Though the game is only a few hours long and its soundtrack occasionally relies too heavily on saccharine piano melodies, "Her Story" is a remarkable achievement in creating something which is personal, cinematic and playful. It's a work that's impossible to imagine as anything other than a video game, and one of the best I have played so far this year.
"N++" is a testament to that transfixion. It is a meditative and surprisingly intimate game, something that seems to never stop unfolding even as it appears to remain rigorously spare and constant. "N++" is the best in the series and a reminder of why so many have committed themselves to playing in its simple spaces for so long.
As an intermittent admirer of the series, I found "The Phantom Pain" unexpectedly emotional, not as a story or as an arrangement of digital things to play with, but as a parting gesture to a community of which I have occasionally been a part.
"Super Mario Maker" feels like the antithesis of this spirit. "Mario" levels begin to feel like traps that can't be escaped. As with many digital tools that seem to liberate us from the laborious demands of creation, "Super Mario Maker" is primarily an engine for circulating bad ideas and broken gimmicks as if there weren't already an overabundance of them.
There's an echo of this sentiment in the sweetly childish tones of "Minecraft: Story Mode," a game that uses the mimetic architecture of storytelling to produce nodes of contemplation and self-inquiry. It's a subtle and sweet work made with an awareness that the best part of a journey comes when you realize that you are the story.
In a way, "Black Ops 3's" landscape of weaponry and corpses and layers of upgrades and economics signal the game's disposability, something meant as kindling in a bonfire of collective obsession and forgetting. Nothing this big and loud is meant to last, but nothing meant to last could bring this many people together.
In good moments, it feels like you're heading somewhere promising, halfway to getting a gun you really want. In bad moments, getting what you want is a pleasureless anti-climax, that leaves you even further away from the next upgrade milestone.
Games like "Siege" flatter these desires by letting them play out in simulation, endlessly repeating on the screen. Stripped of the vanities of many other shooting games "Siege" is both unforgivably callow and inarguably satisfying. Like parades or fireworks, it's a vision that's only fun if you can forget where it comes from and where it points to.
In hindsight, many of the game's grueling lessons feel remarkably anti-climactic. Getting to the end feels like a definite achievement though the relative uselessness of its rewards make it hard to feel anything but stunned remorse for having gone to such lengths to achieve something of so little consequence. This kind of ego-centric delusion is essential to the spirit of video games, works that are often as terrifyingly wasteful as they are wondrous and energizing. "Xenoblade Chronicles X" manages both in equal measure.