Review of the Year 2011

It’s been a funny year. I spent most of it pregnant, which is a lot like being really hung over for nine months. Not really conducive to productivity. Now my tiny bundle of trouble is here, blog posts are hastily composed in the few minutes she is able to sleep without being cuddled up on my lap. It’s been a funny year generally, though. There were terrifying natural disasters, tumultuous political events, and a slew of zeitgeisty buzzwords. There were the riots in the the UK, which was the logical result of our filesharing culture: if you tell people that they can take music, films and games without permission, payment or consequence, then of course they’ll just start smashing shop windows and stealing televisions and consoles to play them on – because, really, what’s the difference?

Steve Jobs died, to worldwide mourning, and John McCarthy – who coined the term “artificial intelligence” – died the same month, to little fanfare. Amy Winehouse succumbed to her addictions, and Charlie Sheen miraculously survived his own. A royal couple who actually seemed to like each other got married. Lady Gaga got boring. An American preacher predicted the Rapture – twice – and was a little embarrassed when the dates passed without incident.

And a number of things were released that I rather liked.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I was going to wait until I’d finished Skyrim before delivering my verdict, but I started playing Morrowind in 2002 and can’t really say I’ve finished that, either.

Skyrim is the best game of 2011. I think that goes without saying. The ever-reliable Adam Sessler at G4TV – one of those rare critics whose opinion you can pretty much take as gospel – put it this way: “Skyrim … is the apotheosis, not only of the open-world format, but of what games can accomplish. It is perhaps the finest experience ever made available in the medium.”

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Best of 2011: Make your own MTV!

Remember I mentioned a couple of days back about the new features on the Xbox 360? Well, you probably knew all about them anyway. So, today I explored the Youtube facility of being able to play back your “Watch Later” playlist, and – on the nice big shiny screen of the TV – it’s like having your own MTV where the music is actually good!

Since I don’t really have time to sit there reading through blog posts any more and clicking on all the links, I just add the Youtube clips to my Watch Later list and can then investigate each recommendation from the comfort of the sofa while I’m taking care of Her Tiny Highness. The list of recommendations I was just exploring comes from Collapse Board’s various “best of 2011” posts, so I would in turn suggest that you add these to your own Watch Later list and play along at home.

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Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful day, everyone! I have about two minutes to type and publish this post before I watch part two of the BBC miniseries The Nativity, starring Tatiana Maslany and Andrew Buchan. I stumbled upon it yesterday, as the first of two hour-long broadcasts, and enjoyed the naturalistic dialogue and acting – a refreshing change from the ridiculously po-faced, choir-in-the-background stuff you usually get.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00x15ny <– more info

A Christmas present from Xbox

Merry Christmas, to all who celebrate it (and season’s greetings to those who don’t).

I’m typing this with one hand, the other cradling my newborn, having spent a few minutes earlier playing with the new update to Xbox Live. For a few weeks the new features have had a tantalising “coming soon” disclaimer, but today when I looked I could finally install the apps for digital catchup channels 4 On Demand and Demand 5, plus Youtube and last.fm.

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Rage

id Software’s Rage was another game I part-played and really enjoyed in 2011. At first glance, the reference points might be Fallout 3 or – more accurately – Borderlands, but though there are some elements of the latter, it was Bioshock I was most reminded of in terms of actual gameplay.

The wrapping is very Borderlands, with sparsely-populated post-apocalyptic settlements hewn together from endless supplies of brown metal. It’s set in the near future, following the impact of asteroid 99942 Apophis, and you play the sole survivor of a malfunctioning “Ark” cryo-pod. Aggressive mutants prowl the desert countryside, and those and “the Authority” are the main antagonists in the game. Predictably, you end up joining the Resistance to thwart the Authority’s evil plot to subjugate the remaining survivors of the asteroid crash.

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