I only consider myself a “gamer” in the literal sense – I play video games every year, but only a modest handful of those already known to me, like my dear Bloodborne or Super Smash Bros. I started working at Kotaku this year, and by necessity, 2022 was my most “gamer” year ever, with many new games lighting up my boyfriend’s gaming PC despite his muttering about “CPU storage”.
He’ll be fine. But we’re different – truthfully, I only care about video games because I care about art. I listened to more albums, watched more movies, read more poems than I played new games this year, and I probably spent the same number of hours looking at Vivienne Westwood corsets on eBay. These things might make me less of a stereotypical “gamer”, which I’m a bit insecure about as a girl (if you haven’t heard, the video game industry don’t like girls that much), but they make my life and perspective feel fuller, and the satisfaction I get from playing games blossoms in turn.
I wanted to give you an honest year-end. I picked five games that stood out to me this year and paired them with the other art I was interested in around the same time I played (I tried to avoid the biggest titles of the year, but know I loved Fire Ring and The Callisto Protocol). Call me gamer Julie Andrews – here are some of my favorite things.
A Plague Tale: Requiem
When I was playing Requiemthe anxious sequel to 2018’s medieval survival horror A Plague Tale: Innocence, I was most moved by the rats, which squirm in tight clumps on your screen like something alive stuck in a terribly draining sink. These rats shun the light as you solve puzzles with siblings Hugo and Amicia, sneak around bloodthirsty French soldiers or slice through them with alchemy and crossbows.
Perhaps because I’m a mean New Yorker who’s terrified of rats, their image has stuck with me more than Hugo and Amicia’s complex and tragic relationship, more than the game’s stunning scenery, and more than its nauseatingly sick score, though those things are there , and I acknowledge them. But I loved this game for the rats. It’s exciting to watch the enemy without being able to touch you.
Goes best with: Werner Herzog’s film The vampire Nosferatu (1979), which I saw for the first time this Halloween. It’s a perfect movie for me – palatial, unrepentant, with a wistful sense of humor – and the howling white rats running around it is nauseating.
Like his older sibling Until Dawninteractive werewolf drama The quarry gives you a chance to keep a bunch of horny young people alive. I failed, but I was okay with that. I enjoyed the spooky summer camp atmosphere and seeing attractive actors Detective Pikachu (lol) lead Justice Smith and Yell alumnus David Arquette – get broken up by bald werewolves.
Goes best with: TV On The Radio’s 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain. Especially the song “Wolf like me, which I like to interpret as a young, sexy werewolf. “I recognize / You’re an ugly thing inside / If ever there was a lucky guy, it’s / You, you, you, you,” sings Tunde Adebimpe. I doubt I’d enjoy horror as much if there wasn’t a recursive evil in every beautiful person, which The quarrythe assignment statement goes. One The Vampire Diaries episode I saw this year, which has a teenage werewolf playing basketball to “Wolf Like Me” support me on that.
Speaking of vampires, I was a big fan of roguelite Vampire Survivorwhich looks like goth Minecraft. I’m not very good at it – it has you protecting yourself from an onslaught of ghouls using just a couple of automated weapons and magic spells, and my timing is usually off. But once you start playing, it’s easy to get carried away, or be carried away by the game’s multitude of flapping black bats.
Goes best with: Lana Del Rey’s 2012 album Born to die. I played Vampire Survivor mostly while listening to that album, which is tired and terrible as cough syrup. It helped me keep calm and move on (I can get precious messing up in roguelites), and let me romanticize endlessly killing my character.
Dead pets are released
Technically, this neon pink narrative adventure isn’t out yet, but the demo was released for free this year and I’m excited. It’s about a 30-year-old demoness who hopes to make her punk band famous, something she struggles to achieve among waiters and superficial swipes through dating apps. The gameplay seems delightfully gross (there’s a mini-game where you wash Gordy’s scum-covered dildo), fun, and the music is decent and lively too.
Goes best with: Nanathe emotional and fashionable anime that ran from 2006 to 2007, which I started watching this year and can’t stop thinking about. Nana is a slice of life story about two best friends, one of whom is trying to make it in a punk band. As Dead pets are releasedit’s a simple goal that requires a complicated combination of love, tears, and discomfort to accomplish, and I’m always grateful for stories that take women and their spiritual inner lives seriously.
My Gen 1 Tamagotchi, Tomasz
This year I learned about elaborate bejeweled Tamagotchi digital pets, but they are way too expensive used and I’m not even sure if they would turn on. So I will buy myself a Sandy Liang necklace instead.
Nevertheless, my boyfriend decided to give me a Gen 1 Tamagotchi, first released in 1996, and now I carry the magenta egg everywhere during the day. Even though the first Tamagotchi ali I hatched died within a week, I gave him a name (Tomasz) and checked to make sure he was snoring every night before I turned off the lights to get a good night’s sleep. It made me feel like a mother to a cyber, but still mortal, child, so I wanted to honor his memory. RIP Tomasz.
Being connected to Tomasz also represents what I love about games. It’s an art form that compels you to act, and once you do, it’s hard not to care.
Goes best with: All the love in your heart.