Let's talk about the wizarding world. by Richard Duck

I finally did it. I'm now able to participate in pop culture appropriately. I watched a movie in the Harry Potter universe. 

I'm not going to review the movie though. It's worth watching on its own. I'm going to talk about the casting and why this universe isn't as magical as it could have been. 

Let's talk about the casting. J.K. Rowling has her hands deep in the casting choices. Which for such a well loved author, you would think that she would be attune to the diverse audience of fans that love the worlds shes's generated. Yet, I left Fantastic Beasts wondering what she perceives as diversity. 

Are you planning to watch the movie? Yes? Count for me the number of characters that are people of color. How many did you get? 

One? Two? Two and a half? Definitely not three.

Spoiler: It's two and a half, possibly three with speaking roles.

Let's talk about that. How many people of color would you expect to be magical in the 1920s? Even better, how many non-wizard people of color would you see in NYC? I imagine there had to be a least one. Wait, I can't remember seeing any on the streets of the city during the movie. I'm 90% sure they were battling it out in the same neighborhood Friends took place in. Had to be. Maybe there's a Sex in the City/Friends/Harry Potter tie that I can't figure out. Considering how much mysticism is rooted in immigrant cultures in a city where deep pockets of culture could exist this seems like a major oversight.  

Diversity-Obliviatus! I made a magic spell. No wand.

Don't worry! There's a few folks in the movie! We have the president of the MACUSA (the magical world in the USA). We have a Black wizard nurse that has a broken English accent (Aunt Jemima is a wizard folks!). We had an Asian member of the council that spoke up for a few lines. I won't count the person of color goblin/elf creature that had a very, very brief moment on screen. Where does that leave us? Three women of color and one creature. 

Zoe Kravitz will be in the next film and that's very exciting, but sadly this casting choice reinforces something that makes me feel that the wizarding world is kind of colorist at best. Nah, it is. The casting choices in the previous paragraph support the super basic theme of light and dark that the film rides so hard. The good characters are light in complexion, while the the dark complexioned nurse had to do the dirty work (she's kind of a bad guy?). I'm not going to spoil it, but damn, it hit me like a ton of bricks when she opened her mouth. I hit the wall of colorism hard.

So tell me, as someone who's only seen one movie in the Harry Potter Universe, does it get better? In the Harry Potter books/movies are there at least a few people of color with range? Will there be a Black male wizard? When I get around to seeing the movies, will I experience the same sadness I felt after watching Fantastic Beasts? 

I just can't imagine a world I want to explore where I'm actively ignored. I can't see the magic in forgetting that I exist. 

Dance, dance, dance. by Richard Duck

I work an office job, I love music, I also really need to be more active. Besides attempting to get myself to the gym, I've been going dancing more. I know it's not for everyone, but if you can find the right space, music and people, you are in for a wonderful experience of light exercise and fun.

So this past Saturday I went to go see Kaytranada at the Showbox in Seattle. The crowd was vibrant, diverse and ready to have a good time. The energy swelled when Lou Phelps, a producer, DJ and rapper took the stage to get everyone started. He knew the secret weapon to get everyone ready for a good time. Kanye West - Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1

Lou performed fantasically as a DJ, and during his set, decided to go and perform for us. Unexpected, yet completely a delight. Here's the link to his song "Rent is Due."

Afterwards, he kept on dropping dancefloor bombs. He left with a crowd that was ready for more. What got me hyped more than anything was his inclusion of Grime. I'm always ecstatic when an American crowd can get into a new (ish) sound that's got the energy and strength of 90s Hip Hop. For bonus points, check out the top 25 Grime songs of 2015.Heck, I was wanting to dance more myself. I had a good enough sweat going, intermixed with an ultra positive and chill vibe. Those are words I hardly use, but it's a short way to describe the nature of the show. 

Sango(Soultection) came up next with an entirely different set of music. Lou kept the crowd hyped by playing songs we all know and love. Everything was made to dance or sing along to. Sango had a similar, but more tempered effect. He used songs that referenced, or sampled hits from all eras, but were way more downtempo. It was the roller coaster hill before the drop. Please believe that everyone was dancing through his set. The movement was infectious. For even more bonus points, go check out the Soulection crew, they are too good!

Let's talk about how great it was to have Kaytranada come out and do a DJ set of his music, some of his influences and more. To be clear, his entire album seems like something that's not full of dance (maybe club) bangers if you are listening to it while chilling or relaxing. It's a plenty fun album when applied to the dance party setting. Mind you, this was when EVERYONE started to move. His music embraces a wide enough spectrum of music where your interests can be a mix of soul, funk, jazz, techno, house, R&B, Hip Hop and more. It's rare when everyone of different ages and generations can find something that they might specifically pick out each one of Kaytranada's track. I'm listening to some of his earlier DJ mixes as I write this and it's doubly interesting to revisit his music and what other sound he would mix with his own.

Wait, this was about dancing. It's now kind of a concert review. Just in case you weren't sure. I was dancing the entire time. I got a lot of extra steps, burned some calories, hung out with some great people and more. 

Tell me, are you going to go dance? Let's hear your story.

Fishermans Village Music Festival 2016 by Richard Duck

Here's my slightly late, but still somewhat on time review of the Fisherman's Village Music Festival 2016.

This was the first year I was able to attend the super stacked FVMF 2016 in some capacity. Just to be clear, I wasn't able to stay for the entire weekend, but from the time I was there, it proved to be one of the most crucial festivals in Washington. Let's start off with where it was: Everett, Washington. You might not have heard of that place, but it's a short 20 minute drive up from Seattle, nothing too crazy right? It's a lot less crowded, significantly less hostile towards drivers and their cars (I can rant for a long time about how horrible Seattle is to drive around in) and the downtown is extremely clean and gorgeous. Small city, with big plans. The Everett Music Initiative definitely put in some work to make sure that this was a worthwhile event in an easy to access part of the city.

As a music festival it was packed with talent. Initially, I wanted to go because of acts like Sassy Black, Trick Candles and Magic Sword. I wasn't able to make it on Friday, therefore missing a lot of new music, but Saturday and Sunday made it worthwhile for any music fan. It was mostly rock of all varieties, some soulful music, dreampop and a little bit of everything in that range. I don't know how to describe every act I listened to, but at minimum, every act was high quality and well worth a listen. Considering this was a "pay what you can" show, dropping 20 bucks would have been an incredible value over the entire event. The festival was split up among different venues and an outdoor stage. The weather wasn't perfect, so thankfully, there were other places to chill and stay dry. I REALLY appreciated that each venue was different, giving each patron an opportunity to find the place they felt most comfortable in. Even if you didn't want to stay in one place, the distance between each location was a short walk of only a few minutes at most. If you wanted to drive from venue to venue, you could find parking nearby. I really hope they keep that layout for next year, possibly adding in some other locations as well.

What music did I end up enjoying? Well there's a lot on the list, but I have to give my top acts, (in no particular order) to:
Magic Sword
Raven and the Writing Desk
The Moon is Flat

The list of artists I was sad I missed:
Grace Love and the True Loves
Fauna Shade
Sassy Black
Trick Candles
Iska Dhaaf

Here's what the schedule was like, so you can understand my intense FOMO:

From the jump I knew I would have had to make some hard musical choices. Speaking of choices...

Let's talk about food for a second. Everett has some wonderful local restaurants to dine at. Seriously! I didn't get to try as many as I wanted this time around (notice a theme?), but I appreciate the range that was within blocks of the concert area. The prices were reasonable and they were plenty prepared for the concert goers. With more events in the same vein, downtown Everett can (and will) become another destination spot for food and drink in the next few years. I'm just waiting find out what my new favorite restaurant north of Seattle will be!

Let's talk about the crowds. it was a bit of a mixed bag. Some folks from the area, a lot of Seattle area people, some friendly transients (a normal occurrence anywhere you go in the Puget Sound), families and dogs. There was a rare, friendly cat sighting as well for the feline folks. The vibe was super chill among the groups, which is more than appreciated. No one likes tension. I firmly believe the music lineups chosen really helped curate the most chill and musically inclined crowd as a part of the atmosphere.

Ok, so should you go next year to this event? Absolutely. Will you have fun? Yes. Is Everett a great place for music? Confirmed. I'm ready for #FMVF2017

Magic Sword:

The Raven and the Writing Desk

Tending Your Social Garden by Richard Duck

If you don't know, I currently reside in Seattle. A wonderful city that's growing by the minute. Wonderful weather, some of the best dog parks, beer and the dreaded Seattle Freeze. I won't get into too much detail about it, but it makes it hard to socialize if you aren't from the area. With that, to really grow and maintain a circle of friends, you need to tend to each individual, group and opportunity like you would plants in a garden.

The transplants that I'm friendly with are generally speaking social creatures. To fight the feeling that winter from the Seattle Freeze is coming, you have to consistently interact with other folks in a meaningful and impactful way. As a person of color and a transplant, I know a lot of people craving a level of diversity that is sorely lacking in the Puget Sound. Discovering communities to connect with is already hard enough, making the time and effort is harder. It's a lot of work to find a lot, till the soil and plant the seeds of your social circles.

I regularly go out and about. Mostly to venues/meetups where I don't necessarily have to know anyone, nor do they have to know me. I just find a place, where the collective "we" have at least one thing in common. Maybe it's a love of dancing to old Funk and Soul, a band, some art, video games, anything. I'm rummaging around to find that (hopeful) fertile plot of social similarities that will hopefully net me some new connections. Again, it's just an event. Maybe it's some small talk. You might get a date. You might end up with a new friend. You won't know until you get out there and do some exploring.

Now that you know where you want to want to hang out. Hopefully you checked the quality of the people and found some folks that you might get along with. Right? Right! I make it a point to check in, even if it's through social media, a text, a tweet anything. You've already found some seeds, and by being proactive in your efforts, you are watering your soil and finding out what kind of friend you planted. Of course you hope for the best. Have you checked in with that person you met a week ago at the concert? Your new friend that always invites you out to do fun things? The person you connected with at a meetup? No?

Stop reading and send them a message. Plan something. Anything.

Done? Great!

Finally, be social. Prune, water, pull some weeds and do the work required to have that blooming and fruitful social garden. That means making and sticking with plans, going out and spending time with the people that are important to you. Don't let your relationships wither by refusing to work towards a healthy relationship. You might not be able to take care of everyone, and not everyone deserves your attention, but you do deserve to be happy. If you are investing too much work and finding that you are only netting a small social profit margin on your investments, start over. Bring the best along with you, find a new plot and start again.

Enjoy your journey. Take your friends(new and old) along. Make the most of your relationships and time. Most importantly, have fun. 

Short games, long money. by Richard Duck

I somehow completed two games this year. I am very proud of that, as I hardly complete any games normally. I finished up Superhot early this past Saturday morning and a few weeks ago I ran through Firewatch. Both games have already won spots on my coveted game of the year list! Seriously. How could two games already win obtain that ranking? It’s because video games have hit a critical sprint in storytelling with a reasonable amount of gameplay endurance that we’ve sorely needed. Let’s start with Firewatch and why it's a key example.

Firewatch, is an interactive experience about a man dealing with a past by escaping to the Wyoming forest to take the role as a park ranger/firewatch. Sounds simple enough right? Well, there’s mystery, confusion and imagination encapsulating a character driven story between Henry (the main character) and Delilah, the other firewatch. You banter, argue and bond with her entirely through a walkie talkie.  It’s a solid “walking simulator”, so don’t expect to put out fires or save the day. It's a game that's all about the relationships, choices and where that leads you. Even if it's a forest that's on fire most of the time. In a strangely fitting and contradictory way, it does share some character beats like the film Belly. A Hip Hop/Urban Drama film about two individuals in the midst of their most criminal years. How did they get there? Drastic life choices. How do they escape the life they revel in? I don't want to spoil it, but the endings have more in common with Henry and Delilah spending a summer in Wyoming than I believed. Both Firewatch and Belly rely on the characters to make decisions that set the pace, direction and endings of their respective stories. Like Henry and Delilah, Nas and DMX aren’t making decisions due to a situation, they make the situation (and location) their decision. Four hours later, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Superhot. A newly released and kickstarted game rests firmly on my mind as one of my most exhilarating experiences of the year. Like Hotline Miami 1 and 2, the story wraps itself around an excellent and engrossing action game. Superhot doesn’t need for you to have the fastest twitch times, nor does it want you to. You can dodge bullets, steal weapons from the hands of your foes, slice them in half and feel pretty invincible when your prescribed orchestra of destruction goes as planned. How? Time moves slowly when you aren't and accelerates when you do. Your pace, your story. There’s an extremely meta story about a cracked video game, some 90’s style DOS interfaces, internet chats and virtual reality. Without spoiling too much, it’s a cyberpunk tale about playing games and what we are willing to do for immersion, no matter the medium. There’s a hint of The Lawnmower Man with a heaping dose of <insert your favorite action movie>. Really, pick an action movie. You might find a level just like it. With that, I am three hours into Superhot and I’ve found another crisp and direct game that challenges the need for a 40 hour epic.

I’ve got a little bit of an ulterior motive to this post. My two favorite games have been hit with some demands for refunds for on Steam and criticism on the length. There’s already been a few blog posts about Firewatch and the culture of game value and price. I’ve personally seen a few complaints about Superhot on the community hub for the game. It’s a trend that’s grown in the digital distribution age of video games. There’s no physical goods to move, maintain and repair if a consumer has an issue with a title. A person doesn’t have to copy that floppy, or do they have the technical limitation of copying a cartridge or other proprietary(ish) format. They can download the game, complete it, complain and get a refund. I’m not anti consumer, as I want the ones supporting this industry financially to be able to have an enjoyable experience. It’s jarring and confusing for me, a long term gamer, when a short game has to justify it’s price point. A lot of home console games had the arcade ( and usually very short by design) lineage running strong in their DNA. Succeed, lose, try again, succeed, lose, try again, repeat. Later, when collect-a-thons were popular, the lock to the key was item collection and discovery. A natural extension of game length in the post-arcade era. Now, a sprawling universe with collect-a-tasks seem to be the gold standard of gaming. In the attempt to streamline the game into a finite, directed and sometimes arcade like experience, value propositions come into play. Much like if you had to decide to place a quarter in the slot of arcade machine.

Value propositions are everywhere and mirror what gaming is dealing with right now. We stream music for less than the cost of lunch. The same for movies and television. We only seek authentic and premium variations of music and movies through theater and concerts now. Games aren’t streamed yet for the price of Netflix or Spotify (Humble Bundles are pretty close though) and premium games are relegated to special editions and DLC. How do we deal with the incoming and ever decreasing pop culture-like  half life of gaming? We don’t fight it. Not right now. Not every Oscar winning movie has to break sales records. Not every great album has to be recognized by any and everyone. Gaming will get to the point where short and potent experiences will find an ever expanding audience. It’s going to happen, and might already be here for most of us.

Finally, go support some art. Don’t be afraid to put your money where it counts. Sometimes it’s the only voice you have. Be sure to use it. 

How do you want it? How do you feel? by Richard Duck

There's a common and distressing argument among video game folks of all kinds regarding the stories in the games we play. It's a strangely dismissive and sometimes contradictory argument that games don't have the same level of quality in storytelling as other traditional mediums. Yet, we can speak in volumes about games like Metal Gear, Mass Effect and Undertale.  Is it true that games don't have good narratives? Are we expecting more than we should or are we getting less than want? I believe it's a little of both.

I recently had the opportunity to play P.T., a game that crystalizes and effectively delivers some of the best horror I've experienced (find a friend and play it!). Kojima proved himself to be the Walter White of horror in that short and intense demo. I had to put the controller down a few times. I didn't want to finish the demo. I was legitimately scared. Let me be clear though, as a recluctant horror fan, my feelings on P.T. are similar across all mediums. The night I watched "The Ring" I was unable to fall asleep until 6am. I still don't really want to re-watch "The Exorcist." P.T. falls high among my horror experiences. But wait, how could a video game sneak into the ranks of my entertainment choices? It's not a movie, or a book! It can't be as nuanced! Let's continue this conversation. 

Gears of War 1 through 3, a heavy hitter in my entertainment options, provided me with the same feeling as watching "The Expendables." The teenage power fantasy of being mostly invincible, saving the world with a slew of visceral weapons and being THE GUY was finally realized for me. Honestly,  we've seen this story a million times, a million different ways. Disgraced hero comes back to the ranks to finally lead humanity to safety despite being scrutinized by his peers and management. Didn't Beowolf have a similar story? There's nothing wrong with that, but again, GOW does fit highly into my overall entertainment ranking over all mediums. 

I'd like to push the idea that the delivery mechanism of a story doesn't necessarily mean that it's less or more valuable than others. Think of your new favorite movie (that you watched in the theaters) right now. What is it? How much did you enjoy it? Why did you like the movie? 
I'm going to have you use your imagination for this next part. You are now walking into the theaters with the knowledge that movie theaters are a recent invention. How great of an experience would you have? Would the seats be acceptable? Are the floors dirty? Do they know how to ticket properly? Do they have delicious popcorn and candy? You can imagine that theaters went through their own sets of struggles and iterations to ensure that you actively appreciated a movie because you were pleased with the mechanisms used to deliver the story to you. 

To use a more direct example: Imagine playing your new favorite game on a black and white, mono, 13inch, tube TV.  Are you going to enjoy the game or the story? Probably not. You would have to suffer through the game because of the limitations of the technology. Delivery methods can't and shouldn't exclude video games from being valuable and crucial narrative artifacts of our time.

I believe that more and more games are introducing us to (possibly new) worlds that we have some familiarity with because of all mediums. Creativity shouldn't be dismissed because of the format it's on. If you are a creator, critic, consumer of video games it's plenty OK to say that I think that <insert game> did a better job of story telling than <book/movie/play>. You aren't a monster for supporting that view, you are respecting the hard work of others.  

2015 is OVER. by Richard Duck

Well it's been another year on planet Earth and we are officially in the future. I'm looking forward to what this year has to offer me. I also am excited about what will come forward with some work, self growth and improvement. If you don't mind, let me go over some big events that happened over 2015.

I read "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover" - My therapist recommended this. I can't express how crucial this text is for personal growth. Understanding the sides of who you are and how to balance, nurture and develop them proved to be more valuable than I thought. I've still got a lot to work on, which leads to some of my 2016 goals.

Went to XOXO

Attended PAX for work - This was a big deal! I've never gone to PAX for anything but pure consumption. Which is fine, if that's all you want to do. Considering that I work in the game industry, it was nice to be trusted to go visit a major event and do some good work.

Boiler Room, Soundcloud and Redbull Music Academy kept my music palate fresh - I've found a lot of new artists over the year to listen to thanks to all of these resources. I personally don't like too much control of what I'm listening to so I am forced to hear something new. I believe it's important to keep on listening to something new and bold. Plus, it's passive, you can do some great work to exciting new music!

Started learning electronics (68Katy)

68000 programming - I don't have too much running in 68K assembly, but it's a start! I'm more than happy with that.

A major relationship ended - I had ended a relationship that lasted roughly three years. My ex is still a great person (she's doing some fantastic work for a lot of marginalized and community), but due to the circumstance and gravity of choices, among other things, we aren't together anymore. It's not a bad thing, sometimes distance is what you need to really establish something better and more sustainable than before. 

What are my 2016 resolutions and goals?

Write a mission statement for myself - Everyone should have that written down someplace. What's the elevator pitch about yourself and what you do? Make one. Carry it around. 

Practice self and financial care - I will work on my financial and physical health this year. I'm 34, I should be working on it anyway. Also, I got some simple, but direct advice from Scott Hanselmann: "Don't waste your 30s."

Keep on saying "no" when it's appropriate - Again. "Don't waste your 30s."

Spend time nurturing my circle of peers - "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." I've got an idea who my top five people are right now. Should I keep them around? Should I switch up my team? Am I improving myself? Am I helping them? Check out this post on Lifehacker for more information.

Focus on rebuilding the atrophied part of my brain that used to be good at everything computer science-y

Blog here more than once a month

Finish my 68000 project to some degree - I'd like to get my computer to the point where I have some output to a screen and a physical keyboard. Nothing too crazy, but starting completely from scratch will provide me with more than enough challenge. I'm learning basic digital circuits guys!

DJ - I want to be able to handle running an hour long set of some garage. Then lifestream it. Maybe make it a regular thing. 

Thanks for reading this and you are more than welcome to share what you are working on, goals, or thoughts for 2016 in the comments. You can hit me up on Twitter (@lecanardzero) if you would like to communicate that way!




The Best of 2015! by Richard Duck

Welcome back! I am going to go over the top 10 games of 2015 this time. Of course, this is super, maybe ultra subjective, but it's been a great year for gaming so far. It's weird, because it seemed like there have been less "hits." In hindsight, that's not true at all. The games this year have been more nuanced, complex, fun, engaging and beautiful experiences. I'm sure my list will be a lot different than most around. Gaming took on a different role for me this year, and my list will reflect that. You might even get some stories about my life in this post. 

Let's get this list going!

10: Broforce

This game has been in early access for a while. I've played it a lot, but since it's finally out I can add it to my top 10 list. This and a few other games have been waiting around in the dark corners of early access, just waiting to jump on to my list. Broforce envelopes every action movie game I've wanted to play since I was a kid. It's a game that playfully wraps itself around the 16-bit aesthetic, and that's OK, it works. Especially because it's all well done. It doesn't feel like it's 16-bit art, just for being "retro." Which is refreshing in this era of rampant and not quite well executed (possibly re-heated) nostalgia. 

 Every playable character represents the extreme action focused versions of their on screen personas. Rambo, The Terminator, Blade, Mr. T, MacGuyver, Ridley, Conan , Ash, Judge Dredd are a part of the exciting cast. It's got way more than guns blazing, run and gun action. The level of destruction in the game adds a smidge of puzzle elements because sometimes it's not useful to just light everything up. I've blown myself up more times because I went in guns blazing. A game that makes you think before you shoot? Worth it.

Either way I could go on for a while, but it's a game worthy of a top 10 list. 

Protip: Play with friends!

9: Not A Hero

Have you played Rolling Thunder? Elevator Action? If not, it's no big deal! If you have, you'll be right at home with Not a Hero. Broforce and Not A Hero don't have a lot in common, but there's a lineage of retro game goodness at their cores. Not a Hero is an action game with some mild puzzle and timing elements as key gameplay points. It's not run and gun due to the cover system being crucial for survival. Rolling Thunder and Elevator Action clearly informed that design decision. 

It's a blast and not a duck, shoot, move, duck, shoot, move affair. As a bonus, it's got a great sense of humor. Worth a buy. 

8: Captain Forever Remix

This is a remix and generally improved version of Captain Forever. Which was already a pretty darn great game. So it's *kind* of been out before, but let me go over it quickly. You are a small spaceship in a galaxy full of silly, fun and funny characters straight out of a child's imagination (that's part of the story). The catch is that you need to build your ship as you go. You can attach pieces of other ships to yours to make it bigger, badder and better. It's a fun concept with some really catchy music and gameplay too keep you trying again and again. I kept on smiling through this game. 

7: Tembo the Bad Ass Elephant

I'm going to keep this short. This is the Sonic game I've wanted for a long, long time. It's got an elephant coming out of retirement to save the world and that's all you need to know story wise. It's got a great grip on the balance between speed, platforming and action. It's worth your money and more.

6: Lovers in a Dangerous Space Time

I've honestly been in love with this game for the last two years. It's a space roguelike with a cute aesthetic about two people trying to save a variety of space animals in a ship that definitely requires more than two people to control it. That's the where the fun and challenge lies! You might need to adjust the shields, while controlling one gun. Maybe you'll need someone to steer while you shoot. There's a lot of fun in communicating with your gaming partner about who's going to tackle what needs to happen at any moment. Lovers in a Dangerous Space Time is a shining example of cooperative multiplayer. Something that's been missing from a lot of games lately. Go find a friend and play it!

5: BadBlood

This is the murderous local multiplayer cousin of hide and seek. Each one of your characters is running around a field trying to find each other so you can kill each other. Hide, seek, kill. Simple enough right? Maybe! There's also some special abilities to mix things up for each play through. It's got tremendously impressive art and music combined with a sense of style that's unmatched among most other games this year. It's a rare, exciting and beautiful game. 

4: The Beginner's Guide

I don't want to say much, because it could be a spoiler. This experience is affecting and something you'll want to talk about after you play it. That's all. 

3: Downwell

This is one of the best pickup and play roguelikes in a while. You are a young man who decides to jump down a well to find treasure and adventure with your gunboots. Gunboots, the ultimate accessory. It's mostly shmup, enough of a platformer and the rest is all good. Really. It's something to play over and over again. It's challenging in a way that you *know* you can do better the next time. It doesn't hurt that this game has a perfect start/restart cycle. I personally am playing it on Steam, but you have the option for iOS. For three dollars, you shouldn't even think about waiting to buy this game. 

2: Nuclear Throne

This another one of my games of the year that was lurking in the early access shadows. I shouldn't have to say much about this game, but you can tell there's a theme of roguelikes this year. It's a fast paced, gorgeous game with some deep mechanics to keep you coming back. The art direction is gorgeous. The music is memorable and something I would probably buy on vinyl. Buy this game and keep on playing it, you'll find so much hidden in the world that you'll want to get better to find more and more. Worth every penny.

Protip: Chicken is the best character

1: Hotline Miami 2

This game. Man, this game. Hotline Miami set the standard for puzzle/action games for me. This iteration ups the ante by adding larger spaces, more characters and a set of challenges that Jacket didn't have to deal with. Drawn beautifully, animated well and it's sonically one of the most important video game soundtracks in the last decade. The synergy (yes, really) between the gameplay and music keep you deep in the death/restart cycle. You'll make plenty of mistakes, but you won't feel like you should give up. The story has been greatly expanded from Jacket's tale, but it felt like it was necessary for this series to grow in new critically emotional directions. The depth of the characters can range from shallow to pretty moving, but that's Ok. It's also given me the opportunity to experience the most satisfying ending of any game I've played. Overall, it's a perfect package that deserves to be honored.

The Other Categories:

The game that's still top 10 in my heart: Metal Gear Solid V 

Games I really wanted to get to play, but didn't have time: The Taken King, Tearaway: Unfolded, Bloodborne and Halo 5

System of the year: The Alienware Alpha. It proves that Steam, a great form factor, ease and decent PC specs can provide one of the best console experiences at a perfect price point.

Developer of the year: Valve. Steam really knocked it out of the park this year with Big Picture Mode. It's my most used console interface right now.

Mobile Game: Pac Man 256

That's it! Thanks for reading everyone.