The negative video game news stories are always the easy ones to remember. But this past year was not a cesspool of negativity. There was good, too. Lots of it.
It is true that the human brain is able to remember negativity better — hence the reason why politicians run negative ad campaigns. Even going back through things I'd written in 2010, I sometimes found it hard to recall positive things I'd covered. Sad, but very, very true.
Yet, when I went back through this year's back catalogue, there they were. The stories ranged from romance to research. But one thing was constant: video games don't only have the power to entertain us, they have the ability to inspire us and even make us better people.
We not only love games, but we love how games can be used to facilitate romance and make memorable wedding proposals possible. There was the game designer who created Dinner Love and the Quest for Soup to pop the question or the guy who hacked Mother 2 and then filmed himself and his bride-to-be playing through the game in fancy clothes. One of the most adorable proposals featured a muppet playing Halo. And when there weren't proposals, there were wedding rings — lost and found. But do the couples who game together stay together? One Halo newly-wed couple is still fragging a year after being married by Master Chief.
Things rarely go as planned, but sometimes, things really do work out for the best. Take the folks who created an arcade game in hopes of getting free waffles for life or the fans that made an overdue sequel they had no right to make or the scientists who made a zombie game.
There are game designers who believe in larger issues, like video game muckraker Nick Marroni and games-are-art defender Kellee Santiago. Maybe it's because that's how they were raised — maybe we should all raise our kids to be nerds. Or at least make sure they have a Nintendo DS with them. It could save somebody's life.
The stereotype of gamers if "fat" and "overweight". But this year, folks continue to use video games to get fit. Take the woman who shed 112 pounds with Wii Fit. But video games can do more than that. One British woman who suffers from Parkinson's Disease began seeing improvement thanks to a Wii Fit regimen, feeling "nimble" and better able to walk. Another British gamer began seeing improvement — literally. Playing Mario Kart helped the young boy overcome "lazy eye syndrome."
Gamers come in all sizes and shapes. A young boy with autism found comfort in Microsoft's Kinect motion controls than with traditional controls, leading the boy's father to proclaim that it was the best $150 he spent on a console. But there continues to be calls, like from this quadriplegic player, for developers to make their games enjoyable by everyone. Some, like Valve, are listening. Others are doing research — like eyeball controlled Pong or using sound and vibrotactile cues — that could change the way all gamers play.
For a minute, forget about all the jackasses on Xbox Live. Gamers (and game designers!) are good people. Real good. Just look at the evidence: When Company of Heroes developer Brian Wood lost his life in a car accident, a trust fund to aid his wife and their unborn child was established. Or when the Saints Row designer who wanted to help cover a burn victim's hospital bill by auctioning off a part in Saints Row 3, a gamer shelled out $1,700. Gamers and game companies banded together for Haiti, whether it was Sony Online Entertainment raising $25,000, Forza cars to help, among many, many more efforts. Whether it's World of Warcraft charitable pets (and the millions of wishes they grant), Madden's in-game breast cancer awareness sponsorship, charity bundle after charity bundle or the oodles of cash raised by Gears of War and Gears fans, it is evident that the game industry, even with its prickly exterior, is a big-hearted softy.
Honestly, at the end of the day, video games make our world a better place. They make us feel good, and so do these stories. Kotaku produces an insane amount of content every day, so you can imagine what it's like culling through 2010, trying to find heart warming stories. If there were any that we've missed, do please send me an email so I can add. These are stories worth re-telling and worth re-reading again.