Posts about Video Games

Video games played in 2023 (with commentary)

I have three main hobbies: watching movies (which I log on this site), playing guitar, and playing video games. Inspired by Matt Birchler’s post about every game he played in 2023, and Elisa Gabbert’s post about every book she read in 2023, I thought I’d share every game I played in 2023 and what I’d like to play this year — along with some commentary.

God of War: Ragnarok

I had a lot of fun with this, but it didn’t blow me away the original did. The hub-centric world of the original was something I really enjoyed, and its leaner running time made it feel a little more like a Metroidvania. In this game, the scope got larger, but I’m not sure they pulled it off as well as the first’s big story more intimate approach. 

I’d still like to replay this, though, particularly because of the free Valhalla DLC that just got released and partially because it feels like I rushed this one. I think I would enjoy the story more if I took it at a slower pace, but after waiting for years, I really wanted to see how this ended.

Mass Effect 2

This is my first time playing the Mass Effect trilogy. I adored the first game (I have the benefit of playing the remade version with less janky controls), but this one kind of burned me out. I thought I’d be fighting the Reapers, but instead it felt like I went on a very long series of fetch quests. 

I’m only a couple hours into Mass Effect 3, but it feels much closer to what my expectations were for the second one.

Red Dead Redemption 2

One of the best games ever made. I’ve been very slowly playing it through a second time since early 2021. I only have a couple story missions left, but I’ve spent hundreds of hours in this world and I still feel like I experience new things all the time. It feels very alive.

I didn’t like this game the first time I played it, probably because I rushed the story, but if you play this game slowly and really chew on it, it might be the best this medium has to offer. Plus, a buddy of mine and I occasionally play online together, and we still have a blast.

Tears of the Kingdom

I really liked Breath of the Wild more. I’m sorry. I am 80 hours into this and I’ve beaten three of the main dungeons, and it’s a great game, but there’s no comparison to the magic of BOTW for me. What drew me into BOTW was the focus on exploration and making your own story. TOTK has much less of both of those things.

Witcher 3

Playing it through again on modern consoles. This remains a great game. No notes.


I actually liked this, and played a ton of it for a few weeks. But something happened around hour 60 or so where I just completely lost the desire to play. I don’t quite recall a game where I played so many hours and then immediately lost interest with no desire to ever return. It’s still on my Xbox, but I’m more likely to play Skyrim again than I am to return to this in any capacity. I know why everybody dislikes this, but none of that stuff really bothered me much, so I don’t know why I lost interest.

Sea of Thieves

I play this one online with a friend and we have a lot of fun hunting for treasure. No idea what else you can do in this game, and I know there is a lot of other stuff, but we honestly just go digging on islands. We’re simple men. We like shovels and gold.

Spider-Man 2

I loved this. It was possibly my game of the year. Beautiful, fun, great story that wasn’t too long. Can’t wait for New Game Plus. This series is the best reason to own a PS5 right now.

Alan Wake Remastered

Got this through PlayStation Plus. I genuinely don’t get the hype. I thought it was pretty bland, with bad combat, sluggish controls, and uninteresting characters. I finished it because I thought it might click” eventually, but it never did. Thankfully it wasn’t very long. I played a couple hours of Control too, to give that a shot, and I disliked it for largely the same reasons. (I might give it another shot next year. We’ll see.)


Wonderful game! Had a great time with this, but the final couple hours were a real slog. Once you reach the gauntlet of bosses you’ve already fought, it feels like the game has run out of ideas.

One thing I loved, though, was the in-game use of the instruction manual. Discovering a page and realizing you had a skill all along, but didn’t know how to use it, was a macial experience.

Forza Motorsport

Absolutely not for me. Driving every track for multiple laps before I can actually race on those tracks is an unnecessary level of realism for me, a person who isn’t into cars, but likes zoning out after a long day in a racing game. Horizon 4 and Horizon 5 are two of the best racing games ever made, though, and I’m back to playing them for the same fix.

Elden Ring

Second playthrough. Great stuff. Exactly my jam. No notes.

It Takes Two

This is one of my wife’s favourite games, and we replayed this over Christmas and immediately made plans to replay it again in the New Year. It’s just fun. Great voice acting.

Baldur’s Gate 3

I didn’t buy this until just before the holidays, but oh my gosh. Surpassed Spider-Man 2 for my game of the year. It’s easily my favourite game since Elden Ring, or perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2. Just a total delight. I’m almost done act 2 and will spend a lot of time in this over the next several years. I’m already planning a few more playthroughs with wildly different characters. 

This is the first video game RPG that has me interested in actual role play. We talk a lot about player agency in video games, but most video games have the same basic ending no matter how you play them. This feels like you actually get your own unique story. Maybe Mass Effect largely pulls that off too, but the scale that Larian is operating in here is unparalleled in my mind. I’m trying to convince my wife to play this with me and have a couple friends I’d like to play it with too. 

I nearly gave up on this halfway through the first act, though. I’m new to CRPGs and had a hard time understanding how to play. Once I got over that hurdle and it clicked, this went from a fun novelty to being one of the most rewarding games I’ve ever played.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is my game of the year at the moment.

2024 list

I’ve got a long list of titles I’d like to play in 2024. A lot of these were released recently and I just haven’t had time for them. Some of them are on in my backlog and I’m finally going to play them this year.

Most of these were games I played for an hour this year and went Oh man, this is cool, too bad I’m already playing (insert another game here).”

Here’s the list:

  • I plan on wrapping up Baldur’s Gate 3, RDR2, Witcher 3, TOTK, Elden Ring (unless I have something new to say about them, don’t expect me to mention these again next year)
  • Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Metroid Prime Remastered
  • Super Mario RPG (a couple hours in and this is hilarious)
  • Super Mario Wonder (I’m on world 2 right now and this is delightful)
  • Lies of P (played for a couple hours, but was already playing Elden Ring and my brain had a hard time adjusting to the very minor differences in combat)
  • Dead Space (the remake)
  • Mass Effect 3 (I’m a few hours in and can’t believe how much talking there is in between each mission. I’ll have more to say once I’m done, but they might as well have just made this a linear game with 20 minutes of cut scenes between each mission.)
  • Control (I’m going to try it in the summer and see if those late summer nights suit the mood of this better)
  • Plague Tale: Requiem (played the first in 2021 and enjoyed it)
  • Death’s Door
  • Hollow Knight (have started this four or five times and never finished it)
  • Cocoon
  • Dredge (this looked amazing)
  • Resident Evil 4 (remake)
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake
  • Avowed (I’ll be amazed if this actually releases this year, though)

It’s a long list. I won’t get to all of it. I’m truthfully quite grateful there aren’t a lot of 2024 releases that interest me, because most of this list is just me playing catch-up from last year still.

Here’s to a great 2024.

Just finished the story in Spider-Man 2, and I think this is my personal game of the year — over Starfield and Zelda, which are both extremely my jam. Insomniac is telling the best Spidey stories right now.

Every video game needs a grappling hook, a hang glider, and velociraptor riding

You know when you’re reading an article online, and for some reason, there’s a video ad on the bottom right of the screen that has nothing to do with the website or the article?

The video ad I saw recently was a perfectly-targeted ad. I don’t know how they did this. But it was an ad for the new Horizon game. And it was like it knew me.

The big feature the ad showed off was the new machines in the game. And the ending of the ad was, get this, Aloy riding a velociraptor.

So somehow this ad perfectly targeted me:

  • It knew I owned a PS5
  • It knew I played the previous Horizon game
  • It knew I love velociraptors

Now, here’s the thing: I wasn’t planning on playing the new Horizon game. I’m knee deep into Elden Ring on my Playstation, and I’ve got a bunch of more casual games cooking on my Xbox (related: Game Pass rocks), so Horizon was going to get a pass from me. 

But I’m now eager to play it, because I have a basic human desire to ride a velociraptor.

My wife suggested the Venn diagram of PS5 owners, Horizon players, and velociraptor fans must have a lot of intersections. But I disagree. If there were that many people like me, they would have done a better job marketing this feature of the game. I visit Polygon and Kotaku every day, and I had no idea I could ride velociraptors.

First of all, if there were a lot of people like me, the front cover of the new game would just be Aloy riding velociraptors. Instead of Forbidden West, it’d be called Horizon: Ride Velociraptors. And every possible ad for it would just be Aloy riding velociraptors. 

If these conditions were met, I would have pre-ordered without even thinking.

Because here’s something I earnestly believe after playing Breath of the Wild and Halo Infinite: every game should have a hang glider and a grappling hook. The new Horizon apparently has both these features, and it also has velociraptor riding.

So let me revise my opinion: every game should have a hang glider, a grappling hook, and velociraptors to ride. I don’t think I’m asking for too much.

As much as Sony is the dominant leader in the video game market right now, they also have a marketing problem: I am basically the target market for this game, but they failed to reach me with this pivotal information before the game came out. And when they finally did reach me, they did so with an automatically-playing web ad, which is the worst possible way to reach me.

Somebody in the marketing department is messing up.

(Also, I don’t know who’s in charge of Horizon release dates, but the first one was released a week before Breath of the Wild and this one is released a week before Elden Ring. The person in charge of sorting out release dates for Sony needs to take a good, hard look in the mirror and sort out their life.)


Upon further research, it turns out you can also ride giant pterodactyls in the sequel, and they didn’t advertise this. In fact, people are mad at critics who have spoiled” this for them.

But this shouldn’t be a spoiler! LEAN INTO THE DINOSAUR RIDING. That’s at least half the appeal of this game. Riding velociraptors and pterodactyls is a feature, not a spoiler!

Imagine if the people in charge of marketing Halo Infinite said, You know what? Nobody needs to know about the grappling hook.” 

That grappling hook changed my life. Infinite is the best Halo game solely because of that feature. (I’ll die on this hill.) If Master Chief also had a hang glider, and he could ride velociraptors, it would easily be among the best games ever made. 

In conclusion: if you’re making a video game, and you want it to be great, make sure you include the following:

  • a grappling hook
  • a hang glider
  • velociraptors I can ride

If you were to market each of those features, you are guaranteed to make a best-selling, critically-acclaimed masterpiece. 

Horizon: Forbidden West just skyrocketed up my wish list.

The art design of The Witcher 3

Art design from The Witcher 3. This depicts a witcher finding a lichten, a tree monster who calls on wolves for aid. The wolves are beside the tree monster, and the witcher holds a torch to see in the dark.

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of The Witcher 3, and have come away nothing less than inspired. Its art design is truly compelling. The world is immersive and the design work is second-to-none, making it one of the most satisfying video game worlds I’ve played in years.

I was looking for a great book on the game’s art when I stumbled on this blog post, which has some of the best concept images from the game I can find. It’s incredible the work that’s gone into this. What I was hoping for was a book in the Design Works series, which are known for their conceptual drawings, renderings, and detailed hand-written notes, but this might do in its stead. (That being said, this peek at what a book like that might have been filled with me makes me what it all the more.)

A number of things stand out to me with these images. Firstly, I love how detailed the art is — most of it is painted! It’s also fascinating to see how much, or how little, the game changed between these images and its final state. And of course, the monster designs are truly fabulous.

Art design for one of The Witcher 3's cities.

The other great thing about The Witcher 3 is that it was made in the era of the internet, so freelancers who worked on the project are sharing their in-progress material in their portfolios (often alongside images from the finished product). A quick Google search makes more material like this easy to find.

All of this has gotten me thinking: as UI and UX designers, I think we have a lot to learn from video games (and the people who make them). They’ve got a lot to tell us about experience design. It’s one of the reasons I admire UsTwo (the folks behind Monument Valley) as much as I do: they’re both digital designers and video game designers, and see the challenges and constraints in both as creative tools. Their work is fascinating, and they have a unique outlook on what games and design can do for us.

All that to say: a lot of ink has been spilled about how video games are destroying minds of generations, but I doubt that’s the case. If anything, video games have a lot to teach us yet — and they’re still in their creative infancy. Designers should watch this space closely.

Check out the original blog post about Witcher 3 here to see more images from this collection.