This is a contentious issue that I feel has been poorly addressed by developers and the media. After all, how harmful could VR be?
It’s easy to dismiss such a question as another example of someone railing against games; maybe a gamer who’s been ‘turned’ by anti-game propagandists. And yet…
I was pretty upset at enacting the torture scene in Grand Theft Auto V. I’ve completed that game twice. The first time, I was horrified. The second time, the knowledge of the scene hung over me like a dark cloud. I’m not sure I can do it again.
And I certainly couldn’t have completed it if I’d played GTAV in VR. If I torture a man in a videogame, I see the edge of the TV screen. I know I’m not really doing it. Remove the frame and we’re inside the game – a magnificent achievement. But is removing the TV frame stopping us from grounding ourselves in reality?
I wonder what faces people will make as they pull out Kerimov’s teeth, hear him scream, feel his hot breath on the back of their hand through ultrasound haptics, sense his head resisting the pull, seeing his eyes plead.
VR is awesome: it is cyberpunk made live. I’m a big fan, and I want to work with people who make VR material. But I worry that the industry is rushing ahead blindly on this one. We got so much flak for violence in console games. Can you imagine the reaction to violence in VR? If I stab a man in GTAV, I get some rumble feedback. If I stab a man in VR in maybe two years’ time, I experience it sliding in, hear it passing through him, I see his eyes widen, feel the weight of him as he falls forward…
I’m not saying we stop making violent games, or stop playing them. But it makes sense to develop our awareness as we develop our technology, rather than going into a knee-jerk fuzz when the wider media criticises our content. If we want violence in VR we have to consider the psychological effects it will have on us as players, as we physically enact scenes of gruesome violence as though they were real. Ashleigh Allan With VR gaming, we’re living through the invention of something that challenges deeply rooted precedents – which is partly what makes it so exciting. We’re keeping open minds for now, but preparing to face up to some possibly awkward challenges.
Maybe hate the player?
I was pleased to see you run a piece on Campo Santo’s Firewatch in E279. I’ve been following the game’s development, and the emerging combination of exploration, style and story-driven elements couldn’t be more promising – but it has got me wondering: as the lines between videogame and art blur, where does that leave the relationship between developers and players? With the advent of social media and crowdfunding, players are more involved than ever in the early stages of games, and the middle stages, and the late stages, and after release, and – well, you get the idea. I’m sure I’m not the only one who still wakes up in a cold sweat over Mass Effect 3’ s ending and the Internet-wide strop that followed. While it was heartening to see a studio respond to fan input, I’m not sure it was beneficial.
We wouldn’t dream of stomping into an artist’s studio and commandeering the brush, nor of smearing paint over the finished creation, so why do some players consider it acceptable to impinge on the creative process, before or after release? There is a tension between games as creative works and as consumables designed to generate revenue: if the players don’t like
“We should make peace with the fact that ageing does take its toll on our favourite hobby”
it, they aren’t going to buy it, but pandering to the fickle, often contradictory demands of consumers risks damaging, rather than improving, a game.
Campo Santo have done a wonderful job of creating something beautiful and unique, while still keeping in touch with their growing following. They are, however, in a minority. It would be detrimental for us all were videogames to become divided between those that strive for sales and superficially pleasing players, and those that have artistic and narrative merit. Here’s to finding a happy medium.
As with VR, the rules here are still being drafted, but the line between empowerment and entitlement is definitely finer than we once thought. Can any game studio ever be certain of pleasing everyone, though?
The topic of growing older, and how changing circumstances in life affect how we play, is often touched upon in Edge’s Dialogue section. As a gamer myself through two decades I can easily relate to how one must adapt to marriage, having children, having a full-time job, and so on. Lack of time due to these changes is often used as an explanation for why we change our gaming habits: “Now I play on the lowest difficulty”, “I mainly play to see the story through – I don’t have much time”, and so on. But we live in a sort of denial, where we continually blame lack of time for these changes. I think we need to embrace the fact that, as we age, neurologically speaking, we’re getting slower, and that many of us can’t keep up with the demands of ‘Hard’ modes. It may be that games have gotten more difficult, but I feel that in gaming my brain’s reaction time has increased to a point where the change is tangible. These days I always play on the easiest mode, as I often feel that even ‘Normal’ is designed for a younger, speedier brain.
Of course, all brains age differently and some can keep a keen edge for longer, and some games are turn-based and are therefore naturally slower. It might also be that my brain is slower than average, but there is, none the less, a reason that the best professional gamers usually aren’t in their 30s. My point is simply that we should make peace with the fact that ageing does take its toll on our favourite hobby, no matter how we try to cover it up. With that being said, though, I’m still firmly convinced that I could unlock invincibility in GoldenEye at any time.
Bo Maibom Petersen
First, thank you for dispatching the carrier pigeon. Obviously it arrived safely. But, hey, Daigo Umehara remains one of the best
Street Fighter players in the world, and he’s ancient – like, 34 or something. We’re not feeling ready for the glue factory just yet.
Gran prix legend
I found myself browsing through some back issues recently and was inspired by your 20th-birthday celebrations to make a comparison between two Sunday afternoons, two decades apart:
1995: After wolfing down our roast dinner, my younger brother Dave and I are huddled in front of our small portable TV taking turns for best laps with Virtua Racing on our Mega Drive. We had owned the game for a year but were wringing out every ounce of play due to it costing £70 plus the bus fare to Electronics Boutique. I’m having trouble on a hairpin, Dave is about to show me where to brake, but he’s late for football practice so leaves me to tackle the corner myself. I could maybe find what I need in Sega Power’s game guide, but it’s not in the shops for another two weeks. Gran puts down her teacup and says, “Give it here”. She deftly turns in a storming lap, dabs the brake and powerslides round the hairpin for a best-lap record. I glance across at gran; she hands the controller back saying, “What, you think I spend my afternoons knitting?” I hit save but an error message appears. The data is corrupted and I’m prompted to create a new game. Damn! Well, nobody at school would have believed our best lap times anyway. Just then my elder brother Tim comes in from washing the pots. “Never mind, bro, you can try to beat me at Sensible Soccer”. Some things never change. I smile and stretch my arm out for the reset button…
2015: Dave and I are lounging in front of a plasma screen, having a first-time play of Grid 2 which my PS3 had automatically downloaded for free via PS+ over a year ago. After having fun beating one another’s best lap times, Dave leaves to pick up his son from football practice and I’m left playing alone. After several fence collisions on the next track (tough hairpins are still my downfall), I switch on my PS Vita and quickly consult a track guide on GameFAQs, then succeed in putting in a fast lap and trigger a PSN Trophy. Hurrah! I glance across to the photo of gran on the mantelpiece. Some things do change. My phone beeps – it’s a text from an old school chum who just saw my trophy award pop up and is spitting feathers. I hit save but an error message appears: File Corrupt. No problem, I reload last night’s auto backup and quickly put in another winning lap. Just then the top-right corner of the screen says that Tim, who now lives in Sweden, has come online. I send him a quick text asking if he fancies getting whupped at
Street Fighter IV. I smile and nudge my thumb over the PS button…
The corrupted download is the new mailorder parcel lost in the post; the instruction manual is now a wiki full of spelling errors and plastered with ads for skinny pills. And they call this progress. Let us know where you want your New 3DS XL to be sent and we’ll put it in the post. OK, now we’re ready to be shipped off to the knacker’s yard.