In sheer headline-generating terms, 2014 was a banner year for video games - and the banner looked as if had frequently been used as replacement lavatory paper at a well-attended harvest festival.
Gaming has always been a divided hobby - typically through an allegiance to a hardware system. This year, that divide appeared uglier and more unpleasant than ever before - like a tectonic faultline that a load of pigs had fallen into, before vomiting from fear and dying.
More sprawling, more diverse, and more important than ever, it feels as if gaming is an industry in transition, and that transition isn't proving easy. The old rules no longer apply, and beneath the mainstream, a war is being fought for its very soul. And yes - that statement is overly melodramatic in a bid to make it sound as if we care more than we actually do.
Here now, as we simultaneously shave our handsome legs, we take a quick, hungover trawl through some of the more notable gaming events of the past 12 months - with searing commentary from our very own Insincere Dave...
This year, Microsoft’s Xbox One somehow managed to turn around the fortunes of its public perception, if not its sales… yet. Ditching the Kinect and dropping the price, the Xbox One finally looks like a competitor.
Meanwhile, the Wii U had a sparkling year, creatively speaking at least. The likes of Smash Bros, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 reminded us that games are supposed to be fun and inclusive (unless you're gay, and wanted to get married in Tomodachi Life). Generally, the PS4 continues to have the brand advantage, but the gap appears to be narrowing – not helped by a paucity of engorged exclusives.
Overall – as we’ve already harped on about – we’re finding the Sony and Microsoft machines to be virtually interchangeable at this point. For us, the next generation has yet to justify its existence, but there are signs that it might be about to happen.
Assassin's Creed Unity may have drifted across our lips in the manner of a slack gusset, but it promises that - like a demented magician secreting a small knife about his person - current-gen hardware has surprises up its sleeve. In 2015, Uncharted 4, No Man's Sky and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter could yet convince us it was worth upgrading.
"I can't think of a single reason not to be excited for gaming consoles, handhelds, PCs, and mobile platforms in the year 2015!!!!!?!!!? It's gonna be epic!!!!!?! My thighs are sweating just thinking about it?!!!!!??"
Whichever side of the Gamergate debate you’re on, only a true masochist could enjoy everything that has unfolded over the past six months or so.
Whether you adhere to the mistaken belief that it’s a righteous crusade to promote ethics in games journalism, or believe it's a misogynistic grass roots movement to abuse women working in the industry, or you just want to punish "liars" and subconsciously protect your hobby from what you perceive as threats to it from horrible outsiders, there are extreme views, ill behavior, and depressing examples of entrenched opinion on all sides.
It’s difficult to see an end point at this stage – given the fractured anonymity of Gamergaters and the arguably justifiable anger of those opposed to it. It seems like everyone is dug in for the long haul.
As we've previously, perhaps foolishly, attempted to state - we just wish people would stop acting like knobs, and treat others with something approaching respect and empathy.
"And a big thumbs-up to everyone in the Social Justice Warrior community too!!!! Your endless devotion to your cause does you, and all other human beings, proud!!!!?!? Surely, social Justice is the greatest form of justice - along with all other forms of justice!?!!!?"
Truth is, there wasn't really a real stand-out title on any console this year – not helped by the amount of games which straddled the generations, and a number of next-gen polishes for last-gen games.
We appreciate that it has its supporters, but we’re of the opinion that Destiny is a hollow disappointment (yeah, bully for you – having lots of friends to play online with: all our friends hate us), Assassin’s Creed Unity was gorgeous but boring (and, allegedy, bugged to buggery), Alien Isolation needlessly difficult, Sunset Overdrive felt like an early last-gen title, Watchdogs an anemic GTA, and Titanfall was solid, but has become forgotten. Even by us. Titanwhat? Admittedly, Shadows of Mordor was a pleasant surprise, but an utter lack of challenge made it the anti-Dark Souls.
And while we’re at it, we’re really, really sick of long install times, day one patches, and gaming’s increasing move online. Weren't consoles supposed to have done away with all this? It's only the fact that PC gaming is even more of a faff that's stopping us complaining more.
Only Nintendo can hold its head aloft this year – it released games that were designed to be fun, rather than a chore. And, perhaps most important of all, its games feel finished, solid, and ready to be released.
It also says a lot that some of our most played games this year were on mobile devices: step forwards the sublime 80 Days, Monument Valley and Crossy Road for making public transport and pooing so much more bearable.
"Here's an idea: why not forget you ever played your favourite game of all time, and play it all over again!!!!? Without your memories, it'll be just like playing it for the first time ever!!!!!!?!!!"
If ever there were an argument against an always-online games system, the Christmas Day hack of Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network would seem to be it.
Launched by an apparently bored bunch of not-in-any-way-dysfunctional attention-seekers calling themselves ‘Lizard Squad’, the hack took down both services, leaving hundreds of privileged, First World brats mewling into their wrapping paper.
While it’s hard to support such a willfully pointless and deliberately malicious attack, it’s difficult to empathise with its victims too. Especially, when they bleat to the Daily Mail about having Christmas ruined, because Little Tommy had to wait an extra 24 hours to play CoD Advanced Warfare with his mates.
Much as it pained us, we struggled to disagree with Lizard Squad’s utterly un-ironically-named ‘Member Two’, who asked of BBC Radio 5Live: “Is Christmas really about children playing with their new consoles, or playing with their new toys, or is it about them spending time with their families and celebrating Christmas?".
Although, we do have to say that it does seem a tiny bit hypocritical coming from someone who'd just hacked a ton of confidential data and credit card information on Christmas Day. We hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Member Two and Lizard Squad!
"And hey - if you can't enjoy yourself, that's ok too!!! Being depressed and having a terrible life is a valid hobby these days!!?!!!! Especially if you use that as incentive to make life miserable for others!!!!!?!!!!!"