NG+ GOTY Bonus Round – Donald’s 2014 Favourites

January 6, 2015

We have revealed our Games of the Year, but the celebrations continue! This week, we bring you some of our non-gaming favourites of 2014. Today, our news editor and Senior Spelling Sergeant Donald Duong talks about his miscellaneous selections of the past year.

I mentioned in my Game of the Year article that our attention spans are getting shorter than ever. Unfortunately, this isn’t just limited to gaming. A major news story can break, develop, be overanalysed, opined over and disposed of in under 24 hours. Memes become passé before you press the retweet button.

And yet there is still an undeniable thirst for longer-form storytelling. There’s nothing quite like diving deep into a story and pouring over the nuance and detail. These kinds of stories absorb you before finally letting you go a changed person.

It was, in hindsight, a theme that came up over and over again in my (unordered) favourite things of 2014.

GOTY Don Last Week Tonight

I had the privilege of seeing John Oliver host The Daily Show live last year. Not even a fortnight into this temporary role, he showed he could host a show with authority and charm, though he’d long proven his comedic chops as a longstanding Daily Show correspondent and host of The Bugle podcast. On Last Week Tonight, though, Oliver truly shone.

Of course Last Week Tonight was reliably funny, but that’s not what pushed it into my weekly rotation. Using the freedom provided by HBO, Oliver often dedicated half his show to off-the-grid issues like native advertising, predatory lending or the death penalty. Few other outlets would cover these issues at all, and none of them would inject these stories with as much humour as Oliver.

In its first year, Last Week Tonight established itself not only as a worthy late-night comedy show, but also as a sincerely influential news programme; after airing a segment on net neutrality in which he called on the internet and its trolls to focus its “indiscriminate rage in a useful direction,” the Federal Communication Commissions’ website buckled under the load of endless commenters.

That it took a news satire segment to enact such critical momentum would be kind of sad if it weren’t, y’know, so funny.

GOTY Don Orphan Black

It may surprise you when I say that, as someone who helps make a television programme, I didn’t actually watch that much drama in 2014. I never really had the time, what with all these video games and sundry. When I heard about Orphan Black, though, I was intrigued; I had to check it out.

It’s only spoiling a little bit to describe Orphan Black plot, which follows Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), who discovers she is one of many clones, and her/their journey to uncover the truth and secretive organisations behind all this. However, It’s not spoiling anything to say that Orphan Black is a smart and compelling TV show.

All credit has to go to Maslany, who performed as each of the clones and, most impressively, brought definable nuance to each character. This was especially prevalent when multiple clones were on screen at the same time and interacting with each other. On a related note, I’m not sure what tech the show had running behind it, but it worked, since these scenes looked completely organic. The story, too, had me hooked. The first season in particular doled out enough backstory and twists to keep me coming back for more.

Even when I didn’t have time, I made time to catch up with Orphan Black.

GOTY Don Serial

“One story, told over 12 weeks.” This was the innocuous introduction to the Serial podcast in early October. Since then, it became a cultural phenomenon. It was, and still is, the most popular podcast on iTunes. People discussed new episodes with the same fervour as something like Game of Thrones, to the point where outlets released podcasts about this podcast! But there was very good reason for this unprecedented hype.

Serial was deeply engaging, occasionally topping its predecessor This American Life. Over twelve episodes, it took a decade-old high school murder and dissected it more than the actual court case seemed to. Each week had the potential to upend your running theory on the case, to even change host Sarah Koenig’s perspective. Serial was, above all, more than a than a true-crime narrative: It was a story about the high-stakes lives of high school kids, of the fragility and malleability of memory, of the subtle-yet-meaningful faults in the American justice system.

I highly recommend you at least check out the first episode. Or, if you won’t listen to me, listen to Sesame Street.

GOTY Don Too Many Cooks

If you haven’t seen Too Many Cooks, I implore you to watch the video now — all of it. Do it. I’ll wait.

…I know, right?! What just happened? There was a family in there, some cops, a Snarf (whatever that is), Pie von Trier and…my head hurts.

I’m sure the first time most people were exposed to Too Many Cooks, they too experienced the following: Curiosity, nostalgia, enjoyment, confusion, amusement, disbelief, delight, anger, glee, distress, confusion, confusion, confusion, confusion, hope, normalcy, confusion, gratification. This was all in the space of an 11 minute clip; The Hobbit couldn’t manage that in three whole movies!

Too Many Cooks was an aggressively weird little thing that somehow transcended this and achieved mainstream recognition. In a society that seems to reward the mediocre and ordinary, isn’t it refreshing to see something so earnestly strange captivate and freak out everyone so?

Come back tomorrow for more GOTY 2014 Bonus Round, or catch up on our 2014 Games of the Year

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