DIS­PATCHES NOVEM­BER

EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE | THIS MONTH -

The or­a­cle

When­ever I think about Nin­tendo NX, the first thought that springs to my mind is that it must not fail.

Nin­tendo an­nounced NX in March of 2015 at a con­fer­ence, along with sev­eral other things, in­clud­ing mo­bile games – one of which has suc­ceeded and rock­eted Nin­tendo’s share price. The mo­bile games have se­ri­ously showed that in­no­va­tion has ben­e­fited Nin­tendo once again, as the N64, DS, and Wii did. How­ever, Nin­tendo tried this with Wii U.

It didn’t ex­actly suc­ceed. Wii U has flopped mas­sively, be­com­ing Nin­tendo’s worst-sell­ing home con­sole. It has sold, to this day, only 13 mil­lion units, eight mil­lion short of the com­pany’s sec­ond­worst seller. Nin­tendo ex­pected to sell 100 mil­lion.

The Nin­tendo NX is a big risk for Nin­tendo in this case. With the suc­cess of its mo­bile games, it could po­ten­tially draw back fans that moved to smart­phone af­ter the Wii and DS era, but once again that’s a risky strat­egy for Nin­tendo. What Nin­tendo must have with NX is a smart con­cept idea, and third­party sup­port – es­pe­cially the lat­ter. These are what Wii U missed out on. I think the GamePad was far too chunky for its own good, and what­ever third­party sup­port did come Nin­tendo’s way was al­ways the worst ver­sion avail­able.

And if NX does fail? Nin­tendo will strug­gle to get back into the rhythm that the Wii and DS pro­vided. Fans will start to move else­where and, un­for­tu­nately, it will surely mean the demise of Nin­tendo in the con­sole mar­ket, the com­pany fol­low­ing per­fectly in the foot­steps of Sega. James Bald­win Poké­mon Go’s ef­fect on Nin­tendo’s share price was more about the in­vest­ment com­mu­nity hitch­ing it­self to a phe­nom­e­non – how­ever short­lived that phe­nom­e­non might prove to be. It’s earnt Nin­tendo good­will and good PR, if not a pro­por­tion­ate amount of rev­enue. Given the mo­men­tum, the right time to launch NX would be now, but of course Nin­tendo isn’t ready yet.

Grave­mind

E297 ex­posed a strik­ing syn­ergy, but also im­por­tant con­tra­dic­tions, in the in­ter­re­la­tion­ship be­tween videogames and real-world events. While Bat­tle­field 1’ s se­nior pro­ducer Alek­sander Grøn­dal ar­gues that, “First and fore­most we’re a game”, so rel­e­gat­ing any eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions to sec­ondary con­cerns, both Hideo Ko­jima and the de­vel­op­ers of Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided demon­strate con­sid­er­able lev­els of sen­si­tiv­ity to the ca­pac­ity of games to de­liver eth­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated so­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary.

What seems cru­cial to the suc­cess­ful de­liv­ery of a game with po­lit­i­cally in­formed sen­si­bil­i­ties and sen­si­tiv­i­ties is the ef­fec­tive in­ter­sec­tion of the story of the game and the game­play pos­si­bil­i­ties the game af­fords.

While I have not yet had the op­por­tu­nity to play Bat­tle­field 1, it seems clear that the de­vel­op­ers have lit­tle in­ten­tion of think­ing hard about this. WWI, it ap­pears, is to be used as no more than a back­drop, es­sen­tially to se­cure com­mer­cial ad­van­tage by dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing the game from Call Of Duty’s rush to a sci-fi-ori­ented fu­ture. For EA DICE, WWI is a mere fram­ing de­vice with its pol­i­tics ex­plic­itly de­politi­cised – it­self, of course, a po­lit­i­cal act.

In con­trast, both Ko­jima and Square Enix Montreal are acutely sen­si­tive to the role that games could play in the de­liv­ery of nar­ra­tives and game­play ex­pe­ri­ences that al­low us en­coun­ters with po­lit­i­cally com­plex is­sues. Ko­jima’s Metal Gear Solid se­ries has wres­tled with themes such as the power of the

“It has sold, to this day, only 13 mil­lion units. Nin­tendo ex­pected to sell 100 mil­lion”

Mil­i­tary In­dus­trial Com­plex, the threats of nu­clear war and per­ils of tech­no­log­i­cally fa­cil­i­tated war­fare; Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided ex­plores so­cial po­lar­i­sa­tion in a world be­set by ter­ror­ism. In light of such themes, it’s in­te­gral to the co­her­ence of these games that they al­low, even en­cour­age the player to op­er­ate within their re­spec­tive game worlds based on stealth. In con­trast to Bat­tle­field 1 with its fo­cus on a shoot-and-de­stroy me­chanic, many play­ers are ex­plic­itly at­tracted to stealth-based games pre­cisely be­cause they chal­lenge a fo­cus on gun­play.

Games that ex­plic­itly seek to pro­voke think­ing are vi­tal in these in­creas­ingly com­plex po­lit­i­cal times and I for one am de­lighted that Ko­jima didn’t see fit to move into movies, in­stead tak­ing the time he needed to find a project that stim­u­lated his cre­ativ­ity. Edge rightly de­scribes him as an au­teur. If that is a term used to de­scribe a vi­sion­ary who ex­ploits the pos­si­bil­i­ties within games to in­voke crit­i­cal and re­flex­ive think­ing then Ko­jima is cer­tainly wor­thy of such a la­bel, as per­haps are the de­vel­op­ers of

Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided. It is to be hoped that his forth­com­ing pro­duc­tion de­liv­ers a sim­i­lar syn­ergy be­tween nar­ra­tive and game­play. It would be a true sign of the ma­tur­ing of the in­dus­try if the de­vel­op­ers of Bat­tle­field 1 sim­i­larly sought to de­liver a re­flec­tive en­gage­ment with war. Per­haps it’s best that we don’t hold our breath. Nick Robin­son Well put, Dr Robin­son. A New 3DS is on its way. We look for­ward to your next mis­sive – on the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal sub­texts of Rhythm Heaven Megamix, per­haps.

Truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Edge mag­a­zine is chang­ing. It’s been a sub­tle change, but it was al­ways in­evitable, right from is­sue 1 in Oc­to­ber 1893 (or some­thing like that) when the mag­a­zine de­clared it­self as “the fu­ture of videogam­ing”. It was only a mat­ter of time un­til there were re­views of vir­tual re­al­ity games within the mag­a­zine.

Over the past year or so, VR games have pushed them­selves onto the pages of Edge. I have to con­fess, up un­til now I have skipped over them be­cause VR is some­thing that just doesn’t in­ter­est me. In fact, I al­most get a feel­ing of frus­tra­tion each time vir­tual re­al­ity gam­ing gets a men­tion. But wait! I’m sure I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this feel­ing of mag­a­zine rage be­fore… Back in the day when I sub­scribed to a Com­modore mag­a­zine, it used to an­noy me no end that Amiga games were grad­u­ally squeez­ing the cov­er­age of C64 games off the pages. Even­tu­ally I bought an Amiga, and it rep­re­sented a true golden age of gam­ing for me.

So I’ve come to re­alise that maybe I need to have more of an open mind when it comes to VR gam­ing. There are nat­u­rally ob­sta­cles to me ac­cept­ing this new method of videogame witch­craft (the cost of the new hard­ware, my sus­pi­cions on the com­fort of wear­ing the new gear, and the vary­ing qual­ity of the games them­selves), but per­haps one day I too will find my­self em­brac­ing the fu­ture of videogam­ing. Ben Bul­beck For­tu­nately, VR de­serves the at­ten­tion this time around – al­though there’s no short­age of sub­par Rift/Vive ti­tles. But there’ll al­ways be a place for tra­di­tional games within these pages. If they ever stop be­ing made, we can fill the mag­a­zine with old Amiga stuff.

The li­brary

This sum­mer, I de­cided to take my old Nin­tendo DS with me on hol­i­day. My plan was to play, from be­gin­ning to end, one of the games I most en­joyed on Nin­tendo’s hand­held. I am talk­ing about Pro­fes­sor Lay­ton

And The Lost Fu­ture, the best in­stal­ment in the se­ries. How big my sur­prise was, how­ever, when I dis­cov­ered that I didn’t have the car­tridge: a friend of mine had lent me the game years ago. I quickly vis­ited ev­ery videogame shop in the area, but the game was nowhere to be found. It had been dis­con­tin­ued years be­fore.

Emu­la­tors for my An­droid and other dif­fer­ent al­ter­na­tives soon sprang to mind, all of them of du­bi­ous le­gal­ity. De­spite the fact that the in­dus­try has pro­gressed by leaps and bounds in re­cent years, fun­da­men­tal ques­tions re­main the sub­ject of lively and of­ten thought-pro­vok­ing de­bate. How­ever, none is as poorly ad­dressed as the mat­ter of how we are to pre­serve the legacy of the in­ter­ac­tive medium. Tech­no­log­i­cal ob­so­les­cence is part of the essence of videogames, but it may well be time for both play­ers and cre­ators to think about how we are go­ing to en­sure ac­cess to old videogames in the fu­ture.

All of us, both ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and new­com­ers, should have the chance to ed­u­cate our­selves by play­ing the clas­sics: those games that changed, re­de­fined and moulded the in­dus­try we love. We should be able to have in­stant, and le­gal, ac­cess to a dig­i­tal shop where we can buy and play any game re­gard­less of its re­lease date. How are new play­ers go­ing to learn about videogames if try­ing to play Shen­mue, Su­per Mario 64 or Metal Gear Solid in an em­u­la­tor is an ab­so­lute night­mare? Steam has done a great job on PC, and Nin­tendo’s Vir­tual Con­sole is an­other case in point, al­though noth­ing com­pared to what it should be.

That’s right – I am talk­ing about build­ing the Li­brary Of Alexan­dria of videogames. I know what many peo­ple will think: it isn’t just about em­u­lat­ing the games. There will be trou­ble re­lated to con­trol­ling them, re­lated to copy­right and cen­sor­ship. It’s a daunt­ing chal­lenge, un­doubt­edly, but one that must be tack­led sooner or later if we want to pre­serve the legacy of the in­dus­try. This Li­brary Of Alexan­dria 2.0 is vi­tal if we re­ally want to have a medium with a trace­able his­tory and past in the same way lit­er­a­ture has. Noel Arteche You’re not alone. Or­gan­i­sa­tions such as www.efgamp.eu are grow­ing, and we’re right be­hind them. If we can help any­one in­volved in these ini­tia­tives, drop us a line.

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