Welcome to the Powet Top 5, where we explore the top (and bottom) 5 items we think are relevant to any of a variety of topics that span the imagination. Sit back, read, and respond

Okay ya’ll, gather around, it’s time for a pep rally!

As I said two weeks ago, there is plenty that is wrong with video gaming. However, as I also stated, there are plenty of good things about the gaming scene. For one, technology is more advanced than ever before, and two, there are plenty of examples showing that video games can be a form of art and literature. Number three, developers are breaking new ground when it comes to graphics, gameplay, and storytelling, weather it’s triple A mainstream titles or independently developed games. This week’s top 5 shows why I’m happy and blessed to be a gamer, and why you should be too. Again, not everyone will agree with me.

1. Independent’s Day
Thanks to distribution channels such as Steam, GOG.com, and ImpulseDriven, along with an abundance of tools available, it’s easier for an independent game designer to get into the industry than ever before. Games like Super Meat Boy, Frozen Synapse, and Minecraft have earned critical acclaim by introducing novel game mechanics while outclassing triple A games developed by mainstream studios and publishers. If you ever had a vision that you wanted to bring to life via electronic medium, now is the best time. Who needs EA or Activision? Throw it online yourself, grab teh praise, and the profits. Even if you don’t hit it big, at least your name is out there.

The future of turn-based strategy?

2. Crossovers and Collaborations
Who doesn’t love to see two companies’ intellectual properties come in contact with each other? I’m not just talking about grand scale crossovers like Tekken X Street Fighter and Warriors Orochi 3 (which contains characters from Koei’s Dynasty Warrriors and Bladestorm games along with Tecmo’s Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games) either. It’s smaller things like being able to download Mass Effect N7 Armor and Assassin’s Creed cloaks in Final Fantasy XIII-2, Ezio showing up in SoulCalibur 4, and unlocking Blood Dragon Armor from Dragon Age in Mass Effect. Yeah, it’s small and insignificant, but it points to the cohesion that exists not only in the gaming community (when we aren’t complaining about menial stuff or doing our best caveman impressions at least), but among game developers as well. Last year, Shinji Mikami (creator of Resident Evil), Akira Yamaoka (sound designer for most of the Silent Hill series), and Suda 51 (creator of No More Heroes and Killer 7) collaborated on Shadows of the Damned. While the game wasn’t exactly much more than the sum of its parts, it was a fun title that became a cult classic amongst fans. Sega, Namco, and Capcom are developing a 3DS role playing game featuring characters from Street Fighter, Tales of, and Mega Man. These levels of cohesion show that even though game companies compete with each other when it comes to sales and awards, they at least have respect and admiration for each others’ work.

Hey, you got some of your Mass Effect into my Final Fantasy!

3. User-Made Content
Although created content has been a part of gaming since the 80s, it’s getting easier and easier to distribute content on consoles. Games like Little Big Planet lead the way, and with gamers sharing everything from Forza paint jobs to custom wrestlers for WWE 12, the user experience has become a bigger part of the game than ever. While it’s nowhere near the level seen on PC games, it’s more possible than ever for users to influence their games.

Band of Bugs was a sadly overlooked early Xbox Live 360 Arcade title. It shipped with the same tools that the developers used to create the campaign, and was one of the first and few games on the Xbox 360 that allowed you to share content online.

4. Storytelling
Storytelling in gaming has come a long way since “our princess in in another castle”, and it’s a lot more creative than simply sticking a cinematic into a game as well. Developers have gone outside the box when it comes to getting across the emotional impact of a story in video games. It’s to the point where I feel that video games can be a valid form of literature. Look at Silent Hill 2’s tale. Even after you learn the ‘truth’ about James Sunderland and his wife, there are questions that the game leaves that are left to the player’s imagination, even more so with Braid after you ‘find’ the princess and Killer 7 after you learn the truth behind the groups origin. In Bioshock 1 and 2, the messages left around tell more about the world of Rapture world than you ever could have learned on your own while traveling the games’ destroyed environments. The original Mass Effect and Dragon Age gave players satisfying endings yet left them anticipating their sequels thanks to the universes and mythologies that were crafted by Bioware.

You seen this before, and yet....

5. Downloadable Content (The Good Kind)
At its worst, DLC is merely a way to make more of a profit off gamers. However, at its best, DLC can extend the life of your game and add new experiences. While we all despise on-disc DLC and horse armor, lots of DLC can breathe new life into games that people might otherwise stop playing. Dragon Age Awakening added 10 – 15 more hours of content which included a new storyline, new characters, and even some threads that tie-in to Dragon Age 2. The multiplayer map packs for Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty have kept players playing these games long after the single player campaign was finished, and they have helped these games become arguably more famous for their multiplayer than their single player content. Just when you though you had explored everything that Oblivion had to offer, the game’s Frozen Isle expansion pace took players to a whole new world. The Enhanced Edition patch for the Witcher 2 has added all new content to this already remarkable RPG for free. As long as things are meaningful and substantial, gamers like myself don’t mind dropping a little more to add extra features to our favorite games.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me right back in.

With that said, do yourself a favor and ignore all the doom and gloom talk that you hear about video games dying or crashing. You are privileged to be a part of this hobby at this moment in time. Innovation is happening everywhere, and there is something for everyone. It’s only going to get better as time goes on.