2011: A Very Good Year for Video Games

January 11, 2012

3:48 pm

Last year was very exciting for the video games industry.  MetaCritic, IGN, and PCMagazine were unanimous in their choices for the five of the best games of 2011: Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bastion and Minecraft. All of these games have been praised for their excellent game design – beautiful visuals, well-executed game mechanics, and settings that invite players to explore.

Arkham City, Portal 2 and Skyrim have something in common: They are big-budget sequels of very successful games. Their previous installations are also amazing. I will not be surprised if future sequels, which I am sure are under development, will have similar or better quality.

However, the games that I want to focus on this post are Bastion and Minecraft.  Both are developed by independent studios, and despite the fact that they are not big budget games, they succeed in providing an amazing gaming experience to players.

Bastion is an action role-playing video game produced by Supergiant Games. The player controls a silent hero known as “The Kid.” The main goal is to restore the world of Caeolodinia, which has been destroyed by “the calamity.”  Besides stunning visuals, this game is unique in its dynamic narrative-style – the narrator provides different commentary based on the player´s actions and gameplay. Bastion is downloadable for Xbox 360 and PC.

Minecraft, developed by Mojang, is one of the most-awarded independent games of last year. It is a sandbox-building game in which the player has to use his or her creativity to collect cubes made of different materials, build structures in a 3D world, and survive evil creatures.

The game has two main modes: creative and survival. In creative mode, the player has to build structures using all types of available resources. All of the creatures in the game can damage the structures but not the player. In survival mode, the player can be injured by creatures, though he or she can create armor to mitigate attacks. Minecraft is available for PC, Android, iOS and soon for the Xbox 360.

While these titles might not have the marketing budget of other commercial games, they provide a very enjoyable gaming experience. If you have not had the chance to play them, check them out. In the meantime, we will wait to see what surprises are coming up from Fez and Papo y Yo, which are expected to be released this year. I am sure we will not be disappointed.

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Salvador Garcia Martinez is currently collaborating as a researcher at the Technoculture, Art, and Games research centre; he is also a doctoral student in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal. He has professional experience as a software developer, web designer, and instructional designer. You can connect with him on linkedIn or his personal website or follow him on Twitter @salgarciam.

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