The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2020

Content warnings: self-harm; suicide; sexual harassment; abuse.

Every year, I run down the biggest pop culture disappointments of the past 12 months. This time around, it’s tempting to just write, “THERE WAS (AND STILL IS) A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, YOU MORONS,” and simply leave it at that. But 2020 brought a lot of disappointing pop culture, so in contrast to last year, when the list filled up with scandals, I have actual creative works to discuss this time around. Silver linings: take ’em when you see ’em.

A reminder: these aren’t necessarily the worst aspects of pop culture in 2020. These are the things that made me feel the worst. Sometimes they’re things that had the potential to be good, but fell flat. Other times, they truly are just turds. With that out of the way, let’s roll up our sleeves and get elbow-deep in shit.

Continue reading “The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2020”

The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Video Games of 2020

Gaming has been mainstream for many years now, regularly outgrossing concert tours and Hollywood movies. But 2020 was the year when it felt like we finally collectively acknowledged that fact. Trapped inside due to a global pandemic, many casual gamers dipped their toes into heavier fare. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, and Phasmophobia became international smash hits. Popular politicians streamed themselves playing Among Us. Hunger for more gaming content pushed vtubers to the top of the YouTube algorithm. And if that weren’t enough, we had not one, but two major console launches, both characterized by demand severely outstripping supply.

For me, the biggest change was getting back into multiplayer gaming in a big way. Left 4 Dead 2, Golf With Your Friends, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection occupied many of my evenings. I played through both A Way Out and Biped with an old classmate. While I will always see gaming as primarily a solitary endeavour, I’ve grown to appreciate its ability to bring people together, even when they’re hundreds of kilometres away from each other.

So for the first time that I can remember, my year-end top 10 list includes a game that I played mostly in multiplayer. It also includes a number of vital, interesting single-player titles, ranging from indie labours of love to AAA blockbusters.

I was asked to contribute my top 10 list to community-driven pop culture site The Avocado, so that list is copy-pasted from there, with minor edits. Following that, I have honourable mentions, some unique awards based on the Gameological community‘s categories, and of course, my ten least favourite games of 2020. Without further ado, here’s my top 10.

Continue reading “The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Video Games of 2020”

The 10 Best (and 2 Most Disappointing) Video Games of 2016

In 2016, it felt like my gaming diet returned to normal. Last year, I played smaller titles and indie games almost exclusively. This year, I got back into big-budget gaming, and I think I found a nearly-optimal balance between indie games and AAA behemoths. I enjoyed almost every game I played this year, and there wasn’t a single one I hated. For that reason, I’m not covering the worst titles of the year  (Pony Island and That Dragon, Cancer, if you care, but I wouldn’t consider either to be a bad game). Instead, I’ll be talking about the most disappointing games: the ones with the biggest gap in quality between what could have been and what was.

But let’s save that for later. For now, let’s talk about my top 10 games of the year. (You can find my full ranking here.) Continue reading “The 10 Best (and 2 Most Disappointing) Video Games of 2016”

The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2015

Warning: This piece discusses abuse and harassment, both verbal and sexual.

It’s time for everyone’s favourite annual tradition: I present to you the ten shittiest pop cultural phenomena and events of 2015! Maybe they weren’t objectively the shittiest in a utilitarian sense, but all of them were notably shitty in ways that make them worthy of inclusion on this list. Continue reading “The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2015”

The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Video Games of 2014

2014 was the year of the failed AAA launch. Many games from major publishers turned out to be abysmally awful, completely unplayable, or totally overhyped on release – DriveClub, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and Destiny, to name a few. However, there were a number of gems too, and I’m going to list 10 of them. Included among them are a couple of AAA titles, a smattering of indie games, and at least one weird experiment in interactive fiction.

I’m also going to list the 5 worst games of the year, because it’s fun to mock terrible games. Continue reading “The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Video Games of 2014”

Some Thoughts on Kentucky Route Zero, Act III

This post contains spoilers for the first three acts of Kentucky Route Zero. You’ve been warned!

Until last year, I had never been inside a small-town bar. All I had was the impression of them in my mind, gleaned over time from books, TV, and movies. I imagined them as warm but dingy, with mismatched furniture in the sitting area and an old jukebox in the corner, fairly empty aside from the crowd of local regulars and one or two visitors. But if I had to point to specific passages or scenes from popular culture that gave me this impression, I wouldn’t be able to. The impression was clear, but the sources were hazy.

Chalk this up to the fickle nature of memory. Impressions are usually better remembered than details. But as Kentucky Route Zero‘s third act points out, the devil is in the details. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Kentucky Route Zero, Act III”

2013 in Video Gaming

2013 was an interesting year in gaming. It saw the launch of two new consoles – three if you count the Ouya1. More and more independent titles came onto the market, many of them achieving a great deal of both critical and commercial success. There were more options than ever before for gamers, and there was no possible way I could play every single release I wanted to.

But I did manage to play enough games to compile a list of my 10 favourite games of 2013, along with some honourable and dishonourable mentions. Also, since I don’t currently own a console, all games on this list are PC games. Without further ado, let’s dive in. Continue reading “2013 in Video Gaming”

Some Thoughts on Limits and Demonstrations

This post contains spoilers for Limits and Demonstrations and Act I of Kentucky Route Zero. You’ve been warned!

I’ve always enjoyed visiting museums, wandering their halls to discover slices of history or to admire fascinating works of art. Limits and Demonstrations, a free, downloadable title released by Cardboard Computer to fill the gap between Acts I and II of Kentucky Route Zero, gave me the chance to enter a virtual museum and experience the works of fictional artist Lula Chamberlain. It’s an interesting experiment for a video game, and I have some thoughts about it after the jump. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Limits and Demonstrations”