It was possible! Another year, almost! complete. Go team!
The end of the year means many things — holidays, food, family, reflection, etc. Around these parts, it also means it’s time for the TechCrunch Favorite Things list.
Team TechCrunch compiles an annual list of the best things we have seen in the last 12 months. As always, we don’t really restrict the definition of “thing”; maybe it’s a game that ate all your free time, or a gadget that helped you do your job, or a song that lived in your brain for weeks on end. Podcasts. People. Concepts. We’re deliberately very flexible with it, and it tends to result in an eclectic list of Very good stuff.
Why do we do it? I’m… not sure! We started doing it one year and had fun, and it’s sort of just become a tradition. And if we don’t do it, people ask why. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Maybe it’ll inspire some last-minute gift ideas; maybe you’ll find something you want to look into for yourself. Enjoy, no matter what the situation may be.
Greg Kumparak | Editor
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
My four-year-old son expressed an interest in video gaming. I wanted to make sure that he had a game we could play together. A friend recommended Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and it’s honestly the perfect suggestion.
It’d be a fun enough game played solo — a solid, beautifully designed platformer. But for someone playing through with a kid, it’s a masterpiece. Player 1 is Kirby, Player 2 is “Bandana Waddle Dee.” My son always insists on being Kirby and… well, he’s four, so he wins. Fortunately the Player 2 role I’ve been perma-assigned never feels like a tacked-on sidekick; unlike Kirby, you can’t gobble up enemies to take on their powers, but you can kick butt in your own right all while subtly playing guardian angel/healer for Player 1 who doesn’t agree they need a health item and maybe a nap.
Despite playing for months now, we’ve yet to beat the last few levels. We keep playing through our favorites from the first half, instead — he has no interest in the game being “over,” and, honestly, I’m in no rush either.
Kyle Wiggers | Senior Reporter
Valve’s Steam Deck is less unobtainable than it once was, and thank the gaming gods for that. I picked one up a few months back and it’s single-handedly gotten me back into gaming, absolutely no exaggeration.
I’ve historically been a console guy for the ease and simplicity of the experience. I briefly went the PC gaming route and, while I’ll admit that it has its appeal, I’ve burned myself out spending hours reseating RAM, messing with drivers and trying to figure out which mods might be crashing my Skyrim install. The nice thing about the Steam Deck is, while it benefits from the wealth of PC gaming resources and tools out there — it’s a Linux-running machine, after all — there’s not much tinkering required to get it up and running out of the box. You can install mods and custom utilities, but especially if you have a large game library that lives on Steam, the Deck will manage the background management processes with ease, giving you a familiar experience for long-time console gamers.
My only gripe is compatibility. The Steam Deck’s compatibility layer for Windows games, Proton, does an exceptional job for the most part, but every so often I run into a fatal error that take eons to troubleshoot. Borderlands 3 was the latest example. It refused to launch despite my best efforts. To Valve’s credit, Proton receives regular updates and Steam has a generous refund policy.
“Crying in H Mart”
I’m late to this, but I picked up Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” at a community bookstore in Boston recently and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. To pile on the praise, Zauner’s memoire is in equal parts wonderfully and tragically descriptive, relaying her experiences growing up as the daughter of a Korean immigrant mother who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. Zauner guides us through life in Eugene, Oregon. We see how her desire to escape the isolated suburbs fuelled her rebellion and anger against her mother. And through young adulthood, Zauner tries her best to pick up the pieces before she dies.
It’s an emotional roller coaster to be sure, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t spotlight the ethereal-sounding dishes mentioned in each chapter. You see, Zauner and her mother were gastronomes — it’s one of the few passions that they shared in common — and Zauner doesn’t skimp on the depictions of Korean delicacies like jjamppong (spicy mixed-up seafood noodle soup), gyeranjjim (steamed eggs) and san-nakji (raw octopus). “Crying in H Mart” has inspired a few dinners in this household over the last several months, and I’m sure it will continue to for many years to come.
Devin Coldewey – Science Editor| Science Editor
This game is now a prestigious title among the greatest games of all time. However, this game stood out in a year filled with great games. Elden Ring, awe-inspiring and generous, further affirmed the potential for games that are truly original and inspired art.
Warhammer 40K novels
Normally I affect the 19th-century western canon aspect, but for whatever reason this year (I was curious about the fan film “Astartes,” as I recall), I picked up a book from the Horus Heresy prequel series to the Warhammer 40K world, a fandom I’ve always disdained. It was like a fool! It’s awesome and these books are awesome: tragic space operas with the confidence of decades of established lore. Impossible to find many in print but that’s why I have…
Kobo Libra 2 (+ origami case)
There are many e-readers out there, but this one is my favorite. It has a great display, adjustable light, easy customization and loading, and a clever folding cover that does triple duty as protection and stand. I’ve probably read like 8,000 pages on this thing.
This particular weekly desk calendar is for you
I’m really bad at tracking time and appointments and meetings, and I’ve tried lots of stuff. I forget everything. I found a weekly paper desk planner that worked well for me. It’s kind of prosaic, but it’s exactly the size and style I want, and turns out what I needed to get more organized during a very busy year. Plus when I tear off the page I can use the paper for shopping lists and stuff — no need to keep a memo pad around! This is what I value most in my life.
Paul Sawers | Senior Reporter, U.K.
Garmin Fenix Plus 5
I was going to include the Kobo Libra 2 e-reader as my recommended piece of hardware, but alas my colleague Devin beat me to it — the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus was next on my list. I actually bought this during the initial lockdown as a replacement for a more basic Garmin watch, but I’ve realized most of its value over the past 12 months as I’ve started traveling again.
My Garmin Forerunner 35 was fine to track distance, pace and speed, but the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus allows for me to map out my route using the Garmin mobile app, and then send it to my watch. It provides turn-by–turn navigation to ensure that I don’t get lost in unfamiliar territory.
I can also download Spotify playlists directly to my wrist. This means that I no longer need to carry around a heavy smartphone to listen to podcasts and music. Garmin makes a lot of watches at different price points with different features. However, having directions, podcasts, music, and other useful information on my wrist has been a huge game-changer.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” (podcast)
I’m a big fan of history podcasts, and this was a phenomenal find for me this year.
The “We Didn’t Start the Fire” podcast takes the lyrics from the 1989 Billy Joel chart-topper of the same name, and turns each of the 100-plus historical people and events mentioned in the song into an individual episode that explores the subject matter in detail.
While it may seem odd that a history podcast would be held responsible for the words of a single song written over 30 years ago, it is a good thing because it leads us to paths we wouldn’t otherwise explore. It’s incredibly diverse, covering everything from well-known public figures like Richard Nixon or Joe DiMaggio to movies and music to wars and even the polyester fiber known as Dacron.
The presenters manage to interview Billy Joel for one of their episodes. They get him to explain why he included certain historical figures and events in the song. Although the podcast includes input from subject-matter experts, the dynamics and “banter” between co-presenters Katie Puckrik and Tom Fordyce is what makes this all work. They’re often tasked with discussing dense and obscure topics, and they bring it all to life.
“Lucifer on the Sofa” (Spoon album)
It is difficult to find new music these day. I tend to go back to songs from the 1960s and early 2000s. But Spoon rarely puts out a dud, and “Lucifer on the Sofa” was another superb album from the Texas rockers, mixing amazing melodies and hooks to create a fresh, original classic.
“Watermelon” (song from Dinner in America)
I hesitated on whether to include this, as it’s by no means an all-time classic, but it’s a really fantastic little song for many reasons. “Watermelon” is an original composition from the movie “Dinner in America,” which hit theatrical release this year (it’s worth a watch, btw).
The song was written in a day largely by Emily Skeggs, one of the main actors in the movie — up until that point, Skeggs had never written a song before. Watermelon is a chugging two-minute punk ditty that reminded me that songs don’t need huge production or instrument mastery — three basic chords, a melody and a simple repetitive drumbeat that Meg from the White Stripes could probably do in her sleep. It’s a real little earworm that has been whistled in my household for most of 2022.
Natasha Lomas | Senior Reporter
Stranger Things Season 4
I wasn’t expecting too much from Stranger Things’ fourth season, with so much creepiness already spent and resonant riffing on 80s nostalgia said and done (and with the kids, er, pretty grown up these days). It managed to keep me watching and deliver some brilliant new characters. Gen Z was even treated to a Kate Bush classic. No spoilers, but the ending was a little too exposition heavy for my tastes — but, on balance, the series still thrilled. Let’s see what happens in the fifth and final season.
I’m still not sure what role the fediverse will play in shaping (reshaping?) how humans talk on the internet, but in a year when the world’s richest* manbaby paid an eye-watering fortune to purge Twitter of opinions he doesn’t like, I for one am glad that an alternative like Mastodon exists. One that is designed to resist the capture of billionaires. It was a tweet, or was it a tot?): Protocols not products!
*On 2022’s plus side, Musk may no longer be the world’s richest human, but there is no doubt he is the Chief Twit.
Hooper’s Beta (YouTube Channel)
Climb smarter, get stronger and — above all — avoid injurying yourself by doing dumb or just pointless stuff. That’s roughly the philosophy behind Hooper’s Beta, a dehyping YouTube channel by climber and physical therapist Jason Hooper, who takes a science-focused approach to furthering technique and defusing fitness fads — and typically ends up dispensing far more solid advice (like how to figure out if you have a rotator cuff injury or just a little shoulder impingment syndrome and which strength training exercises might help with that). He is also not afraid to do some slightly ill-advised things to his own body, like eating nothing but Huel for 30 days to find out if that’s good for a climber’s nutrition needs or (er) not, so you don’t have to…
Anna Heim | TC+ Reporter
“Music is back,” sings one of my favorite artists, Chilly Gonzales.
He’s talking about live music, which many of us missed dearly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. To make up for it, I went to a ton of gigs this year — none of which are exactly relevant for TechCrunch, except for one: ABBA Voyage.
You may have heard that this show uses virtual avatars created by George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), but it is completely different to see them in person. I was wondering if it’d feel uncanny or unethical, but it doesn’t — probably because ABBA’s band members got their say, and introduce their younger, virtual selves in a playful way that also blends in very well with the rest of the show, which also features a live band. If you’re in London in the next few months, you still have time to see it in person.
Having put an AirTag into my suitcase eased my pain when it got lost in transit recently — the airline didn’t know where it was for days, but I did all along, and was able to retrieve it from a huge room full of lost items. As a frequent traveller, I am certain that I will keep one AirTag in every item in my luggage. Spoiler alert for my family: Some of your will find one under their Christmas tree this year!
Tim De Chant | Climate Reporter
iPad Pro + MagicKeyboard
When people started talking about iPads as a replacement for laptops, I laughed. I prefer my computers to be fully-featured. Though I’ve continuously owned MacBooks of some kind since 2006, I’ve always maintained a desktop Mac as my daily driver, so I figured the iPad-as-laptop trend wasn’t for me. I tried the iPad-as-laptop concept a few times but was disappointed by the results. Then I bought a Magic Keyboard.
Yes, typing is definitely easier when you use a keyboard. But the Magic Keyboard has made a huge difference almost everywhere else. I’ve been using a Mac almost daily for the last 22 years, long enough that my brain no longer registers when I’m using keyboard shortcuts — it just happens. It would be an understatement of words to say that my previous iPad experiments had failed command-. With the Magic Keyboard, though, I can copy, paste, select text, undo, compose messages, switch apps… you get the idea… all without having to touch the screen.
Disrupt asked me to do a second experiment this year. This time, I brought my M1 iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard. Just in case, I brought my MacBook Pro. I shouldn’t have bothered.
Alex Wilhelm | Editor in Chief of TechCrunch+
I work from a small, back yard building. This means I have to run around the house quite often. This means that I have to slip into and out of flip-flops almost every day. Unfortunately, flip-flops are not ideal for all weather conditions. Crocs are the answer. I was inspired by a Bloomberg reporter who wore pink Crocs and decided to buy one. So I did. In pink. Now I can run back and forth in pink, my feet better protected against snow and mud. Crocs are awesome. Accept your worst side! Wear what’s comfortable!
You know what’s good? Knowing what’s going on. You know what’s not good? It is difficult to know what is happening. But it’s also good to know what is going on behind the headlines and news stories. That’s where, I hope, TechCrunch+ can help out. Am I shamelessly promoting our work behind the paywall for a whimsical and enjoyable post? Yes. Do I feel bad about it. No. Because media isn’t cheap to build and our subscription services kicks maximum ass. We invite you to visit us!
Amanda Silberling | Reporter
Defunctland’s YouTube documentary, “Disney Channel’s Theme: A History Mystery”
My picks for this list are tinged by recency bias. These are all things that I have experienced in the past week. But maybe I just had a really good week in media, which is why I feel pretty confident and not too hyperbolic in saying that the YouTube channel Defunctland’s “Disney Channel’s Theme: A History Mystery” documentary is literally the best feature-length film I have watched this year.
Kevin Purjurer is the man behind Defunctland. He makes elaborate, well-researched videos of theme parks that go wrong. But this hour-and a-half-long documentary on a Disney Channel jingle with four notes also serves as a bizarrely profound glimpse into what makes good art, and what duty memory does in the service of artists. I can’t spoil anything (yes, there are spoilers here), but just watch the whole thing and you’ll get what I mean. This is genius. I promise I’m not doing anything.
I was a Teenage Exocolonist
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist – A narrative life sim that follows your character, a teenage exocolonist. You were conceived during a 20-year space journey from Earth to a new planet that your fellow humans are attempting to colonize, and the game begins when you’re 10 years old and stepping out of the spaceship for the first time. You can choose how to live your life for the next 10 years as you and your friends contend with the fact that maybe it’s actually a bad thing to land on an alien planet and subjugate the creatures that were already there.
See !?!?!? real-world parallels But what really sold this game for me is that it’s infinitely replayable — I spent the weekend in a manic fugue state (perhaps an exaggeration) playing this game over and over again in an attempt to get the “good” ending. There are many endings. You can be a fascist soldier or a terrible soldier! A criminal! A farmer! An astronaut! An engineer who allows genocide accidentally by not asking enough questions. Normal things are what happen in our everyday lives.
If you want a weird mashup of Hades, Undertale and Stardew Valley, this game is for you — but play at your own risk, because I have not been able to stop playing this game — to the point that it’s actually kind of concerning how it has consumed my life. But I just got a “good” ending after four tries, so I think I can calm down and like, clean my apartment now.
Wikipedia: Wikipedia depths
I attended the comedy live show of a Twitter meme account. Yes, it is absurd. But it only gets more bizarre the more you think about. How can you make absurd internet content entertaining and real?
Annie Rauwerda, the Depths of Wikipedia creator, is a literal genius. Her meme pages/empire’s premise is that she searches Wikipedia for really fun facts. For example, how Julius Pringles got his name because of a rogue Wikipedia update that no one caught. I attended one of her shows last week not really knowing what to expect, and I came away watching a guy build a “Pringles ringle” onstage and a professional bagpipe musician exemplify his craft in front of a projector with a Wikipedia article, “List of nontraditional bagpipe usage.” She even got the Philadelphia chicken guyTo act out the events 1904 Olympic men’s marathon, which… is quite the Wikipedia page to read.
I have never laughed more at any kind of comedy in my life.
Natasha Mascarenhas | Senior Reporter
Did you know that we all had random hobbies and habits when we were in the first innings of COVID-19. I discovered that I had a sweet tooth. And I’ve been trying to get rid of it — but also empower it — ever since.
Hu Chocolate is my latest obsession. It’s an organic sweet that would convert even milk chocolate lovers into dark chocolate. I’ve tried a few flavors, but I stick by their Salty flavor. It’s the perfect little treat to end everyday and feels a little bit more luxurious than the average handful of chocolate chips.
Last year, Graffeo Coffee beans were a recommendation that I made for java lovers. I’m back again with another coffee suggestion: cardamom syrup. I love to add a little Holy Kakow brand to my morning coffee. If I want a sweeter nightcap, I can add a little more. It has stopped me from buying fancy lattes outside everyday, and it’s also just added the right amount of festiveness to my cup any time of the year.
Tooth & Claw: True stories of animal attacks
The host is a biologist who can guide you through the most bizarre wild animal attacks. His two sidekicks add a sense of humor to the show and make it a fun experience. It’s best enjoyed on a long-distance trip, flight, or car ride. However, it is not recommended for children or close to dinner.
Taylor Hatmaker | Senior Reporter
I’m not a Star Wars diehard by any means, but this show was incredible and everyone should watch it — even if you’re not familiar with the source material.
I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a wild ride that shifts settings and tones often, always deftly, and delivers some really moving performances in the process. “Andor” treats its audience like they’re smart enough to handle subtlety and even some discomfort (think Black Mirror), and the payoff is well worth it. These stories will stay with me for a long time. They were smart, inspiring, and really special.
Aisha Malik | Consumer Reporter
There were tons of popular new shows this year, but none of them stuck with me as much as Hulu’s “The Bear” —A TV comedy-drama that delights with amazing performances, cinematic storytelling, and sharp writing. The show creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that will draw you in almost instantly. Although it can make you feel a little anxious at times, it’s filled with moments of beauty. I won’t spoil anything, but “The Bear” should definitely be your next binge show if you want something that is both funny and riveting.
Bryce Durbin | Illustrator
My Favorite – “Tender Is the Nightshift: Part One”
The summer is the best indiepop band My FavoriteThe first time in six decades that new music has been released. The brainchild Michael Grace Jr., “Tender Is the Nightshift: Part One” kicks off with an eight-minute dance track (“Dean’s 7th Dream”) that features Grace’s characteristic arch, despairing lyrics, delicately balancing chill synths and warm vocals. “Second Empire” (and its “instrumental dub” version) and other tracks round out this compelling EP. Dance away your sadness.
Managing Editor| Managing Editor
Universal Audio SD-1 mic
UA makes a lot great audio gear, but the SD-1 dynamic vocal mic might be their best. Besides the super slick cream color, it’s a dead ringer for the venerated Shure SM7B — both in looks and in audio profile. It’s less expensive, though, and to my ear is better at eliminating any room or bg noise. It is one of the best audio equipment deals.
WANDRD Roam 9L sling
WANDRD Roam’s lineup of slings is impressive. However, the 9L model is the most powerful. It can hold a mirrorless camera, a long zoom lens, and a large prime, as well as chargers and batteries. WANDRD is more popular than any other slings due to the clever trick it uses to hold a 16-inch notebook. It has a double zipper back pocket with an extendable bottom that can store a laptop safely and securely.
8BitDo Ultimate Controller
8BitDo’s latest Ultimate Controllers (there’s a BT version and a 2.4GHz only version) are as good or better than the first-party controllers they borrow the most from (that’s pretty much the Xbox controller and the Switch Pro controller, fwiw). These controllers also come with their very own charging docks and adjustable back grip buttons.
Miranda Halpern | Data Analyst
Breville Smart Waffle Maker Pro
You know what’s better than going out to brunch? You can make brunch at home. I love getting a waffle when I go out for brunch, but I always felt like the ones I made at home were subpar…. I was completely unaware of the Breville Smart Waffle Maker Pro until that moment. I originally borrowed someone else’s and I loved it so much that I spent the next two months debating if I should purchase my own; $280 is a lot to spend, let alone on a waffle iron, but this was worth the money. Crispy, thick, fluffy waffles at home for you, your family, and friends. You’ll be grateful later.
Nalgene 24oz On-The-Fly Lock-Top Tritan Bottle
If you’re in the market for a new emotional support water bottle, I highly suggest this one. It’s the perfect size to fit into the cup holder of your car, it has a lock top so it won’t spill if it’s in your bag and it’s easy to clean — yes, you need to clean your water bottles.
“Stick Season” by Noah Kahan
Stomp and Holler has returned! If you’re a fan of the Lumineers, Vance Joy, Mumford & Sons or The Head and The Heart, I would recommend giving this album a spin.
Kahan entered the music scene with his debut album “Busyhead” in 2019. From there he released the “Cape Elizabeth” EP in 2020, which was his first project dipping his toes in the alt/indie genre, his sophomore album “I Was/ I Am” in 2021 and, most recently, his third album, “Stick Season.” Kahan’s lyricism, which has always been descriptive, reaches a new high as he takes us on the journey of feeling stuck while watching those from your past move on. The theme of nostalgia shows in “Homesick,” “Still,” and the title track, “Stick Season.” Kahan yearns for more — in life and in love — shown in tracks like “She Calls Me Back,” “Come Over” and “The View Between Villages.” If you’re looking for an album to blast as you drive through your hometown during the holidays — this is it.
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