Dull end of year posts already? My books, films and games of 2013

Note that I’m behind the times with media; on these lists are those I experienced in 2013, with no regard to actual release date.

Books

My top three, in reverse order:

3) Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
DFW’s non-fiction can alternate between incredible and incredibly frustrating. Authority and American Usage, his 62 pages on grammar and language, is a tough read. But his articles on an adult cinema expo, the 2000 US presidential campaign, athletes’ autobiographies, and the lobster we’ve to consider of the title, all make for great reading.

2) Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell
Bissell’s book on computer games, Extra Lives, is one of my favourites. The other books of his I’ve read (Magic Hours, the Father of all Things) were on subjects (creativity, the Vietnam War) I was less interested in and so found less enjoyable. But he’s a great writer, so I bought Sea, but not without tentativeness. I’m so glad I did–it’s a very interesting, well-written book. Sea‘s subject is Uzbekistan, the Soviet Union’s effect on it, and the draining of the Aral Sea, a Soviet idea that caused massive environmental damage in the area. The book is personal, touching, and well worth reading.

1) The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright
Tower is about what lead to 9/11: the thinkers who inspired Osama bin Laden, what his upbringing and life were like, and the formation of al-Qaeda. Wright accumulated a massive source of knowledge to bring this book together (interviewing around 400 people) and it shows. Tower goes deep, it’s a remarkable example of journalism

Honorable mention: Moonwalking with Einstein, American Ground.

Films

3) Moneyball
A film so cleverly-written it makes statistics interesting. Engaging and funny, and anything that makes sports analytics more interesting to the general public is good in my book

2) Gravity
I’ve rarely used the word ‘gruelling’ more than when describing Gravity. There was a scene near the end where I thought, “Please finish, I can’t handle this”. I left the cinema exhausted. A tremendous piece of work

1) The Raid
Perhaps the greatest action film of all time. There are few films I’ve sat through with a smile on my face practically the entire time. The shootouts are hugely enjoyable, the martial arts scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The Raid is intense and wild. I’m trying not to use the word ‘visceral’.

Honorable mention: Skyfall

Games

Times have changed, yo. Gaming used to be my major past-time. In 2013 I completed a total of five games. Three of them were replays of the Modern Warfare series. As I’m not counting anything I’d already experienced pre-2013, there are but two games left (#maths). However, the two remaining are so good they would probably have been top of any other year’s list:

2) Heavy Rain
A ridiculous game. A brilliant game. I’ve already text-blabbered on Heavy Rain. With the exception of the developer’s previous title, Fahrenheit, I’ve never done so many mundane, daft things in a game and enjoyed them. Heavy Rain was always fun, whether I was laughing at having to shave or do a sexy dance, or struggling to hit the right buttons to win a fight. That the game was changing depending on decisions I made or tasks I failed at blew my mind. Any mistakes in the design of Heavy Rain were caused by ambition, something no sane person should complain about, particularly in the stagnant world of game design.

1) Uncharted 3
I have less to say about Uncharted 3 except it’s brilliant. Uncharted 2 was my second favourite game of all-time, but 3 has probably overtaken it. Entertaining, fun, wildly cinematic, funny, adrenalineagoical (totally a word). It’s not perfect, and its slow start is the reason I stopped playing it for a few months. But when I came back, giving it another shot, I became as obsessed with it as I have any game in years. It restored my ailing faith in games.

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