And by “best”, I mean “worst”.
Published in The Student, University of Edinburgh’s oldest student newspaper
Nintendo executives took a break from swimming around in vats of money and smoking cigars rolled from 10,000 Yen notes to announce the release of the new DSi in Europe on April 3. It’s just like your regular old DS Lite, with some added features nobody wanted like two VGA cameras (which will make your friends look like characters from Duke Nukem 3D) and an SD card slot for loading your own music, for the five people in the world who haven’t bought an iPod yet.
Also included is a built-in web browser. Does anyone see the problem with using a miniscule stylus to surf the web on a teeny-tiny screen? It’s like eating chow mein with only one chopstick: theoretically possible, yes, but ultimately a pain in the arse when there are more sensible options available. I’ll admit there’s a charming novelty in changing my Facebook status to “Alan IS ON A DSi ANDITSNOT VERRY GOOD!” but perhaps not worth the £150 asking price.
Following in the footsteps of Apple, Microsoft are opening their own chain of retail stores to “transform the PC and Microsoft buying experience”… in the middle of an emergent global recession that has seen several retailers on the verge of bankruptcy. Anything that helps consumer choice is a good thing and five minutes with Windows Vista should make the choice pretty clear: buy a Mac.
You know, I try really hard to defend gaming as a medium. Every week in The Student we try to make Tech appeal to as wide an audience as possible and knock down a few lazy stereotypes in the process. Then a game like Rapelay comes along, is featured in the mass media, and I wonder why I even bother.
Rapelay is a rape simulator. Yes, you read that correctly. In this long awaited modern update to Atari classic Custer’s Revenge, you play a recently incarcerated psychopath whose aim is to hunt down and rape a family of three women. Needless to say it’s shocking that anyone would program this sort of thing, let alone try to sell it.
Let’s get a few facts straight: Rapelay was released in 2006, it is a “hentai” (read: pornographic) game and unfortunately these are both fairly common and popular in Japan. An investigation by the Belfast Telegraph led to the game being withdrawn from Amazon’s US website- although to be fair a private seller, not Amazon, had listed the game for purchase.
Valiant crusader against the evils of video games, Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, talked about the dangers of Rapelay as if it was this week’s Gamestation 2-for-1 promotion. Luckily another MP had the sense to check with the BBFC who didn’t even know the game existed… because it had never been sold in the UK, as those of you who read the previous paragraph will have already figured out. Scaremongering at its finest.
It’s one thing for a company to release a disgusting product that glorifies a despicable crime. It is quite another to make the illogical leap, as Keith Vaz has done, that gamers in the UK consider this product acceptable and actively want to purchase it. To do that is insulting nonsense, as offensive as the game that caused the entire fracas in the first place.
Last week saw the publication of the draft Digital Britain report by Lord Carter, bringing with it several changes to media and information technology. Perhaps the most alarming is the Government’s attempt to combat illegal file-sharing in the same way it tackles most social problems these days- by suing, prosecuting or belittling everyone it can.
Carter proposes the creation of a ‘Rights Agency’ to deal with the growing problem of Internet piracy, funded by service providers and the music and film industry. Of course, you can be sure that any costs incurred by ISPs will be passed directly onto the consumer. Think of it this way, torrent fans: you’ll be paying extra for your broadband each month to fund an agency dedicated to hunting you down and cutting your phone line in two.
Surely there must be better ways to discourage piracy than fines and threats of disconnection? Why don’t the music and film industry work together with ISPs to create a new tier of broadband service which allows unlimited torrenting of copyrighted material for a set fee each month? I’m up for it and I’m sure many others who just want to watch Lost every week without fear of litigation are too.
Speaking of litigation, the businessman formerly known as “the next Alan Sugar”, 16 year old Gary Cooper, is under investigation from Trading Standards following accusations from irate customers of unauthorised payments, non-receipt of goods and even charging extra for customer support requests. Barclays have suspended online payments for the ‘GC’s PCs’ website while Microsoft are conducting their own investigations into alleged misconduct. Fearless and/or stupid readers can still make purchases via Paypal. Perhaps Mr Cooper should spend some of the £400,000 yearly earning he bragged to newspapers about on a decent lawyer, or some shares in Amstrad.
Memory chips are increasing in capacity, computers are getting faster and developers are making more computer games. Right, now the news is out of the way, let’s move on to the jokes.
Gamestation in Princes Street had a Street Fighter IV arcade machine last weekend, which will be gone by the time you read this. After a brief session, I’m happy to report that it’s quite similar to previous games in the franchise: that is, I am totally and utterly crap at it. Pummelled for two games by seasoned veterans, I walked away with a branded t-shirt wrapped around a wooden spoon. On the bright side, I didn’t lose to a twelve year old mashing the buttons with his fists like the average game of Street Fighter on Xbox Live.
Throughout my humiliating experience there was a strong emphasis placed on competition between players. Anyone remember the days when you just played games for ‘fun’? There seems to be a very modern obsession with leaderboards, world rankings and objectives harder than dropping a tennis ball into a soup can from outer space. A good example is Far Cry 2, a title demanding superhuman reflexes just to open a door without having your face blown off. If developers hope to keep us engaged with playing their titles, they need to stop reminding us how much we suck at playing them.
Thanks to the recession, there has been plenty of upheaval in the gaming world. Let’s take a minute to remember the following companies who have all closed or had to downsize in the past few weeks: EA Black Box (Need for Speed), EA Tiburon (Madden, Tiger Woods) Microsoft ACES (Flight Simulator), Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires), Free Radical (Timesplitters) and Sega of America.
Of course, one thing that hasn’t downsized is corporate ego. Playstation overlord Kaz Hirai commented this week that the Xbox 360 “lacks longevity” and PS3 would eventually reign victorious. This was swiftly rebutted by Xbox head honcho Aaron Greenberg who said that their corporate penis was not only longer, but had a much larger girth. Or at least, I think that’s what he said.
Sorry to break the news to Sony and Microsoft, but you’re both losers. US Wii sales through December were double that of Xbox and four times that of PS3. Now that’s what I call a massive penis.
While staring slack-jawed in amazement at the Killzone 2 trailer the other day, my girlfriend asked why millions of pounds are spent developing hyper-realistic, blood-splattering visual feasts, yet nice games don’t have nice graphics to match. It’s a fair point: Cooking Mama looks like it was drawn by an alien race who had never seen human food before, while Beautiful Katamari is as ‘beautiful’ as a box of Duplo half-chewed by a three year old. That said, given how awful I am at playing Cooking Mama, my hyper-realistic culinary disasters would probably induce equally real vomiting.