I don’t think it would be a bold statement to suggest that 2015 was a great year for video games. No matter what console you owned, there was a bit of something for everyone. Hell, even Wii U got a handful of games that might now solidify spending the money to buy the console. Though, I’m going to go on a bit of whim here and say that 2015 saw the best conglomerate of releases since probably 2010 -which, in case you are having trouble recalling, was the year that encompassed the release of Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, as well as a number or indie games that solidified an equivalence of attention from the community at large.

Just like any art form, there are seasons that swell an obsessive focus on specific themes. The last few years seemed to me to be heading toward one such season where the concept of the open-world game would dominate most of that creative concentration. This year appeared to me to be a fulfillment of this anticipation. Though I feel like we still have a bit of time until this focus turns to VR, nevertheless, we are in the midst of a time where we are gearing up to take that further step in integration.

For the time being though, in particular this year, the push toward more engrossing open-worlds is where it is at. Fallout 4, Witcher 3, and Metal Gear Solid V are prime examples that initially come to mind. Each one of those games not only aimed to imporve upon the open-world designed game in the aspects of visuals and sound, but also in terms of engrossing gameplay. Fallout 4 was already a game with a world steeped in such compelling opaque history that it can be truly said that some of the best moments of the game are through finding something on accident, and went a step further and incorporated a full base building system equivalent to the level of content that could have been found in a separate game. Metal Gear Solid V follows suite in many ways: not only did it seek to engross the player through a uniquely operating world, but it too called for a base management system that made you feel like you were actually adding to the world rather than just experiencing it.

Witcher 3 started this trend earlier this year by not only being a gorgeous world just to navigate through, but also created a level of story depth through well-balanced side quests, and the metagame Gwent, which on it’s own addictive merits would have sufficed as a stand alone free to play game.

Yet in the midst of games such as these -games which I do very much enjoy, and which I highly intend to finish one of these days – it was an online-dominant game by the name of Rocket League that defined much of my time, and thusly much of my heart. I’ve been playing games since I was around 5 years old. I’m 26 now. For 21 years I had for the most part rested on my gaming laurels. This fact includes the realm of online play. Even in the height of Xbox Live on the 360, I just never really got into it. The games were there, the community, pending on the game, was there, but to be honest, I don’t know what it was about it that just didn’t have me interested.

Fast forward to July 11th, 2015. It is the day of my brother’s wedding day; a Saturday. I am to be the best man. The environment around me is moving at a pace of great urgency that signifies the natural anxiety that such formative events create. I am sitting on my bed that sits in front of my TV, that is connected to my PS4. Like usual, I am trying out the new bach of free PS Plus games for the month -something to both counteract everyone else’s vibes and pass the time. Though I should be considering the tone I should take when giving my speech at the recession, I am at this moment yelling at my TV screen. What I said has probably been echoed countless times since even though I have been progressively been improving at the game. I should not love this game as much as I do. I do not tend to get involved in sports games outside of party environments. I’ve yet to be really really into a driving game outside of the Burnout series. And, like I said earlier, I definitely did not find the online play modes of games to be a reason for me to be excited. Yet, here I am. A changed man.

Sure, maybe if it wasn’t for the game being free I would have never played it, but the opposite argument could be just as much true. Nevertheless, it should be taken into account that the willingness of Psyonix to allow the game to be free to PS4 owners was probably the sincerest marketing move of the year in a time where the Machiavellian microtransaction plagues the marketplace month after month. No tricks were needed by the developers. They knew they had made a kickass game that they were pleased with, so why not share that with the masses? Y’know, go the Punk Rock route? And just like Punk Rock, Rocket League garnered much of my respect through honest simplicity.

Even people who have vaguely heard of the game seem to grasp that main crux of it. “That soccer game with cars,” is what they tend to say. What they miss by not playing though is the true heart and soul of the game. Like any great sport before it – be it: basketball, soccer, football- the concepts are simple, and should be simple. What makes all the difference in the world though is the endless situations such simple concepts set up for the players to try and execute on.

Since each player is different, how they execute an aerial hit, or block a shot, will be different. Of course, some players have just perfected the game more than others because they have spent much more time working toward doing so. Thanks to the well-balanced matchmaking, any newbie can really jump right in, and since the elements of the game are so accessible, you don’t have to be an obsessively dedicated player to perform a game defining shot or block. I’ll admit it, I can be defined as a moderately decent player at the moment. I lose more than I win, but I have done some things during a game that I feel proud of. Add on top of the vanilla game the new, free mutator mashup settings that allow for a more party game type atmosphere to the gameplay while still at the same time being competitive if you want it to be and I say you have a damn fine game indeed. I don’t think that I have yet to take part in a game of Rocket League that I wouldn’t call fun. Loses always suck, but when something is fun in a pure, subtle form, there is no ailment to detract from that.