The Land Game

Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition

Discover the groundbreaking RPG, winner of more than 50 awards including more than 30 'Game of the Year' awards!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (videogame)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the title of a video game based on the film of the same name, but actually introducing a new storyline that takes place after the film.

Ashley Williams

Ashley Williams is a human soldier who served in the Systems Alliance as a Gunnery Chief in the 2nd Frontier Division on Eden Prime, and was later assigned to Commander Shepard's squad after the geth attack on Eden Prime. She is a potential romance partner for a male Shepard..

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order plays like a safe, conventional adventure with great lightsabers

Fallen Order nails the feeling of dangerous lightsaber combat, but its adventure didn't fully grab me in a hands-on preview.

Some kind of Dying Light/Left 4 Dead 2 crossover appears to be coming

t's been longer than you think since Left 4 Dead 2 came out, and if you don't believe me, chew on this: Ten years have passed since Coach, Nick, Rochelle, and Ellis first blazed their way across the Infected wasteland. That's right, a full-on decade—you didn't see that coming, did you? I can barely believe it myself.

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Nov 4, 2020

Call of Duty: Warzone is not shifting to the Black Ops - Cold War engine

 But it's complicated.

Cod warzone foresight killstreak perk
(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

The news that Call of Duty: Warzone will begin integrating with Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War in December raised a fairly obvious question. Will Warzone still feel like Warzone, or will it shift over to the new Black Ops–Cold War paradigm? 

This isn't as simple a question as it appears, because most modern Call of Duty games are built on a variant of the Infinity Ward engine. Modern Warfare and Warzone were built using IW 8.0, whereas Treyarch's Black Ops - Cold War was developed using what Activision imaginatively calls the Black Ops - Cold War engine. The latter is a custom engine originally based on IW 3.0 which has been developed alongside the Black Ops series (and incorporates elements of IW 8.0).

Point is that the differences between these pathways may appear slight, but the different software architectures underpinning the games leads to them feeling different in the hands. There's no need for concern about Warzone's style changing, however. In response to some user queries on Resetera about a possible engine shift, user Shuttermunster, verified as an Activision art lead, responded by saying: "There will not be an engine shift for WZ."

It probably seems head-slappingly obvious that Warzone wouldn't be rebuilt to this degree, so soon anyway, but now we know. So Warzone is still gonna feel like Warzone, with the only big question now being how smoothly the Black Ops - Cold War equipment will integrate with the experience.

By  Rich Stanton From pcgamer

Mar 14, 2020

EA halts all live esports events, including the first-ever Apex Legends Global Major

EA halts all live esports events, including the first-ever Apex Legends Global Major

(Image credit: Respawn Entertainment)
Describing the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak as "unprecedented," Electronic Arts announced today that it is suspending all live events in its competitive gaming series, including the Apex Legends Global Series, EA Sports FIFA 20 Global Series, FIFA Online 4 Live Events, and Madden NFL 20 Championship Series, indefinitely.
"This includes EA-operated events, as well as third-party events, run under license from EA," the company said. "Additionally, this includes all competitive gaming content except for broadcasts that can be individually produced remotely."
"Online events, where participants and staff are remote and separated will continue. This suspension of events and broadcasts will start today, March 13th, and will be in effect until the global coronavirus situation improves."
EA doesn't operate big-money tournaments on the scale of Dota 2's The International, but the FIFA Global Series is a big deal, and the first-ever Apex Legends Global Series Major, with a $500,000 prize pool, was scheduled to begin today at Esports Stadium Arlington. EA confirmed in a separate announcement that the event has been postponed, also indefinitely. The next Apex Legends Global Series Online Tournament, scheduled for March 21 and 23, will proceed.
"This decision hasn't come easy, but given the large, global nature of the event, we believe that making this change is in the best interest of protecting the health of the community, including competitors, attendees and staff," EA said. 
"As we continue to monitor the situation around the coronavirus and receive guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), we’ll continue to evaluate and provide more updates as it relates to all Apex Legends Global Series events."
We're maintaining a roundup of esports competitions and other gaming events that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak that you can keep up with here. For more information on the Covid-19 coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control for updates in North America, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, or the World Health Organization.
From  pcgamer By pcgamer

F1 2019 is free to play on Steam

F1 2019 is free to play on Steam

F1 2019 is an extremely good racing sim: "Generous, stable, and thrilling as ever," we said in our 91/100 review. But, like open-wheel racing itself, it's also kind of a niche thing. And yes, I know F1 has a major international fanbase, but when was the last time you watched a race? Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that the game is free to play on Steam until March 18.
One of the big new features in F1 2019 is the addition of Formula 2, which franchise director Paul Jeal said is "consistently been one of the most requested features from our community." F2 is sort of a feeder league for F1, with the significant difference that all F2 cars are identical, where in F1 you've got various different manufacturers and models in competition. That adds a new dimension of challenge on the track, as drivers cannot count on a mechanical advantage over their opponents.
If you like it, you can also pick it up at a pretty good discount: Until March 19, the Anniversary Edition and the Legends Edition are both available for 70 percent off, dropping them to $18/£13.50/€15 and $21/£16.50/€18 respectively. All the individual DLC is also on sale for half-price over the same duration.
From PCGAMER By Andy Chalk

Feb 16, 2020

Surreal exploration game Ramiwo releases this week

Surreal exploration game Ramiwo releases this week

(Image credit: Bill Deerbuch)
Are you prepared to, as the developers of Ramiwo ask, provide heavy stimulation to your frontal cortex? Grant your brain some sweetmeats? I am ready for this, as surrealist, psychedelic exploration game Ramiwo releases on February 19th. This seems like one for those who simply enjoy finding the niches, nooks, and vistas of digital environments. It’s a strange-looking game about exploring a cubic network of interlinked worlds, finding the portals between them, and mapping out their strangeness. It’s also about whatever is going on here:
What is going on there? I do not know and yet I am intrigued. There’s something about the oddly-washed textures and blocky forms in the screenshots, the sort of strange landscapes of jumbled forms and mish-mashed concepts, that appeals to the art-loving side of me. I am prepared to be thrilled and dismayed in equal measure. I am also surprised that the game is made in CryEngine which seems like a lot of horsepower to run such a simple thing. And yet.
Ramiwo releases on Steam February 19th.

Half-Life: Alyx release date is March 23

Half-Life: Alyx release date is March 23

As promised, no delays.

Valve said last month that it was "confident" Half-Life: Alyx would not be delayed past its targeted March release, and that seems to be the case: It announced today that the VR Half-Life 2 prequel will be out on March 23.

The Steam page still lists it as just March 2020, but that's the official Valve Twitter feed, folks, so I'd say that makes it solid. Valve also dropped a trio of screens that I think are new—I don't remember seeing them previously, at least.

(Image credit: Valve)

(Image credit: Valve)

(Image credit: Valve)
And for those who you who have purchased Valve Index VR rigs, preorder bonuses will start going out during the week of March 2, beginning with Steam VR Home environments inspired by Half-Life: Alyx locations. More information on the availability of the Index and related hardware (which are still out of stock across the board) will be announced "soon."
By Andy Chalk From pcgamer

Jan 15, 2020


Dec 23, 2019

The most important PC games of the decade

The most important PC games of the decade

(Image credit: Future)
We write all the time about the best games you can play on PC, but the end of the decade is an invitation to examine which games have changed PC gaming itself. This list of 25 is our memory of games that continue to matter for their themes, for their impact on the business or technology of games, for reshaping the relationship between players and developers, for having formed a new genre, or for failing spectacularly. Not all of these games released between 2010 and 2019—following one of the biggest trends of this decade, some PC games have had tectonic effects on our hobby long after their launch day.

(Image credit: CCP)

EVE Online (2003-onward)

EVE Online is the closest we've come to that sci-fi dream of living a second life in a virtual society. At this point it's less of a game and more like an alternate reality where players can become warlords, dictators, or just another scummy pirate blowing up poor space truckers for shits and giggles. But the point is that, unlike so many other MMOs, in EVE Online is the only one courageous enough to let players define their own experience—for the most part.

Where other MMOs hem you in with authored narratives or limited player interactions, EVE Online's developers are remarkably willing to sit back and let players steer. The result is a player-driven world with a real economy and a tangible sense of consequence, which in turn gives every action a sense of weight and meaning rarely found in other games. In EVE Online, the wrong move and undo years of work.
What's really monumental, however, is the sheer scale of that collective fantasy. Because every player inhabits the same universe, EVE Online has become an enormously diverse digital society with its own recorded histories and cultures that wax and wane as player-built empires rise and fall. Those tectonic shifts in EVE Online's landscape are felt through the first-hand experiences of the players themselves, personal stories of betrayal, discovery, and camaraderie that carry the same emotional gravity as if they happened in real life. Therein lies EVE Online's lasting legacy, that uncanny ability to make a collective fiction feel real. No game other game has managed that—not at the same scale—and I'm terrified that no other game will manage it again. —Steven Messner, Senior Reporter 

Team Fortress 2 (2007) 

Between 2009 and 2012, Valve subjected its FPS to an amount of change and experimentation that would have killed a lesser game. What launched as the stylish comeback of a 1999 shooter became a guinea pig for Valve's ideas and larger initiatives. In the process, RED vs. BLU became a platform for inventive storytelling, new technology, and business models that would change Steam and PC gaming forever.
Crawl the list of 684 updates (and counting), and you notice the escalating pokes, prods, and full-body transplants Valve performed on TF2. What if we released new items for characters that transformed the meta? What if we sold those items? What if anyone could make items, sell them in our game, and make money from it? Can we put an RPG-style crafting system in a multiplayer game? What happens if we use this item economy to promote the launch of dozens of other games on Steam? 
In 2011, "going free-to-play" was an unusual move for any FPS, and for western-developed games especially. Team Fortress 2's shift from a paid game to a now-mainstream microtransaction model invited other developers to adopt the same scheme. Valve's biggest stroke of brilliance was the way that TF2 entangled narrative with all of these changes. The surprise addition of co-op to a five-year-old competitive game wasn't a desperate gimmick, it was an invasion of robots within a surprisingly intricate family feud storyline paired with its own trailer, ARG, webcomic, cosmetic items, microsite, and special set of "Machievements." A replay system wasn't just a new feature, but the debut of an annual community film festival—a handful of winners would receive one of the rarest in-game items: the Saxxy, an Oscar trophy wieldable as a melee weapon, and the golden incarnation of TF2's insane, long-running obsession with Australia.
This is the true impact of TF2: using storytelling to add meaning to game updates. We see it in every major competitive game that's followed, from Rainbow Six Siege to Overwatch. In July, PUBG introduced its Season 4 with a Story Trailer. Fortnite's ambitious brand cameos are built on TF2's playful hat tie-ins. 
Lab rats are supposed to eventually die. Instead, these mad experiments made TF2 stronger, and the entire industry learned from Valve's discoveries. —Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Minecraft (2009) 

Selling a game before it's finished is practically the industry standard these days, but before Kickstarter, Steam Early Access, Fig, and other crowdfunding tools became popular, there was Minecraft. In 2009 it was in an alpha state, nowhere near feature complete with years of development still ahead. But its barebones free alpha had received a positive, excited response and developer Markus Persson decided it was time to start making the money needed to fuel the rest of its development. The alpha went on sale in June of 2009, with the promise that those who bought it for a few dollars now would get all future updates at no additional cost. There was also the promise that the price would go up in the future as more features were added, and the finished game would cost even more. Buy it now, in other words, because the price will only get higher.
It's a format we now take for granted: buying an incomplete game at a discount in the hopes it'll someday be finished and we'll have saved a few bucks—and maybe we'll also get to suggest new features that will end up in the game. It often doesn't work out that way, but it's easy to see why Minecraft's sales model became so popular for both developers and customers. The initial trickle of sales quickly became a flood, to the point where Persson's account was frozen by PayPal, which became suspicious of the massive influx of money. By 2011 Minecraft had sold a million copies. By 2013, 10 million.
n 2014 Persson sold Minecraft to Microsoft, and it's now the best-selling video game of all time, with sales somewhere around 180 million copies on just about every platform available. Minecraft's design, its procedural open worlds, and its deep crafting systems have been heavily influential to scores of other games, but it also set the stage for a decade of Early Access, paid alphas, crowdfunding, and two distinct promises that aren't always kept—for customers, you can buy in early, save money, and influence the final project, and for devs, you can fund your game's development by selling it before it's done. —Christopher Livingston, Staff Writer 

League of Legends new skins
(Image credit: Riot Games)

League of Legends (2009)

League of Legends isn't an esport, it's the esport. When Riot Games first started hosting world championships and investing in its competitive scene, it was also inadvertently building the template that nearly every other competitive game would follow—but none would ever fully replicate. Though esports tournaments had happened before, Riot turned League of Legends into a spectacle, investing heavily in stage productions and musical performances that turned what would've been just another nerd tournament into a mind-bending multidimensional performance. In 2017, for example, Riot used augmented reality tech to make it look like a giant dragon stormed the main stage during a musical performance. Or just this year, when musicians performed alongside 3D hologram characters. It's bonkers.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how League has shaped esports. The entire infrastructure of esports as a business was pioneered by Riot. When it created the NA and EU League Championship Series, it turned esports into a year-round event much like any other sport—in turn also legitimizing competitive gaming as a full-time job. And that shift didn't just enable players to go full time, it also created hundreds of adjacent, legitimate jobs in commentating, esports journalism, and production. With Riot's help, esports went from being a hobby to a career.
That still doesn't cover all the ways League of Legends has influenced the games industry, either. Riot was one of the first companies to adopt an aggressive update schedule that continually added to and rebalanced the game, creating a breathing meta that kept players engaged for thousands upon thousands of hours. It also was a major contributor to the growth of Twitch in its earlier years and remains one of its most-watched games, helping legitimize an entire industry of streamers. And though League of Legends isn't solely responsible for any one of these innovations, you'd be hard-pressed to find a game with a wider impact this past decade. —Steven Messner, Senior Reporter 

(Image credit: Bohemia Interactive)

Arma 2 (2009) 

Arma 2 was the fertile Czech soil that produced two whole-cloth genres: survival and battle royale. It turns out that when you put high-fidelity voice, ballistics, and vehicle systems inside 225 km² of terrain, modders come up with all kinds of cool shit.
Despite a list of technical issues that took a new engine to work through, DayZ mod was groundbreaking for its sense of vulnerability, scale, and tendency to generate campfire stories. In 2012, "It was a shooter that you entered without a gun," a novel experience that lent no comforts or even a stated purpose, but that empowered players to form their own moral systems and roleplaying. Creator Dean Hall was inspired by the hardship he endured during a training exercise with the New Zealand military, when in the jungles of Brunei he lost 50 lbs and nearly died. The desperation of DayZ's wandering, scavenging, and unscripted interactions were carried forth by games like Rust, H1Z1, SCUM, ARK, and Hunt: Showdown.
A portion of what we play today is owed to Bohemia's dedication to making its game extraordinarily moddable. Not long after DayZ, no-name modder PlayerUnknown entered the 2014 Make Arma Not War contest, an official talent search meant in part to find the next DayZ. PlayerUnknown won €30,000—second place—for a spin-off of his novel Battle Royale mod, a format that took Arma's sandbox systems and focused them into an ever-shrinking deathmatch. —Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief 

(Image credit: Zynga)

Farmville (2009) 

Farmville released just before the start of the decade and peaked with an insane 80-something-million players in 2010. The early years of the 2010s were dominated by fear that Zynga, with its overnight millions of dollars, and Facebook, with its massive influence, were the future of games. "Casual" was an insult aimed at these sorts of games and the people who played them; real games were "core" or "hardcore." Social network games like Farmville were lumped in with iPhone games to prove that videogames as we knew them were doomed.
Those fears were exaggerated, but they weren't exactly unfounded. The mechanics of free-to-play games have made their way into the biggest videogames in the world. It's commonplace to pay for in-game cosmetics or items or loot boxes or convenience, the real legacy of Farmville and other pioneering social games. You can pay money to get something quickly, instead of spending many hours playing a game to "earn" it. Farmville wasn't the very first game to be designed around exploiting its players' compulsive habits for profit, but it helped write the book for the decade of F2P games that followed.
Its influence wasn't entirely negative, however. Those years of angst over casual games now seem childish, and the PC is home to a more vibrant and diverse range of games than we could've imagined a decade ago. The same goes for the people who play games. Hidden object hunts and Doom and Stardew Valley are all shelved together on Steam, and they're all bringing someone joy. Maybe even someone who got into gaming because of Farmville. —Wesley Fenlon, Features Editor 

(Image credit: Future)

Final Fantasy XIV (2010) 

Final Fantasy 14 was not the first game to launch in an absolutely disastrous state, but it was the first time a major studio admitted fault and then sunk considerable resources and time into rectifying its mistakes. In 2010, the original FF14 was intended to be a kind of spiritual successor to the aging Final Fantasy 11 MMO, but it ended up being a mishmash of unfun ideas and incomprehensible designs. People hated it. The wisdom of that era would've suggested Square Enix sweep it under the rug and never look back, but instead it did the exact opposite and set an industry-wide precedent in the process.
Over the course of nearly two years and with a visionary new director at the helm, Square Enix rebuilt FF14 from the ground up—an almost entirely different game but still set in the same world. It was a historic display of commitment and an enormous gamble that, ultimately, paid off. FF14 is now easily the best MMO available.
But FF14's real legacy is leading a much wider trend of increasingly common comeback stories that speaks to our increasingly complicated relationship with games as both products and experiences. Shigeru Miyamoto once said that "a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." But Final Fantasy 14 proves that isn't true. Games have always come in all shapes and sizes, but FF14 is a testament to how that shape and size is transient. —Steven Messner, Senior Reporter 

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (2010) 

The way Ubisoft's various open world games have grown and changed over the past decade has been interesting to witness. Series like Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, The Division, Watch Dogs—they all interbreed and learn from each other. If one game develops a new feature (climbing towers to discover new areas of the map in Assassin's Creed, for instance), it's not unusual to see some form of that feature appear in a game from another series (you climb similar towers in Far Cry 4 and Watch Dogs). Sometimes those features disappear, too, when players get absolutely sick of them (which is why you don't climb towers in Far Cry 5 or Watch Dogs 2, thank god). It's video game cross-pollination, and it's not limited only to Ubisoft. Plenty of other games have learned lessons from Ubisoft's endless refining of its open world games.
There's a sweet spot in the creation of a world, a line between a setting that feels too barren to make exploration or side-tracking rewarding and one that feels overstuffed with pointless, grinding activities. Ubisoft has veered back and forth over this line several times this decade, often cramming in far too much—like in Far Cry 4, with so many gatherable resources and crazed animals and hostile NPCs and other distractions—that the sheer amount of icons on the map feels exhausting.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood had the balance just right, a vibrant, interesting world with just enough engaging side-quests and distractions but stopping short of feeling like an oppressive to-do list. You couldn't go hog-wild without gaining notoriety, meaning guards would begin recognizing you more easily, giving your actions consequences. You also had an impact on the world—taking down a tower and killing its commander revitalized the area, letting you renovate shops that would benefit you with new items and upgrades. A novel feature that let you hire, train, and dispense your own collection of assassins provided a feeling that things were happening even if you weren't there to witness them. It's easy to see the influence of Brotherhood in other open world games—and it's obvious when Ubisoft doesn't carry its lessons forward in its own. —Christopher Livingston, Staff Writer 

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 

How do you make a singleplayer game that thousands of people will still play on a daily basis almost 10 years after its release? Make it moddable. Does anyone talk about 2016's Doom these days? No, because what is there to talk about after you've finished it? But 1993's Doom is still making news regularly because it's still being modded after 26 years, and I guarantee people will still be modding Skyrim for another decade, too. No need for years of DLC, no season passes required. Just give passionate and creative players the tools and freedom they need to craft their own fun.
It helps that even vanilla Skyrim is all about freedom and creating your own adventures. Its big open world is packed with quests, stories, characters, and lore, but once the tutorial is completed there's very little pushing you in any one particular direction. You can go where you want and be who you want—you're the Dragonborn, sure, but you can play for hundreds of hours without ever kicking off the questline that introduces dragons into the world.
That same spirit of freedom applies to Skyrim's extreme moddability. Nexus Mods, a Skyrim modding hub, reports over 1.7 billion downloads of mod files, and more than 60,000 different mods. That keeps the aging RPG fresh with new adventures, companions, locations, weapons, spells, and complete overhauls of game systems long after you've completed the vanilla experience. Just this week alone, 56 new Skyrim mods appeared on Nexus Mods for the nine-year-old RPG. There's an entire lifetime of new experiences for players to discover and a way for Skyrim to endure long after Bethesda has moved on to other games. —Christopher Livingston, Staff Writer 

(Image credit: EA)

Mass Effect 3 (2012) 

Fallout 3's ending was so disliked Bethesda rewrote it in the Broken Steel DLC, grafting on a new epilogue and a better climax. But if you didn't buy that DLC you still have the ending where your companions refuse to help because the finale was clearly plotted before they were added.
Mass Effect 3 was different. Its original ending was honestly no worse than Fallout 3's, but unlike Bethesda, BioWare did not wait seven months and two DLCs to address fan complaints. It was 16 days after its release when BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka wrote that "out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility" and three months later the Extended Cut was out.
The fan rage at Mass Effect 3's ending was effective because it was organized. A campaign called Retake Mass Effect that involved donating money to Child's Play to get BioWare's attention raised $80,000, there was a flood of YouTube videos breaking down different reasons why the ending was bad, conspiracy theories about the "Indoctrination ending," and thanks to social media, the conversation fed itself. If there's one thing YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit all agree on it's that anger is the best fuel for engagement. Legitimate complaints that the ending was a bit weak were buried under the kind of hyperbolic rage that goes viral.
It provided a playbook for fan discontent that's reared up again and again, from the reaction to No Man's Sky to the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. After years of trying to explain that the stereotype of "entitled gamers" is a myth the 2010s came along to say that no, actually some people are pretty entitled and will campaign to have an ArenaNet employee fired because she was rude to a Guild Wars 2 fan on Twitter. Mass Effect 3 was just the first canary in this particular coal mine. —Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor 

(Image credit: Valve)

CS:GO (2012) 

On the last day of PAX Prime 2011, I took 20 minutes to wander over to a small, half-populated booth on the show floor and check out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. CS:GO wasn't a big priority for PC Gamer's coverage that year—a lot of the game's development had been outsourced to Hidden Path, creators of a tower defense game. CS:GO was just a better-looking CS:Source, right? 
Actually, it was mostly a port. With Microsoft and Sony's consoles getting long in the tooth, Valve didn't want to miss the business opportunity to bring one of its franchises to the Xbox and PlayStation. Sure, they'd put Global Offensive on PC too, but the focus was mostly on porting it, evidenced by the fact that CS:GO was only playable on the Xbox 360 at PAX. Valve touted cross-platform play alongside visual makeovers of beloved maps like de_dust2 and cs_office.
This afterthought release eventually became the biggest competitive FPS of the decade. 
What inspired Valve to transform CS:GO from a console port into a flagship were the lessons learned over Team Fortress 2's development. In 2013, one year after CS:GO's release, Valve introduced cosmetic weapon skins. But where TF2 merely popularized the crate-and-key system, CS:GO brought new layers of economic insanity to it. Within the player-run Steam Market, custom AWPs, M4s, and Deagles—with 13 years of meaning soaked into their metal—became massive status symbols, with towering, real-dollar price tags. The dullest pure-white MP7 skin can still fetch hundreds of dollars, simply because it's somewhat rare. 

(Image credit: Valve)

Before weapon skins arrived, the populations of CS '99, CS '04, and CS '12 were roughly equal. But skins drew CS' most entrenched fans out of their favorite edition, and were the carrot that Global Offensive needed to absorb its older siblings. Not only could you earn limited-edition skins by watching big CS:GO tournaments, but third-party sites like CSGO Lounge let tens of thousands of players bet on esports matches with their Steam inventories. Two YouTubers exploited the black market that had emerged around CS:GO, creating their own gambling website and marketing it to their audiences on YouTube and social media without disclosing their co-ownership, a scam that eventually led to new FCC guidelines governing influencers.
CS:GO's rise coincided with Twitch's own, and as Valve discovered that it had a highly watchable, exciting spectator FPS, the studio began putting up prize money for major tournaments. The most popular pros showcased their gun and knife fashion like sneakers on LeBron. Eventually Valve produced team-specific skins and digital player signature stickers, with much of the proceeds going to those pros. With match spectating built directly into the game client itself, Valve had created a perfectly contained loop of self-promotion. 
As Finnish pro player Tomi "lurppis" Kovanen told me in 2015, “Without the item economy Counter-Strike would be smaller. … There would be less money [in esports], no Valve-sponsored majors, and no one-million-viewer grand finals. In hindsight, the addition of the skins has been the most important development in CS:GO's history, bar none.”
The broader outcome of all of this is the way that CS:GO's sky-high skill ceiling became a template for FPSes that have followed, from Rainbow Six Siege and Apex Legends to Riot's still-unnamed shooter. As CS:GO ballooned in popularity, it put pressure on Valve to raise the technical quality for Counter-Strike's decade-plus fans. CS:GO embedded once-grognardy terminology like tick rate and peeker's advantage in the consciousness of millions of FPS players. And the game's scale of CS:GO allowed Valve to pursue a new machine learning technique to combat cheaters, VACnet, an approach since duplicated in other anticheat services. —Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief 

(Image credit: Subset Games)

FTL: Faster Than Light (2012) 

Though it looks strangely humble now, FTL was a pioneering game in all sorts of ways. Years before the likes of Broken Age and Pillars of Eternity, it was one of the first titles to be successfully funded through Kickstarter, earning over $200,000 dollars from eager fans – 20 times its initial $10,000 goal. Created by a tiny two-man team, its huge success and popularity helped pave the way for countless indie games to come over the course of the decade, demonstrating beyond doubt that clever design and creativity could allow tiny studios to rival the endless resources of their triple-A competitors. 
Casting you as the captain of a rebel starship on a desperate suicide mission, it challenged you to manage your vessel’s crew and systems during Star Trek-like battles as you progressed through procedurally-generated galaxies. The combination of inventive strategy with the design principles of the then-nascent roguelike genre proved instantly compelling. And in bringing that formula firmly into the mainstream, it laid the foundations for countless hits to come, including recent gems such as Slay the Spire, Darkest Dungeon, and the developer’s own Into the Breach. —Robin Valentine, Managing Editor 

(Image credit: Paradox)

Crusader Kings 2 (2012) 

Crusader Kings 2 is a singular sandbox that's unlike any other strategy game, though it's not obvious at a glance. The seemingly infinite menus and lists and popups that you think will make you glaze over are really windows into the greatest medieval soap opera, filling the last eight years with countless absurd anecdotes about murder plots, sexy scandals and occasionally black magic. This obtuse historical grand strategy game unexpectedly became a gateway drug, with all the story possibilities making the dense strategy easier to digest. A lot of people go their first taste trying to unite Ireland, once the recommended starting place for newcomers.
Previously, grand strategy had been great at conjuring up interesting scenarios, but stories not so much. They were focused on warfare and economics and all these abstract things, but Crusader Kings elevated the much more unpredictable and stimulating people (and sometimes animals) that lived in these competing kingdoms. If you enjoyed torturing people in The Sims or watching the drama unfold in Game of Thrones, suddenly there was a strategy game perfect for you—social, human and a bit silly.      
It's also stuck around throughout the decade thanks to a cavalcade of DLC and free updates that have overhauled the game several times over, flinging in more religions, cultures, vikings and just as many new systems. So many live service games have sprouted up, but Paradox Development Studio managed to do a much better job of creating a living game without a lot of the accompanying nonsense. The amount of paid DLC has ruffled some feathers, but I can think of few other games that have been given this kind of support, especially when so many of the significant additions have been free. And now the base game, which has benefited from eight years of continued development, is free, so there's nothing stopping you from usurping some thrones.   —Fraser Brown, News Editor 

XCOM (2012) 

(Image credit: 2K)

Sometimes a game can rescue an entire genre. We enjoyed some niche turn-based strategy games before Firaxis' spectacular XCOM reboot, but this game pulled the genre closer to the mainstream with cinematic production values, a friendly art style, and—most importantly—a set of XCOM recruits that inspire tremendous empathy across the course of a long and gruelling campaign. You can build a beautiful numbers system based on gear power and chances to hit, but it's something else to translate those stats into drama. It's the drama that makes you hold your hands to your head and cry "nyoooo" when Sergeant "Balls Balls" misses a Chryssalid at point-blank range and is immediately murdered halfway through a mission.
That might seem frivolous, but that reboot has no doubt inspired many new XCOM style games in different settings. There are obvious examples like Phoenix Point, but we've also seen weirder games like Mutant Year Zero. You could even look at games like Into the Breach and claim that XCOM: Enemy Unknown opened a door to new audiences that would appreciate such a beautifully balanced tactics game. Turn-based tactics games have done surprisingly well on console, if you take into account Pokemon, Advance Wars, Shadow Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and more. XCOM: Enemy Unknown went back to the source - an old, obtuse, but brilliant game - and modernised it perfectly, bringing tactics games back to their old home on the PC. —Tom Senior, Online Editor 

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Dark Souls (2012) 

How many games can brag about birthing a genre? It's a short list. First there was Rogue. Until we all got some collective sense and christened the first-person shooter, there was the Doom Clone. Metroid and Castlevania fused into a beloved style with a hated name. And this decade, From Software gave us the Souls-like. No other game in the 2010s has more dramatically changed how we talk about games, particularly difficulty. Nothing has so quickly inspired so many knock-offs.
More importantly for us, Dark Souls is the reason I can browse Steam today and see games like Ni No Kuni, Nier: Automata and Bayonetta. It may be the only time in history an online petition changed the world. Something like 90,000 people said they wanted it, and publisher Bandai Namco made it happen.
From there, Dark Souls' influence carved three new trails. It sold and sold and sold, and so did the sequels, making From Software the most respected developer in Japan not named Nintendo. Its success on PC in the west encouraged other Japanese developers to bring their games over, too, and today it's rare for big Japanese games (or even indies) not to launch on PC, or at least get a delayed port. Finally, Dark Souls made the internet realize just how important modders are to PC gaming. Without Durante's DSFix mod, which repaired an egregiously slipshod port, the series may never have taken off on PC. The standards for quality ports are now far higher. Meanwhile, From Software got George R. R. Martin to help write its next game, Elden Ring. It'll probably be out before his next book. —Wesley Fenlon, Features Editor 

Gone Home
(Image credit: Fullbright)

Gone Home (2013) 

The Fullbright Company had no idea that its first-person atmospheric exploration game would cause quite the cultural shift in the video game world to the interest (and anger) or many critics and fans. Gone Home's empty house opened the door to a discussion that got right to the heart of the gaming community: What exactly makes a video game a video game?
In Gone Home, you play as Katie, a young woman who has arrived at her family home to find it completely empty. The story unfolds as you walk around the house, exploring its rooms and picking up objects, and you slowly begin to learn about the circumstances surrounding the families disappearance. As you walk around the house, exploring rooms and picking up objects, Gone Home slowly reveals a compelling family drama and tells a sincere story about the struggles of being a queer teenager living in the 1990s.
Gone Home built upon the foundations of a new emerging genre—games like The Chinese Room's Dear Esther had paved before it—but it's play style and storytelling was not celebrated by all players. Due to its emphasis on exploration through walking, Gone Home was dubbed a "walking simulator," a game in which there is no gameplay and thus, not a game. 
Since 2013, we can see how Gone Home has made an important shift in the video game community. The walking simulator genre is now a place where games can focus on telling diverse narratives through top-notch writing and engaging exploration. Gone Home's design led the way for more exploration games to emerge such as Firewatch, Layers of Fear, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and What Remains of Edith Finch. Gone Home's release challenged the way in which videogames are played, experienced and defined which makes it an important game of the decade.  —Rachel Watts, Staff Writer 

(Image credit: Double Fine)

Broken Age (2014) 

Kentucky Route Zero was funded on Kickstarter in 2011, as was Octodad: Dadliest Catch. The amounts were modest: $24,320 for Octodad and a mere $8,583 for Kentucky Route Zero. When Double Fine turned to Kickstarter in 2012 to fund their next adventure game and a documentary to go with it, they asked for $400,000 and received $3.3 million.
The effect was sudden. A month later Wasteland 2 raised $2,933,252, and Shadowrun Returns $1,836,447. People who'd made Kickstarter accounts to give Double Fine money were hanging around looking for other projects to back, and everyone with an intellectual property in an underserved genre was there to collect. 
Genres that had been largely abandoned—or left to the bedroom coders and Germans—were resurrected and built on. Broken Age, like a lot of the Kickstarter success stories that followed it, asked the question: "What if we never stopped making games like this? What would they look like today?" Subsequent crowdfunded games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Project Phoenix continued providing the answers.
The last big videogame success story on Kickstarter was Subverse, which raised over $2 million. Before that it was Pillars of Eternity in 2017. The million-dollar hits still happen, but are fewer and farther apart than they were in the boom years of 2012-2015.
If you've got a board game with a lot of components, or your name's Chris Roberts, there's still big money in crowdfunding, but mostly it's more modest games being funded by fans these days, and often away from Kickstarter—like Outer Wilds, which was backed through Fig.
The influence of the Kickstarter boom isn't over, but the gold rush certainly is. There's no better sign of that than Double Fine cheerfully being acquired by Microsoft in 2019. —Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor 

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) 

In the 1970s, Barack Obama was Barry, a high school student with the basketball skills to help win a state championship in his senior year. By the time he transferred to Columbia University to study political science, you could probably tell he was going places—but president of the United States? President Barry was probably not on anyone's radar, back on the basketball court. Likewise, in 2007, if you'd told anyone on an internet videogame forum that a sequel to a messy RPG, made by an inexperienced Polish studio, would be the biggest and best RPG of the next decade, they'd probably laugh you off the board. Really? That game? The Witcher? Sure, it's got some good ideas, but it's barely bolted together, and who's ever heard of these Polish fantasy novels? That's never going to be big.
Anyway, what I'm saying is: Geralt is basically the President of PC games now. 
The Witcher 3 followed a pair of much smaller RPGs with a vast open world, and filled that world with writing (so much writing) that elevated standard sidequests into memorable hunts, heartbreaking stories, and wonderful adventures. With two games of practice, CD Projekt Red learned how to make Geralt a perfect vehicle for players. He's a person, not a blank slate, which enriched the impact of every decision you were forced to make. The average Witcher 3 sidequest is more creative or better presented than the main story of most RPGs, and then it went and did that part better, too. 
The Witcher 3's truly massive success entered CD Projekt into the elite ranks of the most respected game developers in the world. When was the last time a game was as hyped as Cyberpunk 2077? Maybe never. When it's finally real, it'll have remarkably high expectations to live up to: expectations that it'll be as good as The Witcher 3, the benchmark for RPGs this decade. And quite possibly the next. Way to go, Gerry. —Wesley Fenlon, Features Editor 

No Man's Sky
(Image credit: Hello Games)

No Man's Sky (2016) 

Hype can be dangerous, and there's no better example this decade than No Man's Sky. Long before Hello Games' ambitious procedural galactic sandbox launched, the hype was already in orbit. Early trailers in 2014 showed off towering, graceful alien dinosaurs and sandworms the size of freight trains. A VP at Sony declared No Man's Sky as "potentially one of the biggest games in the history of our industry." The media—PC Gamer included—stirred the pot by getting swept up in the potential of an endless, infinitely varied galaxy. The game would be so big there was nearly no chance of meeting another player, but we were told they'd be out there, somewhere. We wanted to believe.
As the release date loomed, Sean Murray tried temper player expectations but it was already too late. The hype train was well off the rails. By the 2016 launch, expectations were so high there was no way any game could possibly deliver on all of them. The reality was that No Man's Sky's alien dinos weren't nearly as towering and majestic as those seen in trailers. The massive sandworm that had captured people's imaginations had been cut from the game before launch. There were plenty of beautiful planets and sights, but before long the procedurally generated features began to feel a bit predictable, like the same handful of parts used to build creatures and planets were just being assembled in slightly different configurations. 

No Man's Sky
(Image credit: Hello Games)

And there was that vaguely defined multiplayer aspect—"Online Play" was even listed on the PS4 box, though it was covered by a sticker—when the reality was there no multiplayer feature at all and the two players who found each other (on the first day, no less) couldn't actually see each other. The blowback for No Man's Sky came in just as frenzied as the hype had, and from the same places: the players, the media (yes, PC Gamer too) and even from Sony.
But Hello Games demonstrated how a studio can survive both the highs of hype and the lows of backlash. It stepped back from the press that had been eager to pounce on every tiny shred of new information, it filtered out the voices of those who only wanted to pile on more grief, and it focused on the feedback of the only people who really mattered: the players who actually loved No Man's Sky despite its issues, who were actually playing the game and who saw its potential to continue to grow. And over the past several years an astounding number of new features have been added to No Man's Sky, all for free, giving players new and different ways to explore the galaxy or build a home on their favorite world. We never got our sandworm (apparently it was cut because playtesters hated it) but that vague multiplayer feature missing at launch was added and then greatly improved upon. No Man's Sky isn't just a place you can briefly meet another player, it's become a true multiplayer experience. That's a height even the initial hype never reached. —Christopher Livingston, Staff Writer 

(Image credit: EA)

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (2017) 

There were a few problems with Battlefront 2's planned economy, but the primary issue was that class upgrades came in loot boxes that could be obtained with both in-game and premium currency. These weren't just cosmetics: You could pay to get an advantage over those who were grinding. It wasn't the most exploitative use of randomized rewards at the time, and EA put a hold on premium currency at launch due to backlash, but that didn't matter. Battlefront 2 was a watershed moment for anti-loot box sentiment, and led to regulation in Belgium and elsewhere, as well as continued investigations and debates in the US, UK, and around the world. Overwatch, FIFA, and other games contributed, but Battlefront 2 marked a turning point. After it released, loot boxes were no longer just the subject of grumbles from dissatisfied players, but also of legislative debates over whether or not they should be classified as gambling. 
Many games, most recently Rocket League, have ditched loot boxes to focus on battle passes and other paid progression systems without randomization. While a few have held onto loot boxes—EA makes gobs of money off FIFA—they're clearly on their way out. Battlefront 2 is a good game, especially after the changes to its progression system, but unfortunately for DICE's talented developers, it will be remembered for instigating an industry-wide upheaval in how games are monetized.  —Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor

(Image credit: Brianna Lei)

Butterfly Soup (2017) 

When the tools to make and distribute games were democratized in the 2000s, we sure did get a lot of puzzle-platformers out of it. The impact was felt further afield in subsequent years, and one genre where that impact was felt was the English-language visual novel. 
Visual novels have always been about relationships, whether in the classic dating sim sense or the deepening characters even something as superficially silly as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has. Among the flood of visual novels in the 2010s were a batch made by a generation of LGBTQ+ game designers and informed by their own experience of relationships games rarely dealt with. Games like Ladykiller in a Bind, Coming Out on Top, Extreme Meatpunks Forever, Genderwrecked, and Dream Daddy (highly recommended: The episode of Tone Control where Dream Daddy co-writer Leighton Gray talks about its creation and the realization if she went ahead with it she'd need to come out to her parents). 
Butterfly Soup is about teenagers questioning their sexuality (it's also about baseball and dogs but mainly it's the sexuality thing), and like a lot of those other examples it's largely wholesome. It touches on familial abuse, but it's a very light touch and it's not the kind of game where you'll have to choose between your lesbian girlfriend and the lives of an entire town at the end. It's radically positive in a way a lot of games about LGBTQ+ characters are when made by LGBTQ+ people.
It's also free. That's important because Butterfly Soup, with its examples of teenagers learning about their queerness in a way that's framed as a positive experience, is exactly the kind of game a certain kind of teenager needs to play—and they also need it to not show up on their parent's credit card. The significance of that, both for what videogames can meaningfully achieve and what Butterfly Soup means for the kids it's perfect for, can't be overstated. —Jody Macgregor, Weekend Editor 

(Image credit: PUBG Corp)

PUBG (2017) 

Like Dota and Team Fortress before it, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds began life as a mod—for DayZ. There had been other Battle Royale-inspired mods before it, including a Hunger Games Minecraft mod in 2012. But creator Brendan Greene refined the concept with innovations including weapons being randomly scattered around the map. When Battlegrounds eventually became a standalone game in 2017 its popularity exploded, legitimising the genre and ultimately paving the way for Fortnite.
In a group Battlegrounds is a thrilling, tactical squad shooter; solo it’s like a big-scale stealth game where the ‘guards’ are all unpredictable human players. Both are valid ways to play, each with its own unique rhythm and feel. There are some similarities to DayZ: a large map with a bleak aesthetic, permadeath, player interaction, and a constant feeling of tension. But the rapidly shrinking play space in PUBG makes for a much more immediate, action-packed game, which made it particularly fun to watch on Twitch—another reason the game became so popular. It was simply more fun to watch on a stream than DayZ.
There’s something wonderfully simple about the battle royale concept. A hundred players enter, one player leaves. Perfect for an online shooter. Brendan Greene was by no means the first person to try and turn the premise of the cult Japanese film into a game; he just refined it, laying the groundwork for an entire genre in the process, whether he meant to or not. The popularity of battle royale can’t be understated, and it’s wild to think that it’s reached a level of cultural saturation where a clip from a new Star Wars is being screened exclusively in Fortnite. But it all started with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. —Andy Kelly, Section Editor 

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Fortnite (2017) 

Who said it? Who at Epic Games—during whatever meeting about the questionable outlook of its cooperative base building game finally entering early access after nearly seven years in development, announced in 2011 and delayed multiple times since—who said, "Maybe we could turn it into PUBG?" There's never been such a rapid, derivative, and successful pivot as this: Fortnite's barebones battle royale mode was made in two months. And it wasn't even good. 
But, unlike the then-phenom PUBG, Fortnite: Battle Royale was and still is free-to-play. It didn't matter that the building system wasn't made for twitch shooting in a 100-person free-for-all or that the map began as a featureless wasteland. What mattered is that when kids with no money logged into PSN, Xbox Live, or Googled "free PC games," Fortnite was there, with its colorful island, smiling cartoon combatants, and potent arsenal of dance emotes. Raise your hand if you saw someone floss this year. 
Fortnite was poised to be a temporary craze, but Epic kept it growing with an unprecedented update schedule, introducing new weapons, items, vehicles, and major balance changes on a near-weekly basis. In-game events like the meteor impact or epic mecha vs. kaiju battle took Team Fortress 2's narrative and update integration to a new damn dimension. Within months, a derivative game became one of the most exciting shooters ever, a game whose meta mattered as much as its living mythology. 
Fortnite was already massive, but then Ninja streamed with Drake. Suddenly, Fortnite wasn't just how you became a successful Twitch streamer, it was how you became a star. In just a few years, Fortnite legitimized a new kind of celebrity, changed what we expect from F2P and service-based games, and, most miraculously, made flossing cool. All because of a last-second design pivot. What the hell. —James Davenport, Staff Writer 

(Image credit: Red Candle Games)

Devotion (2019) 

In another life Devotion would have been an enjoyable but otherwise unremarkable Taiwanese horror game. But when players discovered some hidden text that compared the president of China, Xi Jinping, to Winnie the Pooh (an outlawed meme in China), Devotion became the unexpected casualty of communist censorship and Taiwan's tumultuous relationship with mainland China. Initially Devotion was review-bombed by Chinese users upset at the perceived insult to their nation and its government, but then the controversy drew the ire of the Chinese communist party itself.
Though censorship has always been an issue in gaming, Devotion's sudden disappearance set a chilling precedent. The Chinese government erased its existence from Chinese social media and search results in a matter of days and later revoked the business license of its Chinese publisher. Meanwhile, the developers at Red Candle Games voluntarily pulled the game from Steam and went radio silent—presumably to escape the tidal wave of outrage and risk of further retribution.
The incident is a reminder of how much influence Chinese gamers, and by extension their government, can have over the videogame industry. More importantly, Devotion highlights how Steam has unexpectedly become a bridge in the firewall between China and the rest of the world—and how quickly that bridge can turn into a battleground. —Steven Messner, Senior Reporter 

(Image credit: Valve)

Artifact (2019) 

In retrospect, I should have suspected that there was something wrong with Artifact. My first exposure to the game, during the reveal at Valve's Bellevue HQ, left me with a splitting headache, but otherwise enthusiastic about such a deep, polished entry to the card battler genre. After all, there was plenty to be confident about. This was Valve's first game proper in five years, something akin to Willy Wonka announcing he was resuming production because he had a particularly delicious nougat to share. And this CCG was being made not just by Valve's own braintrust, but also Richard Garfield, legendary creator of Magic: The Gathering. Artifact was his new baby, it couldn't fail. 
But it did in such spectcaular, flameout style that it has secured Artifact a place here, among the decade's most noteworthy games. Prior to Artifact, even if you suspected that Valve, the closest thing to a platform holder we have on PC, was capable of making a bad game, nobody imagined it releasing such a catastrophic one. But just six months after Artifact's launch, the game had been abandoned so entirely that its Twitch directory was being overrun by people streaming obscure African war movies, anime, and actual pornos. Incredibly, it took some time for anyone to even notice. 
The failure seem almost unfairly easy to analyse with hindsight. The three-lane structure borrowed from Dota made board states inherently taxing to remember, and was a poor fit for stream viewership. More problematically, as card game pro Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk noted in his firm but fair evaluation, the game just wasn't much fun. Too much of the combat revolved around stacking multiple arithmetical effects, rather than delivering the kind of one-off flashy moments that Hearthstone specializes in. Artifact's player population soon dropped to embarrassing numbers, and in March Valve effectively mothballed Artifact, citing "deep-rooted issues" with the game but promising to get back to us once it had a plan. Since then recriminations have been made by Garfield, who's no longer attached to the project. I'd be amazed if we ever see Artifact rebooted meaningfully. Instead, it will serve as a reminder that just as no-one is too big to fail in modern PC gaming, nor can they be too talented. —Tim Clark, Brand Director 
By pcgamer