2013 Year-in-Review


Happy Holidays to you and yours from us here at the Ontological Geek!  We’ve been on a bit of a hia­tus this December, prepar­ing to ring in the New Year with some excit­ing new fea­tures, in addi­tion to more of the full-length arti­cles you’ve got­ten used to see­ing from us.  2013 was a great suc­cess on many fronts, so we’ve decid­ed to take a moment to reflect on the year’s events as we look for­ward to future growth in 2014.

One thing’s for sure, we couldn’t have done it with­out you, and we’re very glad you decid­ed to read and sup­port the Ontological Geek.   So whether you peruse and com­ment, fol­low us on Twitter, play games with us, sub­mit guest arti­cles for themed months, or just pop in every now and then, we’re sin­cere­ly grate­ful.  Thank you!

And now, with­out fur­ther ado, it’s the Ontological Geek’s 2013 Year-in-Review!

JANUARY:

  • Tom Dawson, who’d recent­ly joined the reg­u­lar staff, kicked off our year by explain­ing why Spider-Man’s foray into Arkham-style stealth adven­tures is less effec­tive than the games fea­tur­ing the Dark Knight.
  • Hannah DuVoix cel­e­brat­ed the birth­day of a dear friend, whom many of you know, and reflect­ed on the Blue Bomber’s impor­tance to gam­ing.
  • Ben Milton strug­gled with the ubiq­ui­tous games-as-art ques­tion while read­ing Let’s Plays as per­for­mance art and games like Minecraft as artis­tic media.
  • Guest writer Jackson Wagner offered some thoughts on entropy, and what Little Inferno can remind us about games and life.
  • Matt Schanuel reflect­ed on life as a male gamer who iden­ti­fies with and prefers female player-characters.
  • We dis­cov­ered Porpentine’s stel­lar game howl­ing dogs (which you can play for free!), and edi­tor Bill Coberly gave it a per­son­al review in Twine (a pro­gram for cre­at­ing inter­ac­tive sto­ries, in which the orig­i­nal game is writ­ten).
  • Kicking off our now fairly-regular tra­di­tion of game days with staff and fans, we began con­quer­ing civ­i­liza­tions togeth­er on the week­ends.  We still go back to Civilization V pret­ty often, though we’ve since found Awesomenauts to be a real treat as well.
  • Matt kept us enter­tained by weav­ing a con­tin­u­ing nar­ra­tive of an XCOM playthrough, with sol­diers named after a crew of favorite col­lege friends.  You can read the whole thing, and an expla­na­tion of how it began, start­ing here.
  • Aaron Gotzon tried a sur­re­al­ist read­ing of the Mario Bros. games on for size, with some sur­pris­ing results.
  • At the very end of the month, the whole staff came togeth­er to cat­a­logue our favorite games, in the process assign­ing our read­ers some “home­work.”

FEBRUARY:

  • Regular colum­nist Jim Ralph jumped back into the fray this month by using The Walking Dead to remind us why we find zom­bies so ter­ri­fy­ing.
  • Tom made Penny Arcade Report’s The Cut with a com­par­i­son of the God-figures in From Dust and Black & White.
  • The sort of escapism some gamers are known for got a rous­ing affir­ma­tion from Hannah, who explained why we use games like Mass Effect to gen­er­ate hero-fantasies, and why that’s okay.

MARCH:

  • The Mass Effect saga got some fur­ther atten­tion from Bill, who traced its Lovecraftian influ­ences through the Leviathan DLC.
  • Tom object­ed to the stereo­typ­i­cal treat­ment of the British in Assassin’s Creed III, part of a series which pur­ports to honor and cel­e­brate his­to­ry.
  • We began a tra­di­tion of themed months by devot­ing April to arti­cles relat­ing to reli­gion and games/geek cul­ture, and put out a call for guest writ­ers to share their thoughts and expe­ri­ences.
  • Aaron wor­ried about what his enter­tain­ment choic­es could imply about his eth­i­cal think­ing.
  • Matt used Shakespeare to explore the con­tin­u­ing theme of games as per­for­mance art, with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the trans­for­ma­tive effect such per­for­mances can have on the play­er.

APRIL:

  • To kick off Religion Month, Bill played BioShock Infinite, and went to church for Easter.  He dis­cov­ered some sur­pris­ing (and joy­ous!) par­al­lels.
  • Guest writer Joshua Wise used Pac-Man to poke at the frame­work of cre­ation (“game” cre­ation, and capital‑C Creation), mean­while com­ing into con­tact with some of Christianity’s most chal­leng­ing ques­tions.
  • The ten­den­cy of adven­ture games to ask us to ran­sack sacred spaces like graves and tem­ples start­ed to get under Hannah’s skin.
  • Guest Tobe Cooper jumped in to com­pare the Catholic Church with the Church of Yevon in Final Fantasy X.
  • Anne Tracy (née Winters, con­grat­u­la­tions!) shared her frus­tra­tions with games and faith, and real­ized that to under­stand both it’s impor­tant to learn how to relax.
  • Matt explored themes of cre­ation in var­i­ous games, mean­while weav­ing a per­son­al story of reli­gious prac­tice through world-building.
  • We post­ed anoth­er Twine arti­cle, this time by guest Raymond Neilson, who used the inter­ac­tive medi­um to tell us about Mormonism and games.
  • Aaron cat­a­logued the rise (and fall) of explic­it­ly “Christian” games, from the 1980s to what remains of the genre today.
  • Guest Ethan Gach remind­ed us of some of religion’s nas­ti­er sides, show­ing us what became of Earthbound’s Happy Happyists.
  • In Michael Elliot’s one-off, we were shown some fas­ci­nat­ing com­par­isons of the Qun reli­gion from Dragon Age, and Buddhism.
  • Jim attempt­ed to cast the role of God in the rela­tion­ship between play­er, game, and player-character, using Tomb Raider as a ref­er­ence point.
  • Oscar Strik, who became a reg­u­lar staff mem­ber toward the end of the year, sub­mit­ted his first OntoGeek arti­cle by wrestling with how games, espe­cial­ly the role-playing genre, might best depict reli­gion.

MAY:

  • Fresh off an excit­ing first themed month, we sailed into May, promis­ing anoth­er theme in the future.
  • Editor Joel Cuthbertson left the cut­ting room and leapt onto the main Geek page to crit­i­cize the triv­i­al­iza­tion (and, he argued, gam­i­fi­ca­tion) of the Boston marathon bomb­ings.
  • Guest Joshua Yearsley used two dif­fer­ent games, and two dif­fer­ent con­cepts in gam­ing, to explore the role of videogame vio­lence and how it shapes our play­ing expe­ri­ences.
  • We took a brief break to regroup before launch­ing the sum­mer round of con­tent.

JUNE:

  • Bill reviewed Primordia and told us why he loved the intri­ca­cies of the robot char­ac­ters but couldn’t get into the puz­zles.
  • We got a sneak pre­view of the Ontological Geek pod­cast (new episodes com­ing in 2014!) when Bill inter­viewed design­er Epidiah Ravachol.
  • Seb Atay broke down the sym­bol­ism of a cer­tain set piece in Metroid Prime.
  • Hannah extolled the virtues of the “Let’s Play” phe­nom­e­non, excit­ed­ly con­tin­u­ing our line of think­ing about games as per­for­mance pieces.

JULY:

  • In her special-length Independence Day arti­cle, Hannah told us how she viewed the Boomers as a micro­cos­mic alle­go­ry for mod­ern America in the Fallout world.
  • Jim got funky by break­ing down XCOM into the steps of a dance and let­ting us look at the game in a new light.
  • Returning to mem­o­ries of child­hood, Tom took a long­ing look at his time grow­ing up with the Legend of Zelda series, and took stock of why those games were for­ma­tive for his younger self.
  • Aaron looked at Borderlands 2’s Ellie, and talked about why she helped, instead of hurt, the body image move­ment.

AUGUST:

  • Perennial con­trib­u­tor Jarrod Hammond chart­ed a jour­ney: the paths our desires take over time and how our choic­es in gam­ing change to reflect those desires.
  • We launched a new offi­cial project: an impro­vi­sa­tion­al role-playing/interactive fic­tion game for Twitter.  Called It Is Pitch Dark, it has man­aged to gath­er a fair­ly siz­able fol­low­ing and is expect­ed to con­tin­ue with brand-new sto­ries and adven­tures in the com­ing year.
  • Guest Justin Freeman took a crit­i­cal eye to BioShock Infinite’s treat­ment of its lead­ing lady.
  • Bill head­ed to war by exam­in­ing the bat­tle tac­tics of XCOM and Pacific Rim, and how the forces of good are expect­ed to impro­vise.
  • In our sec­ond offi­cial roundup, the staff got togeth­er to talk about what an effec­tive boss bat­tle looks like.
  • On the 17th of August, we cel­e­brat­ed Ontological Geek’s third birth­day!  Here’s hop­ing for many more to come.
  • Tom got hilar­i­ous­ly frus­trat­ed with Face Noir in his review of this adven­ture game set in his favorite genre.
  • We recapped our first game of Pitch Dark, which was called Through-the-Gate-to-Many-Places, and was run by Bill.  If you want to read the full text of the game, that’s there too.
  • Matt gave us a touch­ing and per­son­al review of Gone Home and what it means to be a Katie com­ing back to visit that which was once most famil­iar.
  • We post­ed the full text of Matt’s Pitch Dark story, The Lizards on Phobos, and he talked some about his expe­ri­ence run­ning the game.
  • Oscar found Gone Home and Papers, Please both to be about the pas­sage of time and how its abun­dance or lack there­of influ­ences per­son­al sto­ries.

SEPTEMBER:

  • Aaron closed his Pitch Dark ses­sion, Unto Tarsus, and offered some thoughts on the state of the project (as usual, we includ­ed the com­plete text along with the com­men­tary).
  • We endeav­ored to keep the themed months going by send­ing forth the call for arti­cles con­cern­ing hor­ror in videogames.
  • Hannah joy­ful­ly con­sid­ered the (procedurally-generated!) mir­a­cle of real­i­ty, using Minecraft as an exam­ple to help us get there with her.
  • Ben led us in learn­ing about some dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing about RPGs, and gave sup­port for each.

OCTOBER:

  • We had anoth­er guest writer, L. Rhodes, guide us through an eth­i­cal exer­cise, bound­ing back and forth between Tiny Thief and the works of (chiefly) Immanuel Kant.
  • Horror Month final­ly got start­ed, thanks to Amsel von Spreckelson stop­ping in to ask us the ques­tion: who do we real­ly think we’re scar­ing?
  • Horror Month began late, but things real­ly got cook­ing when Oscar astute­ly wrapped our heads around the pos­si­bil­i­ties of inter­ac­tive hor­ror, and the dif­fer­ent forms such hor­ror can take.  With a bib­li­og­ra­phy!

NOVEMBER:

  • Long-time fan first-time writer Zachary McAnally chal­lenged us to con­sid­er when Slender’s hor­ror gives way to frus­tra­tion, and why.
  • Soha Kareem was award­ed a spot on Critical Distance’s This Year in Videogame Blogging with her hon­est and emo­tion­al trib­ute to Year Walk.
  • Hannah, faith­ful­ly ward­ing off mys­te­ri­ous attacks on her con­sti­tu­tion and bouts of lost time, man­aged to escape with some of the truth behind the Slender Man.
  • Jim took a break from writ­ing about games and real­ly let him­self go (for a real­ly good cause).
  • …Then came back to tell us about how a little-known Western game bent the nor­mal rules of sto­ry­telling in some unex­pect­ed ways.
  • Hannah kept on explor­ing trans­gen­der themes in the Matrix this year, this time tak­ing on the sequel, Reloaded.
  • A bit late for Horror Month, Aaron resur­faced to ask us about whether Binding of Isaac is a hor­ror game?

And that brings us to DECEMBER, when we post­ed our lat­est roundup, on game end­ings!

We hope you enjoyed tak­ing a walk through the past with us, and we look for­ward to see­ing you in the New Year!  Be safe, be kind, and be thought­ful as you cel­e­brate the remain­der of the hol­i­day sea­son, and best of wish­es, what­ev­er you resolve to play.

Or, since we’re gamers all, who­ev­er you decide to be.  That’s more like it.

-          The Ontological Geek Staff

Bill Coberly, Editor-in-Chief (@BillCoberly)

Joel Cuthbertson, Editor

Tom Dawson, Columnist (@MrTomDawson)

Hannah DuVoix, Columnist (@nuhalph)

Aaron Gotzon, Columnist (@AP_Gotzon)

Jim Ralph, Columnist (@somekindofjim)

Oscar Strik, Columnist (@qwallath)

(…and all past and future staff mem­bers, col­lab­o­ra­tors, and allies of all stripes.  Thank you.)