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Year in Review: 2020

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By Nelson Schneider - 12/12/20 at 03:37 PM CT

Another year has come and gone… and what a year it was! 2020 will live in infamy for numerous reasons, some of them actually having to do with videogames.

Top 5 Fails

5. Australia’s Conservatives Ban Basically Everything

In a year marked by social, political, and economic upheaval, it’s somewhat reassuring that, at least in the Land Down-Under, conservatives are doing what they always do, and trying to ban porn, because “think of the children!” And it’s even more reassuring to know that they’re doing it in the same ham-fisted manner as their counterparts across the sea, creating a stupidly vague law that essentially bans everything resembling ‘mature’ content from games, movies, books, and every other form of media.

4. DRM Returns in Force Under the Friendly Guise of “Anti-Cheat”

Good old corporate capitalism is still doing its thing. Instead of letting the invisible hand regulate the exchange of goods, these corrupt cronies have remained obsessed with the idea that people are “stealin’ our stuff,” even in the face of both Valve and CD Projekt demonstrating – on a massively large scale – that selling games DRM-free is good business. But customers are becoming more and more savvy to DRM tactics, and loudly cry foul whenever Denuvo anti-tamper is slapped on a new game. Thus, the latest angle the corporate system has decided to take in selling the end user on DRM is making it sound like the DRM is actually protecting the customer from evil PvP cheaters, instead of what it’s actually doing in protecting the game from being played by those who don’t/won’t pay.

3. “AAA” Games Were Not Already Expensive Enough

Nintendo may have started the 9th Generation in 2017, but with that company largely serving as a source of ‘secondary’ platforms, nobody really acted like it was a new Gen. Three years later, 2020 ushered in the 9th Generation for everyone else; and how did the corporate goons behind the Games Industry celebrate? By raising the prices of new, retail games from $60 to $70 for the ‘basic’ experience (the full experience, with the season pass(es) has been $100+ for a good long time already, not to mention the billions raked in via macrotransactions). As if the Games Industry wasn’t already profitable enough…

2. New Hardware Launches: Scalpers Say, *rubs hands together*

There’s a brand new PlayStation! There’s a brand new Xbox! There are brand new PC CPUs from AMD and GPUs from Nvidia! Gamers are ready to stride boldly into the future with the Dawn of the 9th Generation… well, maybe it’s more like the Brunch of the 9th Generation, considering Nintendo’s head-start with the Switch. But none of that matters anyway because, thanks to scalpers running automated shopping scripts, every time one of these new pieces of hardware pops up on an online store (and EVERY store is online), it instantly disappears into some scumbag’s rat-infested hovel, there to be posted on ebay for at least double retail price. Even better, there are plenty of times where the foul scalpers behind this phenomenon part out their purchases and sell the box separately from the console. After all, people who are in the death throes of FOMO aren’t liable to read the full product description on your $500 auction, which is actually for an empty box or a photo of a console, since there used to be such a thing as good faith in business.

1. The Year of COVID-19

2020 will go down in infamy as the year that a Chinese virus, spread due to that nation’s disgusting eating habits and lack of sanitation standards (b-but, muh multiculturalism!), burned across the globe, bringing life, business, and manufacturing to their knees. At the same time we had an actual public health crisis in the form of the COVID-19 virus, we also got the fake, manufactured public health crisis of so-called ‘systemic racism,’ which, of course, gave bored, unemployed, discontent agitators the perfect excuse to ignore the real public health crisis and gather together in massive protests and riots. Oh, and E3 was cancelled.

Top 5 Wins

5. Overpaid Executives in the Spotlight

Even as we mark the incredible annual FAIL of “AAA” videogame corporations increasing the prices of their products in order to pad executive salaries, we’ve actually seen some pushback in 2020. Not only did EA’s shareholders vote to reject excessive raises for the executives that squat, like harpies, at the top of the company, providing nothing of value but pooping on everyone below them, but California, that most socially-conscious state, passed a ballot measure that will penalize any corporation that pays its executives more than 100 times the median of its workers’ salaries. These are both ultimately baby steps, and they will be challenged tooth-and-nail every step of the way, but any progress in the class divide, which is the real problem in modern society, is something.

4. Nintendo Gives Up on Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming is a cancerous blight on the hobby and the medium as a whole. It has become synonymous with addiction, manipulation, and greed. A number of mobile outfits, like Google and Apple, have attempted to fix the mess they made, but ultimately accomplished nothing, leaving mobile gaming a cesspit of evil the likes of which Atari (delenda est) never would have dreamed up. It is against this blighted landscape that the gaming world awaits a hero, one who will stand up, take mobile gaming by the throat, and twist its tumorous body into something respectable… At least that has been the hope. But in 2020, Nintendo officially decided that mobile gaming just isn’t worth the effort, after only tentatively getting into the ecosystem a few short years ago. When the company that saved videogames after the Crash of 1983 is unwilling to stick with mobile gaming, you know the situation is grim!

3. Microsoft Buys Zenimax

Microsoft has been on a buying spree lately, mostly picking up small-potatoes developers of the Single-“A” variety that formed, like so many North American tribes, after the collapse of Interplay, that Mayan/Incan/Aztec Empire of 1990s PC gaming. There were only a few small pieces of the puzzle still missing at the start of 2020, such as the ‘Fallout’ IP owned by Bethesda Softworks. Microsoft didn’t just pick and choose in gathering up the last few bits of Interplay, but instead bought Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax Media, bringing another huge pile of IP and development teams under their corporate umbrella. Hopefully, this means that, in the future, referring to “Microsoft First-Party Games” won’t simply mean ‘Halo’/‘Forza’/‘Gears’ anymore. It would also be nice if MS could help Bethesda shake their bug problem.

2. Tabletop Games Surge, Partially Due to the Pandemic

Thanks to COVID-19, unless you’re out protesting or burning your neighborhood small businesses to the ground, you’re probably sitting at home. With so many videogames (and movies, and new TV seasons) pushed to next year by the pandemic’s effect on their timetables, sitting at home can be pretty boring, so it’s time to break out the board games! Tabletop RPGs, like the timeless Dungeons & Dragons, have surged in popularity as people play them at home in small groups or via teleconferencing software. Combined with the current trend of rebooting everything from the 1980s, we’ve also got classic introductory board/RPG hybrid games, like HeroQuest, making a comeback. Let me tell you, 2020 was a great year to be an introverted nerd, since everyone has been forced to adopt our lifestyle for a year, which will only help them see that there is joy to be found in a life without constant parties, mosh pits, or public binge drinking.

1. Hail to the Chief’s Backside: Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out, Donnie.

We try not to be overtly political here at MeltedJoystick, simply because toxic partisan polarization doesn’t (usually) have much to do with videogames. But 2020 was the most toxically partisan and polarizing year since the 19th Century, so, yeah, I’m gonna go there.

In 2020, America had the most important vote in its history. In the match-up between Li’l Donnie Trump and ‘Sleepy’ Joe Biden, foundational things like civil discourse, rationality, truth, and even democracy itself were on the ballot. Mercifully, America voted, by distressingly thin margins, to oust the corrupt autocrat who has had American conservatism in a metaphorical iron maiden, torturing it and twisting it into a mockery devoid of any of its foundational meaning. I breathed a sigh of relief when the Electoral College votes were tallied up, but I won’t be able to fully unclench my butt muscles until February 2021, if he’s actually, truly gone.

I, sadly, predicted Trump’s attempts to get the Electors in contested states to ignore their delegations and cast their votes for him anyway. I also predicted that he would install toadies in the Pentagon, in a build-up toward a military coup that I really hope doesn’t come to fruition. And I further predict that, unless ‘Sleepy’ Joe manages to lock Trump down either metaphorically via lawsuits and indictments that the orange maniac can’t self-pardon his way out of, or literally in Guantanamo Bay, he’ll continue, out of office, to act like a bulldozer, pushing America ever closer to the brink. I also hope, desperately, that ‘Sleepy’ doesn’t allow his horrible, constant-race-card-playing Vice Presidential pick to shape his administration’s policy in such a way that it panders to the SJW crowd, since the only result of such special interest meddling will be another insane Republican – maybe even Trump again – getting elected in four years, as the pendulum of idiocy continues to swing.

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