By: Mithrandiel & The Geekly Grind Staff
Well, 2020, it’s been real. It’s been fun. But we don’t know if it’s been real fun.
Kidding aside, this year has been one for the history books for reasons beyond the global pandemic that has stifled industries around the world. Our usual bustling season of convention coverage was snuffed out, and people everywhere sought ways to connect, even while they were doing their best to stay home and contain the spread.
In some ways, 2020 was a great year for geekdom – folks sought out Dungeons and Dragons resources like D&D Beyond to host and engage in virtual adventures, gamers around the world went into debt with a certain racoon in an attempt to make their island the very best it could be, an RPG classic made a stunning return, and a new generation of consoles arrived (though not without a few hiccups).
With 2021 right around the corner, we thought it was more important than ever to look back on some of our favorite games, books and media from the past year. Things may be a bit haphazard, but here are a few selections from the staff:
In a year that has certainly challenged us all to some degree, it’s good to know that 2020 wasn’t all downside. There were (As hard as it is to believe) a few bright spots to help distract from… you know… Gestures vaguely
For anime, we’ve seen a few great new series with Great Pretender and Kaguya-Sama. The continuation of existing greats like Haikyuu and Re:Zero. And the rebirth of older series like Attack on Titan, OreGairu, and Inuyasha?
In Manga, there’s been a lot of generic rehashes but Komi Can’t Communicate and Welcome to Demon School Iruma continue to be Cute AF.
In Gaming, Factorio finally release from Early access and has me completely addicted. You can watch Thunder and I play it on Saturdays starting at 10am PST. I’ve also continued to rediscover my Magic the Gathering roots through Magic Arena. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!!! We may be starting to stream something with this coming up soon, so stay tuned.
That’s about all I can put together for Mith as this is what’s on the tip of my fingers at the moment. I’m sure there’s a lot that’s been masked by being trapped inside and you know… Gestures vaguely. I’m sure 2021 isn’t going to be a cake walk, but I’m sure we’re in for more of the greatest distractions to come.
Favorite Video Game of the Year: Animal Crossing New Horizons
In a year that felt like we’d never know happiness again, Animal Crossing New Horizons appeared like a beacon of hope. With a multitude of artifacts to fill up the museum, hundreds of potential neighbors, and so many ways to customize your experience, there’s so much to do that keeps the game fun. Being able to visit friends and play together has also been a blast, and a favorite COVID past time of mine. I’m looking forward to see what Nintendo has on its new horizon for 2021.
Gosh, looking back over the year, it’s hard to put the restraints of time around everything. That being said, there were definitely some standouts this year that made a serious impression on me:
First, comic books. Of all the things to do during a global pandemic, I suppose taking up a new hobby is fair game, no? I took it upon myself to convert my humble collection of trade paperbacks into an actual comic book collection, and furthermore got into the comic-flipping business with fellow writer and podcaster extraordinaire, RogueSymbiote (AKA Lance).
In the months since (I started around August), I’ve amassed nearly 1,000 comics, including notable key books and a wall full of omnibuses that have kept me busy with hours upon hours of reading material.
In this new realm, I discovered (and re-discovered) my love for many heroes, but perhaps most striking is my appreciation for quality independent titles. A few of the series that have really stood out are Department of Truth and We Live, both compelling and beautiful in their own ways.
Among the Big Two, I’d say Marvel has captured most of my attention with Venom, Thor, keeping up with Amazing Spider Man, X-Men and much more. The Dark Nights Death Metal event in the DC world has been fun, but I’m actually quite looking forward to Future State next year.
When it comes to anime, admittedly I’ve been a little out of the loop for the better part of 2020. A handful of great shows did reach my ears and eyes, including Jujutsu Kaisen, and of course it would be hard to close out the year without commenting on the extraordinary success of Demon Slayer’s premiere film. Really, if you’re looking for some quality recaps and reflections on the past year in anime, I’d refer you to our resident experts: Blake and Spencer!
Video games, now that’s a different story. There was a lot of hype for 2020, with a grip of high-profile games that captured our collective imaginations for some time. Nearly at the top of that list was the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, which landed on the PS4 not long after the world found itself wrestling with COVID-19. With stellar graphics, a tight combat system and a thoughtful retelling of the early hours of FF7, it was certainly one of the highlights of the year for me when it came to gaming.
Second only to my time with Ghost of Tsushima. As I noted in my review, it served as a spectacular bookend to the PS4 era, with breathtaking graphics and a broad and varied world to explore and get lost in.
An honorable mention would be Hades – a roguelike from Supergiant Games that combines superb voice acting with an addictive gameplay loop and immersive world. Now out of beta, it’s on nearly all platforms and is well worth your time and attention!
I think that about covers it. While the lack of conventions this year (and probably most of next…) is heartbreaking for the content creators and vendors that use the circuit to help fund their businesses, I sincerely hope that you and yours remain well and safe until we make our way out of this tunnel that is COVID-19.
Until then, mask up, social distance…and I’ll see you online!
Game of the Year: Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
This game had no business being this good. It had the burden of massive fan expectations and rough patches during its development. Despite all of this the team at Square Enix absolutely nailed it, modernizing a classic game while retaining the essence of what made it so great. Also, the soundtrack is absolutely BANGING. I can’t wait for the next installment.
While I’ve often loved getting lost in solo story games, 2020 brought out a pretty big need for online socialising. I ended up fulfilling it with a game I’ve been playing for a long time – Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve always enjoyed FFXIV, but never really had the time to engage in it the way I have recently. This year I’ve joined guild parties, gone to events, listened to concerts, gone to clubs and art parties… all online from the safety and comfort of my own home. FFXIV has a fantastic storyline (particularly with the most recent expansion, Shadowbringers) and I’ve been having a blast raiding endgame fights in it for awhile now, but this was the year it became the perfect place for me to comfy up with friends too.
Solo games are fantastic and I still play them to decompress, but I think what made me happiest in FF is that it could replace that interaction that I was missing in my life this year, from big events to small moments of calm, relaxing and chatting with my friends under a starry sky. MMOs aren’t for everyone, and they can be a bit of a time and money sink, but this one is well worth both, if you can spare them. It’s as engaging as any of the best Final Fantasy games, with the added bonus of a vibrant world to live in when you can’t quite live in your own.
Well, that’s all from us for 2020!
Here’s to a fresh start, and a new year of gaming, anime, and overall geeky fun!