Usually we try to have a clear theme here in our monthly roundtables, but you know what? New year, new us, as they say. Instead of focusing on one thing or another, we’re just looking forward. What do we see on the horizon? What are we hoping to see on the horizon? What are we settling in with in this cold and cozy month?

Many of us are stuck at home with inclement weather. If not weather, maybe we’re stuck at home due to the ongoing pandemic. What games are you playing to get through it?

Maddi Butler: I barely deviated from comfortable and familiar games last year. I didn’t have a lot of energy to start something new, so I stuck with Animal Crossing: New Horizons (especially after that massive 2.0 update) and finally, finally finished my Breath of the Wild playthrough. But now that I’ve had my fill of interior design and unlocked every Shrine, I’ve started tackling my backlog again. Right now, my husband and I are taking turns fighting colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve also been playing a lot of Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, a recent release from Strange Scaffold that is… pretty much what it sounds like on the tin. I often find there’s something cathartic about games that directly engage with the cruelties of a capitalist system.

Naseem Jamnia: Like Maddi, I also have been back on the ACNH train, although I’ve now… caught up on all the new things I wanted to do and am just doing regular island maintenance, so I might pick up the DLC that was released. Other than that, I actually started playing Pokémon Sword. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Pokémon game, and while it’s not reinventing the formula, it has been comforting to play something so familiar to me. (Minus the abomination that is Galarian Meowth.) This is, unsurprisingly, all in the middle of my third Fire Emblem: Three Houses run, which is exactly what happened during the last one (where, because I played a new playthrough immediately after the run before, I stopped right before the timeskip, played other things, then came back to it). So technically, Claude is waiting for me to finish these paralogues on merciless.

Melissa Brinks: I started a new Stardew Valley farm because I needed something to really draw me into rewarding repetition, and let me tell you: it’s doing the job. It’s definitely not as explicit (nor as brutal) in its engagement with living under capitalism as Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, but it is just nice to sit back and grow my little crops and feed my little chickens and someday overthrow Joja through the power of locally grown fruits and vegetables. It’s just nice. Sometimes you need that.

Alenka Figa: One of my greatest joys throughout these terrible panini times is watching my partner play the Yakuza games. It’s a perfect balance for us—she can level grind and do all the bizarre video game things I find utterly unenjoyable, and I get to watch the absurd story and even more absurd side plots play out. As a former martial artist, I also love seeing all the different fighting styles of various playable characters. We’ve made it to Yakuza 4, which thus far contains zero Hawaiian shirts—a great loss from the third game, but we’ve barely even gotten started, so maybe that sweet Okinawa tourist fashion will be back.

Zainabb Hull: I had a couple of weeks off over the holidays, and my overachieving nonsense self set some extremely lofty gaming goals: I wanted to start Red Dead Redemption 2 and Persona 5, finish my Sherlock Holmes game, maybe even join Maddi and Naseem in revisiting Animal Crossing… That would never have been possible in such a short amount of time anyway, I KNOW, but I also ended up having more fatigue than expected, and sudden technical issues made it very difficult to play games accessibly on my PC.

So, instead of all of that, I played Life Is Strange 2, I started Life Is Strange: True Colors, and in between, I’ve been spending time with Unpacking. I’ve definitely needed the chill vibes of Unpacking to help me, uh, play through racism in Life Is Strange 2 (there are a lot of things I liked about this game but also a lot of things that made me go, “Oh, this wasn’t made by people of colour and it wasn’t made for us either.”) On New Year’s Eve, I also played Campfire, a storytelling tabletop horror game—what better way to end the year than by collaboratively narrating a scary story about a sinister wellness cult and the apocalypse?

A screenshot of Life Is Strange 2 Episode 2 showing Sean talking, with subtitles reading, "I just don't want you to get into trouble because of us..." Life Is Strange 2, Dontnod Entertainment and Feral Interactive, Square Enix, 2018.

Emily Durham: My single biggest obsession in 2021 was playing the entirety of the Dragon Age series from start to finish multiple times in rapid succession, so of course that means that the game I’ve been playing most in January 2022 is… Inscryption. I had heard from my husband, brother, and friends for the last couple of months that I really should play it, so when I finally (finally) got tired of playing and replaying all of the Dragon Age games, I booted up Inscryption and fell deep into the ever-changing landscape of spooky competitive deckbuilding. I went in knowing absolutely nothing at all about it, and that was absolutely the right choice.

Cress: Currently I’ve been playing a lot of Halo: Infinite with my partner and friends! Halo is a bit nostalgic for me. Playing it with a work friend on couch co-op mode cemented my love for the multiplayer, even though I’ve never played the campaign. When Infinite’s co-op finally does come out, maybe I’ll be able to tell you more about its story instead of which guns I prefer (psst, the skewer’s not that bad, trust me).

What games are you looking forward to this year? What games are you hoping get a new entry, an update, or even just one single kernel of news?

Naseem: Someone’s gotta say it… BIOWARE, PLEASE, GIVE US DRAGON AGE 4 NEWS. And someone’s gotta say the other thing… ATLUS, PLEASE HIRE ME TO WRITE PERSONA 5 BOOKS—I mean, please give us news about more sequels that do not erase the best character. PLEASE, I AM DYING, I WILL DO MANY THINGS.

Ahem, so besides that… I guess I’ll answer this with games I’ve already got rather than games I’m anticipating coming out. My husband actually got me A Plague Tale: Innocence for the holidays, which seems extremely my shit. I’m excited to get into that. I also have Spiritfarer sitting on my Switch, since I’ve heard such good things about it, including that it works well as a couch co-op. And I’ve promised my friends that I will finally play The Witcher 3 (for the first time), so that’s on my list, too.

Alenka: Meredith Gran’s point and click adventure game Perfect Tides is set to come out this year and I can’t wait! I loved Octopus Pie and find it really thrilling to see an artist I love dive into a new medium. The previews for Perfect Tides have looked really interesting—lots of teen drama, of course, but this is clearly going to be an emotional story that will hit home for those of us who were also internet-obsessed teens and writers. The color palette also looks delicious, so I’m sure this game is going to be wonderful to just look at.

Melissa: I also anxiously await Dragon Age 4 news because I must know who I’m going to fall in love with next. I’m sure more games will pop up on my radar, but I have to be honest: I haven’t been paying all that much attention to what’s on the horizon game-wise recently! I’m playing through all the bajillions of games that have interested me over the years but that I haven’t gotten to yet, and that’s basically filling all my gaming needs right now.

Maddi: I’m excited for Breath of the Wild 2, though I would not be surprised if it doesn’t come out this year. Regardless, I only just finished the first game after three years, so I’m okay with being a little patient. I also look forward to watching my husband play Elden Ring. I personally have very little interest in playing this game, but I enjoy looking at FromSoftware’s beautiful landscapes and cool armor while I wind down. Something about the looping level designs, clashing swords, and groans of the dying puts me right to sleep in the evenings. Otherwise, two indie games I’m looking forward to this year are Glitchhikers, a surreal exploration game, and Venba, a narrative cooking game.

Zainabb: I’m really excited for Venba, too, and Perfect Tides sounds like my kind of jam! I am always here for point and click games and cooking games, particularly when those games look like they’ll really resonate with me, a South Asian who was once an internet-obsessed teen.

I’m also hoping to get back on that Red Dead Redemption 2 horse (pun fully intended) once I’ve fixed my accessible gaming setup. It’ll be interesting because I mostly want to play it for the scenery, but my PC can’t make it look as pretty as I’d like, and I suspect at least parts of the story will grate on me. Also, I have no real interest in shootouts, heists, or hunting, but I am excited to ride around on a horse.

I was also gifted Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall recently, so I’m extremely looking forward to playing that this year. This is another horror-based storytelling TTRPG where players take on the role of a Chinese family trying to run a restaurant in 1920s America, fighting off racism and vampiric jiangshi along the way.

Emily: Y’all, I am desperate for Dragon Age 4 news. Just like all of you. And everyone else. Why are we in hell. I’m also really, really hoping that we hear something about Hollow Knight: Silksong this year, because Hollow Knight is easily one of my favorite games of all time and I simply want to play the same game again but as Hornet, dammit! Give me Hornet gameplay!!!!!

But, in terms of games that are actually attainable to play this year, I’m looking forward to eventually returning to Spiritfarer and playing through it again now that the Lily, Beverly, and Jackie & Daria updates are out. I have so much to say about this game… and hopefully replaying it with all of its new content will actually compel me to write some of it down.

Cress: Ohhhh Elden Ring!! How kind of Miyazaki-san to give a late Valentine’s gift to me! I generally ignore hype for games, but this one! This one!! I will gobble up any and all whispers and leaks. I really love how FromSoft focuses on atmosphere over graphical intensity. I wasn’t able to get in on the beta, so I’m ready to be excited and cursed in my new life as a Tarnished.

I’m also really looking forward to more info on Breath of the Wild 2. There’s so much fan work of rehydrated Ganondorf that I can only hope Nintendo gives some kindness to the old King.

Any gaming resolutions this year? Any resolutions you’re channeling into your characters rather than yourself?

Naseem: Play more indie games!! I’d really like to be better about trying out small games from indies, rather than needing to play a game I can sink 30+ hours into. I’m apparently getting a new laptop, which I’m planning on using for games, so my Mac will no longer be a hindrance on that front, too.

Alenka: I’ve been playing Pathfinder for 4 or 5 years now, and I feel like I’m reaching a point where I can really dig in and play characters whose personalities are very separate from my own. I want to do that more—take risks with characters, have them make choices I’d never make, see where their mistakes lead them. It’s been a very fun development for me, and a thrilling source of escapism in these dark times.

Melissa: It’s time for me to discuss something near and dear to my heart: the game jar. Last year, I saw somebody I follow on Instagram pulling movies out of a jar to watch rather than endlessly scrolling Netflix, and that inspired me to make my own movie, game, and TV show jars. The game jar is just little slips of paper on which I’ve written the names of a bunch of games I want to play, including many of the 1300 that appeared in 2020’s Itch bundle for racial justice. Once I finish one game, I pull another out of the jar to try. This means I’m having a lot of fun in new genres (Darkest Dungeon) and with new creators (Florian Veltman’s Lieve Oma is one of my favorites from the bundle so far), and I’m very excited to keep trying new games, especially new tabletop games, from my jar. My resolution is: keep playing new games! Especially tabletop games!

Maddi: Okay, full disclosure, a few months ago I told Melissa, very excitedly, that I had started my own game jar and that it was motivating me to tackle the ridiculous backlog that built up last year while I was both burned out and planning my wedding. And then I pulled L.A. Noire, which I immediately ignored because I didn’t want to play it.

However. HOWEVER. One of my goals this year is to quit ignoring my game jar and actually tackle some of my backlog, because both are filled with indie games I know I’m going to adore. Spiritfarer and Umurangi Generation have been sitting on my Switch for way too long and deserve to be played. There are even some games that I started last year, like Nier: Replicant, that I just never finished (even though the PlayStation 3 version of the game is an all-time favorite), so that’s another big goal for this year!

A screenshot from Nier Gestalt. Papa Nier sits at a table as Yonah watches. The text reads, "(This stew smells like I pissed on a camptire. Is the meat even in ere? ...And what are those black chunks?)" Nier Gestalt, Cavia, Square Enix, 2010.

Zainabb: I try not to take on more than one massive game a year because I don’t have that kind of capacity any more, but in direct contrast to Naseem’s goals, I would love to start a new JRPG this year if I can. JRPGs were my favourite kind of game when I was a teen, and I have Persona 5, Kingdom Hearts, and like three different Final Fantasy games to try. I played Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch a few years ago and, although it was the only Big Game I played that year, I did find it easier than expected to commit time to it, as long as I broke up play time over the week (or month).

I also hope I can spend more time playing games with friends this year. It’s always difficult arranging sessions with pals when we have various disabilities, neurodivergence, and busy schedules, but as I brace for yet another year of pandemic isolation, it feels particularly important to prioritise. I recently started Wildermyth with two close friends, and that felt like it required less mental and physical effort to set up and play than a TTRPG, so I’m hoping we can play more regularly. I’ve also got Moving Out lined up with another one of my chaotic queers, so I’m excited to break some virtual shit with them soon.

Naseem: (I almost exclusively play JRPGs, so I wish you much joy, Zainabb. Especially with the best game, Persona 5, though as always, I must recommend Royal over the vanilla game if you have access to it!! It’s a lot gayer than the base game.)

Emily: I have so many games I’ve purchased, played approximately two minutes of, and forgotten about. In 2022, I’d most like to boot up and play through some of these long-lost pre-purchased games in earnest (looking especially at you, Nier: Automata).

Cress: One is to get back into Animal Crossing at a semi-regular pace (I just got Shino!). Also, I want to play Elden Ring without looking at guides (unless I’m absolutely stuck).

But since I did throw in my hat to write a future article: I finally have Persona 5 Royal to sink my teeth into. I did want to get back into a meaty JRPG again, and this looks like a sweet meal ticket. Otherwise, I want to return to the Land of Dusk in the Atelier series and replay Tales of Symphonia!