I like playing with fire (safely) in real life. In Minecraft I decided to light a tree on fire and watch it burn. Good times were had by me. Then I had an idea. A wonderful, awesome, burning idea. What if I lit all the trees on fire!? With this goal in mind I set to work and very soon had a forest fire raging through the world as far as I could see. It had taken off and was spreading wildly on its own.
That's when my brother said, "Be careful where you light those fires, my castle is made of wood, remember?" The truth of the matter is that I remembered but was having far too much fun with fire to actually care. I'm a great big brother, I know. I said, "I'm sure it'll be fine." It wasn't. Although, in my defense, his castle did burn gloriously.
We then vowed to create a bigger and better castle made of stone, and we did.
I don't know any other game where that scenario would have been possible. For that alone, Minecraft is my game of the year.
Minecraft is the game that people have wanted to play for years. My actions matter and they have a persistent effect on the world. I can do almost anything I want. If I find a cave I can explore it or close it off. If I see a river I can channel it or build a bridge over it. If I want to build a castle made of wood (which it turns out is actually a poor choice) then the game gives me to freedom to do that too.
Minecraft is the game your heart desires, you just don't know it yet.
Mass Effect 2
I love the Mass Effect series for the story. That's what I'm in it for. The combat, leveling, and gearing my character all help to change things up and keep me active in the game but I can't get over how fun the story is to interact with. With Mass Effect 2 I saw all of my decisions from the first game carry over into the world of the second. I got to continue my Shepard's story and have some fun combat along the way.
I love the way combat, skills, and gearing have been streamlined in the second iteration. It still feels like a third person shooter and role playing game hybrid, but there is less clutter to be had. It makes the story shine all the much more.
One of my absolute favorite things about this game is that my wife loves the story too! I can play it and she'll sit on the couch watching, all the while making smart ass comments about what Tali's biosuit ports are for. I mean seriously, look at those access ports, are they suggestively placed or what? Or maybe my family is just made up of smart asses. Either way, my wife's love of the story guarantees a day one purchase of Mass Effect 3 in our household.
A highly polished Blizzard real time strategy game that still keeps my mind working. This is the only game I've ever written a guide for. That goes to show how much of my mental RAM I've devoted to StarCraft 2 and the strategy surrounding it. Since I've already discussed it at length in many other posts I won't try to extol all of it's virtues here. Just know that it's one of the best RTS games I've ever played. If you're an RTS fan this game is a must own.
League of Legends
With League of Legends the beta, open-beta, and launch all blurred together. I started playing back in beta in 2009, but I think of the official launch as sometime early this year. Either way, I have to include it because of the amount of my gaming time it's taken up this year.
League is one of the most balanced team based pvp games I've ever played. Even when I lose, I never truly feel cheated or that the game was unfair. I'm always excited to jump into the next round. As I've written about League a lot already I'd just like to say that I recommend this game to everyone. It's free to play and it deserves your attention.
Bloons TD 4
Over the summer drought of games I started to play a lot of free online flash games. Kongregate is my favorite site to find new flash games but one sticks out as head and shoulders above the rest. That game is Bloons TD 4.
Tower defense games are a favorite of mine and Bloons TD 4 executes a tried and true game design perfectly. I don't even know how many hours I've killed with this game, but it's quite a substantial amount. Recently the creator released an iphone/ipod version of the game and now I'm once again addicted, only this time I can carry the game with me. For the amount of time I've spent and the low low price of free, this is my final pick for games of the year.