The outdoor type
Games condition you to look at the world differently. You boot up Call Of Duty, see a man running, and shoot him. You run around the streets of an Assassin’s Creed game and instinctively look for window frames to use as footholds. In, well, every Naughty Dog game made in the past decade, you see a yellow ledge and know for sure it’s the way forward.
It’s simple psychology that doesn’t transfer over to the real world. I don’t walk the streets looking for buildings to clamber up. But while immersed in these digital spaces I use the tools I’m given, and those tools force me to look at otherwise unremarkable, everyday objects and items in a completely new way – so forgive me for being amazed that this has happened with Pokémon Go.
A water fountain near my place of work is a Pokéstop, and whenever a Lure is placed, it’s an event. People crowd around the benches, sit on the nearby grass, all with phones out, flicking their screens in the hope of catching a few Pokémon. It’s a real-life location, just a water fountain, but to others it is suddenly so much more than that.
Pokémon Go has changed my life in tiny, potentially significant ways. I walk the long way through town to maximise the Pokéstops I pass. I rarely have my phone in my pocket while walking. I look at the world around me in a slightly different way.
Is this a good or bad thing? I’ve absolutely no clue. But one thing’s for certain: Pokémon Go has blurred the lines for me when it comes to real and digital spaces, and if nothing else, that’s pretty incredible. Dave Aubrey It’s also blurred the vision of riders on a local cycle path, much to one Edge staffer’s chagrin. Everybody be safe out there – and if you see a 260CP Drowzee guarding a gym, please leave the poor thing be. We need all the coins we can get right now.
Into your arms
Completing Uncharted 4 led me to replay a very different game in which climbing is a core mechanic: Shadow Of The Colossus. It could be argued that the latter more consistently succeeds in conveying the sense of urgency and desperation a person might experience when scaling death-defying heights. SOTC achieves this by encouraging the player to feel just as edgy as the protagonist, aided by its control scheme. Most notable is the requirement to press R1 to grip and hold on to ledges as well as the titular creatures. Initially seeming inconvenient by today’s standards, this feature cleverly mimics what anyone would do if faced with the challenge of clambering up these fearsome beings: cling on for dear life. In contrast, in Uncharted you could leave Drake hanging off a ledge to take a phone call, make lunch and walk the dog, only to find him still dangling over that fatal precipice when you return. As Drake scales his umpteenth ancient ruin he may appear to break a sweat, but the player rarely does. It follows that Colossus demands the unbroken attention and engagement of the player for successful progress to be made. It is a reminder that immersion in the world a game presents is developed through realistic interactivity, no matter how fantastical the setting.
Colossus also takes the risk of handing the player control of a protagonist who moves unpredictably. Yet Wander’s fumbling echoes the player’s trepidation and awe when faced with these imposing creatures. It serves to communicate the scale of the colossi, and the challenge of felling them.
This correlation between player emotion and onscreen action is therefore encouraged
“Pokémon Go has changed my life. Is this a good thing? I’ve absolutely no clue”
through the game’s controls, rather than contradicted by them. It’s a reminder that games can enhance immersion when offering bespoke methods of interaction. The future looks bright, however: the rise of VR will surely stimulate greater parity between protagonist and player in this most enthralling of mediums. Daniel Howie Absolutely – and The Last Guardian’s Trico feels similarly unpredictable. For the game’s sake we prefer disobedience to be the exception rather than the rule, however.
Down about it
As a Brazilian kid, my history with consoles and games is a little bit different. Consoles came here years after their releases in places like the US, Europe and Asia – and when they finally arrived, insane prices relegated them to an affluent part of the population, or fomented piracy.
Cut to the 21st century: a broadband connection, streaming, online play and a game market many times bigger. Things are much better now, graphics are just amazing, and games have become more and more complex. There’s never been a better time to be a player.
Two things worry me, however. First, the fact that the current consoles have basically the same specs. In PS4 and Xbox One, Sony and Microsoft released twin consoles, with minimal differences (OS; UI; fewer FLOPS here, a few more there). In the old days, we knew why we chose one console over another: the games. But now exclusivity is just a matter of time. The new consoles have a lot of power, but as time goes by, they lose a little of their charm.
I’m also worried about the way the industry seems to want to change the concept of generations in this market, releasing a better version of their current consoles a couple of years after launch. Analysing their specs, I really doubt that it will be worth it for existing owners to change. This ‘hardware-DLC’ approach has me wondering if, before too long, playing videogames in Brazil will be just hard as it was when I was a kid. Pablo Martins Balieiro Microsoft set these wheels in motion some time ago – compare Xbox 360’s launch interface and the cluttered mess it ended its life with. Iterative hardware refreshes are the next logical step. It could be worse: Brazil could be throwing its economy into the toilet. Which brings us to our next letter.
The great big no
The last thing anyone wants to deal with in a magazine devoted to a shared love of videogames is an analysis of the most recent of England’s civil wars. The EU referendum split the country; we descended into bitterly polarised factions so disillusioned with one another that communication, let alone civil discourse, was all but impossible. In the end, Leave prevailed; what’s done is done, I guess, leaving us to deal with a nasty little beast called reality – the very thing gamers come to a place like Edge to escape. Sorry.
The UK is almost certainly going to exit the EU and whether you are for or against that momentous decision, we are all going to have to live with the consequences. Let’s cut to the chase: are things going to get more expensive for gamers? The answer is that in the immediate future, no; in the short term, yes; and in the long term, yes, though with less severity as time goes on.
Before long the UK will leave the EU and can begin the process of renegotiating trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world. This will take years. During this transitional period the UK will rely on the World Trade Organisation to protect its interests, and the WTO has been quite clear that the UK will be granted ‘third country’ status from the point at which it leaves the EU until it renegotiates trade deals. Here, ‘most favoured nation’ status, or MFN, comes into play. The MFN tariff for videogames in the UK is currently set at zero per cent. The global rate for import duty on videogames is 6.2 per cent, but varies from zero up to 40 per cent. Sales tax, or VAT if you prefer, is added on top of this figure. The UK’s post-Brexit, third-country status frees nations from the stipulations of MFN and, as such, they can slap a few extra tariffs on top of the price of the disc – as, of course, could a cashstrapped UK government.
It’s not just games, either. Back in 2015, the WTO added over 200 products to the Information Technology Agreement list of zero-tariff and free-trade goods, a list that included game consoles, next-generation superconductors, computer software, GPS devices and, oh god, ink cartridges. In total, $1 trillion of goods had tariffs removed. Such an agreement will not apply to the UK during the interim period, with predictable results: we’ll have to fork out more than our European neighbours. Probably a lot more.
I know people are tired of doom and gloom, but the problem with the future is that sooner or later it happens. The WTO, before the vote, warned of ‘tortuous talks’, and said Brexit was liable to cost consumers £9 billion a year in increased duties. And that’s after the major deals have been concluded; you can bet your Hello Kitty Dreamcast that the consumer electronics industry will be centre stage when the tariffs begin to mount up. Our already expensive hobby could, and probably will, become way more expensive, and many of us will have to anxiously hope that the British government is up to the challenge of renegotiating with all 161 WTO members in a timely fashion. If not, our PS5s, and PS6es for that matter, are going to be about as affordable as a holiday bought using the post-Brexit British pound. Thank you, Ian, for explaining a few things that hadn’t been clear. Let us know where you’d like your New 3DS XL sent. In the meantime, if anyone needs us, we’ll be in the pub. We may be some time.