My choice for game of the year might seem a little strange, or lackluster. Honestly, I really didn’t play many new games this year, as I didn’t have much time to really sit down and get deep into anything. There’s lots of games that came out in 2013 that I’m really looking forward to playing, but just haven’t had a chance to yet, like The Last of Us, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Fire Emblem Awakening, and so on. My gaming habits this year were playing in short bursts instead of being able to absorb myself, and that’s why my game of the year for 2013 is Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
I have loved Animal Crossing games since I first played Wild World a few years ago, so I was very much looking forward to New Leaf to begin with. Since I got it, I have played it almost every day for at least a few minutes. And that’s the greatest thing about it: I can play for five minutes a day, stop, and not really feel like I had to keep going. It is relaxation at it’s finest. Although I was really into the game when it first game out, now my love has tapered off a bit into something that is less demanding. New Leaf truly is the long game – there are no deadlines and you work at your own pace to create the town you want. It has no storyline. When I play games with a story, I get extremely sucked in to the point where five or six hours can go by without me noticing, and this just wasn’t feasible for me this year. I was too busy to get emotionally involved in a game, and New Leaf was the perfect mix of work and pleasure.
New Leaf is a lot of slow, repetitious tasks. They’re chores, but without obligation. And that’s something I like. I can do the same thing over and over and that doesn’t bother me, especially when there is no deadline. It makes me feel like I accomplished something, but again, there is no pressure to “complete” the game. There’s an encyclopedia and a museum to fill, and as a completionist, this is very appealing to me. This game can also be hilarious – some of the animal NPCs say some pretty amusing things.
Since New Leaf is based on real time, the best part for me is getting to see what’s coming next. Last night, there was an aurora in my town and holiday lights had been put up on my pine trees. I love seeing the changes of the seasons and how they effect the way my town looks. I love having new animal neighbors move in and building in-game friendships. I have spent many a night in these past few months with a ritual of playing New Leaf to wind down before bed.
I purchased New Leaf right when it first came out, and I think that definitely factored into my enjoyment a bit. There is a ton of online presence for this game in the form of item trading and general helpfulness from player to player, which is awesome. The New Leaf community across the internet is fantastic, friendly, and helpful. This is the first Animal Crossing game that I’ve played at the same time as it’s release, so it is wonderful to go through each day discovering new things at the same time other are discovering them. Of course it’s not too late to still pick it up.
Did I maybe enjoy other games when I was playing them more than I enjoyed playing New Leaf? Yes. I absolutely loved BioShock: Infinite, and it was definitely a potential game of the year. But I don’t see myself replaying it soon. It was like a long, beautiful movie: I enjoyed it, but I just wanted to let it sink in and absorb it. New Leaf has been something I’ve kept coming back to, something that can give me enjoyment just playing five minutes every day, and I think that’s why I chose it.
I have two runners up for GOTY. BioShock: Infinite is one, like I said before. Amazing, beautiful game. Not a huge fan of the game play itself, but still a wonderful game and an amazing experience. My second runner up is Papers, Please. I went into this expecting a fun, lighthearted game and was I pleasantly surprised. Excellent, fun game play and surprisingly effective story.
As for next year, Square Enix’s Bravely Default for the 3DS is on my list to play (seriously, what’s up with interesting 3DS games lately?). I’m also really looking forward to the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD remake. I’ve been wanting to replay FFX for a while, and this is the perfect time.