Best of 2016

Here are a few things that I liked in 2016, written in traditional popular culture best-of style, with a small code-related item added to the mix. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about these so the list is true to the name of this blog: Thought Flow.

A bag of GIF

I see quite a few GIFs every day. We use them in our team communication all the time. In fact, my first idea for this post was to write a “GIF awards”. I usually forget about them pretty quickly, but there was one that stayed with me:

I could just have that on repeat all day! The way I’m showing it here is technically a video, but the lines between GIF and video are blurred these days :-) Here is the Original GIF.

Flow TV is Dead (?)

It almost seemed like we saw the final nail in the coffin for traditional TV viewing in 2016. On the streaming services however, there were many good shows to watch. The pool of choices for this award is limited, because we do not watch that many shows in our little household. The winner is pretty clear though: Stranger Things takes the prize for being original-ish, mystical-ish, sci-fi-ish, monster-ish and a few other -ish’es.

Runner-ups:

  • The Must See: Game of Thrones, Season 6
  • The Feel Good Super Hero: The Flash, Season 2
  • The Surprisingly Engrossing But Not Highly Advertised: The OA
  • The Slow-Moving Yet Action-Packed: Marvel’s Luke Cage
  • The How The Hell Did They Pull This Off: Rick and Morty

Language is Programming

When people talk about “language”, I do not only think about people and nationality, I think about robots, code and programming languages. In this not-well-defined-category, the winner is Go. It deserves an award for taking me on a new journey from JavaScript la-la land, where the streets are paved with forgiveness and singular threads, to the Go nuts land of structure and order, where channels flow securely, but only when you make them.

Sidenote: This award is a bit unfair to other languages, because Go was the only actual language that I dabbled with for a prolonged amount of time. So let me just mention Python here, because Python is the best, and nothing beats Python.

Gamers have it good

According to Steam Spy, 38% of all games on Steam were released in 2016. Gamers have it good. There is such a big variety and selection of games that it is sometimes overwhelming to chose something to play. I got to play a lot of games this year, and it is difficult to find a “best game” for 2016. There can only be one winner though, so that winner will be Firewatch. With its excellent and touching narrative, Firewatch really hit a home run this year.

Runner-ups (some came out before 2016 but I didn’t play them until 2016):

  • Kill Some Aliens, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Use The Mind Control: XCOM2
  • Existentialism… I got it but I don’t get it: The Talos Principle and SOMA
  • Could Have Been A Huge Hit: The Turing Test
  • Ghost Stories By The Campfire: Oxenfree and Kentucky Route Zero
  • Misanthropy, Inc: Plague Inc: Evolved
  • “Did You See That Hair?!”: Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Underground Volcano Dance Party: Samarost 3
  • A Piece of Master: INSIDE

Post-X, Where X Equals Rock

I do not know whether post-rock as a musical genre is growing or not, but there were a lot of good post-rock albums coming out in 2016. In fact, if I had to name my top five albums of 2016 in general, they would all kind of fall into the post-rock or guitar-driven ambient genres. I am going to name two winners of this category, because I have binge-listened to both of them: Versus by pg.lost and The Ever Shifting Fields by Seas of Years.

Bookworm

No best-of list would be complete without books, would it? However, a bookworm, I am not, and I almost never, ever read new books that come out throughout the year. So let me just mention the one book that I did read in 2016 which was really good: Ready Player One (came out in 2011) is an excellent mix of science fiction and popular culture, with a hint of dystopia thrown into the mix as well.

That’s it for the 2016 best-of list. The topics ended up being quite traditional didn’t they? That’s ok. I will be blogging about another, slightly deeper subject another time. Until then, Happy New Year!

The value of games

"Who wants to play video games?"
"Who wants to play video games?" by JD Hancock (CC-BY)

It seems that video games have slowly been devaluating as an entertainment medium over the last couple of years. Before the App Store and Steam arrived, there was only two ways to play games: Buy a full-price physical copy or find a pirated version. With the advent of app stores, the highest grossing mobile games are now so-called "free"-to-play games and at least four times a year, there is yet another Steam sale with 80% discounts on tons of games for the more traditional PC, Mac (and Linux!) gamers.

When everything is free or extremely cheap all the time, it is understandable that a lot of gamers get used to free and cheap being the status quo. Combined with a somewhat unwritten rule that games have to keep us entertained for many hours to avoid being branded as "short", it must be tough being a traditional game developer these days.

I do not know exactly where I am going with this, but I just have this kind of sad feeling when thinking about how some people value games. For me, video games is the epitome of art, as it often combines exciting story-telling with beautiful visual aesthetics and amazing soundscapes. So when I see people complaining about a paid expansion or give bad Steam reviews because they finished a $10 game in two hours (I hope those same people complain about ticket prices at the movie theater), I hope it is just a vocal minority that feel this way.

If I ever created a video game (which is on my Life TODO List ™), I hope people would give it bad reviews if it was a bad game — not because it was not free or kept them entertained for 50 hours.