Literally no one is surprised, my game of the year is Elden Ring. It exceeded my earth-tree-sized expectations, and while some absolute corkers were released this year, nothing else came close. On the other hand, the games that have made me the happiest are games that I rarely or never played. Pokémon Legends Arceus and Scarlet have given me more joy than all of the Elden Rings and Immortalities and Marvel Snaps combined.
I am not a player of these games. I’ve tried a few but never finished one, they just never grabbed me. My fiancee Rune (yes, they’re non-binary, why do you ask?), on the other hand, absolutely loves them. Sun & Moon were the first releases after we got together, and I’ve dutifully made sure they have every new Pokémon game on their shelves, even during the tough times.
But it’s totally worth it. Nothing compares to their delight in experiencing the heady delights of something so reassuringly familiar, liberally peppered with new surprises. I help with the all-important starter selection and contribute to the names. (Would you think that as a games journalist I’m pretty good at puns?) Making them laugh is good. Making her moan and hitting me with a pillow is even better!
I love that mainline Pokémon games are now available on the Switch. Instead of holding a portable screen in front of me every few minutes, we snuggle up on the sofa and I can watch all the action as it happens. The whole thing has now developed into a big event. We even get snacks. I won’t end up watching the full game, but rest assured that I’ll be notified whenever a new Pokemon is discovered or an evolution is imminent.
It helped me develop an appreciation for other parts of the game and fandom that I don’t think I really saw the appeal of before. Watching streamers play will never interest me, I’d much rather play games myself, but I’ve realized that the game itself isn’t really the point, it’s about seeing someone else enjoying themselves.
Likewise, I’ve never understood how people can be occasional fans of things. I either like something or I don’t like it, and when I do it my instinct is to give it my all. I’ve been on a huge Star Wars kick lately, and my living room is currently a mess of Black Series action figures. RPG books and Legion miniatures. I rewatched a number of movies and series and finally finished Jedi: Fallen Order. (How good is the ending?)
At Pokémon, I’m content to enjoy the news and rumors surrounding a new release, smile at fan art, and have an ever-growing list of favorite Pokémon (with Bulbasaur always at the top). It’s pretty nice. And significantly cheaper than my usual way of interacting with media.
What I’ve realized is that some of the best parts of games can be enjoyed without even playing them. Unboxing was my GOTY last year and I experienced what it was like from start to finish watching Rune play. I probably enjoyed it even more than if I had played it myself as we pointed out all the little details and speculated together. I played through the aforementioned immortality alone, but I wish I played it with someone else. Tunic is another wonderful title for 2022 that would have been better together. (And it would have been a blessing to have someone else do the bloody frustrating battle!)
What’s your favorite game that you’ve never played?
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