2014 is quickly coming to a close, so it is time for us to look back and reflect on all the happenings in the gaming world this year. Xbox One and PlayStation 4: Year 1 2013 was all about the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft. They hype about the reveals, the buzz leading up to the release, and then the eventual release of both boxes. Even the consoles were only on shelves for 6 weeks in 2013, it seemed like the PS4 and Xbox One filled the headlines from February til December. In 2014, the hype was over and it was time to get down to brass tax. How good are these consoles? It is undoubtedly true that the Xbox One and PS4 are great boxes. The hardware in them is miles ahead of the previous consoles, and they both have very cool and useful functions that make them more than just gaming machines. These machines are definitely capable of carrying the console gaming market on their backs for at least the next 5-7 years. What we also learned from both machines is that they are as vulnerable as any other connected device to hackers. Both systems have had their infrastructures breached and had their online systems taken down on multiple occasions in 2014, including the grand finale that occurred on Christmas day. Can we blame this on Sony or Microsoft? It’s hard to tell. Some will contend that there should be an impenetrable amount of security surrounding the online infrastructure of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, but others argue that with time, a hacker can crack any amount of security. It is an unfortunate side effect of functioning in an online space, but there is always room for improvement when it comes to online security. Now for the big question, was it necessary to own a next gen system in 2014? This topic can be debated on many fronts. On one front we see that many of the marquee titles of 2014 were cross generational releases, meaning they were available on both the new systems, XB1 and PS4, and the old systems, 360 and PS3. So if you didn’t upgrade in 2014, you really didn’t miss much. On another front, there are amazing games like Infamous Second Son and Sunset Overdrive that were not available on the old systems. If you are a gamer who puts high value on visual fidelity, then you probably picked up the PS4 or Xbox One in 2014. Ultimately the decision to own a new console is up to each consumer, but in my opinion, I can see why frugal gamers would have decided to skip the first year of Xbox One and PS4. Titles like Infamous Second Son and Sunset Overdrive, while amazing, will not define the next generation of consoles, and since very popular franchises like Call of Duty and Dragon Age could still be played on the PS3 and 360 this year, it is easy to see why some people would have chosen to wait it out. If you did decide to wait until 2015 for your new console, you may have done the right thing. There are great titles coming out in 2015 that can only be played on the PS4 and Xbox One. Here are some of our most anticipated 2015 games. Big Money for Big Companies Some of the biggest financial acquisitions of 2014 happened within the gaming community. Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch TV and Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR have proven that gaming is no longer a niche product. Massive companies are paying big dollars to get into the gaming world before it becomes too expensive. If we look at these deals individually, you can see exactly how far gaming has come in the last 7-8 years. Prior to Twitch TV, originally Justin TV, the only way you could watch people playing a video game was if you were there with them, or if they had some kind of elaborate set up that was not accessible for the normal, everyday person. By 2013, Twitch was servicing over 45 million users who watched over 12 billion minutes of video. The demand for a video game viewing service exploded, and massive names in the tech industry took notice, most notably Google and Amazon. At first, it looked like Google was going to get their hands on Twitch, which would have given them a huge monopoly on the gaming video front since they also recently acquired YouTube, but at the last minute, Amazon swooped in and grabbed Twitch for a cool $970 million. Now we can all look forward to seeing how Twitch will grow with the world’s largest online retailer backing it. But, the huge $970 million Twitch acquisition came in 2nd place in the “which gaming related company can be sold for the most money” competition. First prize goes to Oculus VR, who was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion, yes billion with a ‘B’. Oculus VR and its flagship product the Oculus Rift was founded and created with a vision to bring gaming to an entirely new level. Oculus originally received more than $2 million from the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, but once Facebook realized the potential applications for this technology, they decided the best course of action would be to acquire Oculus VR and give them all the help they would ever need with development. #GamerGate Probably one of the most controversial moments to come out of gaming, the hashtag still sparks passionate debate from both sides. The movement came from the aftermath of a wordpress blog post by an ex-boyfiend of indie developer Zoey Quinn. In it, he revealed personal details of their relationship as well as their subsequent break up. Among those details, he accused her of cheating on him with several men, some of which were notable members of the games press. While members of the gaming community gathered to watch the spectacle, the discussion slowly moved away from Quinn and began to focus on the games press. Accusations began to fly that she had been given favorable coverage because of personal and intimate relationships with certain members of the press. While those accusations had been denied, the match had already been lit and several members of the gaming community began to speak out critically against biased coverage and corruption within the games press. The discussion became muddled with some members of the community speaking out against the games press, while others spoke out against Quinn herself. Events reached a boiling point when several editorial pieces game out decrying the ‘gamer’ identity, citing its death and dismissing the term as a group of misogynistic trolls, due in part to the persecution and negative spotlight achieved by Zoey Quinn. The discussion had shifted from ethics in journalism to harassment and discrimination in gaming. The hashtag GamerGate as well as #NotYourShield were then formed to counteract that narrative, insisting that the movement was and always had been about ethics. Things became further complicated when well known female personalities such as Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu claimed to receive death threats under the Gamergate moniker. The situation gained so much spotlight that it made its way out of the gaming sphere and into mainstream media, with MSNBC as well as the Colbert Report taking an interest in the story. Even now onlookers can search online and view both sides of the arguments. Depending on who you talk to, GamerGate has now become the symbol of ethics in journalism or just another excuse to perpetuate sexism and discrimination. Embargoed Reviews Embargoes are something that product reviewers and journalists have had to deal with for a very long time. They are in place to ensure that information is released precisely when the newsworthy party wants it released. In the case of video game journalism, publishers usually put embargoes on video game reviews so interested buyers can see the review scores before purchasing the game. This year, this practice was used in a bit of a different way. Assassin’s Creed Unity was marked with an embargo date of 11-11-2014 @ 9am. This date and time was a full 9 hours after the game had hit shelves, which meant that no potential buyers could see the review scores for the game until well after the game had released. To some people, this may seem like a small issue. If you really wanted to see the review scores for the game, you could just wait a few hours before buying it, but notable gaming news sites took umbrage to this unusual breach of unwritten journalism rules. Their assertion was that Ubisoft used the embargo to hide the fact that their game was not finished and had serious issues with it. While these allegations could never be proven, and Ubisoft definitely won’t admit to doing something like that, the issues with the game were clear from day one, and it is easy to see why Ubisoft would want to hide the problems with the game. Hopefully we won’t see any more issues like this in the future, but the breach of protocol with Assassin’s Creed Unity could set a very dangerous precedent. What Did We Learn in 2014? 2014 was definitely an interesting year in gaming. We learned that not all things are peachy in the first year of life for the PS4 and Xbox One. We learned that gaming has become a massive financial entity and that huge companies will pay big money for. We learned that games journalism, like any other type of journalism, is subject to corruption and misinformation, and that even the term “gamer” can spark debate in some circles. We also learned that publishers and developers can will do anything they can to try to save their game from criticism. Amongst all of that, the one thing that we know is that the gaming industry will carry on and continue to grow. Every year more gamers join in the fun, and every year more people pick up a controller for the first time. Here’s to 2014, the year that was, and to 2015, the year that will be.