My best game experiences of 2022
Last year was great for gaming. Despite not meeting as often as I used to, I may have actually played more titles than the year before. However, my plays in 2022 stood out, not just for their variety, but for their quality. Over the last twelve months, I’ve had some truly memorable experiences. From introducing video game fans to the world of tabletop gaming to the best of online play, these are my best game experiences of 2022.
THERE WILL BE GAMES…ONLINE
Board Game Arena is one of the best ways to play online. However, I had mostly stuck to shorter games and marathonian sessions of Hanabi. It’s not that they didn’t have any great titles, I simply never delved deeper into its library. This all changed when a few regulars from There Will Be Games invited me to play.
I’ve always been fond of El Grande and Tigris & Euphrates. But playing them with a slate of hobby veterans proved me why they are beloved. They are classics that become better with each play. Unlike much of the gaming done today, everyone came to the table with both knowledge of the rules and several matches under their belt. While none of us were experts, we could just dive in without our inexperience meddling in the process.
Gaming is an increasingly fragmented hobby. As release numbers grow it becomes rarer for everyone to share the same experiences. Fewer games are played now to the degree that Catan, El Grande or even Dominion did. Even in video games, which are dominated by blockbusters, discussion is fleeting and centred on the same AAA titles. Being on the same page made our matches more memorable.
And it went beyond Board Game Arena, too! I discovered that you could play Sekigahara on Yucata.de and ended up playing dozens of games on it. Similarly, I dusted off my Food Chain Magnate skills thanks to another platform. Even my reviews of Castles of Burgundy, and Ark Nova were partly helped by playing online. It has been a boon to my enjoyment of the hobby, and my writing.
BOARD GAMES FOR VIDEO GAME FANS
A long time ago, I met BeetBeatBit, a fellow video game fan who makes videos on Youtube. We hit it off after discussing my article on why I stopped loving Japanese RPGs and we have been talking about games ever since. But this year, he happened to come to Madrid. And knowing I had taken the jump to board games, he asked me if I would introduce them to him and his friends.
What a challenge! Here I had five people who had played everything from Zelda to the most obscure Turbografx releases. Which games would be best to impress them? Something simple, easy to get going? Or a true classic, so as to showcase the best of the medium? They might have not played Catan, but they aren’t new to gaming. They could handle the greats. I just needed to find out the right one.
The issue wasn’t quality, though. Rather, the problem was that I had six players. Most of the classics I could bring aren’t suited to that number and games like Unfathomable would take the whole evening on their own. I quickly went through a bunch of candidates and chose three: Secrets, Steam: Rails to Riches and Cosmic Encounter. They play up to six, feature mechanics you never see in video games and won’t take more than two hours from start to finish.
And they loved them. Sure, Steam didn’t make it out of the box but Cosmic was such a success they came back a second day just to play it. They loved the player interaction, the unique alien powers, the endless stream of possibilities. Afterwards, at least two of them bought their own copies. My new friends enjoyed Secrets, too, which we played as we waited for dinner.
What I found most curious about the experience, was seeing how they approached these games new to them. As expected, they didn’t run into any problems with the rules. In fact, they were very patient with my rules explanations and often asked questions about how everything worked. Rather, they were most curious about etiquette. What kind of information can you share? Can you negotiate? Lie? Offer to go as an ally only to back down?
I loved those questions. They were a sign that all sorts of possibilities were crossing their minds. And it’s not like they were trying to gain an advantage. Rather, they wanted to be considerate and understand how board games are supposed to work. Seeing them learn and enjoy that process was truly a highlight.
Right next to my computer sits a professional grade CRT monitor. One of my finest purchases, few screens are better to display classic video games on. And yet, I haven’t used it as much as I thought I would. See, for all its pixelated wondrousness, gaming on it remains a solitary activity. Locked in my room for most of the day, the appeal of spending even more hours alone no longer seems as enticing.
Yet this all changed when I bought a console called the FPGA Mister. A little wonder of emulation technology, it can output both traditional analog signals as well as modern digital ones, making it perfect for streaming. I quickly set up some cables and voilá! I was already on Twitch playing Tokimeki Memorial and Treasure’s masterpiece Gunstar Heroes.
There’s so much I want to talk about when it comes to games. But I can’t always put an article about it. Every now and then all I want is to share a laugh whenever I fall down a pit. And so I did! A few hours playing in this casual, but organized, manner felt better than the countless evenings I wasted in an attempt to kill time. The combination of classics, social play and a good approach to gaming turned silly streaming sessions into one of my year’s highlights.
My last plays of the year were not spent on traditional games, but on a series of Japanese murder mysteries. Very much in the vein of the old How to Host a Murder series, each player gets a character, a few personal goals, and sets up to find out who amongst them is a murderer. We played the Spanish versions of The Witch that left with the Twilight by Miyabi Akita and The Tale of the Crepuscular Wolves by Rihito Sakura and Giggle Akiguchi. Both times, it was a lot of fun.
While the games themselves are far from perfect and their mysteries leave much to be desired, the social dynamics are fantastic. Cramming eight of your most talkative friends into the same room and giving them an excuse to roleplay, talk and accuse each other of murder is an explosive mix. Every time, we dressed up, laughed and came up with the most ridiculous reasons why someone else must be the culprit.
They were pure social experiences, the kind that remains scarce in gaming. And as much as I love games and analyzing them, there’s little I enjoy more than sharing them with others. It’s no surprise that every entry on my list has this as its central aspect, to me it’s one of the joys of our medium.