Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Now that The A.V. Club’s list of The Best Games Of 2022 has been put to bed for the year—thus fulfilling our contract with the Pop Culture Ranking gods and slaking their numerical bloodlust for yet another spin around the sun—I can happily get down to my favorite year-end tradition as the head of the site’s gaming coverage: Trawling through the comments on our list (as well as the lower reaches of our various contributors’ ballots, i.e., the bits that didn’t make it into the Top 15), looking for obvious gaps in the stuff I played in 2022 that I can fill back in over the holiday season.
After all, nobody can play everything; I stand by our ranking, great games all, but it’d be absurd to suggest that it’s a complete picture. Whither, for instance, Norco? Geography Of Robots’ text-heavy exploration of an alternate-universe New Orleans is obviously something right up my alley, full of strangeness and beauty and lovely, lovely words. But it simply missed me this year. (See also the more medieval Roadwarden, which our regular freelancer Alexander Chatziioannou has been singing the praises of since its release a few weeks back, but which I’ve yet to carve out the time to properly appreciate.)
That’s one of the pleasures of lists like ours, after all: By sketching out an image of the year in gaming, they also leave all sorts of negative spaces where exploration can continue to happen. There’s no feeling better than knowing that there’s a great game out there that I haven’t tried yet. I’ve been eyeing Square and Artdink’s Triangle Strategy for months now, for instance, enticed by its blend of tactical combat and consequence-heavy decision-making. And now, at least for a week or two, there’s a chance to dip back, and get my head and heart truly stuck in to that kind of tactical JRPG goodness that I’m always craving.
Signalis! How can I possibly get out of 2022 without at least trying rose-engine’s throwback to traditional survival horror gaming? (Especially after The Callisto Protocol left such a sour taste in my mouth; I need something space-y and terrifying to cleanse the palate.) (Got my eye on you, too, Scorn.) That’s to say nothing of those games I enjoyed this year but never quite completed: I really enjoyed Tunic, for instance, spending multiple hours deciphering its puzzles and its complex-but-fair fictitious language. But I never brought it all together for a final push to an ending. Like an insufficiently cautious Burgess Meredith in a video game-y version of the Twilight Zone, I’m convinced now that there’s time enough at last. (The irony/hubris of typing these words out while a winter storm with a pretty decent chance of knocking my power out completely bears down on Portland is not lost on me.)
It’s natural to bemoan a backlog of games. No other pop culture-y hobby demands as much investment in terms of time or focus as this one does. (A lackluster movie wastes at most three hours of a viewers’ life; a bad TV show 10 or 12; god knows how many hours of my life I’ve poured down the drain of a B- game.) But that’s also the joy of being invested in an art form that evolves every single time you turn around. It’s why I’m sincerely grateful for every single “How the hell did you forget XXXX?” comment that greeted our list: If someone’s passionate about a game, I want to know about it so I can get a taste of that passion myself. Hell, something amazing that didn’t even make the comments of our best-of list probably just came out while I was writing this; I can’t wait to try to hunt it down. (Feel free to point me in the right direction down in the comments of this piece.)