It’s the first Daily Reaction of 2020, but if I could, I’d like to rename this one “Decade Reaction.” We recently—as both the PSLS staff and the gaming industry as a whole—looked back on the last 10 years, talking about the best games and moments of the last decade. There were debates, lists, arguments, weird picks, and there will most certainly be additional talk about which game(s) defined the 2010s. Our own Game of the Decade picks allowed the PSLS staff to make things more personal, picking the games that meant the most to each of us individually in the last 10 years. As we all deliberated this difficult topic, a thought came up. Gaming is not about any one game. It’s about all of them.
Throughout the last ten years (and well before that), developers toiled away, pouring passion, heart, and their lives into the games they created. Those games then released and people played them. Whether they were extremely successful or found a small little niche, every game was played and enjoyed by someone. Every game made a mark on both developers and players. Every game set the stage for the next wave of games.
This is also such a personal topic because of what people may be going through in their lives at the time. Certain games are defined more in my head due to their specific impact on me and my life than the wider merits of the games themself. For example, Dead Space 3, despite perhaps not being the most highly regarded entry in the franchise, will always be the first-ever gaming preview event and review that I handled. As someone first getting into games writing at that time, that marks it as a notable game of this past decade for me. Likewise, Destiny has redefined how I play games and even expanded my circle of friends.
But even outside of what games mean to people personally, all games contribute something to the industry as a whole. While many may not consider Destiny to be “Game of the Decade” material, it undoubtedly influenced many games that have come since. Developers and players are constantly learning and growing, and it’s almost impossible to have a love or appreciation of one game without acknowledging the influences from another. No game is made in a vacuum.
This industry is built on the ideas of things that came before, on experience earned elsewhere. Destiny wouldn’t be a thing without Halo, Diablo, and perhaps Borderlands, and many developers joined Bungie from other studios, bringing their experiences with them. Still more have left Bungie and gone on to help develop other games. Polyarc has a bunch of people that came from Bungie, and they made Moss. Lead Animator Richard Lico earned a bunch of his experience for Quill’s animations in Moss from his work on Destiny. God of War wouldn’t have been what it was without the previous releases and Sony’s other exclusives. That’s not even mentioning the countless other small influences that impact both development and players’ enjoyment of a game.
Game of the Decade is any and every game that was made in the last 10 years. It’s every game that had passion and creativity poured into it. It’s every game that put a smile on players’ faces. It’s every game that created conversation and debate. It’s every game that has in any way influenced another game or impacted someone’s life in some way, whether through the development process or playing the game.
Cory Barlog (unknowingly) lent his voice to this thought in my head when he tweeted:
Every player responds differently to a game. What ones loves, another may loathe. They speak to us all in very personal ways based on our own unique life experiences. To me, this means that every game is someones game of the decade and every creators work is appreciated.
— Cory Barlog (@corybarlog) December 30, 2019
That’s a picture-perfect look at what I strive for. We can be critical of games. We can have our ratings and our rankings and our “best of” lists. But at the end of the day, video games mean different things to different people. Death Stranding was a powerful experience to me and many others, but it doesn’t have to be that for everyone. One of our own staff picked the Vita’s MonsterBag as his Game of the Decade, a surprising left-field underdog pick, but one that obviously resonated enough with him to earn that coveted spot. As much as we love to try to have an objective view of games’ graphics and performance and other supposedly measurable aspects, there’s something inherently subjective about experiencing a game that will change with every person who plays it. That’s the objective fact.
So whatever games you played and loved over the last 10 years, yes, you are right. No one can tell you differently. Your experience is your own. And the games you love spiderweb out, connecting both to the games that influenced them and the games that they will influence in the future. Developers’ experience on your favorite games will contribute to the development of other games. It’s an ongoing cycle where every single game is beautifully dependent on all the others. While Destiny may have been one of the most defining games of the last decade for me, it was by no means a solitary experience, buoyed to its position by the hundreds of other games I’ve played over the last 10 years.
The game of the decade is video games, and nobody can convince me otherwise.
Daily Reaction reacts to the video game industry. Have suggestions for the column or subjects you’d like us to react to? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out previous Daily Reactions for more dives beyond the headlines.