Edge readers share their opinions; one wins a year’s PlayStation Plus
Silver screen (shower scene)
It seems that games and gaming are finally being accepted as a staple of popular culture, achieving a level of ubiquity that means that, even if you aren’t playing them, you certainly can’t avoid them.
E3 gets mentioned in mainstream media; games garner increasing column inches in newspapers, and gaming festivals are now a thing. So far, so good, for our favourite hobby. But there is something missing, so obviously and conspicuously absent. I am talking, of course, about games on TV.
Old people will fondly recall the likes of GamesMaster and Bad Influence, an innocent time when game critique was limited to graphics, sound and ‘playability’, whatever that was. On reflection, however, there hasn’t been much since. Videogame Nation was a decent stab at a more rounded and mature show, but was hidden away on Challenge, and has been killed off.
Encouragingly, Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit is a great example of how games can be neatly integrated into an existing format – in this case, the comedy panel show – to great effect. What a pity it’s hidden away on Dave, and too few people seem to know about it.
If gaming has truly hit the mainstream, then it seems strange that it has yet to penetrate mainstream TV. I feel there is a place for it, even in the days of YouTube channels and social media. What do you guys think? Will we see a game programme on TV fronted by Mr Nathan Brown?
BBC Three’s recent broadcast of the Gfinity Elite Series of esports tournaments gets to the heart of the problem from one side. Go 8 Bit comes at it from the other. Newcomers are baffled by anything too technical; old hands put off by things they deem to be too
Thomas McInnes simplistic. Perhaps a middle ground could be found, but would that serve both groups, or simply leave both dissatisfied? As for our ‘esteemed’ editor playing a role, we can’t see the networks going for it – but maybe we’ll get some new headshots done just in case.
Your article Machine Language (see E308), about game dialogue AI, was simply fantastic; a prime example of why I look forward to each of your issues. But halfway through the article, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gloom.
For years I’ve yearned for characters in games that were more than things to trade with or destroy. And yet, I now feel like maybe that’s just what they’re best off doing. Videogames are good at dealing with data. Trading comes naturally to computers, hence our games are full of statistics to juggle around. Even better is data in the form of coordinates, i.e. movement: controllers always have D-pads and sticks because their input (and the screen’s output) is quick and intuitive. With movement, we destroy characters in games. With trade we gain from them. For years on end, I blamed the medium and its lacklustre AI for sticking to these two forms of interaction. But I’ve recently been considering other ways we play other types of games, and things aren’t that different. Sports are about movement. Board games are about trade and movement. Kids spend most of their time in the playground trying all sorts of new ways to move their body. And when it comes to adults, what are the most popular outings for company trips? Movement in the form of karting, Segways, GPS/AR games, and bowling. Now there are popular games which actually involve talking with others: Werewolf, Mafia, escape rooms, and Dungeons & Dragons come to mind, but that’s all I can honestly come up with.
“I’ve yearned for characters in games that were more than things to trade with or destroy”
The truth is, it seems we simply don’t want to do too much talking. We just want something simple, something easy to grasp. Perhaps we might even want pastimes that are less like the daily struggle we have with real-world people.
I feel bad writing this, because I really want videogames to achieve the status of other arts. But maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way: maybe it’s language that should try to be more like games. We spend so much time talking with each other, yet we still have wars and people voting against their own interest. I’ve read more than 1,000 works of literature, but I’d sooner share my five favourite videogames with friends than my five favourite books. Hurray for Emily Short and Mitu Khandaker for their efforts; I’d be happily proven wrong. But for now, I think it’s only fitting that I’m feeling more hyped for yet another version of Metroid II than I am about SpiritAI. Robert August de Meijer
Weak become heroes
I want to tell you a story about how gaming changed my life, how it saved my life, and how it helped me through the hardest times in my life.
It all started in school, as the tried and true ‘getting bullied’ story almost all gamers have felt. This was also around the time of
GTA: San Andreas’ release, and I would use this game to get my anger out. I would kill with no regrets, no remorse, and no real-life repercussions. The digital people of San Andreas didn’t know what hit them; a torrent of rage poured onto them, neverending in its thirst for blood.
This continued into GTAIV, but with better reactions (with the Euphoria ragdollphysics system) I got even more enjoyment and venting ability from the game.
Time goes on and I steadily get better, becoming less angry. But the world had other plans and my mum passed away. I was about eight years old.
Skip many years into the future and the release of Life Is Strange. Through events in the ending, I got to pick if someone I loved lived or died. It is the single hardest thing I have ever had to do, since it directly ties back to my wanting to go back and save my mum. The helplessness I felt about not being able to save her. After making the choice I had a mini-breakdown because I picked not to save the person I loved. I didn’t want to be the one to condemn thousands of people to their deaths out of selfishness.
It helped me truly come to terms with what had happened. After many years of being down, hitting the absolute bottom and coming back up, Life Is Strange (like GTA) gave me a release I had never felt before. Games are life. They are love. For me, at least. Pierre Fouquet
Ever since I discovered Doom on a shareware disc circa 1995, I’ve loved firstperson shooters. I was thrilled by the razor-wire tension of Alien: Trilogy, the insomnia, espionage and art of XIII, and the blockbuster rollercoaster ride that was Call Of Duty 4:
Modern Warfare, a game which married story, gameplay and progression seamlessly.
Narrative, control, balance, graphics, progression; they’re all a key part of what makes the FPS one of the most popular and enduring genres, but not every evolutionary leap the genre makes is – pardon the pun – killing it. The grind for progression is putting the bore back into war. The mechanic’s there to engage the player over a longer period of time, but is it an enjoyable experience, or just an addictive one?
I recently sunk 50 repetitive hours into the Ghost Recon Wildlands ‘campaign’. The experience was threadbare, but I pushed on because I thought there had to be more to the game than the same cycle of ambush, firefight, loot-crate, lacklustre cutscene, lather, rinse and repeat. Turns out I could have had pretty much the full experience if I’d just played the beta; outside of the constant grind for new gun-loot and skill upgrades there was only the thinnest of gameplay experiences to be had.
Battlefield 4 shares the same core gameplay DNA as Wildlands: the longer you spend in the game the more upgrades and customisation loot you’ll earn. I’ve ground away 246 hours in Battlefield 4 but I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s time to hang up my in-game irons.
I think I stopped actively enjoying BF4 some time ago, but the grind for guns kept me in the multiplayer lobby long after I should have walked away. Maybe grinding for progression is just a cynical mechanic; maybe I’m a sap for going back again and again. Either way I’ve decided to set my sights on a richer experience. Ian Bruce
What makes SpiritAI so intriguing is not just the problem it is trying to solve, but the angle from which it is approaching it. Like most great works of innovation within games, it starts from the hypothesis that things can be made better. While we agree the world will continue to turn if SpiritAI fails, we certainly hope to see it succeed. A heartwarming tale, for which many thanks. Your subscription to PlayStation Plus is on its way, which should set you up nicely for things to kill – or save – over the next 12 months. One day, though, you’re going to have to fill us in on the intervening years. We assume one doesn’t change from mass murderer into saviour overnight. Don’t leave us hanging like that: what richer experience could there possibly be than watching a series of XP progress bars going up while gritting your teeth at a series of rubbish loot drops? It’s a sad reality of the medium that one good idea gets borrowed, expanded and reused until everyone’s sick of it. The online game progression system doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. If you turn up something better, please let us know at the usual address.