Push to Smart Water Cooler: Best of 2014

We’re back–just in time to ring in the new year. What games did you enjoy from 2014?


JAYLEE: Hello and welcome to the last episode of Push to Smart for 2014. This week we’re going to be looking back at the year in games.

STACEY: Last year we highlighted ten games we absolutely loved and we’re not going to do that this year. Of course when you’re choosing a Game of the Year you have to choose from the games you played and I don’t know if we were bad pickers or or what but there was no Link Between Worlds this year.

JAYLEE: No Link Between Worlds. No Gone Home.

STACEY: At least that we played.

JAYLEE: But, the closest thing, for me– my game of the year, my top pick launched really early in the year and I actually didn’t get around to playing it until much later and that is Infamous: Second Son. Which is the third game in the Infamous franchise and I tried very hard to get into the first two but I found the games and the protagonist just so boring that I couldn’t. And this game, like, everything is really good. The gameplay is excellent, the characters are all very interesting and well fleshed out and like, it’s the best of the year, what can I say?

STACEY: Wow. Infamous always made me think of “fetch” from Mean Girls. It’s like, why are you– do people actually– like why are you trying to make this happen. It just felt like something that Sony was thrusting onto the world like “Yes, this is an event. This is something people are into” and its like, I don’t know anybody who is into Infamous. Like, are people buying these?

JAYLEE: I know, I felt the exact same way. Like why are you releasing collector’s editions? Are there any Infamous collector’s? What is going on?

STACEY: Yeah, exactly. It’s like “Who buys the collector’s edition?” And it’s not like “Ugh, you buy the collector’s edition?” It’s like, legitimately, who buys it? I have never met someone who buys it.

JAYLEE: We actively want to know, we’re not judging, we’re just curious. (Laughs)

JAYLEE: But yeah, Delsin, right off the bat, I mean he kind of gets some points taken away for being voiced by Troy Baker and I have that Troy Baker fatigue.

STACEY: (Laughs)

JAYLEE: But he was just such a cool character and every named character in the game is so interesting and they felt like they existed outside of just you needing them in some way.

STACEY: Oh, that’s interesting.

JAYLEE: Yeah, so I mean they felt like real people in a way. As much as game characters can be.

STACEY: That seems like the biggest hurdle for games is making them feel like something that exists outside of you.


STACEY: Because you’re always the most important person in that universe.

JAYLEE: When we released our top female antagonists episode this game was actually recommended to us by one of our viewers, and they said that the antagonist is one of their favorites. So I was like “Okay, that’s pretty high praise if you think she belongs there with Kerrigan and Flemeth” and whatnot, but she totally does.

STACEY: Good! Oh, I’m so excited!

JAYLEE: It’s just totally solid and even First Light, the expansion adds more dimensions to the characters. It left me wanting more in a very genuine way as opposed to an “I didn’t feel like I had the complete package” way. So, yeah, that’s my game of the year pick.

STACEY: Nice. Wow, I feel really inadequate after that. I told you what my games of the year would be and you rephrased it back to me in the most pathetic way, but true.

JAYLEE: (Laughs)

STACEY: My game of the year are a playable teaser, one fifth of an episodic adventure game… and also Octodad.

JAYLEE: Yeah. (Laughs)

STACEY: And they’re all games I like for very different reasons. I don’t think I could throw the endorsement behind any of them that you just threw behind Infamous. (Laughs)

JAYLEE: I’m kind of worried now that people are going to play it and think “Wow, this isn’t the second coming of games that Jaylee made it out to be.”

STACEY: (Laughs) This was either sad or, I don’t know how you want to take this but my game of the year is probably P.T., the playable teaser for Silent Hills. (Laughs)

JAYLEE: Which I actually think is really cool. Like, that that is your game of the year. Just because it was such an interesting idea and concept.


JAYLEE: You know, we talked about it a lot in our water cooler for the episode.

STACEY: Two water coolers. (Laughs)


STACEY: From start to finish, there was just so much to unpack and then the actual process of unpacking it and how it brought this community together was just so fascinating and so invigorating, and it made me excited about games and about the potential.

STACEY: Yeah, It’s– part of it, I don’t want to just endorse it based on the fact that the circumstances made it feel important because it is just also really well crafted.


STACEY: It’s made by people that understand what makes that genre tick. Both in film you have those really great nods to things like Eraserhead but then at the same time you have this really complex knowledge of what makes a game scary and how to get into the players head and it does it in such a subtle way that at times– Like, I think about these things because this is just my academic bread and butter. But I feel like you can get into that game and just let yourself get into that mood and get lost in it and it’s just wonderful and it makes me so happy.

JAYLEE: And I think it’s really interesting how you bring up the community because a lot of times when “gaming” and “community” gets brought up you know you have like fighting games and their community or shooters or like MMOs but you don’t really hear about that with horror games because they’re usually such a solitary thing.


JAYLEE: So the fact that there was that community aspect for everybody trying to figure out “how do I beat this game, how do I finish it?”

STACEY: Right.

JAYLEE: That was what made it– kind of tipped it over the scale, I think.

STACEY: Mhmm. And I like that you mentioned how horror is usually so isolating because that is partially what makes it scary and this kind of found a new way to breath new life into that because the way everybody came together– you know we always come together to talk about games and usually we get hooked up on the story elements and stuff because usually that’s the easiest thing to communicate about but like, the fact this it brought everyone together to solve the puzzles and how everyone was having this shared experience at the same time. It was just so cool. I loved it.

JAYLEE: I think that was definitely one of my favorite gaming, like just overall gaming moments of the year. Is just people trying to figure out how to get that phone to ring. (Laughs)

STACEY: It was finally solved by youtube a user called The Great Debate and just watching his video and seeing the steps he took to finally solve the puzzle, too, that was super exciting. Because there was some real codebreaker stuff going on in there.

JAYLEE: (Laughs)

STACEY: And it was like, a part of me was like “Oh my god, I will never beat the game by myself if the final Silent Hills is anything like this,” but I just loved the way that the whole community put that together and it was really exciting when there was a breakthrough and it felt like you got to, even though I wasn’t the one who solved it I was participating in that moment of culture. So yeah, P.T., that’s my GotY.

JAYLEE: The counterpoint to the kind of, you know sad rendition of what our game of the year picks were– mine was “And Jaylee’s games of the year were sequels to JRPGs no one asked for.”

STACEY: (Laughs)

JAYLEE: And that’s because I really like, both Tales of Xillia 2 which I felt like built off everything from the original which I loved, also Lightning Returns which nobody asked for, nobody wanted it.

STACEY: (Laughs)

JAYLEE: But it was really fun and quirky and strange. It kind of gives you emotional closure to a series that was kind of exhausting.

STACEY: So I bet everyone’s wondering what my one fifth of an adventure game is…

JAYLEE: (Laughs)

STACEY: The Walking Dead, episode three of season two, which I’m sure if you listened to the episode we talked about it at length, and by we I mean I dumped– I would not let anybody else talk.

JAYLEE: (Laughs) And by anybody she means me.

STACEY: (Laughs) Yeah. Of course it’s my favorite. It just represented everything that Telltale could possibly get right, and the potential of it. It posed this really interesting question as far as what your role in this world is, who you are going to be and then it all went to crap after that, but you know what? I’m going to preserve episode three.

JAYLEE: Yeah. We’ll always have episode three.

STACEY: We’ll always have episode three and what we felt then… during a more innocent time. But we did a lot of Telltale stuff this year.

JAYLEE: You know Telltale kind of encapsulates some of my favorites and least favorites of the year because they did have that episode but then they also had the final episode.

STACEY: Which was so bad.

JAYLEE: And they also had Sarah dying and all that terribleness behind the scenes that led to it. But then they had The Wolf Among Us which was so solid other than just a few weird things at the end.


JAYLEE: And then they released two new games, they had four games this year which is just ridiculous and I think that those two games, I’m not going to give away much because I really want to do water coolers about them in future episodes.

STACEY: Yeah, I haven’t had a chance to play them yet.

JAYLEE: But I do think that those also encapsulate the best and the worst but you’ll have to look forward to the episodes to figure out which.


STACEY: Oh no, ‘cause I only bought one of them. (Laughs) But yeah, I mean, playing as Clementine, when it was good it was the most rewarding thing I’d played in the longest time, beside P.T. because they got that balance of how to get in and define a character.


STACEY: And kind of make you feel like you have agency in this world but also I think they did a really good job both in the way they marketed the game as well as in the game itself, not making it an ownership of her.


STACEY: Like when Tomb Raider was in the first process of being promoted there was a lot of talk from the developers that was really unfortunately worded things like “We make you want to protect her” instead of treating her like any other game character you’d want to enable and have this great adventure in. Even though Clementine is a child, and she’s a girl they did a really good job of fostering that feeling not of wanting to protect her, but of wanting to define her and be her and help her succeed, or fail in a way that was narratively satisfying. And Walking Dead just gave us some really wonderful horrible choices that let us just play in that playground and get our hands dirty and feel terrible but in the most wonderful way possible.

JAYLEE: I think something we can both agree on, and something we were joking about last year that I don’t actually think made it into an episode was we were joking like “Oh yeah, Octodad is going to be the best game of the year next year.”

STACEY: And it was!

JAYLEE: And it was! (Laughs)

STACEY: It’s exactly what it says on the box.

JAYLEE: It perfectly does what it set out to do.

STACEY: And it’s joyful.

JAYLEE: And even though it can be one of the most frustrating games ever there is so much charm behind the mechanics that you’re like “I can’t stay mad at you!”

STACEY: Yeah, there was this moment where I had one of his legs wrapped completely around the wedding chapel arch and I could not move and I was just spinning and this would be terrible in any other game but because its a secret octopus it’s hilarious and its a good game also since you cannot be good at it, regardless of your experience level.

JAYLEE: And I think if you are good at it you’re kind of missing the point.

STACEY: And so I can hand it to anybody like “check out this game, no really” and everyone will think its funny and just be terrible at it and thats what makes it wonderful.

JAYLEE: I actually played it two player with my boyfriend. Which is a completely new can of worms. It was some very testing times but it was just, not only playing an octopus but only playing one side of an octopus and just shouting being like “Move” “No, you move” “No, I’ve got the thing” “What side are you on?”

STACEY: (Laughs)

JAYLEE: I mean it was one of the strangest most fun multiplayer experiences I’ve had all year.

STACEY: Yeah, I bet. I haven’t gotten to play it two player I forgot it was two player. Shoot. It kind of reminds me of Warioware, like that was a game for a while where if I had friends over or something it was like “Okay, lets play a game.” Because all you need is one remote, no one is good at that game and thats the point, everyone looks ridiculous and so you just end up screaming things at the TV and at each other and people are hopping around on one foot and like, it’s funny. (Laughs) And that’s what it made me think of because there is no good way to play it. You’re just silly you’re falling over yourself and thats the point.

STACEY: There were a lot of games this year that we played this year that were perfectly solid games that did what they were set out to do, like Octodad, but I just couldn’t put them on my game of the year list just because we had so many games last year that felt important while I was playing them.


STACEY: Like you play Gone Home and you know this is an important game. You play A Link Between Worlds and you think “wow, this is an important game its doing something no one has done before.”


STACEY: But this year I didn’t, I guess like I said maybe I was a bad picker and I didn’t get to any of those kinds of games this year. I mean a lot of them were solid, like I got to play a little bit of Alien: Isolation, I like what I played. Dragon Age

JAYLEE: I was just about to say “Should we mention Dragon Age?

STACEY: (Laughs) I think we could a little bit.

JAYLEE: Two hours later…

STACEY: Yeah ‘cause Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game that I think you just finished and I just started my first real playthrough.

JAYLEE: Well you finished it but you’re like replaying it in a more thorough capacity, I guess? Is that right?

STACEY: Yeah, we’re going to do more episodes on this I’m sure. But the way I play Bioware games is I do a quick run through and after I hit all the story beats I make a character and have a very planned trajectory for them.

JAYLEE: I don’t really replay games but I do think the Bioware games are ones that are a lot more fulfilling on your second playthrough.

STACEY: Yes. And it is, it has been, because I was very non-committal in my first I was like “I don’t really know what this is going to do” and now this time– on my first playthrough I just played this lady who was just kind of there. She didn’t make any kind of important decisions she was just like “I don’t know. I don’t know.” It was awful.

STACEY: But yeah, so Dragon Age: Inquisition has some really weird design choices. Some of which are very frustrating but at the same time its pretty solid and I feel like its going to be on a lot of year end lists. But I don’t think I can put it on mine.

JAYLEE: I know what you mean.

STACEY: (Laughs)

JAYLEE: And its one of those things where I want it to be on other peoples game of the year list, because its so important. You have all these queer options, there’s actually a trans character and there’s so much to it, but because I had such high expectations, Dragon Age II, with all of its flaws, is very dear to me.


JAYLEE: So it kind of fell short in just odd ways which we’ll definitely unpack later.

STACEY: Really weird ways. (Laughs) It’s the kind of thing where you’re sitting there and you’re like “Uhhh, really? Why would you do that?” It’s not game breaking but, really?

STACEY: We’re talking about games that have a “yeah, but…” but like Super Smash Bros. came out this year. Mario Kart 8 came out this year. Those were really good games (Laughs)

JAYLEE: Those were solid. Mario Kart 8 was the most fun I’ve had with a Mario Kart game since the Super Nintendo.

STACEY: Yeah, I agree. And like I think also it really benefitted from the new web features and the growth of social media around it.

JAYLEE: Luigi!

STACEY: Yes, exactly. Like, I thought the game was really fun. Like really really fun, but the Luigi memes are hilarious.


STACEY: And they never stop being hilarious. I think about them and I laugh during the day sometimes.

JAYLEE: (Laughs) Yeah.

STACEY: Again, just like P.T. and The Walking Dead it created a cultural moment in addition to a great game.

JAYLEE: So that does it for Push to Smart for 2014. These are our game of the year picks and since we didn’t have as many as we did last year we’re looking for your suggestions during the post-holiday season. So let us know in the comments below what you loved most this year, and what you think about our choices. And don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on all our latest episodes.

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