2012 was a big year to be a geek, nerd and/or poindexter. This is the year geek culture went mainstream. Like, really, really mainstream. We’re at the point where geek culture isn’t just accepted — you now have to be into comics, video games, sci-fi or fantasy if you want to be at all keyed into contemporary pop culture. It’s embrace geekdom or stick to NCIS and Two and a Half Men reruns. Those are basically your two entertainment options as of the end of 2012.
It wasn’t all roses though — there were still plenty of legitimate reasons for nerdrage this year. Hit the jump for the best and worst of geek culture in 2012…
Best: Kickstarter Makes Nerd Dreams Come True
This time last year most of us nerdish types were only vaguely aware of what Kickstarter was — what a difference a year makes, huh? It’s almost impossible to list all the nerd dreams Kickstarter has made possible this year. New Wasteland, Shadowrun and Broken Sword games? The intriguing, open, free-to-play, indie console Ouya? A longbox full of cool indie comics projects? Uhhh, Thankskilling 3?
Us nerds love to play the “I wish they’d make another…” game, but now, thanks to Kickstarter, we can actually make some of those wishes come true. Awesome.
Best: Batman Has His Best Year In Forever
I’m totally into Batman as a character, but the sad truth is the dude’s comics were a mess for long damn time. Generally they were either dull, outright bad, or Grant Morrison at his sloppy indecipherable worst. Then Scott Snyder happened.
I was into Snyder’s stuff before he started on Batman (his work on American Vampire and Detective Comics was damn good) but he took it to a new level in 2012. Snyder and the also fantastic Greg Capullo put together one of the best Batman runs in the character’s long history in 2012. The Court of the Owls was the most gripping Bat-story since Frank Miller’s 80s heyday, and while Death of the Family isn’t quite as great, it’s still a very good take on the badly overused Joker.
Worst: To Clarify, Batman Comics Were Great in 2012. Movies, Not So Much…
Okay, it’s been a few months — is it finally okay to admit The Dark Knight Rises just wasn’t very good? It wasn’t terrible or anything, but it failed to measure up to either of its predecessors in pretty much any way. The villain was a mumbly muddle, there was far too much padding and not enough action, and Batman barely played a role in the proceedings. TDKR was a Bane, Catwoman and Joseph Gordon Levitt cop guy movie (and not a great one).
Also in Batman movies this year, The Dark Knight Returns, the best Bat-story of all time, finally got an adaptation and eh, it was okay. It sticks to the story fairly faithfully, but everything about this two-part animated movie is just so bland, bloodless and unengaging — basically everything the source material is not.
Best: Indie Games Get Mainstream Recognition
Up until 2012 mention of indie video games brought up images of blocky pixel-art throwback games only the most hardened, hipstery gamers kept up with or played. That changed big time in 2012. This year’s top 10 lists are littered with breakout indie hits like Journey, Hotline Miami and Lone Survivor. Hell, the Spike Video Game Awards, the most mainstreamy mainstream thing possible, gave most of its awards this year to The Walking Dead, a friggin’ indie adventure game. What glorious new planet am I living on?
Worst: Mid-size Developers Die Off In Droves
Yes, small indie developers had a lot of success this year, but unfortunately 2012 wasn’t a great year for a lot of slightly larger, mid-size independent game makers. Studios like Eurocom, Hudson Soft and Psygnosis were the blue-collar backbone of the industry, doing the best they could with the licensed games and lower profile titles big name studios didn’t want to touch.
Unfortunately gaming seems to be moving rapidly toward the movie industry model, in which you have lavish blockbusters, no-budget indies and little to nothing in between. Come on video game industry, the creamy middle is always the best part of anything — don’t let it go so easily.
Worst: Zombie Over Saturation
I’ve consumed more zombie media in my life than any sane individual really should. They’re by far the most versatile movie monster there is, but holy crap did I get tired of them this year. Don’t get me wrong, there are still certain, specific zombie-based entertainments I’m going to keep up with — I’m still into The Walking Dead (mostly because of its excellent non-deceased characters) and I’ll watch anything George Romero puts out, but otherwise I’m done. Once I saw hunky Brad Pitt running from a literal wave of zombies in the first World War Z trailer, I knew the genre had nothing more to offer me.
Best: People Who Actually Know Something About Art Declared Video Games To Be It
For years now people who don’t really know much about art have been engaged in a heated debate with people who don’t really know much about video games about whether the latter can be the former. It’s been really f–king frustrating for both sides and for anyone watching.
So, thankfully this year the New York Museum of Modern Art, an outfit that I think we can safely assume knows a thing or two about art, stepped in and ended the discussion by establishing a permanent video game exhibition. Based on the list of games they hope to eventually display, they also did their video game homework. So there you go, video games are art — now how ’bout we change the subject to literally anything else?
Best: Disney Buys Lucasfilm
In easily the biggest geek-relevant news story of the year, Disney bought Star Wars, Indiana Jones (and more) from delusional, out-of-touch, Droopy Dog-esque shell of a man George Lucas and immediately green-lit Star Wars Episode VII! The movie that will be worked on by some of Hollywood’s hottest talent and will almost certainly be better than those terrible damn prequels. Hooray!
Worst: Disney Buys Lucasfilm
In easily the biggest geek-relevant news story of the year the Disney mega-conglomerate bought Lucasfilm, the most successful independent movie studio of all time, wresting control of Star Wars and Indiana Jones from their creator, the once visionary (and kinda sexy) George Lucas. Disney kicked off the exploitation by immediately green-lighting Star Wars Episode VII, a movie that will be worked on by competent, but ultimately voiceless hired hands, and almost certainly won’t live up the legendary original trilogy. Boo!
This is where I leave you for now — 2012 was such a geeky year I need two features to cover all the highs and lows. Come back Monday for the conclusion of The Best And Worst Of Geek Culture 2012!