I want to wish all of Village Gamer’s readers and friends a very happy, productive, profitable and safe New Year. To those of you who have supported the site with product copies for review and news items, thank you – your support has been greatly appreciated. To those who are still waiting on reviews to be completed – I’m working on it – The Cavechild (who has vowed to get out more in 2010) has been assisting in some areas, and the two of us are working through the backlog to get caught up while Scott is kept busy on the server side of things. I occasionally kidnap some of the volunteer staff from our other site to help out with the chores, and I have to thank them for stepping up to the plate when needed.
I certainly wasn’t prepared for the welcome and success Village Gamer has enjoyed over the past year, and while this is all very good, I’ve found that my time and project management skills are due for a major upgrade. These are areas which I will be seriously working on as Village Gamer continues to grow and move forward into the next decade – but I can’t talk about that yet, Orby has me under an NDA and I wouldn’t want to end up like the fireworks he’s found – I’m not really sure just what his joystick controller is attached to, so I’ll have to wait on the sharing of news about Village Gamer’s future.
In the meantime, as we look back on the turbulence of 2009, all of us saw many local studios fade to black as they closed their doors forever. While the resulting talent pool is a boon to the other remaining and opening-soon studios, it was still sad to see the game development landscape go through such a major shift. I can only hope that 2010 will bring a brighter outlook for BC’s development industry, especially as we welcome new studios and production houses – let’s all hope that the closing of studios has ended with the passing of this first decade of the 21st century.
This past year also saw the merging of New Media BC and winBC to become DigiBC. This is an event which I am still not convinced was the best move for a provincial industry association, but I will save that opinion for a later post. The digital media industry has grown in both strength and exposure in recent years – not just in Canada but globally, and as provincial governments now vie to have the biggest studios in their respective provinces, we see even more shifting of the digital landscape. This is one of those times when I wish that our country was more united and willing to work together for the betterment of all Canadians instead of just looking out for their own provincial interests. I am in agreement with those involved with the Canada 3.0 forum – we need a viable national strategy, because the times are-a-changing and Canada, while it’s a big country, isn’t really big enough to successfully maintain a hostile and competitive atmosphere among regions as the digital technology industry matures.
High points for my year included attending the first GDC Canada  conference and being included as a speaker at the Women In Games Leadership Forum held during July’s Casual Connect Seattle . They were both fantastic experiences for me, and now I just need all of you to stop buying Lotto 6/49 tickets so that I can win and thus afford to go to all of the other great industry conferences and events  which are held nationally and internationally.
I think that I will have to give my “Most Memorable Keynote of 2009” award to Ubisoft Montreal’s  Clint Hocking. His presentation during Vancouver Film School’s Game Design Expo  was truly entertaining – and I believe I even learned a few things from it. This of course leads into my continuing appreciation of, and respect for, the quality of talent coming from our local post-secondary schools – the graduates from VanArts , AI , Emily Carr , VFS  and MDM  have much to be proud of and build on as they make their way into the digital media development industry, and I wish them all the best of luck on their journeys.
My top game picks for the year have to be Prototype , Academy of Champions Soccer , Dragon Age: Origins  and Assassin’s Creed 2 . Now, you may wonder how a family-friendly sports title made it into my top picks for the year, particularly when I am known for preferring games which involve death, destruction and total mayhem. I think it’s just because Academy of Champions is simply fun to play, and I appreciate the quality which the Ubisoft Vancouver team presented in their debut title. I think it says much for our Canadian titles when I’ve had Modern Warfare 2 since its release date, and I still haven’t played it. At least Scott and Mike are getting my money’s worth for its purchase.
I will be forever grateful to the Ubisoft Montreal team for making it possible for Ezio to swim in Assassin’s Creed 2 – this has greatly reduced the incidences of death usually experienced by my characters. Unfortunately, I reverted to Assassin’s Creed 1 after completing AC2, and belatedly remembered that Altair did not possess the same skill as his Italian descendant. It may be better for him if I just avoid rivers and canals whenever possible, except in times of extreme importance, such as the gathering of flags. As I said in my earlier review of Assassin’s Creed 2 – the artwork, design and research which went into this sequel is astounding, and I’m ready for the next chapter. Is it done yet?
Dragon Age: Origins has indeed become my favourite RPG title. Granted, other titles such as Guild Wars have that whole open world thing going on, but I am quite happy playing my way through Dragon Age as the various characters and testing out how the choices I make alter the game experience, something which isn’t really available in the linear world of Guild Wars. This isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to Guild Wars 2, but I think there will be much more to come from Bioware  as they expand the Dragon Age franchise, and I am currently waiting somewhat impatiently for January 5 to roll around so that I can return to Ostagar. I also hope that there will be more Dragon Age novels to look forward to, because I certainly enjoyed the first two.
As for my other choice in top Canadian games, Prototype from Radical Entertainment  opened up a whole new world of total destruction for me. I have enjoyed countless hours of just using Alex Mercer’s superhuman talents to cause a whole lot of mayhem among the NPCs of his New York City. I like the fact that I can choose to either work through missions (all of which I’ve completed) or make use of the free play feature to see how much damage I can cause to the corrupt military force and the infected citizens of the city. Too bad about the collateral casualties though. They truly were accidental. For the most part. This is another title which I am hoping has an expansion or sequel to look forward to, but trying to get any info out of Kelly and Dave is like trying to climb the Empire State Building to get the orb someone thoughtfully placed at very the top.
Now that I’ve told you what my top game picks are for the year, I hope you’ll head over to our Readers’ Choice Canadian Video Game Awards  page and take 2 or 3 minutes to vote on your top choices from 2009. All of the nominations came from readers, friends, relatives and anyone else we could torture needlessly for suggestions.
In closing, we hope to see you at the next Vancouver Interactive Night Out  (VINO) which will be happening at Yagger’s  on West Pender this January 15th – and hopefully the traffic situation will not be as demonic as it was in December, so we’ll actually be there on time instead of an hour late. Remember too that Global Game Jam  is happening this month at several locations across Canada and promises to be lots of fun.