Let’s be real: 2022 has been a rough year—from Will Smith’s internet-shattering slap to Kanye West’s anti-Semitic meltdown, even the gaming industry came with its share of controversy. So let’s forget all about what 2023 might bring for a minute, get comfy by the fire and prepare for a deep dive into the biggest hits and flops that dominated the gaming news of the past year. We’ve picked out the most standout stories just for you, because we’re nice like that.
The 2010s saw a decline in games with a challenging edge. Instead, auto-aim and hand-holding was rife. The Japanese developer FromSoftware was the last bastion of hope for sadistic, controller-smashing maniacs who relish in difficulty (like myself).
Enter Elden Ring, a culmination of everything FromSoftware has learnt over the last decade of making crushingly complicated games. Through such mastery, this industry titan even managed to spawn an entire new subgenre, known among fanatics as Soulslike. Referring to an action role-playing game identified by its increasingly difficult narrative, Soulslike’s name was inspired by FromSoftware’s hit series Dark Souls.
The series, released in 2011, popularised dark fantasy settings by showing off cryptic lore and punishing gameplay with an emphasis on big, bad bosses. A theme and style that the developer hasn’t let go of since, exemplified by the likes of Elden Ring. The immediately popular game was nothing short of a masterpiece in the genre and reached a wider audience than anyone could’ve expected. This gargantuan success culminated in its momentous victory at the 2022 Game Awards, in which Elden Ring took home the award for Game of the Year.
FromSoftware’s games are challenging, rewarding and rich in dark detail and intrigue. The company’s latest entry really bridged the gap between casual and hardcore gamers, proving that people do like a little bit of a beating every now and then. Safe to say, it appears as though difficult games are most definitely here to stay.
In the biggest flop of the year, we saw the gaming industry reveal a sinister side—exposing worrying traits and patterns many spectators hadn’t prepared themselves for.
Let’s start by getting some of the tamer news out of the way. Video game publisher Bethesda Softworks and Mick Gordon, composer for DOOM Eternal, went to war over contract, payment and crunch disputes. There’s far too much internal rigamarole to trudge through, so instead let’s focus on the main takeaways from this altercation. The falling out centred on the common occurrence in which artists and composers are sidelined and swindled by large companies motivated by corporate greed and complication. There is so much to read in regard to this topic and so I’d recommend fetching some hot cocoa—or a mimosa if you fancy something stronger—and diving into Gordon’s open letter wherein he discusses the entire affair.
Moving along, there was also the really strange news that the creator of iconic game Sonic The Hedgehog, Yuji Naka, had been found guilty of insider trading and was subsequently arrested twice—all in one year. The creator of the infamous Sonic couldn’t outrun these allegations.
The lowest point of the industry though was by far the explosion of allegations against Activision Blizzard which, though having started in 2021, spilled over into the new year with fresh suits and settlements lingering around every corner. To give a brief summary of the drama, the gaming giant—aka the studio behind Call of Duty and World of Warcraft—was accused of fostering a frat boy atmosphere and repeatedly making female employees uncomfortable due to unwanted advances and attitudes.
Allegations including the notorious Cosby suite, and female employees finding their breast milk missing from fridges wasn’t the end of the line for the developer giant in 2021. As 2022 rolled around, fresh allegations began to spawn, particularly regarding sexual harassment and inequality in the team, perpetrated in part by its CEO, Bobby Kotick, a man who is still running the company today. To top it all off, this year saw Blizzard trying to stop its workers from unionising by hiring a well-known firm whose job is to stop workers from organising.
Activision Blizzard has been in damage-control mode since the beginning of the year, but it might be a little too late for the company. Will the community move on, or will they take a stand? 2023 spells a tough year for the developer as it desperately tries to win back players. It’s worth mentioning, it wasn’t the only gaming giant to face allegations this year, French titans Ubisoft also faced a scathing harassment lawsuit, as reported by Kotaku.
The social phenomenon that was Wordle completely dominated the early months of 2022, and with good reason. Everyone was playing it—I’m a massive fan of games with the ability to unify people across boundaries and Wordle was a prime example of this.
In case you happened to be living under a rock for the first half of the year, Wordle requires players to figure out a daily random word in only six guesses. Each guess tells you which letters you surmised correctly,, and if they might be the right word but in the wrong place. For such a simple game, it was surprisingly addictive.
This word game sensation—originally developed and created by software engineer Josh Wardle—spawned numerous clones and copies, such as Quordle, an iteration where you guess four words at once, and Squirdle, a Pokémon guessing version. Although not the most traditional of video games, we believe it deserved an honourable mention here.
2022 captured one of the strangest emerging gaming trends—one of overspending and acquisitions. We witnessed Microsoft and Sony racing to buy up smaller studios, in a supposed bid to boost their respective arsenals in the long-running console wars.
After Microsoft acquired Bethesda Softworks—the studio behind the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises—in 2021, Sony kicked off the summer of 2022 by purchasing industry veterans Bungie, the legendary creators of the Halo franchise, for a tantalising $3.6 billion.
In retaliation, Microsoft threw its hat into the ring, making a stake for controversial gaming giant Activision Blizzard for an even more mouth-watering $69 billion. This purchase is yet to go through and will likely spill into 2023, so keep an eye out. Due to the size of the accession, the deal has got regulators in a flurry as lawyers and big wigs work their hardest to try and ensure that the gaming industry doesn’t become monopolised.
News recently broke that gamers are banding together to sue Microsoft too, to ensure that gaming continues to allow players to make decisions on what systems they play on and who they give their money to. We’ll have to wait and see in the new year if this proves to be too big a bone for Microsoft to chew on.
The two mainstays of gaming weren’t the only companies scooping up studios and indie darlings though. Epic Games purchased Mediatonic, the lovable underdogs responsible for 2020’s surprise hit Fall Guys. The rest of the industry was left with odd bits of scrap with Take-Two Interactive, the Grand Theft Auto publisher grabbing mobile juggernaut Zynga, and Swedish holding company Embracer finding their hands on The Lord of the Rings, Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex franchises from Crystal Dynamics and Eidos.
The cherry on top in this extensive acquisition saga has to be the fact that Chinese company Tencent can’t seem to get enough of Western games. Tencent recently found itself spending generous sums in order to have a stake in gaming giants Ubisoft and FromSoftware. Some seem to think this is part of a worrying trend of Chinese businesses infiltrating the West and harvesting data, but I think Tencent just wants to make money—a whole lot of it.
So, these have been our highlights and lowlights of 2022. It’s been a messy one, but for the most part, gamers have been spoiled with a buffet of excellent titles, superb escapism, and a bundle of surprisingly enjoyable word-solving problems. This year did highlight a lot of problems within the industry itself—despite the games successes, Elden Ring we’re looking at you—so, let’s hope that 2023 stays as clean as possible. The only way is up.
Ever since 2016, the internet has made a tradition out of celebrating surveillance capitalism in the guise of tailored reports that recap our habits of the year. Following the launch of Spotify Wrapped—the coveted feature that fans routinely grind towards and base their entire personality around when it drops every December—the concept of a ‘year-in-review’ has gripped most digital services today.
While Apple Music has its revamped Replay feature and YouTube Music offers a Recap experience, Deezer releases its summaries in the form of #MyDeezerYear and Amazon Music generates rather disappointing playlists for users. Heck, even Reddit has its own Recap feature that illustrates the amount of time you spent shitposting and visiting various subs in the hopes of finding a custom long Furby.
Over the past few years, Spotify Wrapped’s impact has catapulted the feature as a cultural reset among gen Zers and millennials alike. Today, both generations expect every single online platform to track and judge their data in exchange for aesthetic statistics they can share with the rest of the world. And, as it turns out, their dating lives are no exception.
A Spotify Wrapped report essentially gives you insights about your top five artists, genres and songs, audio personality (what even is Sorrow Escapism Liminal Space?), and amount of minutes listened. Now, imagine such information being pulled from your miserable presence on dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and more.
If you ask me, the report would read something like this: “In 2022, you swiped right on 26 crypto bros and 38 people named Matt. You went on a sum total of 25 dates with your matches, out of whom 5 kittenfished you, 13 ghosted you right after, and 2 blocked and reported your profile to our teams. You took 150 screenshots of cringey profiles to share with your WhatsApp group chat, and even rage quit our app 7 times. What was that all about, huh?”
“You also received 57 unsolicited gym selfies, but to top things off, you were among the top 1 per cent of users who slid into people’s DMs at 3 am! Congratulations, your dating app rizz is doomed beyond recovery!”
It’s worth noting that the conversation about dating apps having their own year-in-review feature has been making the rounds for a while now. In 2020, comedian Grace Hayes went viral after she uploaded her DIY Bumble Wrapped on TikTok. Leveraging the green screen effect, Hayes curated #bumblewrapped on the video-sharing platform—with 44,800 views and counting. The clip was so popular that even Bumble left a comment stating: “This is AMAZING. Inspiring us 😏😏”
The following year, software engineer Niko Draca created a third-party website for Hinge users to generate their own Wrapped reports. “First thing you’ll see is how many people you encountered on the app and how many you said yes to,” Draca explained in the widely-circulated clip. “Then you’ll see all of the likes, rejections, matches, etc over the year. You can also see what time of the day you sent the most chat messages, how many people you chatted with in total, and how long those conversations lasted.” Apart from the top three emojis, the website additionally provided users with a word cloud made up of the terms they deployed the most in DMs.
Draca was undoubtedly the trailblazer for Hinge Wrapped, and it’s safe to say that the dating app has been real quiet since the video went viral.
Fast forward to 2022, TikTok users have now taken things up a notch with a trend called ‘Dating Wrapped’—where they are seen brutally recapping their past year in romance in hopes of manifesting a better love life. Here, insights are no longer restricted to a single dating app. Instead, they focus on the participants’ relationship exploits in general, including how they met their matches, what they did on first dates, and how many times they cried over someone.
All of the data is then collated onto… a PowerPoint slideshow, and the deck is later presented using a laptop angled towards the viewers.
“[This is] truly one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done,” said Toronto-based TikToker Alexandria McLean in her video which is believed to have kicked off the trend. “I went on 21 first dates… Yikes! I met 66 per cent [of matches] on Bumble and 33 per cent on Hinge. In terms of where we went, activity and dinner are tied at 30 per cent, coffee [and] walking dates [are] at 28 per cent, and drinks are 42 per cent. I don’t know why I went on so many walking dates, I hate walking dates.”
“In terms of who ended it, 90 per cent [of matches] ended it with me. Honestly, [that’s] a low number considering I’m a walking red flag,” McLean continued. “So, if you want to go out and want to be a part of my 2023 Dating Wrapped, hit me up!”
Shortly after McLean’s video floored TikTok, users started querying the creator about the PowerPoint template and font she’d used for her presentation. It even paved the way for the rise of #datingwrapped, now with 8.1 million views and counting.
“If any of these men see this, I want you to know that you’re not special and you’re just a number to me,” TikToker Amber Smith captioned her video, which has since garnered over 3.1 million views. In the clip, Smith detailed that she went on 18 first dates, was handed two parking tickets, and spent a total of $383.36 on her matches. “I wish I had not calculated this number,” she stated. “What could I have done with this money? Literally anything else would’ve been better.”
As of today, the concept of Dating Wrapped has evolved to include star signs, age gaps, red, beige and pink flags, the number of hoodies participants have stolen from their partners, STIs they’ve treated, as well as the number of tattoos they regret getting. While some bestow digital awards to their dates, others are seen creating introvert and queer editions of the trend.
Given how 2022 still has a couple of weeks left to conclude, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness the introduction of even more metrics to publicly analyse our love lives on the internet. Maybe the presentations can have a section where people note the different aesthetics and subcultures they’ve dated in the past year?
At the end of the day, no matter how many slides you choose to include in your deck, the aim of Dating Wrapped at its core is self-reflection. So, you’re good as long as you walk away with actionable insights and don’t bring all the negative energy gathered in 2022 into your love life in 2023.
If you’ve stumbled across #datingwrapped on TikTok before, you might have noticed comments along the lines of “Don’t be shy, drop that PowerPoint template,” and “What’s the name of the font you’ve used? Where do I download it from?” Sure, these remarks might just be pointers that ultimately help others jump on the trend, however, it’s also another incognito factor that aids the popularity of Dating Wrapped.
With a presence that can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, PowerPoint presentations have become the zeitgeist of gen Zers in cyberspace today. Be it to mansplain our hobbies or interests to others, give a crash course about our favourite series nobody asked for, plot moves in Clash of Clans, prove “the One Piece is real,” or justify that Chainsaw Man’s Makima is worth simping for, slideshows have become our weapon of choice to present peers with digestible chunks of information about the most unhinged topics.
If you really think about it, the resurgence of PowerPoints can be linked to our pathetic eight-second attention span. Gen Zers crave dynamicity in everything they are exposed to and what better way to explain something to the generation than using infographics they can breeze through?
The format also harbours parallels with LOL graphs or ‘silly graphs’ that first gripped meme culture in the mid-2000s. The statistical representation essentially doubled as a visual aid—designed to explain the most non-academic and trivial subjects “for teh lulz XD.”
Back to the case of Dating Wrapped, the trend checks out—considering how gen Z Spotify fans have proved to be least concerned about how Big Tech uses their personal data. “I wonder about all my stats on Youtube, Discord, Instagram,” an enthusiast previously told SCREENSHOT. “I wish there were things like Spotify Wrapped in each of them where we can see all our data like the most watched video, channel etc. And even further, I wish god would show us data of our life.”
All that being said, the possibilities of dating apps implementing a Wrapped-like feature seem bleak for the foreseeable future. Until then, you can choose to follow TikToker @cobiscreation’s advice and sneakily screenshot your crush’s Spotify Wrapped report the moment they share it on Instagram. You’ll know the exact songs and artists to stream the next time you guys hang out together.
Who knows, maybe it’ll work wonders for your 2023 Dating Wrapped… or not.