Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - DISPATCHES PERSPECTIVE - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s ed­i­tor. If you en­joyed this page, you might also like Of­fi­cial Xbox Mag­a­zine, PC Gamer, and Raz­zle

My YouTube rec­om­men­da­tions are an ab­so­lute mess. Be­ing a par­ent cer­tainly doesn’t help – in and amongst the ripped jungle 12-inches and archived livestreams of Street Fighter tour­na­ments are Peppa Pig marathons, Raa Raa The Noisy Lion com­pi­la­tions and all the rest of it. But even if I were still child­less, I sus­pect that Rec­om­mended tab would still be in a right old state.

Part of the prob­lem, it ap­pears, is the al­go­rithm’s habit for mis­tak­ing one’s mor­bid cu­rios­ity about some YouTube phe­nom­e­non as their de­sire to never again watch any­thing else. A while back some­one on Twit­ter linked to one of those videos of an ir­ri­tat­ingly welloff young man open­ing 50 quid’s worth of FIFA Ul­ti­mate Team packs. I lasted about two min­utes, but for the next fort­night my YouTube dash­board was a wall of thumb­nails of gurn­ing kids next to a pic­ture of some 85-rated left back from Ligue 1. Just last night the home screen of my Shield TV sug­gested I watch a video of YouTube star­let Zoella go­ing through an ab­surd haul from a trip to Pri­mark. I lasted for as long as it took for her to pro­claim the Bris­tol branch as one of the great­est places on Earth; I have been there, and am quite sure it is the un­of­fi­cial tenth cir­cle of Hell. To­day I’m too scared to load up YouTube to find out how the al­go­rithm has in­ter­preted it.

When YouTube de­cides to put this stuff in front of me, how­ever, I at least know how it got there. It’s the sug­ges­tions out of the blue that un­set­tle me more. It per­sis­tently rec­om­mends, for in­stance, com­pi­la­tions of Twitch Fails, with gen­er­ously cleav­aged gamer girls in the thumb­nail. I’ve never clicked on one, though I as­sume they’re full of peo­ple fall­ing off chairs, fu­ri­ously rage­quit­ting or get­ting swat­ted, and per­haps all at the same time. Yet still, they keep com­ing. Clearly, part of that is be­cause my ac­tiv­ity on YouTube is largely re­lated to videogames. Yet it’s also no doubt be­cause, what­ever our in­ter­ests, we all love to see a good fuck-up. For all that I’m frus­trated by the way the big­gest video-shar­ing web­site on the planet seems con­tent to put so much mis­er­able dreck in front of me, I can’t com­plain too much about this. I do love see­ing some­one fall off a chair.

All of which pre­sum­ably ex­plains why, re­cently, YouTube’s Rec­om­mended side­bar has been plas­tered with wacky com­pi­la­tions of un­for­tu­nate mo­ments of an­i­ma­tion in

Mass Ef­fect An­dromeda. It’s not just low­grade op­por­tunists look­ing for a ride on a meme-wor­thy band­wagon, ei­ther. I clicked on one (sub­ti­tled ‘DOES IT SUCK?’) and found it was the work of a pretty pro-look­ing out­fit with 1.5 mil­lion sub­scribers. It seems that not even chan­nels with a swanky stu­dio setup and a few mil­lion in VC fund­ing are above show­ing clips of space marines who walk like they’ve shat them­selves.

What re­ally up­sets me about this isn’t that it ex­ists, nec­es­sar­ily, but that there’s an au­di­ence for it. Be­cause ev­ery time we chuckle at a horse fall­ing through the floor or an NPC’s jaw ro­tat­ing 360 de­grees when you turn in a quest to them, the over­all qual­ity of dis­course around videogames low­ers even fur­ther. Re­view­ers who were in the process of play­ing An­dromeda did their best to ex­plain, vaguely so as not to break em­bargo, that the game im­proved af­ter some tor­pid open­ing hours. Ex­pe­ri­enced an­i­ma­tors weighed in to ex­plain how it hap­pened. But calmer voices were drowned out by laugh­ter, and the nar­ra­tive was set. Just as most play­ers know ME3 for the lu­di­crous fuss over its end­ing, so

An­dromeda will be known for its an­i­ma­tion, and we all get a lit­tle dumber as a re­sult.

I re­alise why it hap­pens: we all love a good yuk, and when a long-awaited, big­bud­get, high-pro­file game sud­denly looks like it might be a stinker, we in­stinc­tively pile on, be­cause we all love a good scan­dal, too. In this in­stance, how­ever, EA has only it­self to blame. It set the re­view em­bargo for the day be­fore re­lease, know­ing that a much wider (and much less pa­tient) au­di­ence, through EA Ac­cess, would get ten hours with the game a week ahead of launch. It surely re­alised the an­i­ma­tion was far from best in class. It also knew – or should have known – that An­dromeda’s first ten hours didn’t flat­ter the whole. EA, like many other com­pa­nies, is now able to speak di­rectly to its play­ers, mit­i­gat­ing the risk of a crit­i­cal press putting would-be cus­tomers off a pur­chase. Here, how­ever, we could have re­as­sured them. Af­ter all, not all rec­om­men­da­tions have to be pro­duced by a com­puter, you know.

Ev­ery time we chuckle at a horse fall­ing through the floor, the qual­ity of dis­course around games low­ers fur­ther

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