Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - SECTIONS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy edi­tor. If you’ve ever taught a tod­dler how to pow­er­slide, please get in touch

Nathan Brown con­sid­ers mod­ern games’ ca­pac­ity to hold our gaze

Driv­ing home for Christ­mas af­ter E302 had been put to bed, a col­league and I were dis­cussing what our Christ­mas game was go­ing to be. Quickly, we re­alised we didn’t ac­tu­ally have one: that, un­like the lion’s share of the game-play­ing pop­u­la­tion, we weren’t look­ing at Christ­mas as a time where we could fi­nally sit down and play some games. In­stead, it was a time where we could fi­nally sit down and not play any­thing.

The fi­nal months of the year are a busy time for re­views, ob­vi­ously, but on top of that it’s awards sea­son, so you need to also find time for ev­ery­thing else that might pos­si­bly be up for con­tention. When you’re try­ing to con­dense 12 months of videogames into a dozen pages on a tight dead­line, it’s a whole lot eas­ier when ev­ery­one in­volved has an in­formed opin­ion on the sub­jects at hand. So, yes, weep for me: I played a lot of videogames in the fi­nal few months of 2016. I went into the Christ­mas hol­i­day not sure if I would play any­thing at all.

For most of the break, con­soles were only switched on to calm a tod­dler – whose body has out­grown an af­ter­noon nap but whose brain hasn’t quite got the mes­sage yet – with a so­porific hour of on-de­mand car­toon non­sense. At the in-laws’ for a few days over Christ­mas, the only thing I played was the world’s most ridicu­lous card game, a bizarrely con­vo­luted and in­tensely random thing that takes about two hours and which I am con­vinced no one out­side this sin­gle fam­ily has ever played.

Af­ter a five-hour drive, I was back home with a clear week be­fore the end of the break. Still the con­soles sat unloved, bar the odd melt­down-mit­i­gat­ing spot of Peppa Pig, which I re­ally think has an un­fairly bad rep, or Fire­man Sam, which hon­estly de­serves ev­ery­thing it gets. Head­ing to the pub to catch up with old friends, I ex­pected to hear all about the games they’d been play­ing dur­ing their fes­tive down­time, but that’s not what hap­pened. First, a cou­ple of them knew of the stupid card game, had played a lot of it, and in­sisted it was bril­liant. Se­cond, none of them had a ‘Christ­mas game’ ei­ther.

Their rea­sons, how­ever, were dif­fer­ent from mine. One has a Rock Band habit he just can’t kick (and nor should he: a New Year’s Eve ses­sion con­firmed that Rock Band is still

bril­liant). An­other two have played Bat­tle­field 1 on­line to­gether just about ev­ery sin­gle night since re­lease. An­other, a rel­a­tively re­cent ar­rival to the group, doesn’t re­ally play games, but I got him Doom for Christ­mas and we’ll break him even­tu­ally, I’m sure.

They’re so at­tached to these sin­gle games that they can’t re­ally get into any­thing else.

The Rock Band player bought The Last Guardian and spent a cou­ple of en­joy­able evenings with it, but then his wife went out for the evening and he reached for his plas­tic gui­tar, cranked up the vol­ume, and that was that for Trico. The oth­ers couldn’t play mul­ti­player war games with their fam­i­lies around; they too had taken nib­bles at other games over the break, but noth­ing stuck if it didn’t let you at­tack a tank while on horse­back. As some­one who has spent the past two years qui­etly re­sent­ing, to vary­ing de­grees, ev­ery­thing I played that wasn’t called Des­tiny, I can re­late.

I thought per­haps this was a ques­tion of age – we’ve all got kids and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties – but a friend tells me that one of his sons, with ac­cess to decades’ worth of his fa­ther’s game col­lec­tion, spent his en­tire school hol­i­day play­ing two Souls games, both of which he’d played ex­ten­sively be­fore.

So this is not a mat­ter of age, or com­mit­ments, or even of burn­ing out on games be­cause play­ing them is your pro­fes­sion. It is sim­ply that the games of to­day are built to en­gen­der, and sus­tain, what I can only de­scribe as de­vo­tion. While it’s true that games are a broader church than ever, the con­gre­ga­tion has frac­tured, bro­ken off into lit­tle groups that wor­ship at dif­fer­ent al­tars. I have Bat­tle­field friends, Des­tiny pals; I know a guy who only plays Street Fighter, an­other that rarely plays any­thing but Dota. There was a lot of head-scratch­ing late last year over why a num­ber of high-pro­file re­leases had been rel­a­tive flops at re­tail. I think this might be the rea­son for it.

Even­tu­ally, on New Year’s Day, suf­fer­ing the rare sort of hang­over I wrote about last month, I fired up the Wii U in the liv­ing room. I put a Wii Re­mote in­side a steer­ing­wheel pe­riph­eral, and handed it to my son. He was ab­so­lutely use­less. Af­ter half an hour of watch­ing him smash di­rectly into walls, even Fire­man Sam felt like a good idea.

Games are a broader church than ever, but the con­gre­ga­tion has frac­tured, bro­ken off into lit­tle groups

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