Angus Baillie’s Game of the Year 2015:
Video games sure did knock it out of the park in 2015. From start to finish, barely a month went by without seeing the release of several incredible games. From the punishing gothic evasion fighter Bloodborne to the build-your-own anime space RPG Xenoblade Chronicles X – chances are if you played a game in 2015, it was a GOTY.
Right up until a few days ago I had been really struggling to pick a single game. When Bloodborne came out in March I instantly fell in love with the more fast-paced interpretation of the Dark Souls gameplay from which it had grown. I enjoyed exploring the sprawling, Victorian gothic world so much that I ended up getting all the trophies (although let’s be honest, the Chalice Dungeons were fucking awful). Then Xenoblade Chronicles X swooped in early December and let me build the anime equivalent of Commander Shepherd. Forming a rag tag crew of quirky space ladies, Xenoblade Chronicles X set me free to wander around a large, untamed ecosystems of a vast alien world and gawp at all the giant stomping monsters that could liquefy my whole squad in an instant should I make the mistake of attacking it.
As the end of the year drew nearer I was increasingly tempted to opt out entirely and just name Omega Quintet my GOTY – a JRPG about a magical, pop-idol girl group that defend the world from monsters and do choreographed dance. Basically, it’s the unholy union of just about every single self-indulgent, trashy thing I absolutely love, and naming it my Game of the Year would just attract the ire of my albeit limited readership. But as hard as this decision was shaping up to be, everything changed the instant I finally sat down to play Cibele.
Cibele is a game by Nina Freeman – creator of (amongst other things) the brilliant Freshman Year and level designer for the upcoming Fullbright game Tacoma. Cibele is one of the most personal video games I think I have ever played. Nina Freeman wrote the narrative based on a real-life experience she’d had maintaining young love via the internet – permitting the player to explore the innermost desires and thoughts of a fictionalized version of herself. Rather voyeuristically we are allowed to observe Nina’s online relationship as it grows and takes shape through her desktop photo albums, email, poetry, blog scribblings, phone calls, and brief moments of video (in which Nina plays herself). There’s a kind of unsettling tension that built in my mind as I played Cibele – the youthful flaws of both Nina and her love interest ringing uncomfortably true to my own awkward, shameful teens. Choice lines of dialogue would shamefully echo things I can remember saying to women in online spaces and made me cringe with guilt. I had truly been, as the kids say, a fuckboy.
But that’s really the power of a game like Cibele. It was a short, sharp, yet deep look into an interactive mirror. It’s a brief chance to take a step back from yourself and think about who you are, who you’ve been, and who you want to allow yourself to become now that you understand just a little bit more about what is broken and toxic within you.
Happy New Year.