2016 Year In Review: Video Games, Technology & Other Things Geeks Think About

(Hey, better late than never!)

It’s almost April and we’re still going with our insane geek awards, the Unicorn Poopies.  Doing the series has allowed us to look back at 2016 and identify some interesting trends.  As we approach 2017 Q2, we wonder if our favorite industries and companies are moving forward or just regurgitating what they’ve always done.  These thoughts apply to everything we geeks indulge in: technology, tabletop games, video games, digital media, television, movies, books, music, etc.

What I’ve enjoyed most about doing the Unicorn Poopies is that it has been a great catalyst for round table discussions and the exploration of future topics.  Now that Obi is focusing on Topover Star eSports, we’ve been able to use our award show as a way to introduce our new hosts: Beard_And_Hat, WarChildMKIV, and Tukah44.  We’ve rarely agreed on our picks, which has made it all the more interesting too!  Of course, with a ridiculous name like “Unicorn Poopies”, we’re clearly just trying to have fun and we hope you will join us on the fun!

Official 2016 Unicorn Poopies Geek Awards logo!

Official 2016 Unicorn Poopies Geek Awards logo – thanks, Beard_And_Hat – w00t!

The 2016 Unicorn Poopies have covered all aspects of geek culture but we have TONS of categories for video games.  We also have awards for film, TV, happenings, tech, anime, and more!  Starting around Episode 172 of HorsePLAY! LIVE (Thursday, March 30th 4am GMT / 11pm ET / 8pm PT), we’ll start wrapping up the series with non-gaming awards..  That is, if we can restrain ourselves from going off on long tangents (probably not happening).

Aren’t there enough video game and geeky awards already?

Sure, everyone seems to have their own awards platform but I promise no one has done it in a podcast format and stretched it over several months like we are doing.  Video game awards usually fall short because they consolidate categories with too much variety.  As a result, the winners are always the same: the big names or the artsy-fartsy stuff that’s thrown in for credibility, creating the illusion of fairness.

We’ve taken feedback from our community, collaborators, and favorite content to round things out.  I hope that, when you finish the series, you feel that we have presented the most diverse, entertaining award show.  It’s a series for the people, by the people.  It’s also a nice opportunity to show more love to things many have missed like some of our favorite and lesser-known indie games, Dungeon of the Endless, Enter the Gungeon, and Risk of Rain.

Dungeon Of The Endless - Greatest Of All Time?

An indie experience that blends our favorite genres and is exciting each and every time you play.  Easily one of the best values in gaming right now.

In this new award show format, the focus is more about deliberating on our picks.  For the most part, each category was a close race, though there were some clear winners.  You’ll note that, to qualify as a nominee, it had to be a thing that we enjoyed in 2016, but not necessarily a 2016 release.  This made things A LOT more interesting as many of us are still playing catch-up anyway.

This is going to be one doozy of an article so, if you just want to see the nominees and categories, skip to the end.  The stuff in between will highlight some of our favorite moments so far!

Overwatch character splash

 

Overwatch Is A MOBA And A Class-Based Shooter

Overwatch is indeed a MOBA or at least it competes in that space.  Whenever I say this, I get bombarded with arguments against my logic..  But this is my opinion so I’m entitled to it.  That said, I will explain further because I feel you deserve that much and I love you.

Originally, I was going to make this into a full-on article but we have a lot on our plates so I’m going to explain my logic here.  First, when I play Overwatch and the Hi-Rez clone, Paladins, I look at it as an alternative to Smite, Heroes Of The Storm, Gigantic, and the like.  As such, it feels very much like a MOBA even if it’s not classified as such.  For me, Overwatch scratches the same itch as a traditional MOBA.  Here are my counterpoints to every argument that I’ve gotten since I made this comment.

  • Developers and reviewers classify it as a first-person shooter.  Classification of things is more a marketing strategy than a true indicator of the core experience.  It’s a matter of positioning the product against the right competition and targeting the best market segment.  Before digital took over, music stores have always classified albums under different genres, mainly to see where they more units.  Would you consider Coolio gangster rap?  Probably not, yet that’s where he would fall under at times.  By the way, Riot Games calls League Of Legends an ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy) game yet we all know it’s a MOBA. #justsaiyan
  • There are no creeps.  I can safely say that most people who use this argument have not played many MOBAs and they’re likely using LoL as their benchmark.  Creeps are only a requirement in the MOBA variants referred to as line wars or footies, where pushing and hoard-style defense are the core mechanics.  While creeps and laning are associated with traditional MOBAs, not all MOBAs are line wars/footies nor do they require creeps.  In footies style of MOBAs, there are more RTS elements with the use of armies to help you push and control points but the core experience still revolves around hero combat.  In fact, in it’s simplest form, MOBAs simply strip away the minutia that make RTS games hard to play casually.
  • It’s more like Team Fortress 2 than anything else.  This is probably the most fair argument because, certainly, Team Fortress 2 is not a MOBA.  I’ve played a ton of TF2 and TFC.  With regards to art direction, the similarities are undeniable, but the gameplay doesn’t feel the same to me.  I feel that Team Fortress has always been more about the gun play.  There’s far less variety in TF2 as well.  Overwatch may attract the same kinds of gamers but I would not call it a clone, though the influences are certainly there.
  • Objective play is standard in shooters.  Now for a little history and background: MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.  It evolved from RTS games as a way to focus on micro rather than macro.  Most will say Aeon Of Strife (1999) was the original but I would also consider games like Herzog Zwei and Total Annihilation as precursors.  The key is in hero battle with varying degrees of resource management and customization.  It is team-focused and objective-driven.  The objective play is evolving beyond the standard lane pushing stuff: domination, CTF, deathmatch, escort, and other modes are appearing in many MOBAs.  As such, using the objective play argument doesn’t work anymore as the types of objectives and modes no longer differentiate the genres.  Also, since MOBAs evolved from another genre, it makes sense that they will borrow from other genres as they evolve and come into their own.

Aeon Of Strife (1999) vs. DotA (2003), both of which were custom games within Blizzard engines.

  • Call Of Duty has abilities too.  Sure, you have superpowers and killstreaks in Call of Duty but is that the core experience?  No, it still comes down to the gunplay.  In Overwatch, effective use of your abilities is equally or more important than your shooting skills.  Also, MOBAs have a way of making you feel god-like when you use your superpowers and I don’t feel that CoD abilities are as epic, though they are certainly game changers.  From a game mechanics perspective, the core mechanics in CoD encourage you to camp and play selfishly to max streaks whereas Overwatch is more about fluid team dynamics, complimentary abilities/roles, and objective aggression.
  • The control scheme is more like a shooter.  Actually, this argument supports my opinion further.  If you look at most MOBAs, you typically have four to five abilities, including a super/ultimate.  The way Overwatch controls are laid out, it feels like Smite, Gigantic, League Of Legends, DotA 2, and just about any MOBA that is relevant.  In a pure shooter, whether it is first or third-person, the majority of controls are dedicated to the gunplay: ADS, reload, secondary fire, firing mode toggle, etc.  That is not the case in Overwatch.
  • Nope, it’s a shooter.  Last I checked, shooters are about ranged combat almost exclusively.  How, then, do you explain melee-based characters like Genji and Reinhardt?  This is where the arguments really fall apart.  Both MOBAs and shooters revolve around precision but Overwatch is about ability precision.  Headshots help but it’s more about positioning and using abilities the right way and time.

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