap from rooftop to rooftop, or to get as large a crowd after me as possible and take them all on with the hidden blade or a halbred! Or a broom! Other games haven’t really got me enthralled in the whole mucking-about aspect of the games but AC2 did it perfectly. As much as I disliked Brotherhood’s last three quarters of the game, I’m still very excited about Revelations. But then I want at least a 2 year gap between it and the next one.

  4. I love those moments. Braid really made me feel something I hadn’t felt in a while. Just sitting at my machine alone and smiling like a goof.

    I’m also a pretty cynical person and video games have always been a bit of an escape. I like when everyone can stop shouting and complaining and just realize how lucky and spoiled we are to have entertainment created because of what we want. We’re not forced to like something or are told “this is all you get”. It’s a privilege that we can install/uninstall whatever and whenever we want and jump into something for a while.

    The worst video game you have ever played is simply magic that someone 60 years ago would be absolutely blown away by. Imagine what the rest of our lives will have for us.

  5. I’m loving it too, however I’m disappointed about how this week we have BF3, next Uncharted 3, and the next Elder Scrolls, so I have no idea when I will be able to finish it.

  6. This is actually kind of an old game, but after I outfitted Oblivion with mod after mod, I was the most thrilled I had ever been playing a game.

    I installed a mod that overhauled Vampirism, and as a result it became much harder, but much more rewarding to become a vampire. I remember how unfamiliar I was with the new way vampirism worked, and how it really frustrated me. It actually forced me to think like a vampire. I had to hide in dungeons during the day and sneak out under the cover of night to prey on beggars from the Imperial City. Not to mention the thrill of evading vampire hunters. And I no longer had to worry about random animals attacking me. I could even turn into a horde of bats to escape my foes!

    I also installed mods that made interiors look more realistic; lights were now natural, there were more ambient sounds (rain, lightning, wind), and you could look out the window and see the entire city, complete with illuminating windows. It was so incredible to go into a tavern at night that was only lit by a fireplace and a few candles (and occasionally by a burst of lightning from the raging storm outside), sit down at the counter, and order some piping hot Sweetcake and a bottle of Mead from a person who actually LOOKED natural, all while listening to the locals talk about their day.

    It surprises me how much a game thrilled me after I modded the hell out of it.

  7. Ah, I can’t wait to play this, and 2011 is certainly one of the best years in gaming ever, which is kind of problem since I won’t get to this game until I’ve finished Dark Souls, Skyrim, and Xenoblade Chronicles.

    Those last two games have done that same thing for me the B:AC has done for Eddy. While I haven’t got too far in Xenoblade, the reason for that is the release of Dark Souls, which continues to wow me around every corner. Just the amount of detail in such a complete world is incredible. I’ll text my brother about things that happen just because the game gets me so excited…and I haven’t even started invading yet, although I have killed a couple invaders. The Witcher 2 also did this to me this year. especially in the relationship between Geralt and Triss, the most real and fully-defined relationship I’ve ever seen in a game.

Comments are closed.