Hey Pixelkiners!

2014 was a big year for games. These are some of our favorite stories from this year’s gaming news. We’re looking forward to seeing how things shake out in 2015.

Toys-to-life games were a big deal this year. Late in 2013, Disney Infinity launched to compete with Activision’s Skylanders franchise, and this year Nintendo joined the party with their Amiibo figurines. Both Skylanders and Disney Infinity use near-field communication to save game data on figurines, giving players the magical experience of seeing a toy come to life on their screen. These hugely popular games demonstrate how huge family gaming is. Each game is expertly crafted with kids’ gaming experiences in mind. They’re funny, family-friendly, and cooperative. Kids can play them together with family, or they can play with just the action figures on their own. (Confused about the differences between Disney Infinity and Skylanders? Check out our video.)

Disney Infinity also takes advantage of one of this year’s other huge trends: kids making games. From websites and programs like CoderDojo and Codecademy, to games like Project Spark, Roblox, and Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode, the ways for kids to make games are more diverse than ever. Game design is recognized as a great way to teach logic to kids. Whether you’re making an obstacle course in Disney Infinity or a story game in Twine, you have to think  about how the player’s actions will affect the game world. All these game-making tools vary in how much actual coding you need to do. In Disney Infinity, for example, you place objects as if they were building blocks of your game, and select from a pre-set list how those objects will behave. If you download a program like GameMaker, you’ll have to know a little more about coding—which is an increasingly valuable skillset in the workplace.

Two enormous transactions went down this year: Microsoft bought Minecraft, and Amazon bought Twitch.tv. Of the two, the popular sandbox game Minecraft had the bigger price tag: Microsoft paid $2.5 billion to get the game from Mojang, the studio behind the game. On December 10th, Microsoft released a port of Minecraft’s mobile version for Windows Phones, but that’s probably just the beginning of what Microsoft has in store for Minecraft. We’ll be sure to keep you posted as that story develops.

Meanwhile, the Amazon-owned Twitch channel continues to be the hub of competitive gaming, known as esports. Gamers can stream gameplay live on Twitch, with commentary or without it, and the big names can make a living in ad revenue from their Twitch streams. And Twitch just bought GoodGame, an agency that manages advertising in esports. Esports viewership is a big thing. Twenty-seven million people tuned in to streams of the 2014 League of Legends World Championships, a tournament that had a $2 million prize pool. Watching a match is fun, and it allows you to pick up some strategies that you could put to use in your own games. For more, check out our article on the rise of esports.

Maybe our favorite news story of the year was the heroic tale of a 5-year-old who got a year’s subscription to Xbox Live and 50 bucks after he found a glitch that let him play games that should’ve been off limits. The clever kid used the trick to get into his dad’s password-locked account. His dad works in online security, so clearly that talent runs in the family. Kristoffer was temporarily listed as a Security Researcher on the Microsoft website for his achievements.

Alright Pixelkiners, on that note we’ll leave you. Have a safe, fun new year and don’t forget to check out our top games of 2014 before 2015 rolls in and blows us all away. Subscribe to this channel for more family gaming news, and keep up with the latest at Pixelkin.org.

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.