[character shouts in fear] [“Born Depressed” by Drill Queen] Hi there, gang! It’s the year 2020! [magical twinkling sound] Yeah, it’s 2020. Hooray. It started with the promise of war, And… it’s the primer for the cosmic cook-off that is this planet’s ultimate future, so… Let’s… look back at the last decade! Mm? I don’t normally like to do retrospective things outside of the year. I try and, you know, do a retrospective of the decade within it. Although people do like to point out, smugly, that 2021 is the start of the decade because zeroes. Don’t listen to them. This is the start of the new decade. But there’s not a lot to look forward to. So we’re gonna look back a little bit more just cling on to the past and we will deal with the upcoming decade. [murmurs] What the fuck is that? Oh! Oh. It’s a camera… …plastic… mount… With the glasses on and against the carpet, it looked like a poo. [quietly] But it wasn’t. What was the most influential game of the decade known as the 2010s? Or the 10s? Or the “Taugnties”? Or the “Tensies”? Or the “Teensies”? Craig! Craig, are these fucking real? …WHAT?! Anyway, that 2010 decade has all wrapped up and if we get that World War 3 everyone’s talking about, we might not have much of a 2020s, so let’s look back on the decade that was and enjoy a little bit more retrospective. Let’s just keep looking back. Keep looking back, the past can’t hurt you, it already happened. Only the future will kill you. There’s been a lot of talk about the best games of the decade, the worst games of the decade, and the most influential games. We’ve done plenty of good and bad talk here so today, I want to look at those games that have had the most influence, that informed future game design, inspired the games developed in their wake, or otherwise had some major impact on the medium. But “influence” is a broad church it doesn’t necessarily have to mean the most popular game. It doesn’t even need to be a good game at all to have been the most influential. Is the most influential game simply the best game? The most popular game? The one that inspired many copies? The one that gained the most pop culture traction? Or is it the worst game? The one that inspired the most mockery, the one that served as a warning to other developers. I’ve seen it argued that The Witcher 3, for example, is one of the most influential games of the decade, but is that really true? The Witcher 3 is one of the past decade’s most critically-acclaimed games, that much is true. It’s a game that has been played by millions, with an active player base still going strong today even breaking concurrent player records recently, following The Witcher series on Netflix. But, was The Witcher 3 influential across the game industry? When we look around at the state of the industry since tThe Witcher 3’s 2015 release, it doesn’t look like much of its quality has been aped by the mainstream market. Where The Witcher 3 uses an open world to tell not one, but dozens of fully-written, single-player story-driven quests, its peers in the “AAA” space have used open worlds to release barely finished, threadbare “live service” games with a strong emphasis on social interactions among players. Where The Witcher 3 boasted full DLC expansions like Blood and Wine, most comparable games still rely on microtransactions, which are easier to implement and stand to make more money potentially. You know, depending on how many players they can target and hoodwink. The Witcher 3 is a great game, and rightly beloved by its large audience, but one of the reasons it stands out most today is that it didn’t see too many pretenders to its throne. In the latter half of the 2010s, most game publishers in the mainstream area were too busy hopping aboard the “live service” gravy train. In fact, it could be argued that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was far more influential than The Witcher 3. Hear me out! While games in a post-Witcher 3 world moved away more and more from Witcher-like experiences, Skyrim released right at the start of the 2010s when the “live service” gravy train was but a mere push-trolley, and it was followed by games trying to chomp its flavor. With good cause, too! Despite what Bethesda has become these days, Skyrim was a true game changer way back when it released in 2011. A game of that size, scale, and ambition at the time turned quite a few heads. We take it for granted now, but Skyrim at the time was remarkable for its depth and scale and sheer volume of stuff to do. And games that followed took quite a few cues from Bethesda’s work. Dragon’s Dogma, for instance, was an explicit attempt by Capcom to design a Skyrim-like game. Dragon Age: Inquisition married BioWare’s typical approach to RPG design with Bethesda’s large-scale world building. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild owes many of its shifts away from a traditional Zelda experience to the groundwork Skyrim laid down. Almost a decade on and it can be hard to realize exactly what an impact Skyrim, long since overexposed thanks to endless re-releases, made on the RPG genre and game design as a whole. To say nothing of the effect it had on media at the time. In fact, it became referenced to a ridiculous degree, as famously emphasized by Adam Kovic of Machinima when he notoriously said Far Cry 3 was “Like Skyrim with guns.” As mocked as that statement became, it provides a snapshot of an era when Skyrim was THE thing other games got measured against. But when it comes to inspiring copycats and increasingly strained comparisons, Dark Souls may have Skyrim beat. Now, Dark Souls was not the first game of what would become known as Soulsborne series following, as it did, 2009’s Demon’s Souls which was a bloody great game by the way. But! While Demon’s Souls was both an excellent game and a cult hit, it wasn’t until Dark Souls that FromSoftware’s cyclical experience and challenging, methodical gameplay went mainstream. Now Dark Souls is an incredible videogame and remains among my most-played titles today. It also did what Doom did back in the 90s and inspired a wave of follow-ups from other studios trying to get in on that hot new action. The Soulslike has become a full subgenre, and while the name may change one day the way Doom Clone did, although maybe not, we still have Metroidvanias and Roguelikes, the hallmarks a clearly defined. Games that emphasize careful combat with a need to balance stamina limits between offense and defense, checkpoints that respawn defeated enemies in exchange for healing the player, leaving something behind upon death that can be lost unless retrieved, and a general sense of tough but fair challenge. These are all part of a typical Soulslike, which range from worthy successors to weak pretenders. Lords of the Fallen, the Surge series, Nioh, Code Vein, Salt & Sanctuary, Blasphemous, Ashen, Dead Cells, Hollow Knight, they’re all either full on Soulslike or owe a significant portion of their design to FromSoftware. The series has inspired endless memes as well, and reached a point where things like “Praise the Sun” and “You Died” are known even by people who don’t play the game. And as for drawing comparisons, well it’s reached a point where “The Dark Souls of (insert genre here)” has become a thoroughly beaten horse. It has, in fact, become the… Dark Souls of comparisons… ugh forget it. Of course, it’s not just the “AAA” space that can boast influential games. One of the standouts this decade was, of course, Undertale. Toby Fox’s inventively-charming RPG played not just with its genre but with videogames as a medium, and had a lot to say about the people who play them. In the indie space, Undertale did inspire a few games to follow in its wake. Such as the incredible Pony Island. And the sheer dedication of its fanbase, the endless jokes and memes and pop culture insinuation, that can all make a case for its influential nature. Undertale certainly had enough clout to get Sans into Super Smash Bros, kinda, while AEW star Kenny Omega strolled onto TNT’s Wednesday Night Dynamite fully decked out in cosplay gear using Megalovania as his entrance theme. And Kenny, if you’re watching, can I be on your television program? Ha ha ha! Only joking, I know you’re not watching this. Now, influence is not automatically positive as we established at the beginning. Gríma Wormtongue influenced Théoden King, Jagi influenced Shin, and semi-poisonous hallucinogens influenced the Cats movie. The game industry is full of bullshit, and that bullshit doesn’t come from just anywhere. So-called “AAA” game publishers have demonstrated time and time again that if one shitty idea gains traction, they’ll copy it. Over and over and over. Many unpopular or annoying videogame practices started with a single game. For example, 2011’s LA Noire is commonly noted to be the first game boasting a season pass featuring as it did a Rockstar Pass promising new playable missions, as well as a pair of outfits and a challenge mode. Around the same time, 2011’s Mortal Kombat dabbled with the concept, because of course it did. Publisher Warner Brothers is a bag of dicks. From there, the concept of the season pass has taken off to ludicrous degrees, with most mainstream games offering some way for the audience to pay for content that literally doesn’t exist yet. Once publishers realized they could get you to pre-order DLC and most people wouldn’t question it, they realized they could get away with anything. Now even full-priced games have much of the content planned for long after purchase. And as we head into a new decade, the idea that what you buy at launch is just a taste that can be fleshed out with additional purchases has become a widespread, sadly normalized, thing. Two games from Electronic Arts can be credited as testing the waters and getting away with one of my biggest and most infamous bugbears, good ol’ microtransactions in premium priced games. Dubbed “fee to pay” by myself, $60 titles with ongoing, psychologically manipulative micropayments were dabbled with by Mass Effect 3 in 2012 and Dead Space 3 in 2013. EA experimenting in the first game and solidifying in the second. Microsoft would then normalize the concept for a new generation, with Xbox One launch titles like Ryse: Son of Rome and Crimson Dragon glomming onto microtransactions immediately to set the tone going forward. This toxic stew of greed-fueled games from EA and Microsoft took the popular model of free-to-play games and exploited it for full-priced, big-budget titles. And once they got away with it, their filth spread across the entire industry. Now microtransactions are fucking everywhere, and they’re here to stay. Thanks, EA! Thanks, Microsoft! [mutters] Ya bunch of sperm. Then there are loot boxes, oh yes. Like microtransactions, they started on mobile and are fucking everywhere now, but one game absolutely made ’em popular. That game is, of course, Overwatch. As I’ve said before, Overwatch is to loot boxes what Resident Evil is to survival horror. It didn’t originate, but it was THE perpetuator. Team Fortress 2 introduced the loot box concept to mainstream games way back in 2010, and in the time between then and Overwatch’s 2016 release, roughly ten games implemented loot boxes in some capacity. After Overwatch’s release where loot boxes proved successful, and people actually defended them at the time, over 22 games featured lootboxes in just over a year. Those who still go to bat for Blizzard like to claim FIFA was far more influential in terms of introducing gambling to games, even coining the term “Wilson Box” to describe lootboxes, so-named after EA’s robotic CEO Android Wilson. A term contrived to create an intrinsic link between lootboxes and Electronic Arts, instead of Activision Blizzard. But all signs point to Overwatch as the game that truly inspired publishers to push that poison onto the general public. But if Overwatch made them normal and a cool thing to do in the game industry, it can be argued that Star Wars Battlefront II, a grossly erroneous overstep from EA, had a grand part to play in damaging their credibility. After using loot boxes to bring pay-to-win mechanics to Star Wars, the fan backlash was massive to the point where legislators got involved, and more serious talks were had about the socioeconomic impact of videogame monetization. EA chose to be amazingly avaricious even by its own standards and absolutely chose the wrong game to do it with. A Star Wars game! A game even non-gaming reporters at mainstream outlets could understand because Star Wars. So of course they fucking reported on it! And now we have gambling commissions across the world looking at lootboxes and saying “You know what?” “That looks an awful lot like gambling.” While loot boxes are still popular, especially in the mobile market’s underbelly, they became untenable for all but the most shameless of companies. Between them, Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront II had major influence on the decade’s most controversial money-making tactic. And then there’s Fortnite. You see, while we can sit here and talk about the games most familiar and popular titles among long-term game players, we cannot understate the sheer mass appeal of Epic Games’ Fortnite, which is so mainstream it makes what I call a mainstream game look positive niche. I mean, they unveiled content for The Rise of Skywalker in Fortnite! Content that should have, y’know, BEEN in Rise of the Skywalker but instead was sectioned off for a shameless publicity stunt. What a fucking mess of a film. What a fucking m- and I don’t need your hot takes, by the way, about how it’s actually good. I realize we’re in the backlash to the backlash phase, the back-backlash now to Rise of the Skywalker reactions. But it’s st- uh, ugh. It’s a bad film. Anyway, Fortnite has turned dance moves into real-life fads, especially the ones it stole. Practically fucking everybody knows what Fortnite is, millions have played it from those deeply into videogames to the lightest casual player, and it makes more than enough money per day to make the average person violently sick. As well as that, it popularized the battle pass which looks set to be the hot new thing and may lead to in-game premium subscriptions as seen with Fallout 76’s Fallout 1st debacle. [yells aside] A hundred dollars a year subscription for Fallout 76?! [yells aside] Fucking what?! Licky licky WHAT?! Fortnite’s crossed over with The Avengers, Batman, Stranger Things, the fucking NFL. It will have crossed over with fucking Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em by the time this sentence is finished! And the Battle Royale genre absolutely exploded thanks to it. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds may have had the first taste of mass appeal in the genre, and mods in open worlds games like DayZ and Rust may have originated it, but Fortnite blew everything out of the water and inspired dozens upon dozens of knockoffs, as well as battle royale modes in series like Call of Duty and Fallout. But if you roll your hipster eyes at Fortnite being called the most influential game of the 2010s, you’ll pull them out your fucking head when I say, with some confidence, what the most influential game actually was. And that game is… Clash of Clans. When we get down to the wire, whether we talk about critically-acclaimed games like The Witcher 3, inspirational, genre-creators like Dark Souls, or mass market smashes like Fortnite, there’s no getting away from the fact that a freemium strategy game on mobile was more than likely the most influential thing over the course of this decade following its 2012 release. I know for a bloody fact it’s hugely influential because, as I’ve noted in past videos, Clash of Clans has consistently been one of three games that industry executives reference. In fact, to some executives, the ones that come from other industries outside of games, Clash of Clans is one of only three games that they even acknowledge exists, alongside Call of Duty and Candy Crush. These three games are the unholy trinity of greed-fueled publishers. A trinity I’ve handily abbreviated to C-C-COD-COC. In its own market, Clash of Clans inspired hundreds of mobile strategy games that aped not just its gameplay but its art style. Look at all these icons! Outside of that market, the sheer wealth its microtransactions accumulated did not go unseen by “AAA” publishers, hungry for some of that sweet Do Re Mi. One of the reasons given by Visceral Games for Dead Space 3’s fee-to-pay bullshit was the popularity of freemium models on mobile, and Clash of Clans has been THE gold standard for most of the decade. In 2015 the game was raking in 1.5 million dollars a day. By 2018 it had generated more revenue than any other mobile app, ever. Its freemium model was copied by big budget publishers who saw no reason to actually make their games free. Its success has spawned legions of knock-offs. Like Fortnite, almost everyone knows what it is. Maybe Fortnite would have exerted more influential if it’d released earlier in the 2010s, but over the course of the past ten years, Clash of Clans has exerted more influence over the people pulling the levers of the game industry, and that’s the sad fact. No matter what brilliant games you like. No matter their quality, their cultural traction, their fandom or their respect, none of them were as important in shaping this generation as Clash of fucking Clans. So enjoy thinking about that. Oh yeah Minecraft’s come out this decade and all. …that was pretty popular. Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted that there wasn’t really any mention of Nintendo and no, it’s not because I’m biased. It’s a similar reason to The Witcher 3, really. But more so, because Nintendo tends to exist in its own little bubble doing its own little thing. And I feel that’s been consistent of them for the past two decades, really. They get on with their own thing. I mean, last generation they inspired a lot of motion control stuff. But it didn’t really take off. So even then, they influenced the fad, but maybe not the whole decade. But that was the decade before the one we’re even looking at, so… Don’t even get me off-topic ya cheeky goose. [mutters] I don’t know what I meant by that. Um… But all things considered, one thing I can say in Nintendo’s favor and you can take this to the bank, is the Switch was easily my favorite system this past decade. Easy. Maybe one of my, well, ONE of my favorite systems ever. Possibly my favorite one. We would- well you know, I’d have to test it in a lab, to fully commit to it, but yeah, of the decade? Easy, bang-up job. Love the Switch. Can play Resident Evil 4 on it. You know, what other system could do that? Thank God for me. [“Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego]