Best of 2013 – Budrickton’s Picks
Like OL magistrate and chief jester Caffeine Powered, 2013 was a bit of a banner year for me. Overwhelming change in my personal life — from a return to postgraduate education, to a complete re-invention of my career and life direction, to the advent of a serious, life-changing relationship — it’s been a year of serious upheaval for me, and one that I now realize deeply affected the entertainment I enjoyed.
I promise, I ain’t full of shit when I say this – what you do, and who you do it with has a huge effect on what you partake in and what you’re drawn to. My new career has me in Communications and Public Relations. It’s no coincidence then that my great fascination this year in the nerd sphere was the amazing PR landmarks and media fiascos that accompanied the console gaming space. E3 in particular was THE shitshow of 2013, a spectacularly-enjoyable ride for gamers everywhere, and one that meant so much more to me now that my mind was tuned to the Comm/PR-perspective on everything. The way a business conducts itself publicly, the way it announces its products, the way it does damage control – these things fascinate me. They rocked me. I loved every second, and this year more than any, was aware of my own consumer agency as I allowed myself to partake in the stories businesses were trying to weave and tell to their audiences.
Here’s what captured me this year:
Game of the Year: Bioshock Infinite
We’ve been waiting for this bitch for years. YEARS. While watching the first reveal back in 2011, I remember telling my roommate that it was coming in Spring 2012, and we wept at how far away that seemed. When this spectacle finally arrived, I felt the same sense of anticipation a new FF or MGS used to give me, and I know my gaming comrades (HI CAFF) felt the same way. The messages were exchanged, the speculation was rampant, the discussions were potent – I love when a game ignites its community in the way Infinite did.
Sure it was flawed. Sure it seemed like it was two distinct, disparate halves that felt mashed together (a beautiful, Myst-like interactive narrative that didn’t require marriage to an insane shooter with arena-like gameplay), but it didn’t matter. Combat managed to be exciting and occasionally inventive (the rails, being the signature addition that transformed spatial orientation in a shooter – IMO), and the narrative, while sometimes needlessly mind-bending, was a lot of fun to unravel and experience.
This is the type of gaming I hope continues to survive in a space that’s increasingly becoming Social and Multiplayer-focused. There’s still something compelling and magical about this.
For those of you with PS Plus – this shit’s free in January. You must play it.
Movie of the Year: Saving Mr. Banks
I feel especially unqualified to answer this question. I missed too much this year. Way too much. The Hobbit, Catching Fire, Gravity, Thor…I just can’t do this category justice. I almost want to blindly award it to Gravity just based on the way all my social circles reacted to it, but that wouldn’t be right. All I can add here is that I saw Saving Mr. Banks this month, and it sang to me. As a childhood devotee of Mary Poppins and a guy who’s fascinated by the process of adaptation, I was rapt by this film’s story (an account of Walt Disney’s acquisition of the Mary Poppins property, and all the growing pains that accompanied it).
Yeah, it’s generally pretty light and feel-good – it’s no Gravity – but this is a personal best of list, and this one hit me where it counted.
BRB, watching 30 hours of vital cinema that I missed this year.
TV Show of the Year: Game of Thrones
Event television bitches. GOT brought the goods the way it always does.
Breaking Bad was an incredible feat, and a ride I’m thrilled I embarked on, but my soul sings to the fantastical, and the world of Westeros has me. The anticipation of seeing the world react to what was going to happen in this season, and the thrill of not even knowing exactly how the adaptation from book to screen was going to be handled….it was all too much for this nerd’s heart.
Daenerys’ triumphant exit at the end of the fourth episode this season sent goosebumps up and down. Up and down everything. Parts of my body I forgot about. I have to respect any story that can command me physically that way. I can’t wait to see how the coming books are adapted, as things become increasingly convoluted and complex. HBO will demand a new season every year, and the machine has to keep up. It’s going to be incredible to witness.
Album of the Year: Showtime, Storytime
I love a live concert. And I love a select few bands. Nightwish still has me captive, as has been the case since 2004 when I first discovered their brand of symphonic metal. I had the privilege of seeing one of the last few concerts last fall that featured the band’s second singer. Her abrupt exit on October 1, 2012 left the band in wild turmoil, a scary couple of days captured in the doc that accompanies this concert release. Watching them weave their story to the fans, beg their permission to still perform with interim singers, continue to tour with so much in question…it’s a fascinating, gripping plot that was never intended, but came off spectacularly. The band recovered, cemented their future with an incredible new singer who has revitalized some of the band’s canonical classics (which the second singer could never perform), and pulled off a fucking sick show that’s been printed to disc. I loved Showtime, Storytime, and hope Nightwish continues to grow and gain a new block of fans with their new front-woman.
Spectacle of the Year: E3 2013 and the Console War
This was a fascinating fucking year for the console space. The abysmal Wii U performance (despite a strong library), the surprising console reveals and reinvented messaging – individual shows to announce products, instead of leaving things for the E3 arena – the mixed messaging and blatant retractions in the face of a fucking angry public, the price wars and media nightmares….it was a totally engaging and engrossing spectacle. I loved every moment.
As a new Comm/PR professional, I was utterly engrossed in Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s messaging to the media and the public. What to reveal, when to reveal it, how to spin and do damage control – really, 2013 will be the textbook for the industry’s PR behaviour for years to come. And the decisions the companies made this year will be with them for the rest of the generation.
Watch for 2014’s developments to see if MS and Nintendo will strip their ‘ostensibly essential’ pack-in hardware out of their systems in order to bolster sales — no one bought an XBox One or a Wii U for the Kinect or a Gamepad — and watch to see what other damage control and rescue plans Nintendo puts into place to save its flatlining system and its woefully underprepared online infrastructure.
Surprise of the Year: The Wii U
All marketing and strategic faults aside, this bitch surprised me. This was the place to enjoy some of the best console gaming this year. Super Mario 3D World, NSMBU, Wind Waker HD, The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate…the line-up is totally sound, and more compelling than what the PS4 and XBO had on offer for their launches.
I encourage console gamers everywhere to think about jumping in here if they see a deal on the system soon. There’s some awesome gameplay to be had here, and the system deserves better.
Let me extend this award to include my surprise at just how BAD this poor thing’s been doing. It’s bad folks. Less than a half-million units moved from January to November 2013, worldwide, dwarfed by the competing PS4 and XBO which each moved a million in their first 24 hours. Uh oh.
Value of the Year: Playstation Plus
Read up on PS Plus if you don’t know how this shit works. In many ways, it’s the Netflix of the gaming space, and a damned good one. Numerous sales are on to get 1-year subs for $30, allowing access to an ever-increasing library of incredible titles for the entire Playstation ecosystem of platforms. January’s PS Plus offerings for the PS3 alone make jumping in completely worth it: Bioshock Infinite, Devil May Cry and Brothers. Bam. Amazing. Keeping them and any successive month’s offerings for a paltry $30 a month is an incredible value proposition. Add in all the other shit Plus gets you – shop discounts, demo access, multiplayer play, cloud saves – and you could nab a PS3 and never actually have to buy a game on top of your sub. Look into it. It’s one of the best examples of gaming successfully transforming into a service instead of a product.
I’ll always buy my favourites in hard-copy to keep forever on my shelf. But this is the best way to engage with all the other content that’s coming out of some of the best dev studios out there, as long as you don’t mind not playing at launch.
2013 Lowlight: Celebrity Deaths, because they make me feel old
Either more are dying, or more I recognize are dying. If the latter is true (it is), then I’m just getting older.
And yes, the major ones hit hardest (Mandela), but the deaths of some of the younger stars still got me in the gut. Lost potential sucks the big one.
2013 Highlights: OL, the Job, the Boy
August was fucking wild. A trip to London for my cousin’s wedding, sandwiched by two Omega-Level con appearances, including one at FanExpo in my hometown of Toronto. Plucking up the courage to get Carrie Fisher to hold up our T-shirt before a rapt crowd of 5,000 at her Q&A will always be a treasured moment.
Getting to chill with the OL crew in person again was revelatory. You guys are phenomenal, people I hold near ‘n dear, and who I’m convinced should be just cause for the immediate invention of wormhole tech. I want to hang every fucking night, and am bummed at the distance twixt TO and Boston. At least we’ll have the cons!
Career reinvention – having been stalled for most of 2011-2012 was fucking misery. Taking the financial and schedule hit to try a reinvention paid off. Also, highly recommended if you feel stuck. Finding a new crossroads where my talents and interests intersect has been a fucking gift, and one I never take for granted.
Falling in love for the first time is probably up on the list of events this year too. I recommend it, if possible.
Cheers to 2014, kids!