Virtual reality concerns me. Yes, it’s technologically amazing. And of course it’s going to be immersive and create incredible atmosphere in our games. But I’m genuinely worried about the social implications were it to become the standard for games. I worry that with not just an immersive world on a TV but one literally enclosing your head from the outside world, gamers are putting barriers up with others.
I enjoy playing through games (even singleplayer titles) with my girlfriend, with both of us helping to solve puzzles and enjoying the story. And I adore local competitive multiplayer – the brilliant intensity that comes from a close match of Street Fighter with a friend over some beer and a good laugh together. Virtual reality will be two folk with chunky eyeglasses sitting on the couch not even able to hear each other, losing track of time and probably basic eating requirements due to the sensory deprivation effects. Even playing a game with someone else in VR looks likely to be a case of stylised avatars, so you can no longer even see what your friend looks like.
Not to mention the impact this will have on the way gaming is viewed by everyone else, just as games start to get recognised by the mainstream as film-rivalling entertainment. You only have to look at the unfortunately hilarious image of Palmer Luckey on the front of Time Magazine to get an idea of how this looks to the outside world. It’s not that the tech isn’t going to be great fun to use, I’m just worried about the way it could change us, not only as gamers, but as people as well. Mark Blain
“Virtual reality will be two folk sitting on the couch not even able to hear each other”
It’s only a slight twist on the average WOW player’s experience, isn’t it? In seriousness, it surely won’t be long before the image of a person wearing a VR headset sheds its dorkiness. And many VR initiatives seem more concerned with connecting users across large distances than it does isolating them from their immediate surroundings. We’ll be looking deeper into VR next issue.
I’m looking forward to Vane – it may be just the aesthetic experience I’m seeking at the moment. Let me explain.
Convalescing in the country recently, I was looking for a gaming moment to complement gentle walks and early snowdrops after a busy, gaming-free year. My first thought was to reinstall Civilization V, and a few long nights of 4Xing captured the melancholy, deliberate mood of getting well slowly. In its way this is a perfect game, but it wasn’t exactly the moment I was inching towards.
So I looked elsewhere, and briefly toyed with the desolation of Fallout. But then the ideal moment came, one evening, in the middle of nowhere in Elite Dangerous. I was dipping in and out of planetary rings for no good reason, far from civilisation, lacking money and purpose, expecting very little of my career as an explorer. And suddenly, somewhere in the aimlessness of this unpressured wandering, was the essence of a line of Leonard Cohen at his most contemplative. This cultish, good-but-not-transcendent space game had brought Famous Blue Raincoat to the far Welsh Marches.
All art forms promise these perfect moments when the stars align and bring mood, experience and circumstance together. There won’t be snowdrops out when Vane is released, I imagine, but from what I gather the game is a good bet for similarly evocative moments in 2016. And I’ll take those over the upcoming Doom reboot any day.
Let’s make this letter some kind of record of that moment. There’s nothing wrong with losing yourself in the artful dismemberment of demons, but it seems like you might prefer the pace of a spot of fishing in
Animal Crossing for your new 3DS.
On & on
Piracy is as old as time, but the recent revelations from Chinese cracking group 3DM that Denuvo’s anti-piracy measures might eventually prove unhackable definitely raises some interesting questions.
The ‘lost sales’ theory has been proposed by many of piracy’s opponents as a factor in preventing hard-working developers from getting fairly rewarded. Digital Rights Management is a relatively recent phenomenon that has resulted in proprietary systems failing, caused knock-on effects with performance and memory usage, and arguably prevented legitimate customers from fully enjoying games they’ve paid for.
If the virtual elimination of game piracy is achieved, then the potential consequences are fascinating. Will sales increase to replace those ‘lost’ through piracy? Will the games industry be harmed by reduced freedom and therefore exposure?
The effects of this will no doubt permeate throughout the game industry, primarily on the PC, but are also likely to affect consoles and possibly all other forms digital media.
I just hope it doesn’t discourage DRMfree merchants, and that there’s still a place for games with and without DRM, with consumer choice hopefully being the positive eventual outcome.
Will any technology, no matter how advanced, ever put an end to piracy? Indeed, the suggestion that such a development might come to pass pushed 3DM leader Bird Sister (not her real name, we’re willing to wager) to announce that the group’s members have renewed efforts to crack Denuvo’s technology, the scamps.
I’m currently finalising plans to move abroad, and as part of a concerted effort to shed some of the flab of life’s possessions (and force myself outdoors into my new environs), I have sold my Wii U and PlayStation 4. For the first time in 25 years I won’t have a games console in my flat, though an overseas
Edge subscription is still on the shopping list – I’m not going completely cold turkey.
I don’t see getting rid of my consoles as some dramatic or worthy achievement, as it was done largely for practical reasons. However, I felt a palpable sense of relief when the consoles were out of my grasp, and it got me to thinking about the role that games play in my life.
These days, with work and general existence to deal with, gaming is a hobby to fit in whenever I can and tends to be limited in terms of time. When I spot a window, it becomes my focus, and any impediment to my gaming at the expected time is an irritation. On top of this, I become overinvested in the hype of upcoming or newly released games and inevitably have an insurmountable backlog. Any game which lacks a palpable sense of progression towards a conclusion, even if enjoyable, therefore becomes a stumbling block on the way to the next game. In short, I have realised that gaming has become a bit too much of a grind rather than a genuinely fun pastime. I have absolutely no idea how this happened. I am now back to square one. I finished
Bloodborne and sold the rest of the backlog, and it feels extremely liberating. At some point in 2016 I will jump back on the bandwagon, and who knows what it will entail – perhaps PlayStation VR, or NX? Maybe The Last Guardian, or Zelda?
My plan is to return to the days when I carefully considered each purchase, owned and played one game at a time, and appreciated each experience to the full without distraction.
To anyone else who has got lost in the general chaos of the modern games industry hype train, I urge you to give it a go. Dark
Souls III will probably just wreck everything and expose my weakness, but where’s the harm in trying?
Iain Critien Let’s burn it all! Crack out the Snakes & Ladders! Move into a hole in the ground! Well, at least until The Last Guardian finally emerges from its hibernation, as you say.
I’ve only just gotten around to playing
Her Story. Late as I am to the party, the experience was revelatory. I’ve always had a soft spot for LA Noire, despite its broken facial expressions and hand-holding yellow evidence markers, and I really enjoyed The
Vanishing Of Ethan Carter, too – at least until they gave up on making puzzles and just lined up all the clues for the later murders.
Both of those games scratched an itch within me to really interrogate – in every sense – game worlds. But my awareness of the artifice with which their mysteries were constructed was always a nagging presence at the back of my mind, and one that subtly undermined my enjoyment. They felt like frustratingly clipped glimpses into a future where worlds are truly interactive and responsive, adapting to the player’s presence in ways that aren’t just a change of script.
Now, I know Her Story is far from the arrival of that future, but within the narrower definition of a truly interrogable world, it feels like a huge bound towards it. Being given free rein to ask whatever I wanted, and follow any line of enquiry that I came up with, was liberating in a way I’ve never experienced before. And I can’t wait for this courageous, and generous, approach to game design to become more widespread.
Well, Sam Barlow’s hard at work on his next project, and presumably it’ll retain many of Her Story’s unique qualities. For now, how about giving The Witness a whirl?