Best of 2015

I don't normally do a huge list of likes, normally just music, but now I have a blog. Oh snaps.

Keep in mind, I have a hard time keeping track of when I see things. My rule is if I played it for the first time in 2015, it is a candidate for this list. So forget release dates, it's when I first experienced these things. I'm usually in the past 15 months. Here we go!

Music

As I said, this is the one category I normally do award annually, so let's start here. I usually award it by the album.

Best Album

Best album goes to the album that I expected to love, anticipated, bought and loved. With one of the most emotional and passionate performances I've heard put to tape, my hands-down winner this year was Joy Williams with VENUS. (Official Store, iTunes, Spotify). Definitely try to see her live. What a show!

Venus album cover

Best Discovery

Best Discovery goes to an album I never saw coming. Normally by an artist I never heard of that may have drifted across a cafe speaker, or leaked out of a fellow passanger's headphones, or echoed out on my Twitter feed. In 2015, Lady Serendipity (via Twitter, thank you Isosine) delivered me the deliciously-dark gem Badlands by Halsey.

Badlands album cover

Best Miss is a special award this year for an album a few years old that I never expected to like that knocked my socks off: Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy (thanks Scotty!)

Video Games

Now we go into uncharted territories! Better stick closer to the shore, I often talk about my favorite games, so this seems like a good fit. My mind is mostly made up, let's do this!

Best Story: Until Dawn

I had an amazing experience playing this game with Brett and Nicole. So jumpy in the beginning but seriously, seriously compelling by the end. Had me thinking about it for days. It's the game I lost my system over (was borrowing Brett's, he wanted it back for this game) and the game that sold me a PS4 (pending purchase).

Best Puzzle Game: Snakebird

Er meh gerd, Snakebird. The art and music in this game are so disarming. It's by far the most adorable and the absolutely, ingeniously difficult game I've ever played. I still haven't finished it. I loved sitting people down at this adorable game and watching their reaction as it just. keeps. getting. harder. So satisfying to solve. Never a cheap solution. No filler. 10/10.

Best Party Game: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Loads of fun, no relationships destroyed under my watch. I can only not recommend this for people who are down to earth and are hard to rattle. Stress is a necessity.

2015 Game Of The Year: A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build

I had an agonizing wait for this game to come out on iPhone. It first caught my attention with its price is the temperature promotion. Playing is game is excellent on every level. As a player, the game feel is relaxing and solid, the puzzles were challenging, and the ending satisfying. I loved playing it and longed to play it whenever possible.

As a game designer, A Good Snowman is Hard To Build is a marvel. It's one of those ideas that you're amazed hasn't revealed itself sooner. And yes, this design feels like it has the agency to reveal itself. Just the sheer idea of the "Act 2" puzzles blew my mind. This game has earned Draknek a permanant place on my radar. Buy it for PC or buy it for mobile, just play this game.

A Good Snowman demo gif

A quick aside, I want to extend a special acknowledgement to SOMA. I watched Markiplier play this game and I really wish I had played it myself. I don't do well with horror games, and Frictional Games makes some of the most terrifying, but the haunting moral dilemmas presented by SOMA are some I wish I had faced myself. It's not horror like I expected, it's horror the way I wish it were, and it was amazing to watch.

Most anticipated game of 2016: The Witness: Jonathon Blow, January 26, 201-- omg that's a fortnight from now...

Movies

I don't watch a lot of movies. There are SO MANY movies I never got to see. You'll probably see a lot of movies from this year on next year's list.

In loose reverse order:

Mad Max

I can't tell you the last time I genuinely enjoyed an action movie. You've heard the rest of the virtues a hundred times. I can't wait to get my hands on the black and white, no dialogue version of this film. I feel like I learned so much more about film craft (thank you Every Frame A Painting) and I can't wait to see this masterpiece in it's "best version".

Inside Out

Absolutely loved this movie. Pixar does it again. My hardest laugh and my purest sadness were drawn out by this movie (not to mention the Lava short). All the reports of teachers and nurses using the characters to make breakthrus with students and patients only made it better and better.

The Imposter

An older one, but needs to be here. In the words of Tony, don't even look up what genre this thing is. It's on Netflix. Go watch it.

2015 Movie of the Year: Wolf Children

A masterpiece on every level. The most beautiful animation I've seen. Masterful story-telling that's on another level. Worth buying on sight before actually viewing. Technically from 2013. Still worth it.

Wolf Children

Hero of the year: Every Frame A Painting. Watch every one of these. So informative.

Most anticipated movies (out but haven't seen): Hateful 8, The Revenant, Star Wars.

Books

This category is easy, because I've almost exclusively "read" (audiobooks) Game of Thrones. So I only have two points to make here.

One, is I have no idea how anyone follows the TV show. We're on the fifth book and finished two seasons and I just... the book is worlds and worlds better than the show.

Two, the fifth book is my favorite so far. Every entry in this series is amazing on so many levels, but the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons is bottled lightning. It's electric and irresistible. I love it.

A Dance With Dragons cover

End

I'm taking more careful notes this year, since I really liked the style of Draknek's reviews. So next year will be a lot more organized. Happy New Year!