This post is intended to be most helpful to Jeff Cannata and Christian Spicer, but hopefully someone else will enjoy seeing all of their bold and “Cool Ranch” predictions from their latest episode of DLC (which also happens to be my favorite gaming podcast out there).
1:18:29: Christian says new console versions shown by Nintendo and Microsoft (Switch 1.5 and disk-less Xbox One).
1:19:52: Jeff says GamePass gets third party AAA games on day one
1:20:54: Christian says Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding miss 2019
1:22:48: Jeff says Sony has multiple Nintendo Direct-style updates through the year
1:23:43: Christian says Anthem gets solid reviews and it will miss expectations in terms of traction with fans
1:27:13: Jeff says Diablo 4 is announced, it’s not called “Diablo 4”, and many jokes are made by Blizzard about how it’s not a mobile game, it releases early 2020
1:27:47: Christian basically says “ditto”
1:28:27: Jeff says 2019 will be the year licensed games (like Spider-Man this year) have a huge year
1:29:57: Christian says Call of Duty or Battlefield release a $19.99 or less battle royale game as a standalone game
1:32:00: Jeff says Gears 5 has a battle royale mode, just in time for the genre to wane in popularity
1:33:35: Jeff says the next Assassin’s Creed is set in feudal Japan and it comes out before Ghosts of Sushima
1:36:18: Christian says Microsoft fully reveals their next generation console
1:37:10: Jeff says Microsoft debuts the next Xbox at E3, Halo Infinite is a launch title, and they’ll make it super cheap to upgrade to the new version on the new Xbox
1:40:33: Christian says the next Apple TV will be a viable gaming console via streaming game tech
1:42:00: Jeff says Nintendo announces a new Zelda game coming out in 2019 and it’s in the style of the old DS Zelda games
1:42:25: Christian says Nintendo announces a new Zelda or Mario game, and teases a new Donkey Kong game
1:43:10: Jeff says Metroid Prime 4 is a third person open world role playing game, not a first person shooter or sidescroller. Also, it’s not going to be called “Metroid Prime 4”
1:44:03: Christian says something surpasses Fortnite
1:45:06: Jeff says Google announces and releases gaming hardware
1:46:05: Christian says Kingdom Hearts 3 and Ghosts of Sushima are in “game of the year” conversations
1:46:26: Christian says Insomniac gives us more Spider-Man content. An expansion-style, standalone game in the spirit of Uncharted Lost Legacy
1:48:00: Jeff says 2019 will be the best year yet for VR. New hardware from Oculus and Valve, there will be another PSVR exclusive called Star Child and will be a game of the year contender
2 Years ago I tracked a ton of information about myself and produced “The Quantified Life” post. I took 2017 off from obsessive tracking, but I got back on the horse in 2018 and tracked a good amount of data every single day of the year. Here’s what 2018 looked like to me through a few very specific lenses.
In the spirit of openness, here’s the raw traffic numbers for BirchTree in 2017 and 2018. Each year has been pretty respectable, but the needle hasn’t moved a ton. Part of this is my inability to put quite as much work into the site as I’d like, but it’s also a side effect of what we’re seeing across the web; blogs aren’t what they used to be. I have some plans for the site in 2019, but a you’ll soon see, growth at BirchTree is unlikely to be driven by blog posts as much as it used to be.
Also, I seem to have a knack for getting a post in January to go wild, so look out 😉
Along the same lines, here are the raw listenership numbers for The BirchTree Podcast, which I took more seriously in 2018 than ever before. I published 104 episodes in the calendar year, averaging exactly 2 per week. I had more fun doing this podcast (and appearing on other shows) than anything else this past year. It’s truly been a blast and I hope to continue to improve this show into the new year.
Quick BIN Lookup
This is something I don’t really talk about much, but I have a small site called Quick BIN Lookup that lets you enter the BIN/IIN from a credit card and see who the issuer is. It’s not lighting the world on fire or anything, but it’s growing over last year despite zero development time on my part. It’s simple, fast, and don’t spam you with a bunch of junk.
I haven’t played my hand in terms of what I plan on doing with YouTube in 2019, but I think I finally have a niche I can jump into and do something people really find interesting. More on this is the coming weeks!
I was curious how often I used the 3 main computers in my life. This was a simple “did I use this computer today?” question, so even if I spent 1 minute on the machine, it counted. This chart very specifically let me know that selling my Mac and living on an iPad only would be fine for me.
- iPhone: 365 days
- iPad: 362 days
- Mac: 99 days
Apple Watch Bands
I was curious how many days I spent with each Apple Watch band I own, and this was where I landed. The gray and black sport loops are the ones that came with the Apple Watch, and apparently I just like those more than anything else.
The Black Milanese Loop band would be much higher, but I broke it early in the year and I never replaced it.
I don’t drink a ton, but I do frequently have a beer with dinner or after work. I don’t feel like I have a problem with it by any means (at most I have 2 in a day, and those are wild days for me), but I don’t want to have this ever become a problem, so I’m keeping tabs on it.
I had a drink Basically 6/10 days this year. The longest streak was 12 days in a row from March 10-21 (nothing special about that stretch) and my biggest dry spell was 9 days from September 21-29 (again, nothing special about those days).
I tracked this, but the number was totally uninteresting: 365 out of 365 days involved at least one coffee. Yeah, I had it everyday.
I wanted 80 movies in 2018, all of which are listed below. Bold films are the best, and italics films were the worst. Duplicates mean I watched the same movie on different days.
- The Two Towers
- HP and the Half Blood Prince
- HP and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1
- Battle of the Sexes
- Blade Runner 2049
- What If
- War of the Planet of the Apes
- Return of the King
- Captain Fantastic
- Logan Lucky
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
- Me Before You
- The Shape of Water
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Pacific Rim
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
- Molly’s Game
- Call Me By Your Name
- Oh Hello
- A Quiet Place
- Kid Gorgeous (John Mulaney)
- Kid Gorgeous (John Mulaney)
- Black Panther
- The Dark Knight
- Jurassic Park
- Bridge of Spies
- Game Night
- The Incredibles
- The Incredibles 2
- Ready Player One
- The Endless
- Oceans 8
- Psycho (1998 remake)
- The Disaster Artist
- Set it Up
- Lost in Translation
- LA Confidential
- Mission Impossible Fallout
- Avengers Infinity War
- Isle of Dogs
- The Hunt for Red October
- Crazy Rich Asians
- Independence Day
- Veronica Mars
- The Devil Wears Prada
- Oceans 11
- HP and the Half Blood Prince
- Most Likely to Murder
- Paddington 2
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Solo A Star Wars Story
- All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
- A Star is Born
- The Amityville Horror
- Double Indemnity
- Juliet Naked
- Black Klansman
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor
- American Psycho
- Under the Skin
- Batman Begins
- The Dark Knight Rises
- The Dark Knight
- Sorry to Bother You
- A Christmas Story
- HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- A Simple Favor
And finally, here are the top 10 games I played in 2018 based on days played. Take this for what you will, but the top 4 games on this list are all “end of the day” games I enjoy for being able to sit down, start playing immediately, and accomplish something within 30-45 minutes. This is the sort of game I play when I get home from work and just want to decompress.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes the list as the game my wife and I play together.
Spider-Man took me longer to beat than any other single player game of the year, clocking in at 15 days. In my defense, I completed almost every side mission in the game.
Mario and Rabbids occupied 14 days this year, despite coming out in 2017. I got this on sale around the end of 2017 and fell head-over-heels in love with it.
God of War was my game of the year and took 11 days for me to beat, Hollow Knight was a great joy, but I exhausted it in 9 days, and FIFA 18 was a dalliance into soccer when the World Cup was on this summer.
2018 is coming to an end and there are no shortage of “Top X Video Games of the Year” lists out there, but that hasn’t deterred me from making my own list. Since I’m not a professional game reviewer and this isn’t even a video game site, I haven’t played nearly every game to come out this year. But I’ve played enough to have a few favorites, as well as know for certain that God of War is my favorite game of the year…and it’s not even close.
- Red Dead Redemption 2: This very well may be on my list one day, but I haven’t made time to play this yet. It’s on my PS4 and ready to go, but for whatever reason I have not sat down to actually play it.
- Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze: This game is excellent, but it never quite clicked with me enough to make my list. If you want inventive, technically perfect platforming, this is a winner.
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: This one just came out and I’m still early in it, so I have not seen all it has to offer. That said, it’s an astonishingly good game and is everything I could have wanted this version of Smash to be. Fast and fluid combat with an unreal cast of characters combine for a fighter like none other.
- Golf Story: This seems like a game I would love, but it just came out at a bad time and I never got back to it.
My 5 Other Favorite Games of the Year
Celeste is a terribly hard, but incredibly engaging platformer with tons of heart. The pixel art is better than most, the music is to die for, and some excellent accessibility settings let you make the game a little easier to conquer if you need it, which I did.
Great combat, a surprisingly engaging story, and an open world with tons of sub-tasks that I couldn’t help but complete. Oh, and that web slinging? Whoa.
4. Dead Cells
Every couple years a rogue-like game clicks with me and this year it was Dead Cells. The difficulty ramps perfectly for me and I found this adventure to be engaging for many hours on end.
3. Hollow Knight
Likewise, I have a soft spot for Metroidvania games and Hollow Knight scratched that itch for me this year. The way this game makes you feel like both your character and the world you’re exploring are growing at an alarming rate made me constantly determined to dive deeper into this delight of a game.
2. Call of Duty Black Ops 4
Call of Duty got a lot of flack when it was announced that they would be dropping the single player component this year, but after sinking well over 50 hours into this game’s multiplayer and battle royale modes, I can say that I personally don’t feel like anything is lost. Focusing on online modes only has made this the best Call of Duty game in years and is the only one to grab my attention since Modern Warfare 2.
My Game of the Year: God of War
Before this 2018 game, the God of War series represented a lot of what is good and bad about video games. It had a great gameplay loop that empowered the player, had tight controls which made you feel totally in control of Kratos, and executed a “just enough” progression system to feel like you were progressing without feeling like you were in a full on RPG. On the other hand, it had a story that was pretty good for video games at the time but was still very much just a “video game story.” It was full of sex and ultraviolence that was fun, but not exactly something you’d be proud to play in front of your significant other. It was a male power fantasy that was fun, but not something that resonated with me less and less as time went on.
2018’s God of War is a perfect reboot of the series that is indeed a dramatic shift form the previous titles, but is by no means a rejection of those past games. My problems with the previous games’ stories are addressed brilliantly in this title, and God of War tells the tale of Kratos, who much like the audience for this game, is older and wiser since the last time we saw him. He’s run from his problems, has started a new life with a wife and a son, and the game picks up seemingly just hours after his wife’s death. The short of it is that he and his son need to take her ashes to the top of a nearby mountain, but it’s in the details that make this such a compelling ride.
The singular focus on getting to the top of the mountain helps guide you the entire way and also helps you gauge how far along in the story you are. This isn’t a climbing simulator of course, so many things and people/gods get in the way as you try to accomplish this task, and the story takes you to many fantastic places along the way, but you never stop trudging forwards and upwards.
This unrelenting pace is enhanced by the “gimmick” of the game, it’s continuous camera from start to finish. True to their word, Sony Santa Monica mange to create a complete 20+ hour experience where the camera never once cuts. From the opening shot to the final credits, the camera invariably moves around from exploration to combat to cutscene to loading areas all without a cut. It’s absolutely magical and is a phenomenal narrative, as well as technical achievement. This game would have been much easier to make without this, and it likely would have been received nearly as well, but the fact they had this audacious goal and achieved it is really something else.
Ultimately, the story is told in a mature, but still fantastical way. The stakes are far more personal than ever before. Yes, the villains in your way are gods and monsters as they have always been, but the moment to moment action is relatable even to us mortals. It’s a story about a father and son trying to connect. It’s a story about grief and loss. It’s a story about forgiveness and the depths of despair. The other gods and monsters are just window dressing.
The relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus, is incredibly compelling, and you feel compassion for both characters. The dialogue between these two feels very genuine and gives the impression it’s coming from somewhere real. We’d be lauding this voice work if it was in a Hollywood film, let alone a video game. The work Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic put in here is just outstanding.
And its to the producers’ credit, because the quality voice acting extends to the entire cast, with each major player contributing memorable work. I especially loved Jeremy Davies as Baldur and Alastair Duncan as Mimir. Oh, and I loved how they had video game voiceover legends Nolan North and Troy Baker play two characters with a fierce rivalry.
None of this even gets into the gameplay, which is some of the best third person combat I have ever experienced in my 20 years of playing video games. Kratos’s axe is easily one of the best weapons of the decade, if not of all time. And this is coming from the series that already had one of the most iconic video game weapons in the Blades of Chaos. The Leviathan Axe will fill you with immense satisfaction as it chops through enemies, and as a bonus trick, you can throw it wherever you’d like and start to take on foes with just your fists. When you’re ready to get it back, just tap a button and it will zip back to your hands, slicing through anyone in its way in the process. It’s super satisfying.
I’ve gotten this far and haven’t even touched on a bunch of the game’s elements.
- The progression system is a little obtuse, but is simple enough to let you always feel like you are getting stronger as you go.
- The puzzles strike a good balance, with most essential puzzles being just complex enough, while the optional size puzzles will make you scratch your head a bit more.
- There is a CPU-controlled companion with you for most of the game and it’s never annoying.
- The visuals are drop deal gorgeous.
- The music is perfect.
God of War is a perfect revitalization of a franchise that seems to have pleased existing fans as well as a whole host of new players. Sony was rewarded for their efforts as God of War was the fastest selling PS4 game ever, until Spider-Man eclipsed it just a few months later. It’s currently the 4th best selling game of the year, behind Spider-Man, Black Ops 4, and Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s an achievement on every level and I’ll always look back fondly on my time as Kratos in this adventure. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted in a God of War game, and I’m still reeling from how good it actually was. From the moment the credits rolled way back in May, I knew it would be my game of the year and nothing has come close to dethroning it.
As someone who spends time in the iOS and Android worlds, I install a lot of updates. And while these are a pain on iOS, they’re nearly transparent on Android, and I made this video to try and show just how drastic the difference is.
I didn’t get to try out all the smartphones that came out in 2018, but I used the heavy hitters: iPhone XS/XR, Pixel 3, OnePlus 6, Galaxy S9…
These are all good phones in their own ways, but for the first time in years, my picks are not the most expensive phones money can buy.