The thing about games writing as a hobby is that the other part of the hobby, playing the damn games, becomes so unwieldy the more obligations you have show up. I started with Gamesline at a very unemployed time in my life, which meant that it was pretty easy to be involved! Times change of course, and while I may not be as readily available to pitch in due to other obligations, I’m still a gamer damnit, and 2023 I freaking gamed! Rather than lock in on a select few titles, I think I’ll focus more on the year as a whole and what I ended up being able to gravitate to during this period. 

Winter 2023

As you’ll hear me talk about all through our GOTY discussions, January came in rockin with the release of Hi-Fi Rush. This rhythm based character action game was something else in terms of getting me immersed for a weekend and enjoying the experience of a short story and tight combat. Chai is just the epitome of a golden retriever protagonist that is so fun to follow as he gains some mastery over his newfound powers. The soundtrack is also fantastic in how it caters so much to my tastes as a fan of early 2000s rock.  

Also played a bit of Pizza Tower, the platformer by McPig that also took folks by the wayside in terms of expectations. If you took my brain apart you’d see a nugget of influence that is congealed by Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Scott Pilgrim, the discography of Seattle band Minus the Bear, and Ed, Edd n Eddy. Pizza Tower scratches that final itch by being so reminiscent of the cartoons I grew up with, while also being a great addition to the heist-themed genre of adventure that Wario Land established. I love Peppino with all my heart, and wish him a speedy recovery after having to deal with all that on top of slow sales. 

Spring 2023

Redfall. A game that has absolutely 0 sauce entered my gaming sphere because of the bastard Scott FKAsocks. We played it twice this year for stream, and both times were soul draining. This was my first exposure to Arkane Studios, and it’s nuts to imagine that people were excited about this studio as a result. Normally, I try not to be a sour sport when it comes to gaming. Even if there’s something that isn’t necessarily to my tastes, I try and see where the strengths of a game lie. There is definitely a core idea in this game, the usage of the Northeast as this backdrop for a vampire based team shooter is a fun nod to the area’s history with the mystical and occult. From that point though, everything else kind of bleeds together. 

Our second stream had a moment where I just started punching every enemy, which led to the revelation that you could melee through most levels with zero consequences. It was equal parts hilarious, the most fun I ever had on stream that night, and the final nail in the coffin of this game for me. I’d love to try out the weapons and be dedicated to having a full load out, but if you have a balance that can make hitting the melee button the easiest part of an FPS game then you kinda fail the assignment. You really fail the assignment. And that’s what Redfall is, a failure of execution that just haunts the studio that created it.

Summer 2023

I remember having a lot of excitement in the summer not only for seeing old friends over on the West Coast but also for the chance to try and lock in on fighting games more. It’s come up in the past whenever I can bring it up, but fighting games are something I’ve really come to appreciate, but never really had the chance to mess around with for myself. Dragon Ball FighterZ felt just a bit out of reach to me, the meta of Tekken 7 was at a point where trying to dive also felt weird to start, so the release of Street Fighter 6 felt just perfect in terms of taking some time learning the bare basics to have fun with friends. I have a Silver rank Ken to this day, but that excitement of being in new fighting spaces is simply next-level. Seeing friends figure out the tech, start to find mains, and get adjusted to one another was awesome to witness in real time; and I even found the courage to ask people in servers to run some sets despite the inevitable ass whooping I’d get.

Not even just playing, but getting more interested in tournaments going on and watching more intently to get a feel of the current state of the FGC has been great. It was beautiful to see MenaRD get all the way to 2nd place with Blanka, and also see just how vast the community expands in terms of who is playing, and from where. The story of Pakistan becoming a pivotal source of Tekken players is awesome to hear about in terms of how expansive the landscape of gaming can be, and equally insane to think about realizing just how weak a Pakistani passport is for travel to areas that are the main cultural touchstones of the FGC. But apart from the geopolitical reality that fighting games end up putting into a frame of reference, it’s been so invigorating to see people share tips, spreadsheets, and memes through this communal love of the competition fighting games can drum up. Next Level NYC is the breeding ground of the scene here and I’ve yet to make my first steps over, but with a year of SF6 past us, Tekken 8 out in the landscape, and much-needed updates to current games like Granblue Versus Rising and Guilty Gear Strive, I’m excited to delve even deeper into this newfound love I’ve cultivated.

Fall 2023

Lies of P was really something special to experience when I did. I already talked at length about it in a separate review, but there’s truly something to a game taking inspiration from the landscape around it and running in its own direction. The combat is great, the city of Krat feels abandoned in a way that still makes you curious to learn more; especially with the characters you meet along the way who are trying to make any sense of the massacre and illness unfolding around them. The P-Organ and the weapon customization options you have also make for a fun natural challenge to the game as you start to learn boss patterns and opportunities to really land devastating blows. In my review I’d mentioned how the focus on this narrative dovetails with the plague of action adventure games in the last decade being overshadowed by FromSoftware’s pretty consistent output. Especially considering my disinterest in Elden Ring, Lies of P is a solid reminder of the way you don’t need to add every little detail to make something incredible, and I’m eagerly waiting to continue exploring the city of Krat and beyond with the next title Round8 has cooking in the background. 

Image of the Puppet from Lies of P adding a fire element to his weapon in an underground area.

As for what next year holds, it’s tough to say! 2023 felt like such a backlog of things that should have been released as far back as 2 years ago maybe, and 2024 might be continuing with the handling of this overflow of AAA titles and blockbuster moments. If anything, I look forward to seeing what gems I’ve found for myself come next GOTY season, and really see where my interests lie against the current cycle of drummed up excitement.

About Maverick

Hey it’s Maverick! He/him, living out here in New York. From video games to anime and more, I’m always eager to give some thoughts.

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