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Game changing stories of 2015

2015 Gaming in retrospect.jpg

This has been a weird, powerful year in games. It’s a sign of change and progress, of improvement and inclusion - but also one of extreme failure and disappointment, whether on promises unkept, games unplayable or disgusting business practices that benefit corporations.

Here are some of stories we think will have a long lasting impact on the industry.

CD Projekt Red vs Warner Bros. DLC Practice

Currently, Witcher 3 is my game of the year. It collected the award for Best Role-playing Game as well as the Game of the Year award at the 2015 VGA, with developer CDPR taking Developer of the Year. Here's why the game and developer earned the respect of so many.

Since its launch, CD Projekt Red has supported the game with free DLC (and patches addressing player concerns, such as Geralt’s movement). Indeed, DLC has ranged from mere cosmetic overhauls to entire side quests - with fully-voiced dialogue options and enemies. This sustained the game - even though this is a game so big, I’ve still not completed every quest or seen everything.

The DLC plan was obvious to CD Projekt Red who refused to insult players by getting them to purchase even more content after paying for the full-priced game.

Compare this to Warner Bros. treatment, in how they handled Arkham Knight’s DLC. First, the Season Pass was offered for purchase even before detailing what this included! Second, the price was astronomical - close to a fully priced AAA game in itself. Finally, when the content eventually became available, it was unremarkable skins, challenge maps and so on. Even story missions were tedious affairs: The big one, which allowed players to assume the role of Batgirl, stirred few hearts and remains a sore point for the game. Batgirl is unplayable in the main campaign map, her side campaign is short, and there are few surprises or gameplay elements to make it a must-buy.

Add to this, Arkham Knight itself is essentially unplayable on PC and you have a mess of handling a game post-launch. Players should hopefully learn by now that pre-ordering is bad; if even a great studio like Rocksteady handles bonus content badly (though Warner Bros. is mainly to blame), then this continues to confirm you should almost never buy Season Passes. These companies are not your friends, they’re businesses. Hopefully CDPR's success will set an industry standard on how to treat customers.

2. The Beginning of Badass Women in Games

This year saw the first big Assassin’s Creed title feature a female lead, with Evie Frye in AC: Syndicate. I’ve already outlined what made the game’s handling of her so important. Yet, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate wasn’t the only big annual franchise to feature a woman lead.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III featured a main female lead for the first time in the franchise’s history. Rise of the Tomb Raider featured one of the most iconic characters in games, Lara Croft, in the best Tomb Raider game and one of the best games from 2015. The Witcher 3 also let you play as Ciri for sections of the game. Fallout 4, though it allowed you to create your own character, also offered a female lead - which says a lot, because this is also the first time Fallout featured a voiced protagonist (and getting the voice of Jack from the Mass Effect series was a brilliant choice).

But this year is nothing compared to next year. From E3 2015 alone, there are 23 games with female leads, most of which are for next year: whether this is the amazing Horizon: Zero Dawn from the talented folks at Guerrilla Games; The Walking Dead: Michonne from Telltale; Mirror’s Edge from DICE; or Hellblade from Ninja Theory. The games keep coming and so do the badass female leads.

This is exciting for those who’ve been wanting more female representation in games; and it’s wonderful seeing some of the biggest companies creating beautiful-looking art with that in mind, too.

 

3. More Social Awareness

Games are no longer afraid to be blatant about tackling social issues. The Witcher 3 tackles racism and homosexuality in some ways; Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate attempts an examination of class and capitalism, as well as power. But there are more blatant, upcoming examples.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is quite explicit about its tackling race. Using terms like “mechanical apartheid”, for example, solidifies their intention to examine what it means to be separated by virtue of what you look like - as it puts difference within the notion of robotic enhancements.

More blatant is the upcoming Mafia 3: players assume the role of Lincoln Clay, a mixed race veteran out to take on the Mafia. The creators have not hidden that racism is central to what they’re examining: it’s set a year after Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, in their version of New Orleans.

It’s wonderful seeing games become more open to examining issues that creators want to tackle; no longer afraid to view games as the art they are, to examine important issues that affect some of us every day. Games are changing and it looks gorgeous.

 

What are the gaming stories that stood out for you this year? The stories that will have a powerful impact on the industry going forward.

Other important 2015 gaming stories

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