Years ago, I stopped declaring a game of the year. After 2012, my gaming habits changed in a way where I didn’t really have a comprehensive enough view of the gaming landscape to make such a proclamation. Technically, the same could be said about my year of gaming in 2016, as I can count on my fingers the number of games I played seriously.
What makes this year different is that there is one game this year that really carved out a place in my heart that deserves a shout-out. Was it Street Fighter V? Fire Emblem: Fates? Or something from out of the blue that completely caught me by surprise?
My 2016 game of the year is…
For decades, players have imagined living out the pokemom trainer dreams in real-life. Pokemon Go made that a reality. Using your smartphone as the conduit for geocaching-based gameplay, you trek out into the real world any time you want in search of pokemon that you can then use in battle against rival trainers in your area.
There are a number of key factors that made this a game that completely consumed my life since its release in the summer. One, the core gameplay loop of going somewhere to either get something really cool or do something really cool with your pokemon collection. There are always cool pokemon in the world to catch and I enjoy the process of fighting in gyms and then using my pokemon to take control of them for as long as possible. It’s tough to hold onto gyms for longer than a few minutes in many places, though I’ve been able to work out a few key spots where I’ve held gyms for a few days and even a few weeks.
While all of this is happening, you’re still in the real world. Yes, the temptation is strong to have your face glued to your screen the whole time, but it’s the world around you that makes the experience what it is. I remember being in the car at 3am, driving my friends home from a party when Snorlax popped up in the sightings. We drove around the subway parking lot until we ultimately found and caught it. I’ve been to many places in my city and seen things that I never would have if it weren’t for the game. While the game isn’t directly multiplayer, I’ve shared so many positive experiences with family, friends and complete strangers as we played this game together.
The core of the Pokemon Go experience was there on day one and it continues to get better. Niantic has gone a long way towards making this the best game it can be off the strength of major events, the rebalancing of pokemon combat powers, adjustments to move sets, the clever implementation of Ditto, the inclusion of the buddy system and more. If Niantic continues to support this game at this level, we’re in for a treat for years to come.
Coming into it with zero expectations, Pokemon Go has kept me enthralled almost non-stop. Since the game is played on your phone in the real world at all times, I’m almost always in the game and there’s almost always a reason to interact with it somehow, whether I’m catching new pokemon, fighting at gyms, restocking my supplies at PokeStops or just walking my buddy and eggs. For being one of the most entertaining and immersive video game experiences I’ve ever partaken in, Pokemon Go is my game of the year for 2016.
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