As we approach the end of the current console cycle it is only natural to look back, to ponder over what was and how it changed our perceptions of video games. With that in mind, we have put it to all of our writers to come up with three games that they feel defined the generation for them on a personal level, games that left a lasting mark on the writer. So over the next few weeks, the P2 team will be listing these games and explaining why they feel these games are the best representations of what came from this generation of gaming. Welcome to Three Games that Defined the Generation.
Three Games That Defined The Generation – Jess Zammit
Life is Strange – PS4, PC, Xbox One
From the moment I saw the trailer, Life is Strange had a profound impact on me. It gave me a protagonist to relate to, with a storyline that felt made for me, and a great soundtrack to go with it. It wasn’t the first game to put forward the idea of your actions having consequences, but it played with it in ways that no other game had. Being able to turn back the clock to replay some moments and not others made the moments you couldn’t change hit harder, but the desire to change them even greater. It wasn’t as easy as going back and changing one choice, or one dialogue option to fix things – everything was a series of interconnected events that determined everyone’s fate in ways that were often unpredictable. There are some things you just can’t change, no matter how badly you want to, and the game tackled that theme in some pretty emotional ways.
It was also one of the first games to give me a queer storyline between two women that felt entirely authentic, even if it wasn’t the most explicit representation out there. The way Chloe and Max’s relationship developed felt so reminiscent of some moments in my own life, and I will never forget how seeing that in a game made me feel. Even if you don’t read their relationship as romantic, Chloe and Max clearly share a beautiful bond that has made an impact on a lot of people. Plus, this is all happening on top of murder, mystery, intrigue, and time travel – what’s not to love?
Horizon Zero Dawn – PS4
I love open-world games. I always have. There’s something cathartic for me about performing the mindless side quests that I know a lot of people hate, even when they become more than a little repetitive. Maybe it’s something to do with the feeling of ticking tasks off a list, or something a little deeper like the additional world-building it can provide, I don’t know. But when a world is just fun to exist in, performing even the dullest of tasks can become a treat, and that was how I felt playing Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s just such a beautiful game, in its art style, in its lovingly crafted rich world, and every minor task I did felt like another moment I could justify spending just existing with it. Aloy is such a fierce protagonist – headstrong, unapologetic and brave, but also kind, clever, and genuinely compassionate. She’s curious about the world around her, she stands up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t compromise herself for anyone – she’s exactly who I wish I was, and to have her guiding me through this world made it all the more captivating. There were themes of adoption and family woven through the narrative that struck me on a personal note (in both good ways and bad), and a plot with just the right amount of twists and turns.
I can’t wait for the sequel. This game showed the kind of big, bold story that could be told with a female protagonist (which is still rare, if you only count games that don’t let you customise or choose your character) in a visually distinct and stunning way.
The Last of Us 2 – PS4
I’m still processing my feelings about The Last of Us 2. I think a lot of us are. But that’s one of the main reasons it’s making it onto my list. This game took a protagonist that we all loved dearly in the original and turned her into someone that by the end of this sequel you could easily argue is a villain. It forced us to examine our relationship with violence, to reflect on the actions we so easily brush off in a lot of games, and to really question whether how far someone can go before those actions are no longer justified. I didn’t like the way this game made me feel, and I think it was often heavy-handed in how it forced me to feel that way, but I still think there’s something to be said for the fact that almost everyone that played this game said they’d never do it again, that it broke them, and yet still call it one of the most important games they’ve ever played. Because it is important. It’s important that we now know how powerful games can be in making us feel not just positive, but also deeply negative emotions, and that we can collectively embrace that feeling.
There are a few other reasons this game makes the cut, of course. It was the first AAA title to be released that featured a canonically lesbian protagonist, whose queerness could not be avoided. It also includes a prominent character who is a trans man, and another who is a woman whose muscular body sparked controversy all over the internet, but who I looked at and saw as a physical inspiration. I want to see more of all of those things. It was also a technical marvel, and I think shows what the next generation of consoles is going to offer us. Seeing how far this sequel came from the first game was noteworthy in itself, and this was one last showcase of just how impressive the graphics and processing of the PS4 actually were. As one of the last big titles we’ll see of this generation, this game sure as hell made sure they went out with a bang.
Jess is a writer and researcher who loves games with good puzzles, good stories, and a tendency to punch you straight in your feelings. She is one of the directors of not-for-profit organisation Queerly Represent Me and is particularly interested in games told from unique perspectives that highlight themes or characters from groups that are often underrepresented. She also just really loves coffee, hot chips, and terrible superhero TV shows, and is always secretly hoping that one day the world will give her a good Sherlock Holmes game.