2013 Tech's Last Call Awards

We have finally turned the corner, and 2013 is at our backs. As we go through the unending process of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions, it is important to take some time to look back at the year we had, and possibly horrendously mock a few things along the way. So, here for you are Tech’s Last Call’s awards for 2013. In the audio file, you can hear our actual deliberations complete with gaming spoilers and swearing (a particular warning to those listening at work, in the presence of small children, or who help design fitness bands). A lot of things happened this year. Consoles were announced and came out. Snowden leaked. Ballmer quit. Bitcoin blew up. Twitter went public, and Snapchat “prevented” embarrassment. We waded through all of this to give you our opinions on what defined 2013.

News Story of the Year

Edward Snowden and the NSA

No story quite dominated the tech news like this ever unfolding story. Thanks especially to the fact that the various newspapers involved have been doling things out in small doses, the story has kept going and going. We talked about console launches, Twitter IPO, and Windows 8.1, but this is the only story this year likely to make it into US history textbooks.

Press Conference of the Year

Sony’s E3 Press Conference

Dishonorable Mention: Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Broadway Inspired Extravaganza

We have to sit through a lot of press conferences, but nothing quite had the same ability to excite as Sony at E3. At this press conference, they were able to stick it to Microsoft by not changing much of anything and pulling the camera out of the box. The sheer smugness was palpable, and it has left Microsoft reeling for months. Also, Samsung should NEVER do what they did again.

Most Disappointing Device of the Year

Ouya

This Android gaming console and Kickstarter darling was so disappointing that Trey found a way to take back his support and un-preorder one. The game support was poor. The controller was simply terrible. Theoretically, if it makes it to a second generation, they’ll release a new one every year eventually breaking backwards compatibility. Also, who wants to play Android games on your television? It was a sensation when it was an idea. As a reality, the only sensation it caused was that of frustration.

Most Disappointing Game of the Year

Sim City

Up until the moment this game went live, we had the highest of expectations. Trey bought a whole new gaming rig just to play this game. When it launched, we realized that you had to be online to play it, could not play it because their servers died a thousand deaths, and the city plots were so small that you had to play with others. Sim City used to be a wonderful single player experience. This new entry took that away and failed with their server implementation. We probably won’t be returning any time soon.

Phone of the Year

Google Nexus 5

Even though Smartphones are in a stage of more iteration than innovation, this was a hotly contested category this year. It came down to the iPhone 5S, the Lumia 1020, and the Nexus 5. Google’s flagship handset was able to edge it out in two ways. One, it is a thoroughly modern phone that does just about everything right – good processor, great battery life, wireless charging, LTE, and a decent camera. Two, you can buy it unlocked for $350. That’s about the same prices as a 32GB iPhone5S on contract. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.

Gaming Console of the Year

Nintendo 3DS

In a year that saw two brand new, super high tech consoles, and saw the PS3 have industry changing exclusives, it seems strange to give the award to Nintendo’s plucky handheld. However, it won for two reasons. First, it quite simply had some incredible games come out. Pokemon X and Y, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Luigi’s Mansion 2, and Fire Emblem: Awakening came out and established the 3DS as Nintendo’s premier platform, at least for 2013. Also, it was able to compete with all of the other devices that play games in the handheld space such as iDevices and Smartphones. This is quite a feat for a single purpose device that had a terrible launch.

Device of the Year (in ranked order)

1. Microsoft Xbox One

2. Google Nexus 5

3. Google Chromecast

4. Microsoft Surface Pro 2

5. Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display

This was by far our most hotly contested category within the team, and there were many great devices such as the Nest 2, Mac Pro, Fitbit Force, and Lenovo Yoga 2 that just barely missed the cut. For a more full explanation for why we picked each device see either our full deliberations above or our summary edition of the podcast. However, the easiest part of this list was the number one spot. The Xbox One is deeply flawed. It does not quite work as advertised, but it gets close. More importantly, it offers a significant step forward in terms of being a device that the PS4 simply does not offer. What it can do now and what it has the potential to do in the future make it our device of the year.

Game of the Year (in ranked order)

1. The Last of Us

2. Gone Home

3. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

4. Bioshock: Infinite

5. Grand Theft Auto: V

As team, we played a lot of games, yet 2013 seemed to be defined by great narratives. Four out of the five listed above (all except Assassin’s Creed) got there based more on the strength of the narrative than their game play. Gone Home is almost pure narrative. However, The Last of Us stands above the rest because it combines narrative, deep characterization, and game play into one complete package. It too is not without its flaws, but it shows what the medium of game can do when great writing meets interactive and challenging game design.