Things happened in 2014. None of them were good. Maybe you got a new job or a raise. Maybe you graduated or got married or had a kid or finally got into Thin Lizzy. Maybe you made a billion bucks selling your company to Microsoft. It doesn’t matter: Nothing good happened in 2014. Anywhere. Ever.
Somehow humanity cranked out a year that made 2013 seem pretty swell in comparison, which is actually an admirable feat. And I don’t even think I’m a cynic. At least I try not to be cynical or pessimistic. I’m generally a happy guy! I will give you a high five or a hug when we meet, and maybe buy you a drink. But c’mon: THIS YEAR. It was a full time stinker across the board, and the sooner we bury it the better.
Before we do, though, let’s look back at some of the biggest news in gaming. These are things that happened. Some are things that will happen again. Humanity should apologize in advance.
Don’t entirely buy into the rap that virtual reality is the future of gaming, at least not yet. It’s a part of the future of gaming, and could eventually lead to technology that thoroughly supplants the sofa and TV experience, but for a variety of practical and physical reasons the headset is only poised to complement how you play games instead of redefine it. Still, that didn’t make it any less newsworthy when Facebook surprisingly bought the company behind the Oculus Rift for $2 billion in March. Oculus VR kickstarted the latest VR wave with its surprisingly effective headset, whose applications are far broader and more promising than merely gaming. With Facebook stepping in you can expect those non-gaming applications to be at the forefront of Oculus’s development, with a goal of meshing our online lives even tighter with our real ones. Don’t worry, though—you’ll still get your outer space dogfights beamed directly into your eyes, with exhilaration and nausea fighting for dominance in your brain.
So one guy in Sweden makes a game that dominates the globe and then cashes out to the tune of a billion dollars after Microsoft swoops in. Markus Persson created Minecraft, built a company around it, and then left as soon as one of the largest corporations in the world bought it from him. If he works another minute in his life he’s basically turning his back on the ultimate dream of everybody everywhere. Microsoft’s plans for Minecraft aren’t public knowledge yet, and it’s still available for every non-Microsoft system it already existed on. You are probably safe in assuming that future iterations will be released primarily for PC and Xbox, though, and that Microsoft will shift the lucrative Minecraft merch machine into overdrive.
When I buy a book I usually start reading it that day. Same thing with records and DVDs and alcohol and other media that I spend money on. I used to do the same with games, but the industry has done one hell of a job retraining me lately. Broken launches for online games aren’t new, but it seemed far more pronounced in 2014. Driveclub, a racing game for the PS4 built around its online interactions, was plagued by crippling server issues upon its release in October, even after being pushed back almost a year from its original 2013 release date. A proposed free-to-play version through Playstation Plus has been delayed indefinitely. Halo: The Master Chief Collection arrived with hobbled matchmaking, preventing players from playing online with each other. Assassin’s Creed Unity was riddled with bugs at launch, and one of the workarounds proposed by Ubisoft required deleting in-game contacts in a game that was heavily advertised for its co-op play. Even Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare faced notable server issues at release. It’s enough to make you turn off the wi-fi and play something more low tech, like MASH.
If you got a new game or system for Christmas last Thursday, it probably took you a few days to actually play it. Xbox Live and Playstation Network were both taken down with a DDoS attack during the busiest time of the year, reportedly by a group of hackers called the Lizard Squad. Depending on what supposed Lizard Squad statement you believe, they either did it for the hell of it or to point out the lackluster security precautions taken by both Microsoft and Sony. The last six months have seen a number of attacks supposedly perpetrated by Lizard Squad, with the group taking credit for earlier actions against Xbox Live and Playstation Network, League of Legends, Destiny, Machinima and various game streamers. They also might have been behind the attack that took down North Korea’s internet late last week. And if hacking wasn’t enough, they tweeted a bomb threat against an American Airlines flight that Sony Online Entertainment’s president was riding on last August, causing the flight to be diverted.
The anti-woman harassment campaign known as GamerGate combined repugnant talk radio style hatemongering with the relatively new avenues for stalking and abuse opened up by the internet and social media. Incited by the disgusting leak of personal information by the ex-boyfriend of a game designer, and then spurred on by pseudonymous YouTube trolls and professional right-wing agitators, GamerGate manipulated people who define themselves by the media they consume into lashing out against any perceived slight. They focused overwhelmingly upon women within the industry, doxing and threatening a variety of female game designers and critics. Some of the best writers and journalists in the industry were driven away from writing about games. Once again technology laid bare the hostility that courses under our society, empowering angry, immature, delusional and self-obsessed videogame players through a mob mentality and the anonymity of the internet. The most surprising thing about GamerGate is that somehow Chuck C. Johnson never really got involved.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He liked 1998 a lot.