2016 is about to shut its massive door in our faces, just like it’s been doing all year. From all your favourite celebrities pushing up the daisies, to a US election result that nobody seems sure isn’t just Russia playing a practical joke, 2016 has been the worst year since current affairs began. At least there were videogames, right?
It's been a really great year for videogames, as you can see in the best PC games of 2016.
No, videogames wanted to tear your heart out and dine on it in front of you, too. 2016 was the year your childhood darling Lionhead shut down, your brand new graphics card burst into flames, and Capcom stole your arses.
Thankfully it wasn’t all bad, though. 2016 was a year of new beginnings for people from many different walks of life. The Chuckle Brothers somehow managed to become assassins, Barbie became a videogame developer, and Terry Crews became a PC gamer.
Yes, it’s been a heck of a year, which is why we’re about to relive it all again. Starting with…
Back in the first month of 2016, when we didn’t realise quite what an ‘eventful’ voyage we were about to embark on, the only things that were on anyone’s mind were dongs and boobies. It was a more innocent time, you see. A very particular adult niche was growing, though; Minecraft porn.
Self-help website Pornhub revealed that searches for Minecraft had increased by a total of 326%, with a third of that growth happening in 2015. Block-loving perverts the world over were typing such sordid words as ‘minecraft hentai’, ‘minecraft masterbating’ and… err... ‘minecraft hard drilling’ into the website’s search bar. The frequency of these searches spiked around Minecraft events such as Microsoft’s HoloLens demonstration, which presumably is the equivalent of foreplay to people with such fetishes.
Look, I know Bowie’s death came as a shock to us all, but there had to be a better way to deal with it than this.
The second month of the year surprised us all as Peter Molyneux turned up after a long absence from the industry, confirming suspicions that the year had been scripted by that team that brings back dead characters in ‘event’ episodes of soap operas. It turned out Molyneux had returned to let us all know that he was bringing Godus back; a somewhat perplexing idea considering it’s widely agreed upon that Godus is most definitely a Not Very Good videogame.
Such news was quickly forgotten though as the most absurd Kickstarter story in living memory began to break. Eric Tereshinski, head of indie project Ant Simulator, uploaded a video explaining to backers that his game had been cancelled. Why? Because his business partners had spent all the money on booze and strippers. Yup, if you donated money to Ant Simulator, your hard-earned cash was apparently used to allow some men to leer over women in various progressive stages of undress.
The business partners in question object to these accusations. “Anything that was spent in a bar or restaurant was very reasonable in nature when you look at any business, including video game companies,” they responded, refuting the notion that spending donated money on beer is quite a bad thing to do.
It’s not the worst use of Kickstarter money, though. Remember Godus?
Kickstarters don’t get internet commenters as angry as the words ‘visual downgrade’, though. Ubisoft Massive managed to get practically every PC gamer in a spin with their comments about The Division, which no doubt left many a Ubi PR manager staring at their shoes. See, an unnamed employee at Massive told a journalist that the PC version of The Division couldn’t look too much better than the console versions “because it would kind of be unfair”. Cue hastily deployed statements from Ubisoft absolutely denying every word.
Potentially getting a feeling in their bones that people might need some cheering up at some point in 2016, Blizzard decided to raise our spirits with a pop song about Hearthstone. Just to reiterate, that’s an actual piece of music based on a computer card game set within a popular MMO’s fiction. Released in Thailand, it’s rare but not impossible to be exposed to it elsewhere. The usual reaction to exposure is to howl loudly through a wall of your own tears before diving into a well of water blessed by a local priest.
A little further west of Thailand, bad things were happening with muddy truck simulator Spintires. The entire game stopped working for all players, and word on the street was that developer Pavel Zagrebelnyj had deliberately sabotaged his own game due to a dispute about money with publisher Oovee. Since it was rendered literally unplayable, Spintires was completely pulled from Steam in order to spend time in the digital garage.
Spintires eventually returned to the Steam parking lot and went back on sale, but it took until April for Oovee to explain what had happened. Turns out it was a problem with the game’s anti-piracy code, and not intentional sabotage by Zagrebelnyj. Not that that’s the story the internet will remember, of course. Where’s the thrill and excitement in anti-piracy software?
Not content to allow January to be the filthiest month of the year, April saw a woman in the background of Street Fighter V’s Air Force Base stage fellate a ghost. You read that correctly.
But while 2016 was already proving to be a cesspit of sexy filth, the videogame head honchos were doing their best to keep it all hidden away, thankyouverymuch. Professional gamers Team YP were banned from taking part in ESL, the world’s biggest pro-league, because of their controversial sponsor. See, the YP in their name refers to the website YouPorn; a stimulation station where you can watch videos of people engaging in coitus. Despite conversations between the both parties, ESL refused to back down due to the vast majority of its partners having a strict ‘no pornogrophy’ rule. And thus it was a premature ejection from the world of top-tier eSports for Team YP.
April wasn’t all bad, though. The two-year-old Rambo: The Video Game got some new DLC, for reasons evident only to the developers of Rambo: The Video Game. We’re sure it made the game’s four owners very happy.
Thankfully by May videogaming had got over its filth obsession and had instead become fixated with Overwatch, Blizzard’s big new shooter. It’s a game populated by a cast of characters including a peanut butter-obsessed gorilla, a cigar-chomping cowboy, and a plethora of attractive women.
You can all see where this is going, can’t you?
Pornhub were once again on hand to offer the statistics, which detailed a recent 817% rise in searches for things like ‘overwatch porn’ and ‘xxx overwatch’. Apparently Tracer was the bae most viewers were looking for, because who can resist a London accent and a lighting-fast finish?
But tragedy soon struck. The Overwatch porn was hit with cease and desist orders. Amongst the cries of horny geeks on the game’s subreddit, it was revealed that the videos were being created by ripping character models from the Overwatch game files and animating them in Source Filmmaker. That’s commonly known as ‘copyright theft’, and takedown notices were issued to video creators. It looked like Blizzard weren’t happy with their artistic achievements being used to make sticky socks, and that’s quite understandable.
Finally, finally, June saw the sex obsession lift as people started to talk about that other videogame thing: blowing the crap out of soldiers with big guns. DICE had announced that 2016’s Battlefield would be set in World War 1, but the whole thing was a bit of a tricky subject. See, EA were a bit worried about how educated their players were. They were concerned that many younger gamers didn't know that there was a World War 1, which of course would make things a bit difficult. BioWare probably had the same issue everytime they wanted to refer to the First Contact War in Mass Effect, too.
It wasn’t just publisher EA who were underestimating gamers, though. Developer DICE reportedly thought that Battlefield players simply wouldn’t be able to believe that women soldiers were a thing, and so scrapped them early in development.
Ex-DICE coder Amandine Coget’s suggested on Twitter that the original pitch for the WW1 shooter said “screw realism, we're adding female soldiers, because we're way overdue", but the studio eventually did a 180 on the decision because female soldiers simply weren’t believable to the core audience of boys.
Despite this, DICE went and put a lady soldier in their single player campaign, which makes the whole thing very confusing. Is the campaign only for those with overactive imaginations? How does that make the multiplayer more realistic, especially considering people come back to life with the aid of an injection? Quite honestly Battlefield 1 doesn’t make any damn sense at all, and a few playable women probably wouldn’t have made it any more batshit bonkers than it already is. I mean, at least the Serbians actually had one female soldier in the war. You won’t find tales of entire Tommy squads using the German MP-18 submachine gun in the history books.
The seventh month of 2016 saw Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series, literally sell his blood on eBay for £3,800. And that was the least absurd thing that happened that month.
It was July when many a Twitter feed was invaded by the incredibly punchable face of Trevor Martin, AKA TmarTn. In the gaming equivalent of an Edward Snowden whistleblow, it was revealed that TmarTn was the owner of CSGOLotto, a Counter-Strike skins gambling website. That would be /sort of/ ok, had he not been encouraging people to use CSGOLotto on his YouTube channel without ever actually telling viewers he owned the site.
The incredible saga, which also involves YouTuber ProSyndicate (who kept his mouth shut for most of the ordeal), started when another YT channel, HonorTheCall, released a video exposing the the duo. Within hours incriminating videos - including one that showed TmarTn logged into a CSGOLotto bot on Steam - were pulled from the internet. No doubt TmarTn’s lawyers were rubbing their hands together so much that fires began burning in their corporate offices.
TmarTn eventually issued an apology, which involved him kissing a dog and not actually saying sorry for the things he’d done. But within hours of it being uploaded, the apology was pulled from YouTube. This presumably means he retracted his apology and is, in fact, not sorry for anything. Sorry.
The saga subsequently led to numerous other fires burning around the whole Counter-Strike skins gambling scene, with streamer PhantomL0rd also being accused of promoting a site he owned without disclosing his ties.
The whole fracas led to further discussion of the practice of CS:GO skins gambling. It’s one thing to promote a site you own without disclosing such information, but the whole idea of young people having easy access to a form of online gambling hasn’t gone down well in many circles. Least of all Valve, who after ignoring the problem for years, started issuing cease and desist orders to gambling websites and threatening account terminations.
Among the websites being told to pack their bags and get the hell away from the Valve API was GSGOLotto, meaning TmarTn’s failure to disclose his ownership not only led to him enduring the scorn of Reddit, but also caused the implosion of his sideline business empire.
2016 AD was already showing signs of being a less than vintage year by August, but all that was about to change. The best game in the entire universe was about to land: a triple-A blockbuster made by a tiny team of nerds from Guildford, England. Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky was to be the actual saviour of gaming. It was the prophesied one that would bring balance to the gamers. It would make all your dreams come true.
But despite the adoration that shone brighter than the eyes of a teenage boy seeing particular scenes from Game of Thrones for the first time, there were a lot of very angry people among the No Man’s Sky community. The game was originally due earlier in the year, and the delay to August 9 resulted in Hello Games receiving death threats. As in actual messages from human beings so desperate to play a game that they wanted to murder the people creating said game. Before the game comes out. Logic, along with human decency, were the enemy of the eager space exploration game fan last summer.
Someone did manage to get the game early, but it didn’t involve killing a game developer (it required paying $1,300 for a leaked pre-release copy on eBay). Moneybags McGee then took to Reddit to spoil the game for everyone, where he revealed that he had reached the centre of the galaxy (No Man’s Sky’s end point and main goal) in ‘just’ 30 hours. This made a lot of people unhappy, but Hello Games were gracious enough to create a launch day patch that would make sure it took longer.
No Man’s Sky did eventually come out on August 9, but it wasn’t the second coming of the Eternal Messiah of Gaming Kind. Which is sort of not surprising considering it was made by a group of people whose previous work is a couple of accomplished indie games about a bobble-headed man on a motorbike, rather than the Philosopher's Stone or Half-Life 3. Still, the people who had somehow convinced themselves of No Man’s Sky’s saviour status were suddenly even more angry than they were before.
The game didn’t have the online features Hello Games had suggested. Then it appeared as though the game was wiping people’s discoveries (it wasn’t). Then people got really, really mad about what was at the centre of the galaxy. Overall, it's safe to say people didn’t like No Man’s Sky. Apart from all the people who did, of course, and just quietly got on with playing it.
The hate continued to boil at roughly the same temperature as the Eta Carinae star (a toasty 72,000 degreed fahrenheit). Community toxicity was so noxious that the moderator of the No Man’s Sky subreddit was forced to shut the site down in October due to being concerned about his own safety. But that’s 2016 for you.
Slander hit the headlines in September when industry guessing-game man Michael Pachter decided to suggest that PC gamers were comparable to racists. He told British newspaper The Daily Star that “PC gamers are like racists; they only like their own kind and they have no interest in venturing out and mixing with other races,” and “PC gamers are arrogant twits who are convinced what they do is better than what anybody else can possibly do.”
Pachter is, of course, wrong. (Has he not heard of Microsoft’s Play Anywhere?) But there was one prominent PC gamer that seemed to be doing something a little bit like racism that month. Palmer Luckey - creator of the Oculus Rift - had been using his vast amounts of cash to bankroll a questionable meme organisation. Reports said that the Oculus founder was working alongside Milo Yiannopoulos, the internet’s favourite dispenser of obnoxious opinions. Together they’d helped create Nimble America, a subreddit designed to mock Hillary Clinton, that also asked questions like “Is there a difference between white nationalism and white supremacy?” and “Was 9/11 an inside job?”.
This, of course, caused alarm and upset over at the Oculus Diversity Program, who began to voice their concerns that the VR company’s leader seemed to be advocating both diversity and a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of America. An oxymoron in a variety of ways, I’m sure you’ll agree.
After four months of not doing anything remotely smutty, videogames just couldn’t help themselves in October. It was then that news broke of wrongdoings over at pro Dota 2 group Team Secret. Two ex-members revealed that the team’s management were siphoning money from the player's winnings and spending it on things like “a porn star and a few models” during The International tournament.
The story that was gripping the gaming globe, though, was Blizzard’s Overwatch Sombra ARG. See, Blizzard had been running the ‘game’ for a while, which mostly consisted of a countdown timer. The timer in question was due to end in October, and when it did… well… nothing happened.
The ‘end’ of the Sombra ARG led to another half a month of tidbits and guessing, with Sombra herself not actually showing her face until Blizzcon in November. It was obvious from the very beginning that this would be the case, but Blizzard’s teasing ensured that untold thousands of nerds clung to every tiny change on the AMomentInCrime.com website like a headcrab to a succulent human skull. But while a headcrab eventually gets to control their human host, the people playing the Sombra ARG were just wasting their time. No doubt Blizzard were laughing like Z-list movie villains as precious hours were thrown into the abyss by obsessives.
It didn’t take long for Blizzard to calmly admit that the Sombra ARG was all a load of old dingos’ kidneys, with one of the team saying “If we were to do it in the future we would make some changes perhaps,” which roughly translates as: “Never again”.
Blizzard hadn’t made the mistake of the year though. No, that proud title belongs to their stablemates Activision. For some reason they thought it’d be incredibly clever to restrict people who bought Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from the Windows Store to playing only with other people who bought from the Windows Store. The result of such an ingenious decision meant that the servers were populated by literally (not literally (though often literally)) just two people. Not quite enough for a game of Team Deathmatch.
Thankfully not all sense was lost in the world, and Microsoft refunded copies of Infinite Warfare bought on the Windows Store without any trouble. And considering a fair and reasonable refund policy is about as good as it gets in 2016, let’s all stop now to celebrate with cognac and canapés.
No, no. Stop. Put the nice things away. Someone decided nappies for gamers would be a good idea. There’s just no stopping the Runaway Train of Dread in 2016. Next stop: the abyss.
Just in time for Christmas, videogames made sure we were provided with another bumper crop of dirty news stories. It wouldn’t be 2016 without them, would it?
EA were doing a little tinkering with The Sims 4 for the festive period, and the latest patch notes included a particularly prudish bullet point. “Woohoo or Mess Around with a non-household Sim on a non-household lot will now properly shoo other Sims from the room during said action”. Woohoo is, of course, the Sim family-friendly term for getting it on in sweaty fashion. Essentially they’re talking about patching out voyeurs.
While EA wanted to keep their characters covered up and in private, Capcom took a very different view. That’s why their Street Fighter V Christmas skins showed off as much flesh as possible. Freezing snow and sub-zero temperatures, you say? Perfect weather for a boob window, say Capcom.
December 2 saw many people headed to YouTube to catch up on The Game Awards, hoping to see trailers of such big games as Death Stranding and Mass Effect: Andromeda. What they found instead were images of a very different kind of game. Yup, porn again, thanks to The Never-Ending Torrent of Filth: 2016 Edition. The first page of results for ‘game awards 2016’ were all legit, but on page two things start to get very NSFW. For some reason.
Talking of The Game Awards, the event’s host Geoff Keighley revealed more information about 2015’s legendary Kojimagate incident. Apparently Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima was “locked in a separate room on a different floor than his development team for the final six months of development” of MGSV, suggesting that publisher Konami had been taking management advice from the mid-2000s reality TV show Super Nanny.
Keighley wasn’t the only person speaking out against Konami, either. Film director Guillermo Del Toro, who was due to work with Kojima on the cancelled Silent Hills project, posted a few rather direct thoughts about the publisher on Twitter. "F**K KONAMI" and "VIVA KOJIMA", he shouted into the void, making his feed indistinguishable from that of a 15-year-old NeoGAF regular.
A turbulent December, then, and one that seemed to be distracting people from actual videogames. The excellent Watch Dogs 2 was selling way below the rate of its predecessor, and Ubisoft’s final game of the year - Steep - entered the UK charts at a woeful no.24. It looked like the videogaming apocalypse had well and truly arrived.
But worry not, fans of interactive entertainment. Everything will be all right in the end. 2016 was but a single page in the grand history of time itself, and 2017 is a land of wonder, surprises, and opportunity. And probably another twelve chapters of utter, utter madness. But it can’t be as crazy as 2016, right? Right?
Thanks for joining us on our little tour of the year. Tips are welcome, as are personal highlights in the comments below. Just watch you don’t fall into the abyss on the way out. Cheers.