Note: The following was made possible thanks to contributions from the awesome Cary “Veelia” Lambert! Be sure to check out her articles on the site!
The past ten years in gaming culture have unquestionably been some of the weirdest and wildest since video games became a pop-culture institution. Nearly every major breakthrough, revolutionary idea, and controversial topic on the minds of today’s gamers can trace their roots back to one year: 2005. From the birthing of major franchises, to the reveals of gameplay mechanics that would re-shape the industry, 2005 was a titanic year for gamers.
The Xbox 360, Kratos, Hot Coffee, the cinematic misfire that was Doom, and many more gaming milestones all turn ten this year; and to commemorate this most awesome of years, MechRiot is going to examine some of the biggest stories of 2005, and chart their effects on contemporary gaming.
DAWN OF THE SEVENTH GEN
While the PlayStation 2 spent 2005 continuing to smash sales records, Sony, along with its rivals Microsoft and Nintendo, were already hard at work establishing the next line of gaming consoles. Microsoft had a head start, launching the Xbox 360 in November. Hot on Microsoft’s heels, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 at May’s E3 event, while Nintendo aimed to start a “revolution” with their motion-sensor driven wonder that would become the Wii.
We never did get those red and green Wii’s though…
Unlike its predecessor, the 360 didn’t have any must-have launch titles like Halo, so its first major successes would roll out as the months went by. The world wouldn’t see the debuts of the PS3 or the Wii until the fall of 2006, but when they hit, the three-way dance would change many standards of the industry, from online play to establishing the difference between“hardcore” and “casual” gamers. Nintendo’s seventh-gen entry, still known simply as the “Revolution” in 2005, managed to have picked the perfect code name. The Wii’s motion-sensor controls have gone on to alter the way games are played, with Microsoft and Sony eventually taking their own stabs at motion controls, for better and for worse. While Sony’s banana-shaped PS3 controller wouldn’t survive past 2005, some of Sony’s other hardware choices, such as using Blu-Ray as the disc format, would end up establishing Blu-Ray discs as the entertainment industry standard for home movie distribution (despite the Xbox’s attempt to side with HD-DVD).
But the home consoles weren’t the only kids in the seventh generation making noise, as the handheld market witnessed a shakeup that hadn’t been seen before. Nintendo, the dominant force in the handheld kingdom for just over a decade, had only just released its new Nintendo DS hardware in November 2004 when Sony entered the market in March 2005 with the Play Station Portable. The PSP aimed to differentiate itself from Nintendo’s dual-screened gaming device by offering the world a multimedia player to be enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike. With the ability to play music, movies, and bigger games at higher resolutions, the gauntlet had officially been thrown down in the handheld arena.
Pictured: The handheld sent by God himself.
10 years later, Nintendo has put the Wii and DS out to pasture, but their effects on the industry are now legend. Motion controls are still a standard on the Wii’s successor, the Wii U; and the eight generation iterations of both Sony and Microsoft’s flagship machines now offer motion-sensor technology (to mixed results). The PSP never managed to usurp the handheld throne; but from quality games to an emphasis on digital purchasing, the legacy of the PSP can’t be ignored, with the PS Vita continuing to make strides in the portable gaming world. And despite the growing sales of PS4 and Xbox One consoles, the PS3 and 360 are still running strong. The shadows of 2005 haven’t dissipated yet, and they may not for some time.
THE GAMES OF 2005: BIRTHS, RE-BIRTHS, AND STILLBIRTHS
A console is just a fancy and/or strange looking box unless it has quality titles to run, and the seventh generation didn’t slack in that regard. 2005 featured a variety of titles across every available platform. Some became stand-alone classics, others started franchises that still thrive today, and some became infamous disasters. It was indeed a good year to be a gamer.
When developer Harmonix announced the fall 2015 return of the long dormant Rock Band franchise, it harkened many back to the 2005 launch of the Harmonix game that started plastic-instrument mania: Guitar Hero. But Guitar Hero wasn’t the only release that lay the seeds for future franchises. TT Games would capitalize on the cinematic release of Star Wars Episode III with Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, the first in what would become a massive series of Lego themed movie adaptations. Sony unleashed the Grecian bloodbath that was God of War, instantly instating the tortured protagonist Kratos as one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, while also delivering one of the most satisfying action-puzzle games in years. Nintendo’s DS pet-raising sim Nintendogs performed exceptionally well, creating another successful IP for the House of Mario that would see future sequels released down the line.
While Microsoft didn’t launch any unique series of their own in 2005, they did release one of the most iconic games of the decade: Tim Schaffer’s Psychonauts. The twisted humor, memorable level design, and inventive characters of Camp Whispering Rock have turned the game into a beloved cult classic, with a demand for a follow-up as strong in 2015 as ever. Another stand-alone title that reached cult immortality was Sony’s epic Shadow Of The Colossus. The atmosphere and game design of Shadow is rivaled only by its engaging, emotional story. Regarded as a classic by many, the future of the Colossus series remains a mystery beyond a recently announced movie. One can only hope that 2015 will yield some surprises for the fans.
How To Successfully Save a Franchise
In addition to plenty of new faces on the gaming scene, 2005 also saw many older franchises get some much-needed face-lifts. Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 not only resurrected the corpse that was the Resident Evil franchise, but its over-the-shoulder third person gameplay would be emulated in triple-A titles form Gears of War to the Batman Arkham series. Meanwhile, that handsome devil Dante returned to critical and commercial glory with Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. After the lackluster reception of Devil May Cry 2, DMC3 brought the series back up to speed with more challenging gameplay and a characterization of Dante that fell in line with fan expectations. Nintendo launched a number of handheld follow-ups to some of their most respected franchises, all to acclaim and boatloads of money. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap brought the art style of The Wind Waker to a micro-sized world, delivering another memorable adventure to the masses. Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time introduced the popular Mario and Luigi RPG series to the Nintendo DS, a transition that was well received. But the most memorable of all the big N’s efforts from that year was Mario Kart DS. Successfully shrinking the madness of Mario Kart to a handheld once again, Nintendo also managed to utilize the DS’s Wi-Fi capabilities to create a multiplayer experience that fans had been demanding for ages. Still regarded as one of the best in the series, Mario Kart DS was a fun ride.
Mario Kart DS didn’t stand alone in delivering multiplayer excellence. 2005 saw a number of great titles that provided fun for anyone looking for a game night with friends. Mario Party 7, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Soul Calibur III, Call of Duty 2, Battlefield 2, and The Matrix Online brought gamers together to enjoy some excellent titles.
It’s easy to write about the classics. When games are good, heaping praise just requires enough positive sounding adjectives. But sometimes games are bad, or in extreme cases, god-awful. No year passes without the release of a few stinkers, and 2005 has plenty of mythical bombs.
How to Fail At Saving a Franchise
The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is a dead horse that we’re still kicking in 2015, but in 2005, things weren’t any better. November saw the release of Shadow The Hedgehog, a platformer/shoot-em-up that aimed to tell the origin story of the series titular bad-boy while also attempting to appeal to an older demographic. The combination of gun-based combat and traditional Sonic speed runs just didn’t gel, and Shadow ended up becoming one of the most ridiculed games of its generation.
Despite all the hype behind the Xbox 360, not all of its launch titles were as perfect as they should have been. The much-anticipated Perfect Dark Zero was deemed as inferior in comparison to its championed N64 predecessor. Rare’s other 360 offering, Kameo: Elements of Power, also fell short of the standard previously set by the creators of Banjo and Conker.
Nintendo also delivered disappointment in Star Fox Assault, the first GameCube edition in the legendary sci-fi space shooter franchise. Assault aimed to mix things up by providing more non-areal missions, and even offered opportunities for battles on foot with Fox gunning his way through armies of insect-like enemies. It received mixed reviews and remains the last time Fox McCloud and company would see a console release.
The ripples of 2005 have undeniably had some interesting effects on modern game design. Capcom never managed to make a Resident Evil that matched the quality of RE4, and their handling of the Devil May Cry franchise has been just as wobbly. Scores of 2005 titles are seeing sequels released across 2015, including new additions to the Mario Party, Star Wars Battlefront, Star Fox, and Battlefield franchises. Rare hasn’t released a non-Kinect based game in several years, but 2015 may provide promising announcements from several of its former developers. As of this article’s writing, it’s still too early to tell which 2015 titles will be worth writing about in 2025, but it’s certain that they are all still living by the example set in the “Year of Hot Coffee.” Speaking of which…
HOT COFFEE ON YOUTUBE: GAMING IN POP-CULTURE
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was one of the most critically praised and highest selling titles of 2004. Developer Rockstar was certainly living up to their namesake, as the amount of money they were rolling in could’ve funded multiple world tours of debauchery. San Andreas was still a regular conversation piece by July 2005, when it began to receive media attention for reasons that Rockstar never intended.
Discovered within the game’s code were a series of mini-games that contained depictions of sexual activity and partial nudity. These crude, unfinished gaming segments were leaked to the masses, and the Hot Coffee scandal was born.
Revealed to have been a deleted part of San Andreas’ dating mechanics, the “Hot Coffee Mod” (dubbed so because of the game’s references to having sex as having “coffee”) intensified the scrutiny already aimed at GTA for its over-the-top depictions of violence. Even though activating these mini-games required a through knowledge of how to modify the game’s code, the demand for the game to be recalled and even banned from the media, politicians, and moral watchdog groups was overwhelming. The ESRB eventually issued a revised rating on San Andreas from M for Mature to AO for Adults Only. The resulting re-branding caused most major retailers to pull the game.
Rockstar ultimately re-released the game with the questionable content removed from the code; but the legacy of these crudely animated mini-games has become an infamous part of gaming history.
In February 2005, a video sharing service called YouTube was started by a trio of friends from California. YouTube would go on to change the way we view, consume, and create entertainment, and its impact on the gaming world was felt from its earliest days.
Gaming personalities began to emerge and use the website to attract and/or expand their audience. The “first generation” of YouTube gaming celebrities include Smosh, who turned their lip-synced performances of TV and video game themes into a media empire. Following not far behind were Mega64, who used YouTube to post short segments of their already popular web series. Their Trigger Happy TV-style skits, in which they recreate video game worlds/scenarios in public and pester any pedestrians they came across, became viral hits. Many others began taking to YouTube to share gameplay footage, reviews, opinions, and even their own creations. The passing years gave rise to new trends in gaming, perhaps none more popular than the dominance of “Let’s Play” videos. These simple commentary over game-play productions have turned into a full-blown phenomenon, with Pewdiepie, a Swedish “Let’s Play” creator, currently sitting at the top of YouTube’s subscription charts ten years after the site’s birth.
As YouTube continues to evolve and reshape how people watch music videos, TV shows, and videos of cats; the gaming community also strives to use the website to share their passion. Whether it’s an honest trailer for the horrors of Mario Kart, a “Let’s Play” of Papers Please, or a comic skit about Zelda and Peach grabbing coffee, YouTube is a bastion for gaming fandom that has an exciting future on the horizon.
World of Warcraft debuted in November of 2004, but 2005 was the year that the innovative MMORPG and its legions of players truly burst onto to the gaming scene, establishing themselves as a dominant presence in the gaming zeitgeist.
The early months of 05 saw the healthy growth of the emerging WoW community, but on May 11th, WoW broke through the stratosphere when a video from WoW guild Pals For Life hit the web. The footage of party member Leeroy Jenkins charging triumphantly into battle without actually knowing the strategy of his party members, gleefully shouting his name, became an internet phenomenon. Things kept driving upward from there. June saw the release of Gulch and Alterac Valley, WoW’s first PvP battlegrounds. September saw WoW hit the news in a less than ideal way with The “Corrupted Blood Incident,” a week-long bug that killed off low-level players and slowly sucked the life out of higher level veterans. This hiccup aside, things got back on track in October, when WoW players were gifted with the announcement of the game’s first expansion: The Burning Crusade. Finally, just one month short of its first year, WoW reached 5 million subscribers.
WoW’s historic first year was followed by a decade of further innovations, controversies, and expansions to its fan base that has remained one of the strongest forces in gaming ever since.
The 2000’s were filled with multiple attempts to make lightning strike for video game movies, with the hope that the perfect adaptation might make video game based films the next money printing craze after comic book movies. It’s 2015, and we still haven’t seen that desire reached, but 2005 gave us several of the biggest, and sadly baddest, attempts yet; with the most notable being the one that seemed to be the best type of game for adapting: Doom.
Budgeted at $60 million dollars and starring a slew of future big name talent including future Oscar Nominee Rosamund Pike, future Judge Dredd Karl Urban, and future action-movie god Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Doom hoped to cash in on the legacy of the popular first person shooter with a violent, action-heavy sci-fi blockbuster that featured many nods to the source material, up to and including a weird, out-of-place sequence shot from the point of view of Karl Urban’s Reaper that aimed to emulate the look and feel of the game. Add in the commitment from the filmmakers to make a hard R-rated film that doesn’t water down the game’s over-the-top violence, and you have what sounds like a sure-fire hit.
Unfortunately, the movie fell flat. Critics ripped it to shred and audiences didn’t care for it, with the movie falling short of making back its budget. Gamers disliked the change in direction the film took, changing the origin of the monsters from demons to the more generic “infected” trope that had become popular post 28 Days Later. With egg on their face, Universal studios scaled back their plans to develop their Doom franchise any further, and the film fell to bargain-bin obscurity. But Doom wasn’t the only gaming-based stinker in 2005. Somehow, 2005 also managed to give audiences not one, but two Uwe Boll-directed gaming films: Alone in the Dark and BloodRayne; both of which make Doom downright Oscar worthy.
Utilizing tax breaks in his native Germany, Uwe Boll managed to see two star-studded yet creatively limp movies released within one calendar year. Now commonly considered to be one of the worst films ever made, Alone in the Dark set box office records in a bad way, barely making half of its budget back despite the presence of big name stars in Christian Slater and Tara Reid. Boll followed up this effort with a more prestigious cast for an adaptation of BloodRayne, which managed to be received even worse than Alone. A baffling cast including former Terminator Kristanna Loken, Oscar-winner Ben Kingsly and rock-singer Meat Loaf drove BloodRayne into a wall of critical derision and Golden Raspberry Awards (AKA the anti-Oscars).
With three notorious flops in a row, gaming cinema took an unfortunate downturn on its already bumpy climb to relevance. Things have begun to look a bit better by 2015, with the successes of gaming inspired efforts like Wreck-It Ralph inspiring hope for better treatment of games on film. As long as we keep Uwe Boll at bay, gaming cinema could see some great progress.
Every new year brings about its own surprises. Some good, some bad. Some years go down in the history books, while others go by the wayside. 2005 was thankfully the former and not the latter. While the years after 2005 saw a slew of groundbreaking developments, shocking news reports, critically acclaimed masterpieces, and publicly ridiculed misfires, no year has had a greater impact on modern gaming that the 5th year of the “aughts.” As we conclude our look back at this incredible year, we can only hope that the years to come provide the gaming community with milestones as memorable as those in 05.