One of my favorite parts of working at PC Gamer was coming up with our Games of the Year awards. The whole edit team would lock ourselves in a conference room and argue for our picks until consensus was reached or someone passed out.
I tried to do a similar list of awards on this blog last year, but I don’t think I experienced enough games in 2013 to be authoritative. I can’t tell you what the best is, because I didn’t play everything–not even close. But I can tell you what my favorite things that I experienced this year was. So this is my list for all of my favorite media: comics, games, tv shows, podcasts, anything!
Hopefully it helps you find something new and interesting to check out in 2014. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments, so I can find some new things to try too!
My Favorite Hearthstone Card: Hellfire
This one’s for all my Happy Hearthstoners, who are re-embracing the card game genre, thanks to Blizzard’s brilliant innovations that refined it to its most core, addictive elements! There were a lot of overpowered Hearthstone cards that fell in and out of favor quickly in 2013, but Hellfire is one of the only cards I’ve loved since day one. It takes sacrifice, it takes planning, it takes an iron stomach. But that makes it all the more glorious when it decimates an entire line of rushing minions on the other side of the battlefield. It’s also won me a surprising amount of games, just getting the last 3 points of damage onto the enemy hero.
My Favorite Hex Card: Sabotage
Hex showed amazing potential in 2013 for a full-featured game that will come into existence sometime next year. The depth of strategy offered by the cards is incredible, and Cryptozoic’s creativity with mechanics in the digital space is inspiring. One of the biggest changes, for me, was how they approached milling decks (Hex calls it burying), which try to win the game by moving cards from the opponent’s library into the graveyard. It’s traditionally a bit boring to play, since nothing really happens until you get to their very bottom card.
But Hex changes that by adding a bunch of alternate win conditions that make every mill an exciting possibility. The most simple is Sabotage, which puts 4 cards into the deck of the opponent that each deal 5 damage to him/her whenever they draw or bury it. It instantly makes every card buried exciting, because each could be the potential game-winning last bit of damage you need.
It’s a small, but powerful change that convinces me Cryptozoic is doing a whole lot more than simply copying Magic: The Gathering. In fact, I’ll be surprised if Magic isn’t copying Hex before 2014 is done.
My Favorite WoW Battle Pet: Tranquil Mechanical Yeti
This sassy, savage, and adorably tiny mechanical monster is my confusing love affair of 2013. He was on my very first pet battle team, my best pet battle team, and helped out in a lot of our guides for taking down the big bad beasties standing between us and sweet loot. His Call Lightning ability is fun and powerful, especially for mechanical-heavy teams, which I tend to favor for their cool I’m-a-robot factor. I’ll be smashing baby bunnies and testy tarantulas with this yeti for years to come.
My Favorite Sport: League of Legends
Esports has been struggling to find a foothold for years, but the most significant progress came last year, as several large game developers put their full weight behind making professional gaming a viable profession and spectator sport. Far and ahead of all other contributions is Riot Games’ League of Champions (LCS), which finally adds a reliable and consistent structure to the scheduling that makes it easy for potential fans to know when a game will be on and how important it is.
It sounds like an obvious addition — it’s been the cornerstone of professional sports for decades — but it’s brand new to esports, where teams and leagues have lacked a strong leader to organize and add density to the teams’ schedules. Drama like Cloud 9’s amazing win record, TSM’s personality conflicts, and regional rivalries have all grown out of Riot’s organized professional leagues. Next year’s addition of a full-featured semi-pro league, thanks to sponsorship by Coke, will add even more depth!
If you’re less convinced by feelings and more inclined to facts, here’s this: Riot hosted the biggest and most glamorous esports event of all time for the Season 3 World Championships at the LA Staples Center. 13,000 people attended in-person, a max-capacity limit for the massive stadium that sold out in seconds, and more than 32 million tuned in online during the event. That’s insane growth for esports, which had trouble breaking past a thousand viewers for many tournaments even a year ago.
It’s not a typo in the headline: I think with the LCS, League of Legends is the first “esport” that can be called a legitimate sport. I had more fun watching and talking about the LCS than the NFL or MLS this year.
My Favorite Simple Game: Hero Academy
It came out in 2012, but I put 89 hours into it this year, so I think it deserves a spot on this list. This game made me fall in love with asynchronous gaming again. I queue up games with a few friends, and we make our moves, clashing themed armies of tiny warriors into each other, whenever we have a free minute during our days. We trash talk or wish happy holidays in the chat box, and feel like we’re staying in touch while playing this fun mini-battle chess game. If I had 5 free minutes in 2013, I was usually spending it here.
My Favorite Late Discovery: Civilization V
Ready to hear something crazy? I’d never played a Civilization game before this year. It was just one of those games that I somehow missed growing up. But, boy, did I ever make up for lost time when I found Civilization V this year. Even though it’s supposedly still missing some features from past Civ games, I found it to be incredibly deep strategy, with charming graphics and a scary amount of replayability. I can finally appreciate all of those “just one more turn…” jokes that my sleep-deprived friends have made the following morning in the office. Oh, and I also learned that Gandhi was apparently a total jerk.
My Favorite Views: Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite taught me more about level design than anything, or anyone else, this entire year. Every time you opened a door or turned a corner, you stumbled into a brilliantly orchestrated and perfectly positioned vista that made you stop and stare. The game’s Hall of Heroes section needs to win some sort of award. It crams more excitement and eye candy into its windy halls than most games accomplish in their entire world. It’s the best visually designed level/world/area I’ve ever seen in a game. Or in real life, for that matter.
My Favorite Podcast: Comic Dorks
I love comic books, but I’ve been pretty isolated. I still read mostly DC books and don’t have any close friends that read comics outside of The Walking Dead. The friendly guys over at Comic Dorks have built a great little community of comic book readers that’s fun to be a part of. Scott and crew provide great insight into the industry as comic creators, and their discussions of characters like Superman and Archie have made me see those characters totally differently and appreciate the stories being told in their comics and movies.
My Favorite Comic Book Character: Constantine
I talked a lot about why I like Constantine in my roundup of the best of the first two years of DC Comic’s New 52 two months ago. He’s a brilliant anti-hero: cynical, manipulative, mean, but always working towards a good — even if it’s not the exact same good the other heroes are chasing. His personality is entertaining, his tactics are clever, and his stories are intriguing.
My Favorite TV Show: Psych
Psych’s been one of my favorite shows for years, but I really appreciate it’s lighthearted, goofy humor this year. It’s fun, it’s easy to watch, and the banter between Shawn and Gus makes me want to get better at writing dialogue. The balance between humor, mystery, and character development is pretty much perfect for my tastes. Oh, and I loved the musical episode that came out earlier this month. Singing, dancing, AND murder mystery? Brilliant!
My Favorite Technology: Surface Pro
The Surface Pro isn’t for everyone. But it’s a brilliant device that fulfills everything I, personally, want out of a gaming laptop and a tablet. It’s portable, it’s flexible, it has the best touch screen I’ve ever seen, and it lets me read comics in bed and write articles and play games while traveling. I wrote a big review for MMOReporter earlier this year that explains why I love it, and the Surface Pro 2 (I don’t own one) fixes a lot of the minor shortcomings I ran into. This is the sort of device I want to own in the future: combining multiple gadgets into one body that’s flexible and easy to use.