DIS­PATCHES OC­TO­BER

EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE - Ian Jack­son

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.

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