Ben Pack is an editor at Giant Bomb and a swell guy. Ben did not write himself an intro this year, and this could have turned out bad for Ben were his list to fall into the wrong hands. Thankfully, the person editing this list is very nice, just like Ben.
Ah, the end of the year. Didn’t think you’d make it, huh? Well neither did I. But here we are, a couple of tough-as-nails motherfuckers. We’re walking away from 2019 a little older, a little wiser, and, if you’re anything like me, with a few more achievement points under our belt.
This year certainly was hard, but it was also full of amazing new experiences, both in video games and outside of them too.
Movie of the year: Parasite
I wandered into a movie theater while on vacation in Philadelphia because I had a few hours to kill before dinner. I knew nothing about Parasite, but grabbed a ticket for it on a whim after hearing about it from a couple of friends. I’ve since seen it two more times and will not shut the hell up about it. Bong Joon-ho does an incredible job of blending genres together, and kept me laughing at the edge of my seat while telling a hauntingly beautiful story about wealth inequality.
Album of the year: Chain Tripping
I don’t listen to a lot of music, so take this one with a huge grain of salt, but, if my Spotify numbers are anything to be believed, I loved the hell out of this album. I’ve enjoyed the occasional single from Yacht dating back to 2009, but I wasn’t even aware they were releasing an album this year until I heard them on an episode of Comedy Bang Bang (side note this is also my CBB episode of the year).
Here is where I would talk about the album, if I knew how to write about music other than “this shit slaps.” This shit slaps. Also they worked with AI to write the lyrics, which normally might send me into a “oh god the future is here we’re all fucked” shock, but for this it worked.
Best new food that I found out I like in 2019: Broccoli
In 2016, the Keto diet turned me around on a lot of foods. When you can’t eat carbs, you start to get desperate for… anything you can eat. It was then that I discovered plenty of foods I had previously hated. Cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms and more – turns out they’re all delicious. But there was one thing I was stedfast in my dismissal of – the cursed green sinner’s plant.
One time in 7th grade I got a baked potato for lunch, and underneath the nacho cheese topping there lurked a great darkness. I took a big bite and got a mouth full of brocc, and proceeded to throw up right then and there on the lunch table in front of Jessica S. I’ve never forgiven broccoli for that moment. But upon visiting a friend in Philadelphia, I was presented with some broccoli that she had cooked. I couldn’t say not out of politeness, so I took a little bit and lo and behold it was fuckin delicious. Broccoli, and trying new things, both rule.
Biggest Mistake of my 2018 GotY List: Not putting Dead Cells at #1
I loved the hell out of Dead Cells, but December my Switch was stolen from me, along with my save for the game. I was heartbroken, but I had beaten the game at that point and figured that my time with it would be done there.
Flash forward to a random UPF where Rorie booted the game up. I immediately was reminded of how great it was and downloaded it that night. I’ve since put about another 100 hours into it, getting to boss cell 2 difficulty and downloading the paid DLC update. This game has joined my personal hall of fame with games like Super Mario World and Spelunky – all games that I could see myself playing for the rest of my life.
Top 10 Games of the Decade: TOO HARD TO FIGURE OUT
I was going to do this, but I ended up with like 60 games, and there’s no way I’m narrowing that down to 10 in the amount of time I have to write this list. But just know that Vanquish would for sure be in the top 5. Instead I’ve done something stupider…
Top 10 Years of the Decade, Ranked by their Best Games
6. 2019 ([REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED])
Honorable Mentions for Game of the Year 2019
My brief fling with Void Bastards was as intense as it was short. The style, atmosphere, writing, and progression were all top notch – all bolted onto a familiar, yet polished PC FPS core. I’ve yet to play the DLC, but I’ll definitely go back in 2020.
As a die-hard Mario fan, not getting into the first Super Mario Maker was probably my biggest gaming sin to date. That’s why I was so excited for the sequel. Unfortunately, there just didn’t seem to be the same amount of enthusiasm around it as the original, so I ended up playing far less than I thought I would. However, I really enjoyed my time with the game and thought the single player mode was a great addition. This game was also was responsible for some of my favorite content from the year.
Remnant was a huge surprise for me. If you can stop rolling your eyes enough at the “Dark Souls meets Resident Evil” description to check the game out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as well.
Ok without further ado, the reason for the season, the canonical Ben Pack Best Video Games of 2019 that I played the year they came out. I’m going to keep some of these brief, as you can hear more of my extended thoughts in our podcasts.
Top 10 Games of 2019
10. Mortal Kombat 11
I think the most interesting thing I can say about Mortal Kombat 11 is that it made me care about the story mode of a fighting game. The actual fighting is very much “a good one of those,” and the towers and ranked seasons seemed… fine, but somehow Mortal Kombat made me care about Johnny fucking Cage of all people. They seemed to have a lot of fun with it, while still trying to tell an interesting story that works both on its own, and as a metatextual representation of the where the Mortal Kombat story has gone. Also the fatalities are fucking sick.
9. Outer Wilds
I still haven’t beaten Outer Wilds. In fact, much to my dismay, I’ve only gotten the chance to really explore a couple of planets. But the first time the game clicked for me I knew I was in. I’m an impatient gamer, and normally the kind of guy who will hit up a walkthrough after only a very small amount of frustration with a puzzle, but the sense of discovery of Outer Wilds has me trying to complete the whole thing without looking anything up.
I played through about 2000 holes of Desert Golfing, a game which was a deconstruction of mobile golf-games. What the Golf? is just as perfect a golfing game, but on the complete other end of the spectrum. A mere handful of levels into the game, and you’re flinging your golfer, a soccer ball, cars, and the like towards the pole. This game has a similar spirit to WarioWare, with a mystery-packed overworld backing it up. Also it is chock full of clever homages to other famous video games–but golf.
Hypnospace, to me, occupies the same parts of my brain that Return of the Obra Dinn did last year. Both games have premises that sound like they could be terrible free CD rom games (insurance adjuster on a boat in the 1800s, and digital detective investigating pseudo-early-’90s internet pages for copyright violations). Both games also extremely nail their aesthetic. The websites you visit in Hypnospace seem like they could have been real Geocities/Yahoo pages frozen in time.
But the real reason both of these games struck such a cord with me is that they’re both games that, under the surface, tell a uniquely personal and heartfelt story. The aesthetics of Hypnospace were enough to hook me, but the turn that happens about halfway through the game was really what compelled me to finish the game.
Ring Fit Adventures is the only game on this list that I try to make sure I play every day. And yes, I know that the nature of it being an exercise game means that you’re encouraged to play daily or you will lose results – but if the game that was there wasn’t fun I think I would have dropped it like the dozen other exercise games I’ve tried.
I am consistently surprised by the depth of its systems. There’s turn-based combat, with certain moves being more effective against certain types of enemies. There’s a crafting system that is integral for harder difficulties. There’s an inventory system. There’s side quests. I just hit level 40 and unlocked a skill tree, which apparently branches out even further than it is initially presented. All of this is in the service of doing real exercises. I know I’m not going to become jacked if I continue playing, but I’m already feeling the effects of just a few weeks worth of sessions.
In the world of live service games demanding that you sacrifice any amount of free time that you have, I’m growing more and more appreciative of short games. I got a 100% completion on Cadence of Hyrule in under five hours, which definitely left me wanting for more. But looking back on it, I was on board from start to finish in those five hours.
The exploration, the combat, the bosses and the world design were all top notch. The game could have very easily been a re-skinned Crypt of the NecroDancer, but it really worked hard to distinguish itself and cement itself as a true Zelda game. Plus the music is legendary, and I’ll be listening to the remixed Gerudo Valley theme for a long time to come.
4. Apex Legends
YEETING ON FOOLS WITH THE EVA 8 WILL NEVER GET OLD.
First of all, I connected with the story and setting of Sekiro in a way that I never have with the Souls games before. Wolf’s story of carving his own path, figuring out what “duty” truly means, and the destruction of Ashina, all felt more tangible than the anything in the Souls games.
Second, this is a game all about offense. There are plenty of moments where you need that good ol’ stick-and-move-style of Souls combat, but being able to just lay down a ton of offense with a few key parries, even against the scariest bosses in the game, was exactly what I was looking for.
Control is one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever played, and I played it unpatched on a base PS4 where it would often drop to single-digit FPS, or soft lock coming out of a cutscene for 10-15 seconds. I was willing to look past these flaws, however, as I’m a massive fan of the world that Remedy created in this game.
It’s absolutely dripping with flavor. One of my favorite examples of it is a room you find early on that is covered in post-its. My first thought was it was just weird for weird sakes, an attempt at unsettling the audience ala Twin Peaks. But after playing through the game and learning about altered objects and objects of power, suddenly that room tells an entire story. The core gameplay and the plot involving Jesse Faden and her brother are competent, sometimes even compelling, but the thing that kept me coming back to Control was everything around the edges. Also, the Ashtray Maze is maybe my favorite moment of the year.
My 2018 Game of the Year was Into the Breach. It was unusual for me, as I’m not the biggest fan of games like XCOM or even FTL, but the game itself was just so good and confident in what it was that I couldn’t help but fall for it. Disco Elysium, for me, was that times 10.
I’ve never played a CRPG and typically will start to zone out of I have to read more than a couple of paragraphs of text at any given time. That’s why the initial buzz for this game blew right past me. But after hearing so much about Disco, I had to give it a shot and I’m so incredibly happy that I did.
Disco Elysium is truly something special. The game is tight and interconnected in ways that few other video games have successfully done as. You can notice it when you dive into how the games limited systems work with each other, from the transparency in the passive/active checks, to the thought catalog system, to how the skills themselves take on a persona, and even talk to each other. These all serve a greater purpose, though, in making the city block that this game takes place on feel like an actual inhabited town and not a series of buildings and people that exist solely to propel the main character to their objective. The NPCs that you talk to feel like actual people with real emotions and flaws and hopes and dreams.
Then there’s the writing. The world of Revachol is tragic. As you start to explore and talk to the citizens of Martinaise, you begin to sense a presence, the ghost of a communist revolution. It’s omnipresent, stuck in the air like the stench of a sewer. You can still see dozens of bullet holes left by firing squads stuck in walls. There’s a war happening between two equally corrupt forces, using real people as pawns in a game that you can’t even initially perceive. But the best part about the world of Disco Elysium is that, even in the face of oppression, death, and destruction–you can find glimmers of hope. Even the most downtrodden characters, people who are unwilling pawns in a game between two corrupt forces who only care about themselves, can offer some levity in the face of the darkness.
For the most part, Disco Elysium is a deadly serious game, but the majority of the moments that I can instantly recall were the times it made me laugh. One of the best ways that the game is able to balance these two tones are by making sure that none of your options as a player are black or white. There aren’t “paragon” or “renegade” choices that you’re making. The game often nudges you to make the “weird” choice, after all you are an amnesiac cop running around in gardening gloves and no pants, but the game makes it work as these choices usually result in more interesting developments. The game also backs this up by having failed rolls lead to sometimes hilarious results. You are constantly asked to “go for it” in Disco, which makes the times where you can’t bring yourself to do it even more effective. I saved about a dozen screenshots from this game, and upon revisiting them I was inspired to read other peoples’ favorite screenshots. The results were overwhelming.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is ZA/UM‘s first game. I feel like this is one of the strongest showings of a new studio I’ve seen in a long time. With them hitting it out of the park like this, I am already patiently awaiting their next game. In the meantime, if you haven’t, play Disco Elysium.
Apple’s iPhone 9 release is set for March, but the coronavirus outbreak could be a big problem – BGR
The coronavirus outbreak is far from being contained with the official number of cases sitting at 4,474, a dramatic increase over Monday’s count. The death toll reached 107, although the good news is that more patients fully recovered. Researchers from Hong Kong said their models show the real number of infected people is in the tens of thousands, significantly higher than the number of confirmed cases. China is putting a massive effort to curb the spread of the virus, but 2019-nCoV has reached other continents, with cases being reported in the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, France, German, and other Asian countries.
Wuhan is still closed off, and people are advised not to travel near the area. Schools and universities nationwide are not to resume activities, and transportation in China has been restricted — Hong Kong announced plans to cut transportation to mainland China, per BBC. A prolonged shutdown of cities and activities in China, which supplies many of the world’s goods, including high-end electronics like the iPhone, might hinder product launches in the near future.
Several new products are expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks, starting with the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip phones in early February, and the new PlayStation 5 later that month. In late February, the world’s most important smartphone makers will meet in Barcelona, Spain, to unveil a new generation of smartphones, tablets, and computers. Many vendors will come from China for the event, and many of those devices will be manufactured in the region. Then, in March, Huawei is expected to launch the P40 Pro series at an event in Paris, with the phone set to launch first in China. Apple is widely expected to launch in March the iPhone 9, also known as the iPhone SE2, a device that should hit stores soon after the official launch.
The coronavirus might impact in one way or another all of these products, assuming cities will remain locked down as authorities work on a vaccine. According to Bloomberg, Apple is expected to start iPhone 9 production in February, and production could be impacted by the outbreak.
The main iPhone assemblers are Foxconn and Pegatron, both located more than 500 kilometers from the Wuhan region, but distance alone won’t ensure the virus won’t spread.
“Supply chain disruption is a worry if employees across Foxconn and other component manufacturing hubs in China are restricted,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives told Bloomberg. “If the China outbreak becomes more spread, it could negatively impact the supply chain, which would be a major investor worry.”
Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, said it’s monitoring the situation and following all recommended health practices. The company added that it has measures in place to ensure that it can continue manufacturing products.
A person familiar with Apple’s supply chain said the company is prepared for extreme scenarios, and has significant components dual-sourced, in terms of vendors and geography. Therefore, an immediate impact on Apple’s iPhone production isn’t expected.
The coronavirus is already expected to impact the world’s economy this year, not just China, The Washington Post explains. Extending holidays and banning travel will have immediate negative effects on Asian countries and impact the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1.6% on Monday, while South Korea’s and Japan’s stock markets too similar plunges, at 3% and 2.5%, respectively, as investors brace for the coronavirus’s effects. China’s markets remain closed for the holidays.
Apple supply chain braces for disruption from coronavirus – BNNBloomberg.ca
Apple Inc.’s China-centric manufacturing base is at risk of disruption after the Lunar New Year holiday as the company’s partners confront the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the country and caused more than 100 deaths.
Virtually all of the world’s iPhones are made in China, primarily by Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. at its so-called iPhone City in Zhengzhou and by Pegatron Corp. at an assembly site near Shanghai. Each of those locations is more than 500 kilometers away from Wuhan in central China, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, but that distance doesn’t immunize them from its effects.
“I can’t imagine a scenario where the supply chain isn’t disrupted,” said veteran industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. “If there’s one major hiccup in the raw materials, fabrication, assembly, test, and shipping, it will be a disruption.”
Apple has been increasing production to meet higher-than-anticipated iPhone demand, Bloomberg News reported last week. The company typically launches its new high-end iPhones around September, so the virus is unlikely to have meaningful impact on those plans, however the company is also preparing to begin mass production of a new low-cost iPhone in February, which is more at risk.
Apple has roughly 10,000 direct employees in China, across its retail and corporate entities. Its supply chain also has a few million workers manufacturing products like the iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch. Many of those employees have been home the past few days for the holiday, and the company hasn’t said if it is asking them to stay home for longer to prevent the virus spreading. Chinese authorities have imposed severe travel restrictions and taken the drastic step of quarantining the entire city of Wuhan, a population of more than 11 million.
“Supply chain disruption is a worry if employees across Foxconn and other component manufacturing hubs in China are restricted,” said analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities Inc. “If the China outbreak becomes more spread it could negatively impact the supply chain which would be a major investor worry.”
An Apple spokeswoman declined a request for comment.
Foxconn said it is monitoring the situation in China and following all recommended health practices. It declined to comment on production in specific locations but said, “We can confirm that we have measures in place to ensure that we can continue to meet all global manufacturing obligations.”
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are rising in Henan province — home to Zhengzhou facility — which may lead Hon Hai or the government to close factories to prevent further contamination, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman wrote. The province accounted for a quarter of China’s smartphone exports last year, while China’s exports make up 27% of global smartphone sales, he said, citing government and IDC data. Foxconn is estimated to account for more than 60% of Henan’s total trade.
The Cupertino, California-based company prepares for extreme scenarios such as the coronavirus by mandating that major components be dual-sourced — both in terms of vendors and geography — and a major immediate impact to its production plans is unlikely for now, according to a person familiar with its operations. Even so, the vast majority of its assembly work is done in China, and so a shortage of workers for assembly lines will have a direct impact on shipment numbers.
Apple put the redundancy policy in place after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and led to component constraints for the iPad 2 that the company launched that year.
While Apple doesn’t have any stores in Wuhan, it does have dozens of retail locations across the Chinese mainland. The company hasn’t announced any closures yet, however it has shortened the opening hours of several stores in the country through Feb. 7, according to a review of its retail website. That shift could be due to the Chinese government extending the lunar holiday as a means to control the virus.
Along with its local workforce, Apple also relies on many of its U.S. staff going back and forth across the Pacific Ocean, with United Airlines Inc. last year revealing the company was spending US$35 million per year flying employees between San Francisco and Shanghai alone. That included 50 daily business-class seats, according to the airline. How the virus outbreak may affect the research and development efforts that those trips facilitate has yet to be established.
Investors and analysts will be looking to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to make comments on the virus and its impact on Apple during Tuesday’s conference call to discuss the latest quarterly financial results. Cook tweeted over the weekend that Apple “will be donating to groups on the ground helping support all of those affected” by the virus.
EMERGING MARKETS-Stocks set for longest losing streak in four months as China virus spreads – Reuters Africa
* EM stocks index set for fourth straight day of declines
* China coronavirus death toll passes 100
* Investors anxious about economic fallout from outbreak
By Shreyashi Sanyal
Jan 28 (Reuters) – Emerging market equities declined for a fourth straight session on Tuesday, set for their longest losing streak in four months, on rising worries about the economic impact from a virus outbreak in China as the death toll rose.
MSCI’s index for emerging market equities fell 0.7%, tracking stock market losses across Asia.
The coronavirus spreading across China claimed its first victim in Beijing, as the death toll rose to 106. A wave of risk aversion swept over global markets as investors worried about the potential impact of the outbreak on the world’s second-biggest economy.
“We are in the acute phase of the crisis, which means everyday there are reports of new contagions, new countries reporting cases… so the market will react to that and continue to adjust itself in a bearish direction,” said Cristian Maggio, head of emerging markets strategy at TD Securities in London.
“Now, is this going to be the reality by the end of the crisis? Probably not. The market is over reacting because it is still too early to determine the economic impact.”
Emerging market assets had received a boost on hopes of a pickup in economic growth after the United States and China reached an initial trade agreement, but analysts said an unexpected growth shock could leave them vulnerable to a renewed downturn.
In South Africa, beleaguered power utility Eskom said installing all the technology needed to meet stricter emissions rules coming into force in April could take the company two decades.
State-owned Eskom, mired in financial crisis and struggling to meet demand, is the top polluter in Africa’s most industrialised economy.
The South African rand fell against the dollar, reversing an earlier rise, as a weak domestic outlook continued to weigh on sentiment.
South African stocks fell 0.4%, while Russian stocks lost 0.3%.
Russia’s rouble strengthened slightly, in line with steadying oil prices.
For TOP NEWS across emerging markets
For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see
For TURKISH market report, see
For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
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