Evolve PR has grown vastly over the past decade, expanding our PR efforts while also growing into community management, research, and video production. From roughly 4 employees in 2010 to 20 in 2019, our team has gone through many iterations, all in an effort to answer new questions thrown our way by the constantly changing landscape of the industry. A deep-rooted appreciation for the medium has been a constant throughout, and as we move ahead, our team wanted to highlight a little about the game experiences that moved us the most to close out the decade.
Each member of our team took a moment to share one game that they truly appreciated from the past 10 years. Our rules were pretty much non-existent for putting this together, so keep that in mind as we retrace memorable moments that have stayed with us throughout.
Demon’s Souls (2009)
Christophe Garlaschi – Evolve PR’s resident 3D print master; I mostly work behind the scenes on the research side of things campaign analytics, trend tracking, target, etc.
I’m going to cheat a bit and go back a few months prior to 2010 proper due to both the importance that Demon’s Souls holds in the industry and the personal impact that the game had on me when I initially played it a decade ago.
A fragmented tale told through arduous experience, Demon’s Souls provided a fresh take on storytelling through piecemeal interactions, cautious exploration, and difficult (at the time) combat. While its spiritual sequel would eventually garner more fame, Demon’s Soul provided the initial template which led to the “soul’s like” genre that has since become an industry staple.
From a more personal standpoint, Demon’s Souls provided several key moments that my close friends and I often reminisce about when discussing the series as a whole. The impact of facing the Vanguard demon following the tutorial provided the perfect brutal way of representing what was to be expected of the game, as did Patches initial betrayal in the fourth world. The Valley of Defilement not only painted a magnificent picture of suffering in the game’s world, but also established key moments of frustration that allowed the player to also actively participate in that suffering as well. I absolutely adored the world tendency system and was sad to not see it return with future titles. Additionally, it was also the first platinum trophy that I ever acquired.
So yes, if I were to pick a game of the decade, I’ll happily say that Demon’s Souls is the one for me.
Michael Luis – Community/Social guy, meme-maker, punk-comedian, drum-maker, owner of too many band shirts.
While there may have been bigger and better games I played this decade, none stuck with me quite like 2010’s Limbo. I had just graduated high-school, and the phrase “indie game” wasn’t really in my vocabulary aside from school-library sessions with proto-viral flash games. The game franchises I loved (Mario, Zelda, Halo) offered masterful combinations of story and gameplay, but they were also blockbuster slabs of hyper-caffeinated brain candy that were to be enjoyed by anybody. With Limbo, Danish developer Playdead deliberately crafted a game that wasn’t for everybody.
There was no dialogue, no tutorial, no colour, and no discernible narrative aside from “keep moving and don’t die”. Its monochrome atmosphere, methodical pacing, and a perpetual sense of dread provided a “horror” experience discernibly different from Resident Evil and Silent Hill’s nightmarish monsters, but was equally, if not more-so, unsettling. I was absolutely smitten.
Fast forward to 2017 and Playdead followed Limbo with the spiritual sequel, INSIDE. The creepy threats are intensified (ugh, the underwater girl), the dystopian setting is heightened through rapid changes in scenery, and the gameplay tosses you one brand-new brain-tickling challenge after another. Culminating in an absurdist finale [SPOLER ALERT] that puts you on a destructive rampage as an amorphous blob of flesh and limbs, the game stands as one of the most unique and intoxicating video-game experiences I’ve ever had. Throw in its subtle meta-critical exploration of what it means to even buy and consume a video game, and you have a thickly layered masterpiece.
Back in 2010 I was getting into quirky indie-films and alternative music like punk and metal, and Limbo showed me that video games could be operate the same counter-culture space within a medium I enjoyed. INSIDE amplified this by taking everything Limbo did well and cranking the dial. They’re artistic, alienating, shockingly beautiful experiences, and must-haves in any gamer’s library.
Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
Matt Broitman – Launch package liaison and arbiter of administration.
While it may be a somewhat cliched pick, there’s really no other game that could take home this honor as far as I’m concerned. I have put more hours into Fallout: New Vegas than I have with any other game by a very wide wargin, and I still happily get some dust on my boots as I wander around the Mojave at least once a year. I could write volumes on the various foibles and intricacies of New Vegas, but if I had to boil my love for this game down to a single facet, it would be how it not just provides the player with lots of choice, but how it presents those choices.
Rather than feeling strictly like a moral conflict between opposing ideologies, as so much media seems to be these days, it’s instead more non-partisan and contemplative. The subtext that underlines the whole game is it takes a very simple but important idea —learning to let things go— and then plays around with that concept via the various factions and questlines. In doing so, it manages to (often very subtly) explain where these people and groups are coming from; even the cruel and (as admitted by Obsidian) under-written Caesar’s Legion have enough nuance and depth to them that they don’t simply feel like comical villains in their portrayal, which ultimately makes them far more interesting and threatening. It’s a game that feels like it both respects your intelligence and trusts you to interpret these ideas as you see fit. That tone is reflected by the gameplay and presentation with New Vegas providing long stretches of wandering the Mojave Wasteland, giving you ample opportunity to reflect as you stare up at an orange coloured sky while the strains of another old cowboy ballad echo out into the night.
I’ll wrap things up here, though really I could go on for ages, and simply say that while it’s by no means perfect it earns every bit of praise it receives, and no other game this decade (or perhaps ever) has impacted me quite so much as Fallout: New Vegas.
Lee Guille – Coordinator of PR, seeker of craft brew, writer of things. I word good.
It was September of 2010 when I first saw Bastion at PAX Prime (now PAX West). I’m a fan of action RPGs and the way the world assembled itself as The Kid moved through it seemed like the coolest thing. I recall stopping some random passerby and pointing at the screen at the booth. “Do you see this? It’s going to be big.”
When I picked Bastion up for the first time on Xbox 360, I couldn’t put it down. I spent a good chunk of my Saturday working through the incredible story and world the Supergiant Games team put together. Every weapon had to be mastered, every challenge completed; I had to explore every corner to find out more about the Calamity and fractured the city of Caelondia. Carrying Zulf back to the Skyway left me more emotional than I care to admit. On finishing, I immediately jumped into a second playthrough, a rarity for me. I recently replayed Bastion when it was rereleased on Xbox One and let me tell you, it holds up.
That. Soundtrack. This was Darren Korb’s first crack at scoring a game and he knocked it out of the pack. Mixing trip hop beats with western acoustic guitar was mad genius. Build That Wall, What’s Left Undone, Setting Sail, Coming Home, and more remain on my playlist to this day. If I have one regret, it was missing the Supergiant live concert at PAX West 2019.
Beyond a captivating story and entertaining gameplay, Bastion is defined by its V/O. Logan Cunningham delivers a compelling, play-by-play narrative on events as they happen, while hinting at the depths behind the story. To say his delivery throughout is masterful is an understatement.
Bastion is my game of the decade not only because of the above, but because its success allowed Supergiant Games to bring other creative titles into the world over the last 10 years. Transistor, Pyre, and Hades are incredibly different titles, each amazing in their own right. I look forward to seeing what they do over the next decade.
Dungeon Defenders (2011)
Kate Hall – PR Coordinator that gently, but firmly, yells at people to check out cool video games
Dungeon Defenders did a fantastic job of reinventing the tower defense genre by combining it with intuitive action-RPG elements. While it certainly is a challenging game as you advance in the story and difficulty, it is one that is easy to pick up and get completely lost in for hours and not feel like it was a complete waste of time once you glance at the clock and realize how long you’ve been playing (hello there, 4am!). I enjoy the four distinctive hero classes there are to choose from and how I can directly participate in the tower defense combat with them on top of strategically placing my traps and defenses. I also appreciate the ability to upgrade the hero’s statistics, gather all sorts of shiny loot and items, customize & upgrade equipment, and develop unique class abilities.
Cool game concept and mechanics aside, I chose Dungeon Defenders as my game of the decade for a very personal reason, as well. Much of my time spent playing this game was alongside my good friend, John. Even though he was an online friend that I had never met in person through all my years of knowing him, he was like a brother to me. We originally met in World of Warcraft and raided together for years. Unfortunately, he had an aggressive form of cancer and his ability to keep up with the content in that game faded over time. We switched our hangout time to Dungeon Defenders instead and played it every chance we could between my work schedule and his doctor appointments. He was heavily medicated and in a great amount of pain most days, and this game eased his daily suffering by offering a perfect distraction and a ton of laughter. John lost his battle with cancer a few years ago, and while I miss him dearly, Dungeon Defenders will always hold a special place in my heart and put a smile on my face. It’s definitely a game most enjoyed with friends, and I played it with the best.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Shawn Petraschuk – Prominent and practical purveyor of PR perfection.
I’ve never been much of a completionist. In fact, I’m lucky to even finish a game let alone get all the achievements for a full pull. Only a few games have ever pushed me to do everything and even fewer have convinced me to do it more than once on multiple platforms. Skyrim pulled me in like no other game this decade and I still find myself going back to it even now.
It was a fateful night, that Nov. 11, 2011 when I kissed my wife goodbye for the foreseeable future and immersed myself in the Dovahkiin’s journey to Tamriel. From faction to faction, sidequest to sidequest I pored over every inch of land and lore in the main game while doing the same to each piece of DLC content that came after it, and not once was I ever bored. I always felt like there was something new for me to find, something that I may have just missed and came back time and again.
Skyrim may well go down as my favorite game ever, an example of fantastic storytelling and absolutely engrossing role playing, that, for me, simply has no peer in this decade.
Lorenzo Sapora – Lead Developer for Terminals.io.
How can a game I’ve been playing for 9 years not be on the list? 11.11.11, a whole day I had set aside to dive into the new Elder Scrolls game, little did I know how deep the addiction would go. I knew I’d play Skyrim for a few hundred hours, but I had no idea going in that I’d place it in my top 3 games of all time looking back. Skyrim wasn’t the nicest looking, and better RPGs have come and gone since, yet I still return. Owning the physical edition on 3 different console generations, along with multiple digital copies. I have not regretted playing any of them. No other single game has had that effect on me, and that is why Skyrim is my game of the decade.
Steph Herdman – I do social media things at Evolve, which sometimes involves fun memes.
Despite being a gamer for all of my childhood, in high school I found myself almost giving up games due to spending all my time in other fandoms. In 2011, that would all change.
My roommate at the time introduced me to the Yogscast and their Shadow of Israphel series, which was all done in Minecraft. I was intrigued by the stories, adventures and “NPCs”, so I bought Minecraft and very quickly discovered it was nothing like what I thought it was. There weren’t any talking NPCs and story, and to be honest, I wasn’t even mad. Over the coming years I would spend hundreds of hours in both vanilla and modded Minecraft (my favourite being Agrarian Skies). I was so driven by Minecraft at the time that I learned how to set up my own servers, which meant learning some basic command prompts, port forwarding, and various other things I had never done before, but learned so I could spend time with my long distance friends and my brother.
Several years of playing later, in 2014, I taught English to Elementary school students in South Korea. The students and I had an age gap of over 12 years, but the thing that bridged that gap and made me the “cool” teacher, was that I loved and played Minecraft. I integrated Minecraft into our lessons whenever I could to keep students motivated, and kids would come to me in their breaks to show me what they had built on their phones.
The times spent with friends, bonding with my students, and the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in it, and the fact that it’s still adding new content over a decade later, it would be hard for me to claim anything but Minecraft as my game of the decade.
Bryden Keks – Senior PR rep at Evolve who has thought too much about Gooigi in the year 2019.
There have been 5 games rotating in my head for the past week as we’ve put together this list but I keep coming back to Journey. Single sitting game experiences are a favourite of mine now but were relatively new to me in 2012 and Journey laid a new path for how I wanted to interact with narrative adventures going forward.
The opening of glistening sand dunes with a clear environmental goal in the distance is still etched into my oft-forgetful mind. I wanted to climb that mountain and slowly set out to do so. Shadow of the Colossus is my favourite game ever, so I’m already positively predisposed to desolate beauty and solitude, but the way Journey slowly builds up still hits when I return for another playthrough, or show family and friends. There are so many subtle yet distinct moments in Journey, and they were all heightened by experiencing them with a complete stranger on the internet. My immediate reaction was to recoil from a shared experience, but slowly through communication and joint exploration I grew emotionally attached to this fellow wanderer. The narrative was set forth by Journey yet our connection added environmental context for why I cared so deeply about the game. In that is probably the greatest feat Journey pulls off, as I entered expecting a solitary adventure but ended up fully connecting with someone I didn’t know. I’m still thankful there wasn’t voice chat.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012)
Tom Ohle, co-director – I work with Candace to help make sure this machine keeps running
It’s hard to believe that XCOM came out only 7 years ago; it feels like a lifetime! While I totally missed the boat on old-school XCOM, I just loved absolutely everything about Enemy Unknown, short of missing near-100% shots, losing my most powerful squad members, the constant anxiety of sending my troops into unexplored territory… umm… uhh… hey, I guess there was a bit I didn’t much care for! But in the end, XCOM set a tremendously high bar for turn-based strategy, and did so with just the right amount of camp. The tone was perfect, visuals were spot-on, and gameplay was tight. Minus missing those shots.
(Note: I totally opted not to include games we worked on, so Dead Cells, This War of Mine, The Witcher 3, and other absolutely incredible titles didn’t stand a chance. Aw.)
That’s it for Part 1! Come back on Monday for the rest of the team’s choices, as we move into the year 2013 and beyond.