I've wanted to rub myself all over it since it was released back in October. Unfortunately, my Mac has been limping towards the cuss-bin all year; playing anything from Steam caused it grind to a halt, and start hissing at me like a defenestrated opossum.
Fortunately/unfortunately my Mac coughed its last air biscuit this week, and I had to fork out the usual thigh-watering amount of money to get a new one. You know: otherwise I wouldn't be able to do my work.
The first thing I did to make myself feel slightly better? Download The Beginner's Guide. And did it make me feel better? Yes. And it also made me feel real awful about myself.
Simple on a technical level, its layers of depth - best not spoiled - speak in fairly profound terms about the choices we make in video games.
Whedon's The Beginner's Guide - equally as profound, but far more more personal - starts out appearing to be another game about games, but it evolves into something else entirely.
LESS IS MORE
Frankly, the less said about The Beginner's Guide the better.
The briefest of summaries goes something like this: led by the disembodied voice of Whedon himself, you're presented with a series of short, first-person games supposedly designed by a friend of his, in the order in which they were developed. Games which Whedon finds interesting - and he explains to you why he finds them interesting.
And that's all you need to know. It's short, about an hour, but it's kind of genius, and I kind of love it. Much like Star Wars The Force Awakens, I want to talk about it so badly, I want to say more, but it's impossible without ruining the experience for others.
Speaking in the most general terms possible, it's unlikely to be a game for those who merely want to shoot things (though, you do get to do that at points... sort of), or fanny around in the mystical realm of Pethefenny's Bell-Hole. It's as close as video games get to art; Why do people who create want to create things - what's driving that? Why do we want to rescue those who we label as in need? What can art tell us about the people who created it?
It's also likely you get punched in the gut late in the game, when the rug is pulled out from underneath you completely. It's a game - if it can even be called a game - which resonated with me deeply.
What I love most about The Beginner's Guide is that it demonstrates the potential of video games when they're unpredictable.
So much of what I've played this year - chiefly the big blockbuster games - has been rote and unsurprising from beginning to end. Even something as solid as Fallout 4 rarely managed to do anything sufficiently creative and original to elicit an impressed "Hunh?".
In The Beginner's Guide you never know quite where it's leading you. It starts in one place, and ends up somewhere else entirely.
Imagine if this was applied to games which have had millions of monies stuffed inside their holes. Imagine if today's games weren't just sprawling open worlds with a series of identical objectives to tick off, hackneyed fantasy environments, steampunk dressing-up boxes, testosterone-fuelled shooting galleries, or futuristic super bases.
There's more depth, more originality, more personal work, displayed in The Beginner's Guide's 60 minutes than in the entirety of Halo 5, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, The Witcher III, or Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
Don't be put off because I used the word "art". It's profoundly good.
SUMMARY: A profound, and personal, artistic statement.
SCORE: A billion out of a billion.