It’s all fine and well us media people telling you about our favourite games of the year, but you could just as easily go to Metacritic for that.
That’s why we’ve reached out to people from across the industry, including voice actors, games writers, artists, directors, studio heads, and more. Here are the best games of the year, according to the industry.
We let Debbie Bestwick have two because she has an MBE.
Debbie Bestwick MBE – Team 17
Red Dead Redemption 2
What Rockstar has achieved with this game is nothing short of spectacular. I’ve never played a game that looked so good in a world so well realised. Every character interaction has weight, every member of your camp is developed in a way that makes you care about the outcome of their lives, and the bond you develop with your horse had me caring for it like it was a real animal. I really could go on!
Not every developer can afford to spend so long developing one title, but what they’ve done with that time is create an experience that will define this genre for years to come.
Monster Hunter World
To become the highest selling game in Capcom’s history is an incredible feat for a game that hasn’t been on a home console in almost ten years.
There’s very little cooler than hunting monsters with your friends then making armour and weapons from their loot. The monster design is stunning, the quality of life improvements they made for returning players is everything fans had been asking for, and the constant support Capcom has shown the game is very commendable!
Moo Yu – Foam Sword
I downloaded Florence for my flight home from GDC not really knowing anything about it. I’m a big fan of Ken Wong’s art and thought it would be a nice set of visuals to gawk at while trapped in a pressurised metal canister. What I didn’t expect was to find myself full of tears amongst hundreds of strangers while thousands of feet in the sky.
I adored the emotional reality that Florence presented in a time when games can look so real, but make you feel absolutely nothing nothing as you play as a nearly omnipotent being vanquishing all obstacles in your path. Not only does Florence present a simple and universal story, but it presented an honest world where you can only do so much amidst all the powerful forces in our lives.
While I loved the universality of Florence’s story, it was the specifics that brought me to tears. As an Asian-American, every detail brought me back to my own upbringing, whether it was a minor detail like having to justifying space for a giant rice cooker or something more profound like a well-meaning, controlling mother attempting to erase her creative dreams. I’ve never identified so much with a character as much as I did Florence, and it inspired me to try to one day get back on track to those dreams as she did.
Harvey Smith – Arkane
Return of the Obra Dinn
So many people are going to say intelligent things about Obra Dinn – the investigative gameplay, use of voice, art style, reverse narration, and principally the sense of character and place… the strong, coherent “world building.”
That’s all noteworthy. But what strikes me most playing it is the intuitive sense of drama; the artful choices about when to enter each scene, from which angle, and what to include at the periphery. After a while, I felt like the designer was along with me in a warm, supportive kind of way. It’s a special game.
Jessica Chobot – Nerdist News
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
My favourite game in this past year is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I never thought I’d write a “fave games post” with Assassin’s Creed sharing the space because I was never the biggest AC fan, but something about this past iteration grabbed me. I love the way they streamlined the character controls, and I’m a HUGE fan of Greek mythology so was obsessed with the world. There was some Wonder Woman-inspired armour to be had, which is essentially an instant win for me because Wonder Woman is my hero, and I found Kassandra to be incredibly well-acted and a fantastic lead character option. I thoroughly enjoyed playing as her.
The game is not perfect: after a while the gameplay gets a bit redundant, the map can be overly cluttered and hard to decipher at times, and following the main quests can sometimes get a little confusing. But overall, I had an immense amount of fun with it and, to me, that’s the whole point.
Cissy Jones – voice actor
Florence is such a beautiful game, and so inviting for players who aren’t used to playing on a console (me!). Its mechanics are simple and wonderful, the story so relatable.
As the relationship progresses, the dialogue becomes easier to place, and the minute tasks such as unpacking boxes becomes a joy.
My heart soared with the two main characters, and broke with them as well. Rarely has such a brief, contained story captured my emotions as much as this.
Shahid Kamal Ahmad
My game of 2018 is, much to my surprise, holedown on iPhone and iPad.
This was the year of God of War, a reboot of one of my all time favourite video games; of Red Dead Redemption 2, filled to the rafters no doubt with little touches that people sweated blood over, but that will be missed by 99% of the audience. It was the year of games like The Persistence, Beat Saber, Tetris Effect, and Astro Bot – games that make VR a worthy paradigm in its own right and not just a technological curio.
But I won’t play those games much, not because they aren’t great, but because they all introduce some friction because of the devices they’re on. This year, I’ve spent most of my gameplay time on the Nintendo Switch or an iOS device, and the game that stole my time, and my heart was holedown by Martin Jonasson. It’s simple, slick, rewarding, delightful, and juiced to the hilt.
It’s full of beautiful touches. It makes you happy, it pulls you in and it steals hours from your day through stealth. It’s beautifully crafted by a brilliant developer and you never feel frustrated playing it. Not a mobile masterpiece, just a masterpiece.
Anisa Sanusi – Hutch
Into the Breach
For my Best Game of 2018, I’m actually very split between two games that had made an impact on me: Florence, and Into the Breach.
Florence is a beautiful story delicately put through an interactive format, and it came to me during a time when I was going through a loss of love as well. Hit all the right notes, tugging on the right heart strings. It’s a poster child, among many just as beautiful games, for games as art.
Into the Breach, though – now that game got me coming back and sucked me into pure mechanical and puzzle-solving joy. It’s a concise, and more traditionally “video games” experience wrapped up in a little bow of contentment. As a player, I found it riveting to carefully choose my next move, as the tiniest misstep could cost me the round, or the entire world.
As a developer, my god did I wish I made this game. It’s well polished, no fluff, and gorgeously executed. Mind you, I did play this on the Nintendo Switch, and oh what a perfect platform this game landed on. It’s a game I highly suggest any indie to give it a go. Can I chef kiss in an article? I’m making that chef kiss sound right now. Yes.
Tim Willits – id Software
I have always been a Spider-Man fan, as well as an Insomniac Games’ fan, so when I heard they were making a new Spider-Man game I was very excited. And the excitement paid off, I loved the game. The high-flying Spider-Man action of swinging around the city was incredible; I really felt like Spider-Man and a few times I actually experienced a little vertigo.
The in-the-streets action was also very satisfying, with easy controls that made me feel powerful without making the melee combat too difficult. The open world was great with a lot fun emergent gameplay, but also the storyline was well crafted and very engaging – I was sucked into the story.
The game was fun all the way through but there are still things I can do if I want to go back to it. If you don’t have a PS4, what are you waiting for? Go play Spider-Man (and God of War)!
Jodie Azhar – Teazelcat Games
This year Monster Hunter: World absorbed a lot of my hours; Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom delivered a lot of the charm of the first game despite a lack of collaboration from Studio Ghibli; and #SelfCare by Tru Luv Media was a breath of fresh air in a mobile market crowded with time consuming, ad-filled, free-to-play games.
But it was Polyarc’s Moss that stood out to me most. I don’t play much in VR as it makes me nauseous and games still lack that feeling of immersion touted as part of why VR is so great, yet Moss is a game that needs to be played in VR.
There’s no walking around for the player and instead you control the young mouse Quill around each scene, solving puzzles. Describing it like that, you’d think this could easily be played on a screen. However, the engagement with Quill and her world would be lost and that’s what really makes this game shine.
Having the environments at mouse size makes each scene feel like a 3D diorama you could reach in and touch, and I’d constantly be leaning back and forth, peering around objects to see more of the environment and find hidden things.
The personality breathed into Quill through her adorable model and characteristic reactions to the player makes her feel so much more real in VR. From her insistent gestures when you get distracted and leave her waiting for you to help solve the next puzzle, to her responses when you stroke her, and her zealous attacks and dodges against creatures larger than her – Quill is the first character I’ve felt I could actually reach in and pick up, save her from monsters and feel with my hands when I stroke her… if only it wasn’t for some strange physical barrier!
That connection with Quill was the driving force behind me wanting to see more of the game and help her succeed in her quest.
Lilly Devon – indie developer
Detroit: Become Human
This year was an exceptional year for video games: God of War, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Far Cry 5, Hitman 2, A Way Out, and a little game called Red Dead Redemption 2. When I look back at all the games I’ve played this year (dear reader, it’s a large number) I mull over GoW with glistening eyes – BOY what an epic journey. Call of Cthulhu – you were very weird and special and I loved your art style. Tetris Effect – so sparkly, such bass, and probably what an outer body experience feels like?
I look at all of these amazing experiences, each one inspiring, creative, thought provoking and challenging respectively. I think about the wonderful stories we tell and the sheer dedication and love that we all put into crafting these worlds, and I feel humbled and frankly amazed that we get to play anything at all! (honestly it’s shocking how any of this works…)
Which leads me onto my absolute favourite game of the year – Detroit: Become Human. The Flow Chart game that you can play 40 or so different ways and STILL get a different outcome. Isn’t that madness? It’s the first time I’ve played a game and felt my actions were truly relevant. I really cared about the characters and was so invested in the story and outcome.
I find it crazy that there’s half a game I’ve not even seen because of the way the branching narrative works. How on earth the developers managed to seamlessly link these multiple scenes and stories is so clever and must have taken a mammoth amount of planning and iteration. More than anything though, I was so emotionally invested; hooked on every chapter like reading a gripping book, I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. Each character is so vibrant and intriguing, they really were ‘alive’ which I guess is the paradox of the story. I remember watching the Kara tech demo trailer back in 2012 and thinking yes, this is the game I want to play – and I wasn’t disappointed. Yes it had some flaws, but isn’t that what makes us human? (pun intended) Also can someone please tell me who rA9 is? RA9 RA9 RA9 RA9 RA9.
Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro
My Child Lebensborn
There are plenty of war-themed games. There are games where you can fight across the battlefield as soldiers, and these are popular all over the world. Historical conflicts, based on real wars, are also popular.
My Child Lebensborn is also a war-themed games based on historical fact. However, you will not shoot enemy soldiers with guns here. You will not ride tanks and fighters and destroy enemy land in this game. You adopt and grow an orphan born by the war (due to its complicated circumstances).
I first played this game in April of 2016 at conference in Croatia. Back then, I did not know about “Lebensborn”. However, I got a chance to learn the actual history through this game.
Video games are looking for possibilities other than entertainment for the next generation. Of course my creation is looking for something too. This work, My Child Lebensborn is one of results.
Emily Grace Buck
I liked a lot of games in 2018, but Florence had the bonus of being extremely powerful and easily digestible. Florence was innovative in both its storytelling process and its story content.
A lot of games, especially mobile games, explore romance… but in many of them, the player has a god-like ability to control the story. In Florence, the ending is set, and you’re along for the ride. It’s all about your emotions and the process of living through a realistic romance instead of fantasy fulfillment.
It’s gut-wrenching. It’s sweet. It’s unafraid to make you feel pain along with the characters. Florence wants you to look at some of the more painful aspects of being a person who is able to love. It made me cry on public transit, which is not an easy thing to do. I might get some flack for picking a mobile game, but I don’t really care. It’s great, it’s short, and everyone should try it if they haven’t.
Bruce Straley – former Naughty Dog
Return of the Obra Dinn
Well, this is a hard decision. Because the game I played the most this year came out in 2017 (thanks again BotW). The runner up for play-time is Red Dead Redemption 2, but I can’t say that I loved the game design decisions in the story-driven parts of the game. Yet the open world aspects – like when you turn off your radar and wander around the northern woods just listening to the ambience, when suddenly a bear charges you and your scared horse rears you off, and then you’re fleeing for your life on foot frantically trying to figure out how to outmanoeuvre an angry bear! Those moments are sheer perfection. But favourite? I can’t do it. Honorable mention would have to be Minit. I LOVED MINIT! It was such a joy to play, didn’t take up a lot of my life, and was so clever how it thrived within its limitations.
Favourite? Return of the Obra Dinn. I think Lucas Pope makes amazing games. He gets to the heart of why I love making games: the creative limitations. He sets up his own constraints and then forces himself to be creative within them. He comes up with a simple, yet elegant mechanic, and then couples that with a rich story, interesting dialogue, and a tone that’s all his own. Obra Dinn was a fantastical, historical mystery, which baited a delicious trap for me. I thought I was going to spend my time investigating the moody ghost ship, but I found the depth in the game came from digging into the journal, cross referencing rather obscure clues, and unravelling a story which had delightful twists & turns, character arcs, betrayal, and tentacle beasts! Who knew filling in a book could be so captivating? I just find Lucas’s perspective to be quite refreshing and much needed in our industry. High five!
Kate Dollarhyde – Obsidian
Even though I write video game stories for a living, I don’t get to play as many games as I’d like. So it’s rare that I pick up a title and completely lose myself in it. Rarer still that it’s a piece of DLC. But there’s something special about Prey: Mooncrash that kept me coming back for nearly thirty hours.
Released this past June, Mooncrash is the roguelike follow-up to Arkane’s 2017 first-person sci-fi horror title, Prey. Unlike Prey, which puts you in the role of scientist and world-class jerk, Morgan Yu, Mooncrash sees you relive the final hours of the TransStar moon base through five of its residents. The goal is to escape the moon with all five characters, in five different ways, all in one run. It rules.
Mooncrash takes what I found most compelling about Prey—thoughtfully laid out and propped areas to explore and plunder—and weaponized it against me. If I took too long reading everyone’s personal emails in crew quarters, tougher enemies spawned in areas I’d already cleared. If I hoovered up all the tastiest medical supplies in my initial run, I left my later characters hobbling across the regolith sporting broken bones and radiation poisoning. And if my character died with a bunch of cool stuff on their body? It stayed with their corpse… right next to whatever killed them.
To overcome these challenges, I had to play creatively, which forced me to break out of the patterns of play I’d established in Prey. My experience was all the more tensing and thrilling for it, and for a few weeks, at least, it consumed my life.
Jeremy Soule – composer
Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games is my pick for this year.
Of course, I’m partial to games with big open world adventures, great storytelling, voice acting, animation and art. And this game surpassed my expectations.
However, a real standout was John Paesano’s musical score. He should have recognition for creating one of the best OSTs of the year.
Kish Hirani – Terra Virtua
It has been a busy year in terms of work travel for me and so my GOTY would naturally been one on a portable and easily accessible platform. As with everything, the best overall gaming device is the one you have with you majority of the time, right?
Firstly, yes, it is now a 2 1/2 year old game, and it is a GOTY for me because of what it has evolved to. I started playing Pokemon Go when it came out and like most started to lose interest following poor communication from the developers. The community filled in the gap and still my source for updates is generally from regular vlogs from YouTubers like Nick (Trainer Tips), to name my favourite.
I progressed to the current max level 40 this year. I love this level cap approach that I did not, at first, understand when I hit it on Destiny 2 but now see this as a great way for a game to continue attracting new players who would otherwise be put off by level 100+ players. Having said that, what makes Pokemon Go worthy of my GOTY is what would put off new players as it has comes leaps and bounds from the original game. Just this year the developer released more new gens; Mythical Pokémon; community days; legendary raid community hours; real world weather in game; trading; real world friends; gifting each other; and now Player Vs Player combat.
For me the real impact for GOTY is the real world social aspect that the game has enabled unlike an other so far: I have met amazing individuals from all walks of life in my local area and beyond. I am on a Discord and a separate local area Team Mystic Whatsapp group – they are great for regular local gym raids and community day events planning. To give you some examples of the personal impact it has had on me and I am sure on everyone who continues to play it: Amongst video games industry professionals, I met an amazing lawyer at Gamescom this year, we have been Pokémon Go in-game friends since then (as well as real life) and been building up our friendship level. Her priority when visiting London was to trade an ‘African’ regional exclusive, Tropius, that I caught in the Southern shores of Malta. Another industry friend gave me a Chatot that she caught in Australia while we were at a video games conference in Rome, as her next stop was South Africa and she would get another Chalot there – she did! She now hopefully has a Torkoal from India that we will trade when we meet next – likely at GDC in San Francisco next year.
Speaking of GDC, I was on my way to the conference and decided to do a random Lugia legendary raid next to Union Square, and there were lots of virtual players (geo-spoofers) around (the developer has fixed that since then so now such spoofers are minimal). It turned out to be two of us physically with the help of spoofers to beat the gym boss. We started talking and we were both Brits, both there for GDC. He is a QA manager at Sega, in London, and we acquainted over the common connections we have on Linkedin. What other game comes close to that level of social networking?
The other amazing encounters are some random individuals who I would have never met and am quite proud to call as good friends: one amazing individual leads the Whatsapp group that I am on and the one who added me in; he quite openly admits that at one point in his life, due to his physical illness, he was severely depressed and ready to end it all. Pokémon Go came at the right time and he is now an integral community player helping everyone connect to each other for raids, trading and keeping team Valor and Instinct away from our PokéGym. So many such friendships I can share but will end with the one that has been the most touching moment for me on the positive impact this game has had on my society: my local graveyard is a PokéGym and this elderly gentleman visits every weekend. His son, who died at age 10 in the ’90s, is buried there. Last Summer, he asked me to explain what all this Pokémon Go is all about as it has livened his son’s otherwise quiet resting place. He said he really likes that a lot and believes his son is enjoying it as well! I didn’t convert him to become a player, but it made his day knowing why everyone has this new interest in visiting his son’s resting place and he appreciates that a lot.
It has 147 million monthly active players and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
Sadie Boyd – Arkane
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
One of my favorite game series, aside from Fable, has to be Assassin’s Creed. Throughout the past few years though, it had become increasingly difficult for me to continue my once unconditional love. That changed with last year’s release of AC:Origins, which opened the door and stepped into a complete reinvention of the series. When AC: Odyssey launched this year and introduced a radically different game, one with RPG elements, that’s when it showed the gaming community that it was ready for change and that change was good.
I became invested in Kassandra (and her arms) – her character was unlike any female protagonist I’ve seen or played before. She felt compelling, hard headed, quick witted, and the story surrounding her had depth. Her journey through loss and then discovery made me feel for her. I adored the small animations that played for Kassandra as well – when she walked through a field, her arms outstretched, or when she shook off her boots after running through a small puddle – I appreciated these small, yet character defining animations that the animators put care into.
But more so than Kassandra, were the rich environments, each region of the map presenting different and unique areas riddled with dense foliage and forgotten temples. I often found myself walking to most of my destinations so that I could take in every detail. It was one of the first games I’ve played where the forests felt real.
The ship mechanics, while off putting at first, suddenly pulled me into hours of exploring the open oceans, attacking ships for their resources, and enjoying every minute of it. Assassin’s Creed can be fast-paced at times, but when it’s time to slow down, it does so beautifully, allowing the player to examine their surroundings and dive deep into the lore that has been masterfully woven into the AC universe. I could write a long love letter (or book, to be honest) on why both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey have completely changed the series for the better, but for now I will eagerly and patiently wait until I’m able to step back into the animus once more.
Will Maiden – Avalanche
Into the Breach
I’m not one who normally responds well to repeat failure in games and I didn’t expect to last long with Subset Games’ roguelike tactics game Into the Breach. The way that it shows you how each gigantic insect is going to attack, however, really changed my mind. It gives you all the time in the world to strategise not just your turn’s actions, but the order you execute those actions, and that grabbed me immediately. There’s no hidden rules or subterfuge for the player to have to see through, the game tells you exactly where the enemy will move and how they will attack each turn, leaving it up to you to apply your bag of tactics to the problem.
I would invariably end up staring at the screen for 10 minutes at a time, like a chess grandmaster; running through each eventuality in my head before I committed even a single move. When the stakes are this high and one wrong-move can cost you the game, it’s important to get it right. This is one of those games where they keep introducing new systems that has you saying “oh, that’s clever”, only to face you off against an equally clever opponent to keeps you on your toes. If you’re a fan of strategy and tactics, it’s kept me coming back all year.
Anna Megill – Remedy
My GOTY is definitely Florence. I was wildly busy at work this year, so I didn’t have time to play many of the big blockbuster titles. Instead, I’ve played small indies like Return of the Obra Dinn, Donut County, and Florence. And as someone who cares about story, Florence stands out as a perfect little gem. It’s rare and refreshing to see a video game relationship portrayed so honestly—especially the [SPOILER] part where the couple falls out of love.
The narrative design in Florence is both elegant and fun. The game mechanics deepen the story while somehow still feeling effortless. The conversation “puzzles,” in particular, felt organic, original, and emotional. And the story is poignant without being maudlin. I lost my father this year, and all the color drained from my life for a while. Florence reminded me that the beauty returns eventually. Life goes on, even after people we love are gone from it. And to experience all of that in about a half hour? Remarkable work.
Des Gayle – Altered Gene
If game mechanics alone could win game of the year awards then the Leviathan Axe would win hands down. (Or rather, hands swinging with fury and malicious intent.) The way the axe feels as it cleaves through bone, the way it gracefully arcs through the air when you call it back to you through will alone and the vibration, audible thud and ever so slight continuance of motion as it lands in Kratos’ dinner plate-sized hands – it all make it feel sublime. Truly the rubber stamp of what triple-A teams can do with resources that indies can only dream of…
Anyway, I digress. My game of the year is ELOH. A delightful puzzle game that I have been playing on my iPad. The art style won’t be for everybody, but that plays second fiddle to the audio. The beat starts flowing when you tap a speaker and the magic happens when you start bouncing the beats off various types of blocks. The rhythm will soon have your head bobbing along as you solve each puzzle. One thing I particularly like is how even the incorrect solution sounds good! This is a finely crafted game that is definitely worthy of being played with the speakers on. Or if you are like me and have some pint-sized savages running around, you may prefer headphones.
Trent Oster – Beamdog
My gameplay time in 2018 was actually focused internally. I played a ton of our upcoming unannounced title.
I played some Vermintide II, Into the Breach and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but my favourite for 2018 was Battletech.
At the start I wasn’t a huge fan, I found the controls clunky and the story a little over the top, but by the end of the campaign I was really enjoying the game and actually played on a little after the main campaign ended, which is unheard of for me. Other than Shadows of War. I love seeing my Orcs get promoted – they are just so happy.
Valentina Chrysostomou – game designer
I’ve had a rough year. I took solace in making human looking AI sentient, slaying down trolls with my Leviathan axe or, when I didn’t feel like violence, riding my horse in the wilderness, picking mushrooms after the rain. Nevertheless, these blockbuster triple-A games, as entertaining as they were, were not fulfilling enough for me. I spent most of the year catching up to last year’s games and, in all fairness, I was more impressed with those.
Regardless, there was one game in 2018 that was worth the hype and only because I’m a long-time fan of a specific hero in spandex suit crawling up walls. That game is obviously Spider-man.
My childhood was filled with costumes, action toys, birthday cakes, posters, DVDs of everything that had to do with our beloved web-slinger. Being able to feel like my childhood hero while playing this game was more than enough to get nostalgic and take a trip down memory lane to recall favourite moments. I will not praise the game’s gameplay and mechanics, story and characters; rather, I will cherish this game simply because in times where I felt like a stressed, overwhelmed adult, it made me feel like the playful, carefree child I once was.
Erin Yvette – voice actor
Return of the Obra Dinn
It was a busy year for me but it happily aligned with a fantastic year for more casual, indie games like Florence, Donut County and Overcooked 2. My favorite was Return of the Obra Dinn, though my playstyle felt far from “casual.”
I was obsessed with piecing everything together — I kept a little notebook nearby for copious scribblings and found myself musing over the clues while trying to fall asleep. And the voice acting is absurdly immersive and great.
Anna Hollinrake – Karrot Animation
My first experience with Florence came at a poignant moment in my life.
I’d just moved to London, I was suddenly having to spend hours every day commuting, and I was trying desperately to anchor myself in a new job, a new home, and a new relationship.
It felt like I couldn’t have played Florence at a more relevant point in my life, but that’s exactly its trick.
Whether you’re young, old, single, or in a happy relationship, its gameplay vignettes feel wordlessly universal. It’s simply impossible to play Florence without empathising with its simple tale of love, loss, communication and quietly devastating compromise.
Randy Pitchford – Gearbox
Sea of Thieves
On launch day, I log in and find myself in a tavern where I speak to a barmaid and drink some grog before stepping out into the sunlight. It is beautiful. There stands an attractive sloop facing towards a bright, blue ocean wide open with possibilities. As I approach the boat, a creepy old dude sells me a treasure map – X marks the spot! Boarding the ship, I quickly learn to raise the anchor, set the sails and captain the vessel.
I feel excitement as I steer the boat into a small, shallow bay where I set anchor. After checking the treasure map and with shovel in hand, I swim to shore and plunge into the trees to find the secret stash. I dig the treasure out of the ground with excitement. Carrying the heavy trunk back towards my ship, I see the mast through the trees. I thought I had raised the sails, yet there is a full, white cloth hanging from the mast. I hear voices from the ship, taunting me. Pirates! They are on board MY ship! And they have spotted me, intent to kill me and steal MY treasure!
A gunshot rings out, narrowly missing me. My heart starts racing! I drop the treasure chest and pull out my telescope. I can’t see anything, but I hear the pirates talking. They are discussing how best to kill me and steal my loot. Suddenly, I hear an explosion ring out. I quickly step out from behind the rock for a peek at the ship. There are two pirates on the deck. There is a cannon that’s been moved to face in my direction. Then I see something else moving – very quickly. It is moving right towards me. It is small. It is round. It is black. And then it hits me. In. The. Face.
As my body fades away, the last thing I see is my treasure chest. “#*$! that guy – let’s take his booty!” says the pirate who murdered me. The next thing I know, I’m a ghost standing on board a terrible ghost ship. I look at the ghost captain and contemplate what had happened: my ship had been boarded and my own cannons were turned against me by a violent pirate crew who stole the very first treasure I had ever found.
I couldn’t help but wear my game designer hat. This game dropped me into this world with no instruction, and no storytelling. I’ve seen it criticised for this decision, but in my view it was a conscious choice to present us with a game design confident enough to not burden me with tutorials and prologues, instead letting me figure it out for myself. It was confident enough to take the risk of a player having *this* experience – where my first encounter where I should’ve felt triumph and elation was instead ripped apart by the kind of antisocial behaviour that would be considered griefing in any other multiplayer game. I contemplated what it meant to be on the side of the experience I had, and then I thought about what the experience must have been like for those other two pirates. I began to grin. THIS IS THE MOST PIRATE GAME EVER!
I went on to play Sea of Thieves night after night until, very recently, I managed to earn enough success that I have become a Pirate Legend! I love it as much for its daring to cast aside the “rules” of game design as I do for how perfectly its story is paired with its design and style. There are a lot of incredible games that I was glad to play and experience in 2018, but none were so daring and took so many risks and brought me such a new and unique set of feelings and experiences as Sea of Thieves, and for that I must declare that it is my 2018 Game of the Year.