FROM THE FRONT LINE As a n a u tu m n of f i rst- perso n sh o oters hi ts, we spea k to th e rea l a c ti o n h ero e s w h o love to ga m e
PRESS START A HEAD OF THE GAME MATT JONES, GROuP ART DIRECTOR fOR THE fIfA fRANCHISE, REvEALS THE SECRETS Of MAkING A fAMILIAR fACE
We start out by going to a club training session, setting up a controlled environment and photographing the players. It sounds simple, but it’s quite a complex camera rig – we currently use 18 digital SLR cameras to make sure we capture them from every angle. You need to be careful that you have completely neutral lighting and as little facial expression as possible, so we basically want them to sit there and stare straight ahead.
From those photos, the software builds an extremely high-resolution 3D model in just a few minutes. That model is no use to us in the game, so then our motion capture guys take the very high-res model, which has probably got a few million polygons in it, and break it back down into something that has only got a few thousand polys, which is what we need to go into the game.
Next, the photos are combined together into a texture map that goes onto the 3D geometry. We find this is the best way to make sure we capture all of the asymmetry that’s there in the majority of people’s faces, as well as any blemishes they have. We make every effort to keep those elements right through the pipeline so they’re visible in the final game – it’s the ‘imperfections’ that can make faces look really realistic.
“I read a script that Gore Verbinski has optioned for a BioShock adaptation. I came to it with a bit of prejudice because it’s based on a computer game, but it was just extraordinary. That totally opened my mind to the idea of movies made from games.”
All this means that we have a great foundation to work from – if we go and head scan Wayne Rooney, we’ve got it on file so we’re able to tweak it if he changes something about himself. For example, he recently got implants along his hairline, but because we’ve got a good reference of him and great geometry, we were able to update his hairline so that he has the correct hair for how he looks today.
riSi NG Star eddi e redmaYNe ON th e li Nk betweeN GameS a N d m Ov ieS
Somebody’s been given the Little Big Planet treatment, but can you tell who it is? Turn to the back cover to find out.
(sPACE inVADERs) 1978
(ALiEn BREED) 1991
(DUKE nUKEM 3D) 1996
The original videogame visitors from outer space, their blocky bodies made them the ultimate arcade extra-terrestrials.
Large floating jellyfish-like creatures, Metroids don’t look that tough. But let their blobby bits touch you and they’ll literally suck the life out of you.
Uncannily similar to star of the Alien movies, these bug-like creatures have shiny metallic bodies and are every bit as menacing as the nasties that inspired them.
A gremlin ninja from outer space, Zool was released the year after Sonic sped into the world and there are distinct similarities between him and the conquering hedgehog.
Not much to look at, the Duke’s shambolic pixelated foes are defined by their murky colour palette, often a light brown complemented with black body armour.
SO YOu THOuGHT JOuSTING WAS AbOuT TWO METAL MEN bATTERING EACH OTHER Off THE bACkS Of HORSES? THINk AGAIN. COPENHAGEN GAME COLLECTIvE’S JOHAnn sEBAsTiAn JOUsT uSES PLAYSTATION MOvE CONTROLLERS TO PIT fRIENDS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER, EACH PLAYER TRYING TO kEEP THEIR CONTROLLER STEADY WHILE MAkING THEIR OPPONENT’S CONTROLLER WObbLE. IT’S A SIMPLE GAME, buT THE TACTICS GET SuRPRISINGLY COMPLEx …
IN AuGuST THE LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA RECORDED AN ALbuM Of THE GREATEST EvER vIDEOGAME MuSIC. WE SPOkE TO THE MAN WHO MADE IT ALL HAPPEN, COMPOSER AND CONDuCTOR ANDREW SkEET. How did the project come about? There’s a Swedish record label called X5, and they had the idea to collect together some of the best videogame music and get a top orchestra to record it.
Controller held at arm’s length, the kicker lashes out with a vicious toe flick to send their opponent’s controller flying.
Gently laying their controller on the ground, this high-risk strategy leaves a player free to run amok – until an opponent reaches that unguarded controller.
Forget aiming for the controller itself – the yanker simply grabs their opponent and throws them to the ground.
The most defensive of all players, the croucher curls into a protective ball around their controller and hopes to weather the storm of their opponent’s attack.
dON’t take Our wOrd FOr it - See the Game iN actiON at JSJOUSt.COM
Do you have a games background? No not really – only in the sense that I’ve played them a bit. My interest was more from the musical side, to try and show that the music can stand alongside film music or pop music, and that it’s worth listening to of its own accord as much as any other type of music. So which ones really stood on their own feet? There are the obvious ones like Call of Duty – that was scored by [movie soundtrack composer] Hans Zimmer, so it just sounds great straight away. One of my favourite ones is Dead Space – it’s just incredible, really scary. Then there were games like Zelda, where this had just never been done before; it’s this nice little eight-bit tune, and we came along and gave it a whole John Williamsstyle orchestral treatment. VIDEO GAME HEROES iS Out NOw, WWW.LP O.ORg.UK/heROeS
INDUSTRY EYE OuR ANONYMOuS vIDEOGAMES INSIDER OffERS HER ExPERT OPINION ON THIS YEAR’S TOP CHRISTMAS TITLES Every year, as the Christmas blockbusters begin to roll in, choice paralysis hits. And this year we’ll feel it more than ever: established franchises are reaching the peaks of their powers, and PSN titles are also stepping up – they’ve always challenged the blockbusters for innovation, but now they’re matching them for polish and scale too. Here’s my pick of what I’ll be playing for the rest of this year. Sequels used to equate to cash-ins, but today they’re often better than the original. Two sequels not to be missed are Uncharted 3 and Batman: Arkham City. The Uncharted games deliver cinematic experiences combined with humour, adventure and a huge cast of enemies to point an AK47 at. The darker tone of this third outing, Drake’s Deception, promises to take us in intriguing new directions. Meanwhile, Batman: Arkham Asylum restored my faith in game adaptations of comic book classics, as the Dark Knight stalked his way through the tightly focused setting of an asylum out of control.
We can only hope the sequel hits the same pitch perfect pacing as Batman is unleashed on the expanse of Arkham City and its crop of infamous baddies. If fully destructible environments and ooh-ing at particle effects aren’t your thing, check out Okabu. One of Sony’s excellent Pub Fund games (where they help independent developers to publish games on PSN), Okabu has you and an optional friend take charge of two cloud whales sent to investigate the source of smog polluting their world. A physics-based puzzle game, this is all charm as you rain, squirt and fly your way around surprisingly large levels, accompanied by uniquely powered heroes that you meet and control. This is just scratching the surface; with games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and HD versions of classics like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus also vying for your time, you know that this year it’s going to be a busy Christmas.
(MAss EffECT) 2007
(CRYsis 2) 2011
Known for his emaciated appearance, having spent years slaving away at RuptureFarms, Abe might not look the part, but he’s more than capable of fighting the good fight.
Another monster that bears more than a passing resemblance to Alien’s cast, these parasitic crablike creatures are facehuggers in all but name.
Rarely spotted without their distinctive facemasks, these supersoldiers come heavily armoured, intent on colonising and taking control of the human race.
Hideous demon-like creatures, the chimera claim to be evolved from man, though their multiple eyes and all-round ugliness suggests otherwise.
A heavily armoured group of war faring reptilians, the Krogan are an immensely proud race of soldiers, fierce in battle and domineering in presence.
Armoured by their shiny exoskeletons, these cyborgs are some of our most technically advanced alien foes to date, and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing.
LOSE YOURSELF ATTACK T HE BLOCK D I R EC TOR J OE COR N I SH O N A DISAP P OINTIN G STAR T, AN D W HY I T A L L CO MES DOWN TO GE T T I N G LOST I N T HE G AM E INTERVIEW ANDY DOWS PHOTOGRAPHY PAUL WILLOUGHBY
t took me a while to get into games. Looking back, it seems they used to be more about frustration than actually enjoying yourself – game mechanics were so basic that they ended up more like puzzles than proper games. I remember a rich American friend of mine had computer Battleships and then he got an Atari, which was very exciting, but I was always a bit disappointed by the games and I think I ended up in the whole ‘it’s a waste of time’ club. It wasn’t until I was a bit older and spending a lot of time at an arcade we nicknamed ‘Slots of Fun’ in Victoria that the arcades got me, but even then I wasn’t really hooked. I really wanted to be into videogames but I never really had the money to make it happen – it still seemed to be a pastime for my rich friends because you were constantly pumping 10p pieces into the machines. Neither me or Adam [Buxton] had a console, but I remember we rented a SNES from a place in Lavender Hill in South London. I remember we put our funds together to rent it with Lylat Wars, which was the first incarnation of Star Fox, and we also rented a game called Another World that had these brilliant motion capture creatures in it, which some people have said are a bit similar to the monsters in my film Attack the Block. We got really excited about it, but I think we got stuck on about the second level of both games, which was bloody annoying considering we’d shelled out about £40 for the privilege. We must have been about 16 by then so it was a lot of money, but that was my problem with games. I used to totally fall in love with the cover art, then be a bit disappointed when what looked like an amazing Spielberg film turned out to be visually more like some kind of thing made out of LEGO. I really wanted to get immersed in stories, but it would just be a constant exercise in failing the level, or having to learn the level. Videogames back then were about learning where the trap was, or when the baddie was going to jump out from behind the barrel, so it was a lot harder to play them in an intuitive way. By the time you’d cleared a level you’d have played it about 30 times and it would have reduced itself to a sort of geometric puzzle. I think that when you watch a level that much you stop being able to believe in it as characters in a place.
My first proper introduction to gaming was Goldeneye. The most lavish present I bought myself after we made the first series of The Adam and Joe Show was an N64, and Goldeneye was the first game I played all the way through – it was properly responsive and intuitive and absorbing. That and the first 3D Mario game on the N64 – they were the ones that felt really different. As someone who was interested in cinema and TV and video cameras, the freedom of camera movement in those things was amazing. It felt incredible to be able to completely control the point of view with the analogue stick and D-pad. Weirdly, when I was standing on the set of the Tin Tin film I’ve been involved in, watching Mr Spielberg carry the motion camera unit around the virtual set was very reminiscent of moving the camera through the world of that early Mario game. It’s all about the freedom of the camera – to be able to create a virtual world and then move the camera within it wherever you want. In fact, the way that cameras are free in videogames has definitely influenced camerawork in feature films, because I think young people are used to having a much freer camera in videogames that can go anywhere, and movies have had to emulate that. Also the physics models that you get in videogames now, the crazy jumps and car chases, have had an effect. Look at a game like Infamous, where the characters are leaping over buildings and stuff, and I think you can definitely see that it’s resulted in movies being a bit more exaggerated and fantastic in the physics they use. For example in Fast & Furious 5 or some of the more outrageous action sequences in films – I definitely think there is something going on between videogame aesthetics and feature film aesthetics where they have to constantly keep on matching and outdoing each other. It doesn’t seem to work quite so well when they try to make direct conversions though, like in the Doom movie. I suppose there’s got to be a way to do it well – I think it would involve peoples’ arms disappearing into walls, and glitches. Nobody’s ever done glitches really – that would be fun. Also, there are some good writers I know, like Graham Linehan and Charlie Brooker, who are interested in going the other way and making their own videogame. That sounds like it would be great, but the process seems like a hell of a lot of work. I think maybe I’ll leave that for them to figure out. Attack the Block is out now on DVD
IT’S IN THE GAME
NUDE MASS SLAUGHTER Me and a friend played Baldur’s Gate 2 on the PS2 and we were very excited when we figured out how to make the characters be naked and invincible. We played the whole of the game with full invincibility and the characters naked, running from the right-hand screen to the left, just killing everything. That lacked any kind of challenge and it got sort of boring in the end, but it was amazing to see the characters of Baldur’s Gate doing nude mass slaughter.
SANTA CLAUS THE MOIE I entrusted a friend to come up with my screen name on the PlayStation Network. We were slightly off our faces and I was in the other room and it was Christmas, and he attempted to make my name Santa Claus The Movie. But that was too many letters and he was too drunk to spell, so I think my name now on the PlayStation Network is Santa Claus The Moie.
3D Explorer When I got really into playing the N64, I got totally obsessed by the architecture of the games. I used to love exploring the levels in 3D, so I’d clear a level and then go back to have a look at how it had all been built. I definitely did that with Super Mario 64, and with Goldeneye as well – my memory of the geography of those levels is still totally with me. I can walk through them in my head.
WAR G 05
GAMES Stev en Watson speaks to real military gamers to find o u t how f irst- person shooters are shaping the way we e x perience war
SHOOT OUT It’s an intense autumn for shooter fans, with a whole platoon of eagerly anticipated games hitting the shops. Which ones will you be playing?
veryone has their favourite weapon in Call of Duty, but not many people have a wish list. Twenty-eight-year-old Lieutenant Aaron Florence does. “In Iraq I used to go for the mini-me light machine gun purely because of the firepower it gives. It’s only 556 rounds so the stopping power isn’t the best, but the amount of rounds it can get down and the amount of noise it makes suppresses the enemy. If he’s hiding behind a wall and he hears that he’s got 200 rounds per minute flying over his head, he’s not going to stick his head up. “But at the moment I’m hoping the next Call of Duty has got our SA80 that we’re using in Afghanistan, because it’s class. The old version, the SA80 A2, or the Enfield as it’s known in COD, was terrible – it didn’t really pass the tests of the desert. But the new version has been modified by Heckler and Koch and it’s classed as the best assault rifle in NATO. That’s why I like stuff like Modern Warfare; you see the stuff we’ve got available now, the kit we have, being used there in the game.” A bomb disposal officer who joined up as a private in 2000, Lt. Florence has worked his way up through the ranks and over the last decade he’s seen active service in locations as diverse as Iraq and Northern Ireland. If he says a weapon feels realistic in-game he’s not guessing – and he’s not the only one who values authenticity. Talk to most veterans about first-person shooters and it won’t be long before they’re telling you about the importance of realism. These are people who have lived through extreme situations, life and death separated by a few centimetres here or a few seconds there, and when they get back home they want to do it all again. And they want it to feel real. “We had a few hairy situations in Iraq,” Lt. Florence remembers, “but the main thing I think of now is the adrenaline. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. The initial thought when you get incoming rounds is, ‘s**t, that was close,’ and that’s when your heart starts to go. You don’t get the same adrenaline rush when you’re playing games, but it still has a sense of that – that’s why it’s good to be as realistic as possible.” The trouble is that realism means different things to different people. For Lt. Florence there’s a pleasure in playing with the guns and kit that he’s been trained to use as a professional, but there are limits to the experience. For example, he laughs about the frustration of playing online, “and getting absolutely wasted by some 10-year-old” – a common complaint amongst veterans who come up against bedroom commandos with their superior knowledge of a game’s maps and weapons. For a true military gaming experience you need to get those annoying civilians out of the way and play with people who know how wars are really fought, and that’s exactly what Lucas Wilson did.
The 29-year-old served two tours of duty in Iraq, first in 2004 as a US infantry marine and then as a sergeant in 2006, and he now works as a defence contractor for the US government. He’s been a keen gamer for as long as he can remember, but became frustrated with the fact that he couldn’t find fellow veterans to play with, so four years ago he set up US Military Gamers (usmilitarygamers.com), a gaming community for active, reserve and ex-servicemen and women. Like Lt. Florence he notes the difference, “between getting your heart rate up because you’re in a Call of Duty match and feeling your adrenaline full force because you’re being fired upon,” but he also emphasises the importance of teamwork: “The ArmA series has been really popular with us right from the start. It’s the sort of game that allows us to reclaim some of our glory days, so to speak. A lot of us are out now – we’re no longer actively serving, so it’s great to be able to go and jump into a helicopter and load up with a squad of guys. You’ll have one guy on artillery, and you feed him a coordinate to provide fire and he in turn provides that fire. It’s a great experience. A lot of the team-based, or squad-based games are very prevalent with our guys, because they want to work with a mature group of people who really understand tactics. So there’s no asking which target to pick first, and you don’t need to be told to set up security. It’s all the stuff that we were trained to do for real, played out in a game.” For Wilson and many of the Military Gamers community, gaming isn’t just a quick blast at the end of the day. It’s an extension of the military life that they lived, and as such it brings with it a complex moral code and sense of camaraderie. The details of the game are still important, and Wilson even works with game developers to help make sure they get it right; “Did they get the exact number of airholes for ventilation on the 50cal barrel support? Is it the exact length of 71 inches?” But he warns that realism can easily go too far, especially when it comes to showing the full-blown effects of being at war. “I don’t need to see the top of somebody’s skull blown off… I’ve seen that.” So for these gamers a great first-person shooter isn’t one that simply reproduces every facet of modern war. Instead, it’s one that enables a community to gather around it, falling into rank and simulating the communal spirit that is fostered by the unique conditions of active duty. Wilson claims that the bonds between military gamers are much closer than those of the average civilian gaming clan, and as he warms to his subject he makes the games sound less like a bit of videogame fun, and more like a form of free community therapy. “A lot of our guys are combat veterans. We’ve served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve seen things we can’t really
Re si sta n ce 3
D ead I s land
Return to the resistance once again to help humanity survive at the hands of the Chimera, those four-eyed monsters from outer space. Can we kick them off planet Earth this time?
The Dead Island trailer caused quite a stir when it was released earlier this year, with its rewind action and graphic violence. But can the game live up to the hype? Only one way to find out – grab a hammer and break some zombie skulls.
Out 9 September
Out 9 September
R i g h t A so l d i e r p r a c t i c e s w i t h a c o m b a t s i m u l a t o r
talk about, not even with our own families. But when you get around other guys who’ve been there and done that it opens up discussion and it kind of helps people through. We have in our community kids as young as 18, and I think our oldest member is 76, so you have guys who’ve served all the way back as far as Korea, and no matter when you served, where you served, what branch you were, there’s always that shared experience of sacrifice, of duty, of honour, of integrity, and that’s something we carry over into our community.” It might sound absurd that the first-person shooter, a genre of videogame that has long been criticised for trivialising violence, should be viewed as a therapeutic tool, but it’s not just Wilson and his military gamers who make the claim. Dr. Jayne Gackenbach, of the Department of Psychology at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, published a paper last year claiming that videogames can actually help soldiers deal with the traumatic effects of war. In her research she studied a sample group of soldiers who had seen active service, splitting them into high-end gamers (averaging around four hours of play a day, several days a week) and low-end gamers (one or two hours a day, once or twice a week). Both groups were asked to recount military dreams, and the results confirmed her suspicions of the therapeutic powers of videogames. Gackenbach had previously found that so-called high-end gamers tend to have more control over their dreams, meaning that situations most people would find nightmarish could actually become empowering and energetic – even fun. The soldiers’ responses followed the same pattern, with the highend gamers reporting less threat in their dreams – both groups had dreams containing war imagery, but they experienced it differently. For example the low-end gamers would report dreaming that they were in a combat situation and frozen with fear, or struggling with a faulty rifle; whereas the high-end gamers found they were active, moving around the environment and fighting back against the enemy. Gackenbach is currently undertaking more intensive interviews in an attempt to understand why so many soldiers play first-person shooters, and says that the overriding reason they give is pure and simple enjoyment. She cites distraction and relaxation as other motivating factors, but when she spoke to Access, she noted that a more complex explanation is also beginning to emerge: “Some have suggested that the reason they want to play the combat-centric games is that there was a mythology they came into the military with, and the mythology is not like the reality. Playing these games allows them to go back to that sort of fantasy realm where they’re a hero, so it’s ego-boosting.”
That idea of retreating to a purer, clearer military mythology seems to chime with Wilson’s values, “of sacrifice, of duty, of honour, of integrity”. Freed from the complications and contradictions of real combat, first-person shooters can provide military veterans with the opportunity to be the sort of soldier they always wanted to be, but were perhaps prevented from becoming because of the compromises and sacrifices that inevitably come with war. But what if first-person shooters could also help active servicemen and women get closer to that ideal of the soldier they want to be? Both the British and US military are trying to make that a reality, and have invested heavily in state-of-the art combat simulators that give new recruits a realistic taste of the action, and help sharpen the skills of combat veterans. Used in conjunction with live fire exercises and conventional drilling, it’s hoped that the simulators can improve the skills needed in modern warfare. Lt. Florence explains: “It’s basically a first-person shooter, but it goes into incredible depth – it goes into IEDs and other threats, and the maps are absolutely massive. Say if we do a road move it’s going to cover 30-40km, so they’ve simulated 30-40km for us to work through. You have to watch out for civilians, because you can be walking down the street and somebody might be acting suspiciously and might be a suicide bomber. It’s more the routine stuff that the guys do, watching out for suspicious activity, watching your arcs – it’s more realism than a game, so that the lads can practice their drills.” But you can’t put a group of young soldiers who’ve grown up on Call of Duty in front of even this most serious first-person shooter and not expect them to have a bit of fun: “We always give the lads half and hour of being stupid. They can go round shooting each other, they get onto the 50 cal and they’ll start brassing up their mate… we let them get it out of their system and play basically, before we get onto the real stuff.” It’s hardly surprising that Lt. Florence’s men need half an hour to blow off steam before they get down to work. When he first joined up he was playing games like Medal of Honour, set in World War II and inspired by the likes of Saving Private Ryan, but the majority of today’s recruits will have already seen action in Afghanistan long before they touch down in Helmand for the first time. A generation of soldiers are going into combat having played out their life and death encounters a hundred times before, and it seems that active service only strengthens the affinity they feel for modern war games. As Wilson says; “The military demographic is the gaming demographic. Everybody I know games – it’s unique to our war, unique to the way that we think about war.”
B attle f i eld 3
CAL L O F D U T Y: MO D E R N WAR FAR E 3
Part first-person shooter, part racer, part RPG, Rage throws the player into a post-apocalyptic Wild West and challenges them to stay alive. The question is, do you want to race and strategise? Or just shoot stuff?
Mix it up with tanks, infantry, air force and more in this combined arms favourite. Call of Duty is the king of the shooters, but Battlefield is the franchise seeking to take its crown. With action taking place in Paris, Tehran, New York and other major cities, it’s looking like a strong challenge.
The games event of the year, Modern Warfare 3 has got a lot riding on it. Many criticised the single-player gameplay of Modern Warfare 2 – can this latest release kill off the preChristmas opposition?
Out 7 October
Out 28 October
O u t 8 N ov e m b e r
“i’m hoping the new call of duty has got the sa80 assault rifle we’re using in afghanistan. that’s why i like modern warfare – it has the kit we’re using now”
L e f t U S S o l d i e r s ta k e a m o m e n t t o r e l a x i n i r aq
Horror show What happens when yo u come face-to-face with your favourite videogame? Stephen Armstrong reports on the theatre show that turned Resistance 3 into reality
Notes from the front line Punchdrunk wouldn’t let us take pictures inside their theatrical experience, so we collared some of the people who emerged sweating, swearing and blinking into the light. Just what happened in there?
Simon Davies, 33 ILLUSTRATION MATT LYONS
ave you ever, in the middle of a first-person shooter, as the zombies come pouring out of a basement and your barrel glows red hot with the speed of the bullets pounding into their undead flesh… have you ever thought, ‘I bet I’d be great at this in real life’? You probably have, but I’m afraid you probably wouldn’t. Because down there, in the dark tunnels beneath Waterloo Station, when the creatures snatched one of my team and came running – literally running – after me, all my years of training fell away and I turned on my heels and fled. I like to blame the light – set low, deceptive, hard to see what’s real and what’s just a shadow. But when the torches wink out and the deep metallic grinding thumps start echoing from somewhere in the distance, I sure missed the shadows. Pitch black is much, much worse. Welcome to the world of Punchdrunk Theatre – a full-tilt, no-nonsense immersive theatre company who believe that the only way to game is in the flesh. I’d been lured below street level to take part in their latest show, …and darkness descended, staged at the end of August and conceived as a prequel to Resistance 3, the new PlayStation game that continues the battle against the Chimera’s alien invasion. I should have known what to expect – previous Punchdrunk shows include 2009’s It Felt Like a Kiss and this year’s Dr Who-based kids show The Crash of the Elysium. Crash was closer to a classic adventure, but Kiss was a deeply unsettling experience. You began in a group, walking down corridors that became narrower and narrower as more and more figures started to appear behind each corner. Gradually the group was split, until you were alone, pursued in dim light by a terrifying figure with a chainsaw. “We were inspired by Japanese terror walks, a version of fun-fair ghost trains that basically use brutal psychological terror and the implicit threat of violence to scare the bejesus out of people in ways a plastic skeleton never can,” explains Felix Barrett, the company’s artistic director. “In rides like Saiko Senritsu Meikyu audiences walk – and sometimes run for their lives – through corridors where live performers lurk, as opposed to inanimate sets. You’re not confined to a vehicle that you know will guide you to safety. You can run from what you fear, but you don’t know where the exit door is.” Punchdrunk formed back in 2000 and are currently the acknowledged rulers of Broadway. Sleep No More, a blend of Hitchcock and Macbeth in 100 rooms across 100,000 square metres of warehouse, was booked into the meatpacking district for a month, then extended and extended and extended until now the city is divided into the people who’ve seen it and the people who are just getting around to it. Barrett wanted to push things a little further though – hence the Resistance 3 collaboration. “We’ve tended to concentrate on adrenaline and adventure in the past,” he smiles. “In this show, we’ve been adding psychological and moral pressure. Which of the team will you put at risk? Who will you protect? Who will you trust? I think it’s a very fertile direction.” So delighted was Barrett by the experience of building …and darkness descended that, later this autumn, the company is lining up Punchdrunk Travel – a real life version of a Hollywood thriller. You apply, name the city you want to visit and – if selected – take your plus-one to the airport, open a pre-arranged locker and follow the instructions. Once you land, the whole city is your theatre. You don’t know who’s working for Punchdrunk
and who’s just a citizen. At any point a passing stranger might shove you into a car and threaten you with a beating. Barrett calls it ‘Survival Theatre’, and thinks the audience should leave with bumps and bruises. For gamers this is taking things to a brand new level. Imagine if you could physically feel every flesh wound or have the heat from street fires curl your hair. Under the Waterloo arches, it’s clear you don’t get any health packs; there are no extra lives or pause buttons, and if the actors dressed as blood-drenched killers manage to catch up with you as you sprint down the gloomy corridor, it’s game over with no cheats and no reboot. “We don’t give people a map or tell them to mind their heads,” Barrett laughs. “What we do is empower the audience, so that they’re forced to make their own decisions and trust their instincts as well as their thinking, cerebral side.” For theatre-goers this is all pretty new. Punchdrunk is part of an extreme theatrical trend inspired by gaming that wants to smash up the conventions and immerse the audience deep in a performance that takes gaming to a new level – reality. “People brought up with computer games are used to stories they can join in with and feel they can influence,” explains Jorge Lopes Ramos, a Brazilian performer who created Hotel Medea, a 12-hour adventure in a set of twisted rooms where you’ll be recruited by a neo-fascist and slaughtered by your own mother. “Participatory theatre’s challenge is to take that thrill seeking and carve out a story filled with emotion that still allows for individual experiences and the feeling that you can control the story.” Take, for example, A Machine To See With, the new show from theatre company Blast Theory, which has just previewed in Edinburgh and Brighton. You sign up online and hand over your mobile phone number. On the day of the show you receive an automated call giving you an address you need to go to. A man’s voice leads you through the streets of the city and into a bank job. As you move from hiding money inside a public lavatory, to meeting up with a partner in crime and onwards to the bank, the tension rises. The robbery itself isn’t even the finale – you must deal with its aftermath in a playful satirical swipe at bankers’ bonuses and the current financial panic. Barrett vows to top this with the next show – he’s not revealing details but he’s convinced that scaring Britain out of its wits is a valuable national service. “I love gaming, but real experiences are vanishing all over the country,” he sighs. “It’s like… can we keep a little pocket of danger alive in our sanitised lives? You don’t want to be irresponsible, of course, but you don’t want to be mollycoddled either, because as soon as a nation’s mollycoddled, people don’t take responsibility for themselves.” In the digital age, you can see his point. Anthropologists claim the brains of tribal people are more active than the brains of urban westerners – measuring wind strength, guessing the weather, reading herd tracks and judging distance in a split second is more demanding than making coffee, getting to work and staring at the screen. Gamers are already making split-second decisions that keep the brain firing a whole lot harder than the average commuter with their life on a loop. Blend that with Punchdrunk’s evil genius and you feel human and alive, with all the peril, fear, pain and joy that living at the edge is all about. Time to power up. Resistance 3 is out now
We were nine young people sent on a mission through some post-apocalyptic nightmare to help the resistance against an alien invasion. It was like trying to get the night bus. Not really. It was like being trapped in a dank, disease-ridden maze. I was reduced to shouting, “F**k off” at someone who was clearly an actor, so yeah, I’d say it was scary.
Scariness: Ngan Nguyen, 29
That’s pretty sweaty work! We were on a recon mission – the resistance had been taken over and we had to find a survivor and help them. It’s like team survival, like the apocalypse or something. Everything looked very World War II-esque, everything was empty and we saw dead people. I scream a lot, but I was too scared to scream – I only screamed at the end, and it was, like, “Run!”
Stephen Dobbie, 33
It was crazy – absolutely ridiculous! There was lots of darkness, some problem solving, and these threats that came out of nowhere – I don’t know what they were, but I don’t think they were human. Seriously scary – if it was any more scary you’d either s**t yourself or have a heart attack, and I don’t think I want either of those happening to me tonight.
Russell Bailey, 22
We were given torches and we were skulking around, trying to find our way through. We’d been given a code at the start and we had to make our way through this maze, put the code into a computer, and then it all went completely mad s**t crazy. I’ve never done anything like this before – it had a great atmosphere, really scary.
SUPER POWERED WH O’ S GOT T HE WOR LD ’ S TOP 50 0 SU P E R CO M P U TE R S? A N D W HAT A R E T HE Y D OIN G W IT H TH E M ? DENMA RK GERMA NY
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NORWAY CA N A DA
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UNIT E D STAT ES
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IS RA EL
AUST R ALI A
THE LOCATION OF THE WORLD’S TOP 500 SUPERCOMPUTERS As ranked by the LINPACK Benchmark, June 2011
he clue’s in the name; supercomputers are the information world’s softly whirring superheroes. Capable of accurately executing quadrillions of calculations per second, they’re used for everything from simulating nuclear explosions to forecasting the weather, making them the tool of choice for ambitious scientists with a theory to prove. The illustrations above show the locations and functions of the world’s top 500 supercomputers, but there’s one that’s worth a
little extra attention. Housed on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, and built from 1,716 PlayStations connected to 168 processing units and 84 servers, the Condor Cluster is a bonafide supercomputer that has been helping the US military to get smarter since it was unveiled at the end of last year. Mark Barnell, High Performance Computer Director at Wright-Patterson, is the man responsible for the Condor. We spoke to him to find out what makes his machine tick, and he explained that it’s all down to the IBM Sony / Toshiba Cell processor that’s at the heart of the PlayStation. “A little over four years ago one of my senior scientists, Dr
Richard Linderman, came across the PlayStation’s Cell engine and saw the promise of that architecture. It’s based on the same chip architecture as IBM’s Blade technology, which is used for making supercomputers, and which is a relatively expensive computer component – in the $10,000 range. So the obvious question was, can we take advantage of the much less expensive packaging that PlayStations have? We started off working with around 20 of them and we grew to around 336 and our models were scaling well, so we decided to tie approximately 1,716 of these things together into what we now call the Condor Cluster.” Altogether the Condor cost $2.3m to build, a bargain in the
1000000000000000 ( T H AT ’ S A T H O U S A N D T R I L L I O N )
AU S T R I A
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TA I WA N
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LOG ISTIC SE RV IC E
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WEATHER & CLIMATE RESEA RCH
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IN FOR MATION PR OC ESSIN G SE RV IC E
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“The PlayStation’s Cell engine
is based on the same chip architecture as IBM’s Blade technology, which is used for making supercomputers”
world of supercomputers, which commonly cost at least 10 times that price. Barnell concedes that the Condor couldn’t compete with the world’s biggest and most powerful supercomputers, but says that it was never intended to. Instead, his team of scientists designed it to fulfil a small number of very specific but hugely ambitious tasks, and are now working at the cutting edge of some distinctly science fiction-like technologies. One project, for example, takes inspiration from the structure and functions of the human brain to create a computer that can actually think for itself. The team began by teaching the Condor to read text, and then started to take away characters so that the
computer had to reconstruct the sentences to make sense of them. It can now scan up to 20 pages of text per second, making sense of what it’s reading and correcting mistakes or corruptions as it goes. And it can do that in any language in the world. It’s the sort of project that would be impossible to attempt without a supercomputer. “The difference between us and some of the organisations out there that are doing outstanding work is that they just don’t have a supercomputer to try it on,” Barnell explains. “But we have that advantage – not only do we have some very smart computer scientists, but also they can test things on a supercomputer that happens to be right next to them.”
TIME TO PLAY
You know what it’s like. You get home, stick the kettle on and start a game – just a quick one. Three hours later you look up to find a cold cup of tea, a darkened room and a bunch of things you really should have been doing with your evening. It’s a problem as old as gaming itself, but help is at hand. We pulled together a collection of the finest watches to help you keep track of the time when you’re playing, and we put them to the test in real gamers’ homes. It’s time to play.
PHOTOGRAPHY SAM CHRISTMAS 1
1 SWATCH rebel, £42.50 2 NOOKA ZUB ZENH FR20, £65 3 LTD ESSENTIALS, £30 4 SWATCH FULL BLOODED, £105
5 TIMEX WEEKENDER, £38 6 LTD CLASSICS, £55 7 TIMEX WEEKENDER, £38 8 LTD CLASSICS, £55
9 SWATCH REBEL, £42.50 10 MARC ECKO 20-20, £99 11 G SHOCK HYPER COMPLEX, £85 12 TIMEX WEEKENDER, £38 13 SWATCH REBEL, £42.50 14 MARC ECKO 20-20, £99
15 NOOKA ZUB ZENH FR20, £65 16 LTD CLASSIC SILICON, £60 17 SWATCH LADY ORIGINAL, £38 18 LTD MAXIMO, £65 19 SWATCH LADY ORIGINAL, £38 20 G SHOCK BABY G, £58 Stockists www.gshock.com / www.ltdwatch.com / www.marceckotime.com / www.nooka.com / www.swatch.com / www.timex.co.uk
Girls That Game More women are playing games than e v er b e f ore , but is the games ind u stry still a man ’ s world? Naomi Alderman in v estigates ILLUSTRATION TOBY TRIUMPH
e all know the stereotype of a gamer: a man, probably in his teens or early 20s, possibly unwashed, sitting in front of Call of Duty at three in the afternoon, shouting upstairs to his mum to bring him a sandwich. It’s an unlovely image, and one that the mainstream media never hesitate to pull out, even though it was never that accurate, and is becoming less so every day. These days the man and woman in the street are coming to realise that gamers aren’t some weird sector of society – gaming is the biggest entertainment industry in the world, not some strange niche hobby. And it’s not just for kids – plenty of perfectly grown-up professionals relax with a game after a day at the office, and the likes of Angry Birds are making gamers of people who have never picked up a controller in their life. And yet blind spots still exist in the public gaming consciousness. Blind spots like women. The fact that you’re reading this magazine means you’re probably more clued-up than most, but did you know that the fastest growing games-playing demographic is among women over 45? And did you know that the kinds of
games they play – casual, social games like Farmville and Big Fish’s hidden object games – are some of the highest-earning properties in the gaming world? Women are clearly interested in playing games – they make up the majority of PC gamers – and yet they’re hugely under-represented in the console market. So why is that? And how is the gaming world likely to change as manufacturers pursue this lucrative market? It’s a question fraught with pitfalls. First of all, there’s something vaguely insulting about talking about ‘women gamers’ at all. I’ve assassinated my way through Assassin’s Creed and at no point did I sit thinking, ‘Hmm, how does this game appeal to me as a woman?’ I understand that the game is marketed more to men – Ezio the hero is a man, and most of the main characters are men – but the same could be said of explosion-laden action movies and I enjoy them just fine too. Lots of men play Farmville. Lots of women play Call of Duty. Looking at trends will tell you nothing about an individual man or woman: just like saying ‘on average men are taller, women are shorter’, will tell you nothing about the height of a randomly picked man or woman.
Games for busy people But that’s not to say these broad trends can’t be useful – as long as we can get past the stereotypes. “There’s a perception that women prefer game mechanics that give them time to think, don’t get them flustered,” says Sophie Sampson, a games designer at indie developer Hide and Seek. But that assumption simply isn’t supported by her research, and instead of looking at gender, Sampson says the important factor is gaming experience: “The clear split is between people who have been playing games for years, and new game players. It’s new gamers, whichever gender they are, who have difficulty with games that require them to react fast and constantly. The only real gender split I found was that the women were warier about games that threatened to take a lot of time – there was a preference for something that was played in rounds, that promised a clear stopping point where you could choose to stop or go on.” Belinda Parmar is the founder of LadyGeeks, a consultancy that helps technology companies understand and sell to women, and she also identifies time as a crucial factor in women’s gaming. Her research discovered that, “over 50% of women now play casual games, although many don’t see themselves as casual gamers. The number one motivation cited by women was to ‘relax and unwind’, while for men, games tend to appeal to mastery and domination.” That would be the kind of mastery and domination that comes with hours and days of gameplay. So it seems that ‘games for women’ could best be defined as ‘games for busy people’. In other words, as one games consultant once put it to me: “How do you get women to play your game? Tell them it’ll only take 20 minutes.” And that’s the problem, of course, with a lot of console games. Completing them takes a long time. Getting good at them takes even longer. Parmar herself admitted: “I am not a hard core gamer – I like playing casual games I can dip in and out of.” I hear a lot of rhetoric in the gaming world that the kinds of games women tend to play, ‘aren’t real games’. Certainly that’s a phrase I hear trotted out about Farmville and similar simple games. But what would you call Diner Dash if not a game? I sometimes feel that ‘real games’ are defined as ‘games men play’, and the fact that a game skews female seems to automatically make it less legitimate in the eyes of many gamers.
A man’s, man’s world?
Defining any kind of ‘gaming community’ is notoriously tricky, and it’s no different when talking about women gamers. We probably form a set of overlapping communities, with many lone gamers who don’t feel the need to belong to any particular gaming social group. But with the growth of online multiplayer gaming and many games whose best elements are the downloadable content or multiplay on PlayStation Network, it’s legitimate to ask whether those multiplayer spaces are safe or welcoming for women. Games companies themselves are often guilty of the most egregious ignoring or demeaning of female players. There are the ‘booth babes’ at conferences and conventions whose very existence implies that the games they’re marketing are aimed at heterosexual men (or lesbian women, I suppose, although I
rather doubt it). One notorious campaign saw a competition set up at the ComicCon conference, in which players who ‘committed an act of lust’ with any booth babe and submitted it to the publicity team would win a date with ‘two hot girls’. Encouraging the inappropriate groping of female booth staffers and handing out time with paid women as a prize? Way to keep it classy. It’s stunts like this that can make women feel unwilling to define themselves as gamers. Hope Gaming, an online group of female gamers across Europe, asked their members whether they felt they were treated respectfully in the gaming community. The responses they received were encouraging: “We have found the community as a whole to be respectful of us. In fact, many guys seem fascinated by the fact that we are female gamers and actively want to discuss gaming or play with us.” While playing Call of Duty online in multiplayer and communicating with headsets, though: “We’ve all been subject to unwanted attention and sometimes downright abuse in the lobbies, hearing such comments as ‘get back in the kitchen’ or ‘girls shouldn’t play games’.” But the women seem robust in their responses: “They’re usually teenage boys, and we’ve come to expect nothing more from them.”
Playing the Game
So there are several barriers to entry for women who might be interested in getting into gaming: It can be difficult to define yourself as a ‘gamer’ if you prefer shorter, more casual or puzzle-solving games to the thrill of making 10 headshots in 45 seconds. And the gaming world itself can seem rather offputtingly, well, ‘testosteroney’. But then there are the games themselves. Even those targeted at women and girls can be quite patronising, taking what Parmar calls a “shrink it and pink it” approach to inclusiveness. Targeting girls with games based around babies, cooking and other traditionally female roles isn’t exactly inspiring – it’s hard to imagine that these games encourage girls to feel that gaming is a place where, like boys, they can explore wild fantasies and exciting adventures. One of the main problems, of course, is the portrayal of women – or total lack of any portrayal of women – in even the story-heavy new-gamer focused games. Some games go out of their way to make women feel welcome: role playing games like the Dragon Age and Fable series often allow players to choose the gender (and name, and other features) of their character. Mass Effect is noteworthy for creating a pre-defined player character – Commander Shepard – who can be played as either a man or woman. But LA Noire, a game that has been marketed like a gripping detective thriller (a very female-friendly genre) and which uses skills that might be described as more ‘female’ – like judging whether someone is lying based on facial and body gestures – still doesn’t have strong women characters. The player characters are all male, and the women – an almost unseen wife, a vampy love interest – aren’t clearly motivated. Meanwhile Red Dead Redemption, also out of the phenomenally successful Rockstar Games stable, includes a mission with an objective to ‘hogtie’ a female character, something I personally found pretty off-putting as I was playing. Parmar identifies two over-used stereotypes in female
“I sometimes feel that ‘real games’ are defined as ‘games men play’, and the fact that a game skews female seems to make it less legitimate.”
games characters: “The girl to be saved,” [like Princess Peach or Princess Zelda or… well, most in-game princesses really] “and the implausible action hero with huge breasts,” [like Lara Croft or any number of fantasy RPG characters]. She suggests that portraying more varied female characters will have more resonance with women, and the women of Hope Gaming concur, also picking up on the rather obvious physical characteristics of many female game characters: “Women characters are often shown as big breasted, scantily clad characters.” However, they do feel that things are changing: “Lara Croft circa noughties and Lara Croft 2012 are hugely different, and also games like Resident Evil have had some great female characters with ‘balls’.” Or should we say, with ovaries.
Getting it right… and not so right
One game that stands out for its unusual inclusion of both a female player character and a female villain is Valve’s puzzle platform game Portal. You play Chell, the silent woman hero as she battles GLaDOS, the evil female supercomputer who controls a testing base and is, it becomes clear, entirely mad. The combination of female hero and female villain is rare even in movies – Aliens is one example, but even Buffy the Vampire Slayer only had one season of fighting a female villain. Portal’s non-sexualised styling of Chell was particularly pleasing. But even though Portal really gets it right, Portal 2, the sequel, fell into many of the same old traps. Sarah Dobbs, a writer, editor and game fan gave me her thoughts. “Portal 2 kind of took everything that I loved about Chell and GLaDOS in the first game and chucked it out in favour of focusing on a comedy idiot [the robot Wheatley] and… well, another comedy idiot, really, in the shape of Cave Johnson.” Cave Johnson turns out to have been the founder of the testing facility, and had a key role in creating GLaDOS. Dobbs continues: “In the first game it really didn’t matter that Chell was female, and you didn’t even know that to begin with; you’d eventually catch a glimpse of yourself through a portal and figure it out. I liked having an awesome female villain and a female protagonist in a game, and just not commenting on it, like that’s perfectly normal. [In Portal 2], to be honest, I hated the entire Cave Johnson storyline.” I felt the same way: without revealing too many details, Portal 2 turned GLaDOS from an Aliens-style monster on her own terms to yet another powerful woman who had only been placed in her position by a man. But then, in a sense, if games aren’t doing any worse than any other medium, that’s probably as much as I can really expect. It’s not like Hollywood is producing equal numbers of male and female action heroes, and it’s not like movies targeted at women are suddenly empowering, rather than a succession of clichéd dating and wedding stories. What’s most exciting about games is that they’re a young medium, one that’s still growing and exploring. Women are buying games, so games companies will target them. Portal’s female hero hasn’t put men off buying it. LA Noire’s ‘female skills’ game mechanic hasn’t alienated a male audience. The media’s image of a ‘gamer’ might still be all-male, but the reality has already moved on.
Stevie Ward PlayStation brand ambassador Stevie Ward is a professional gamer, demonstrating games and sharing her in-depth knowledge at PlayStation Access events across the UK. She hosted EVETV for four years, and has worked as a presenter at Penny Arcade Expo, E3 and the Games Developers Conference. What is a brand ambassador? People come along to our Access events to sample pre-launch software and hardware and win stuff, and it’s my job to play the games, take people through the games, and basically talk to everyone about gaming. You’re there to really represent PlayStation and live and breathe the game, and I love it! Do people treat you differently to the male brand ambassadors? This is the era of the booth babe. You get these hired girls who are there to look pretty and attract people to play the game, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t always work. If you’ve got a bunch of guys who just want to play FIFA they might not want to talk to pretty girls – they might just want somebody who can get them on the game and who they can play the game with. I don’t think my games get any more attention because I’m female – I think they get attention because I’m good. So it’s important to you that your gender doesn’t come into your work? That’s right, but it’s tough. Take the Frag Dolls; they’re a team of girl gamers who were put together by Ubisoft, and they all happen to be attractive and they get fantastic press attention. Judging by their bios, they look like awesome professional gamers, and why not have an all-female team? More power to them. But how much of a following do they have because they’re all female? Probably more than they would if they were just 10 random people staring back at me. Now I get paid to sell a game and to represent a game, but I’m not doing it because I’m female, I’m doing it and I happen to be female. Follow Stevie on Twitter @Stevie_SG
Sarah jenkins Hope Gaming Sarah Jenkins has been gaming since the mid-80s, and along with Tracy Mills she runs Hope Gaming, the Europe-based female gaming community. How has Hope Gaming been received? Really well actually – we haven’t had any issues with people online at all. In fact, if anything, people tend to be quite intrigued that there are female gamers out there. For some reason there’s still this outdated preconception that the majority of gamers are male, and that’s really not the case. We’ve found that a lot of the male gaming clans want to interact with us and play with us, and we’re happy with that. Do you think your members would play games targeted at women? No – most definitely not. By and large we play games that you’d call ‘male-based’, aimed more at men than women. A few of the girls in the community – and I do mean really not very many – will occasionally play Little Big Planet or ModNation Racers, which are considered to be more family-oriented, but by far the majority of us play games that people would generally consider to be male-oriented. A lot of us are playing Resistance 3 at the moment, and by far the most popular game amongst us is the Call of Duty series. So is there any point in the industry making games for women? No, I don’t think there is. The idea that women would only want to play pretty fluffy games with happy smiley characters in them is really a thing of the past, if it ever existed at all.
ON THE RIDER
CRAMPED BUSES, DODGY VENUES AND SERVICE STATION SANDWICHES – THE LIFE OF THE PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN CAN BE A TOUGH ONE. SO WHAT DO THEY PLAY TO GET THEM THROUGH THE DAY?
TINCHY STRYDER F I FA The chart-smashing Londoner turns to football games to help pass the time on tour, and says that FIFA has finally taken the place of PES in his heart I play quite a bit – I really like football games. I’ve always liked Pro Evolution, but I guess the latest FIFA sort of took it over a bit. I’ve been totally hooked on Pro Evolution for a long time, but I didn’t really get on with the newest version – I like the old one better. It feels more real when you’re controlling the players on FIFA, and someone I know tested out the demo for the new version of the game that’s out in a couple of weeks and he said that was wicked, so I’m going to get that. Definitely. I play as Man Utd, and when we’re on tour we’ve always got a PlayStation with us so a bunch of us play together any chance we get. It might be after a sound check or whatever – there are around six of us and we get together and play a tournament. It’s normally pretty even – there isn’t one person who wins all the time, so that makes it fun. Some people are slightly better than others, but you never know who’s going to win it. I’ve played Call of Duty a bit, but I never really got too into it. I was playing online and I’m never in my house for that long, but it was fun though – I can see how people get addicted to it. When I was playing online I was using someone else’s name, so I was speaking to people I was playing with and I’d say it was me and they’d be like, “Yeah, course you are!” It’s addictive though – I think if I had more time I might get into that. Tinchy Stryder’s new single ‘Off The Record’ is out on 6 November
Give us a tune Even the most tone-deaf players can enjoy most videogames, but there are a few that demand just a little rhythmical ability. We’ve rounded up three of the best games for the musically accomplished.
S AV E S T H E DAY MADDEN / CALL OF DUTY
T H E B L AC KO U T C A L L O F D U T Y / F I FA
New Jersey rockers Saves the Day go multiplayer to stave off boredom when they’re on the road. Drummer Claudio tells us why he prefers shooters to sports sims
As Welsh post-punkers The Blackout set out on their UK and European tour, guitarist James tells us why it’s sometimes best to just leave the games at home
Electro DJ Kissy Sellout finds time for a bit of brainless fun before his Friday midnight shows on Radio 1
When we play together as a band it’s usually first-person shooters or John Madden. Our singer Chris is probably the best at Madden, but Arun, our guitar player, he gets pretty into the sports games too. The two of them will fight it out all night. It’s a different story when it comes to the first-person shooters, and I’ve got to say I’m the best. I’ll pretty much school anybody at Call of Duty – it’s got to be the best first-person shooter going, and it’s probably one of the most popular games on the road too because of the multiplayer aspect. You don’t need to have internet access all the time – you can just hook up two PlayStations and play in different buses or in different dressing rooms. We’ve had up to eight people playing at the same time with an ethernet cable strung from one bus to another. That’s always a lot of fun. We will take any band on and destroy them when it comes to COD.
I’d say that one of our singers, Gavin, is probably the biggest gaming fan out of all of us. He plays all sorts of stuff, but when it comes down to getting everyone involved it normally boils down to the old favourites like Call of Duty or FIFA. They’re sort of games that everyone plays aren’t they? I’m a pretty big gamer, but I hate losing. We’re all guilty of it sometimes. You know how it is – you can have, like, 100 hours’ experience in a game and then one day just nothing will go your way. You’re thinking, ‘I should be better at this – I’ve wasted so much of my life on it!’ On a tour bus you can’t get away from it and I’ve got a really short temper. I’ve got to say I’ve put the controller down and walked away a couple of times. Actually, now I think about it I don’t know why I play computer games so much because they’re a massive contrast with my personality. I’m really easily frustrated, and I play games that are really good at irritating me!
I love Borderlands. I don’t know why but there’s something about being able to go out and buy and sell guns that I find really satisfying. I wasn’t sure about it at first because it’s so cartoony, but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. Also, I’ve got a really short attention span, so I need a game that I can just pick up and play. I tried playing Call of Duty: Black Ops the other day and I got so bored! You have to sit around and wait five minutes for the videos to finish before you can start playing – that’s no good for me. I think that these days people recognise that shooters are just a bit of fun – they don’t have any bearing on real life. It’s great to have a real bit of brainless fun – I don’t tend to go into Radio 1 until just before the show starts, so once I’m done in the studio during the day I’ve normally got a bit of time to kill before I need to set out. Borderlands is perfect for that – I know I can just switch off and play for however long I’ve got.
K I S SY S E L LO U T BORDERLANDS
Para p pa the R a p p er Before there was Guitar Hero, before there was Rock Band, there was Parappa the Rapper. The lyrical dog spat his rhymes to an increasingly rapid beat as the player banged away at buttons, pressing in time to keep Parappa’s flow going. The weird 2D graphics, bizarre storylines and insane characters (an onion-headed rapping sensei?) combined to make sure that this game wasn’t just ahead of its time – it was off in a world of its own. C hild of E den The younger, even more beautiful sister of Rez, Child of Eden is another trippy adventure through colour and music from Japanese master Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Flying around the internet, cleansing ‘bad’ data by firing in time to the music, the hypnotic gameplay spirits players away into a rhythmic, ecstatic trance. Or totally confuses you. R ock Band Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the star of music gaming is fading – people aren’t buying the games or their hardware any more and the Guitar Hero franchise has hung up its plectrum for good. But somebody needs to tell that to the makers of Rock Band, who are ploughing ahead into ever more realistic music playing territory. Take for example the release of the new Fender Squire Stratocaster Guitar Controller – a real Fender guitar that also doubles as a game controller. Yours for a shade under £180.
As gamers prepare for their latest expedition into Uncharted 3, Andy Tweddle speaks to lead game designer Richard Lemarchand to hear about the inspirations behind Drake’s new adventure The Uncharted series returns this autumn with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, and early opinion has it that this is the most epic and cinematic instalment yet. Taking the gamer on Nathan Drake’s journey to uncover the lost city of Ubar, dubbed ‘The Atlantis of the Sands’ by Lawrence of Arabia, the game is being praised for its meticulously woven storyline and constant sense of impending danger. But how do you do that? How do you create a story so compelling that players not only believe
in it, but become swept away by it? If anyone should know it’s Richard Lemarchand, lead game designer at development company Naughty Dog. He says that they drew upon several sources of inspiration, “to create colourful worlds populated with colourful characters… to stand out from the crowd and make something that would be funny and romantic, as well as full of action and explosions.” Here are his top five inspirational individuals:
I ndiana J ones There are lots of techniques that we’ve used to keep the player on the edge of their seat in this game. One is to really work the central abilities of the character. We were very influenced by the great 80s action/adventure movies that we grew up loving, like Indiana Jones. Nathan Drake is really just a regular guy with regular abilities. As he runs and jumps and crawls his way through the worlds that we send him on adventures through, we’ve taken great care to make him look like he’s really working to the edge of his ability. We want to show that he’s in danger of falling off that ledge he’s hanging from, or that he might plummet from that beam he’s standing on. Indiana Jones often only just manages to get out of sticky situations, and Drake is the same. We go to great pains to show that kind of action not just passively though the techniques of cinema, but interactively. When we’re setting up a sequence of gameplay where there’s a narrow escape involved, we time out all of the animations very carefully to account for the different things that the player could do as they’re running and jumping through the world. It takes a lot of effort but we really think that’s where the magic of a videogame comes from, so it’s worth it.
L awrence of A ra b ia We like to take the story of a historical figure as a jumping off point. In Uncharted 2 it was the travels of Marco Polo and an unaccounted misadventure in his history. In this game we reference TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. All his life Lawrence was fascinated by the legend of the lost city of Ubar, a fabulously wealthy city somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula that is supposed to have been swallowed whole by the desert in ancient times. He dubbed it ‘The Atlantis of the Sand’ because legend has it that this great civilisation just disappeared, apparently overnight. When our creative director Amy Hennig stumbled across this story she knew that Drake would be keen to pick up the scent of Lawrence’s trail. In Uncharted 3 he goes up against Katherine Marlowe, the head of a secret organisation, to find the fabled treasure of ‘The Atlantis of the Sands’, which gave us a great chance to create some spooky new settings for him to explore. We featured predominantly water and jungles in the first game and ice and snow in the second, so it was a natural next step to take Drake to the desert in Uncharted 3, and allowed us to make the story more mysterious.
D oc S avage Amy is also a long-time fan of a character called Doc Savage, who was a pulp character from the early 20th century and arguably the first superhero. Very much the rugged hero, Savage was equally at home in the science lab or in a bar brawl. What Amy liked about Doc Savage was that, even though he was the first superhero in a sense, he was actually not imbued with any science fiction or supernatural powers. He simply subjected himself to a very exacting regime of physical and mental training. We find that setting a story in day-to-day reality is very grounding and really helps an audience to buy into the emotional reality of the characters. That’s an important thing when you’re a storyteller. You really have to create characters that are believable and we work very hard to do that. We’re very lucky to have an amazing team of people at Naughty Dog who are great game designers and great storytellers. Both are quite unique skills and it’s rare to find them in the same individual. Fortunately, we have a disproportionate number of them in our company.
R o b ert Louis S tevenson We also like to name-check Robert Louis Stevenson, because he played an enormous role in the early development of the adventure story. Amy did a lot of research into these kinds of stories during the development of Uncharted and broke them down into their constituent parts. She noticed that Stevenson’s stories featured great casts of characters, the allegiances of whom weren’t always clear-cut and didn’t stay the same over time. Characters that start out as enemies might become friends part way through the story; Long John Silver can seem like a friend and mentor but at times he becomes a dark and dangerous enemy. That sort of storytelling is really important to us. We like to reach as broad an audience as possible with our games, and we really love to hear that it’s not just players of our games who enjoy them; it’s often their partners or their family, who actually sit and watch the Uncharted games. We were really blown away with how often we heard this from people when we released the first game. It’s a tremendous compliment that people are paying us when they tell us that. It means we’re hitting all the right marks in terms of our storytelling, and that we’re telling character-driven stories with interesting and believable interactions between the characters.
F lash G ordon When we created the Uncharted series we set ourselves the goal of creating a kind of playable cinematic adventure, set in the world of the pulp action adventure films and books that many of us at Naughty Dog had grown up loving. We were very inspired by the B-feature serials in the 1930s and 40s, things like Flash Gordon. We loved these stories but we really wanted to reinvent pulp adventure for the 21st century with the technology now available to us. So for example we think a lot about choosing camera angles that help to show the danger that Drake is in, and we combine that with emotive music to create what we hope is a really genuinely cinematic experience. Pretty much everybody knows who Flash Gordon is, even if they’ve never deliberately sat and read the comics or watched the film, and it would be amazing to think that one day Nathan Drake could achieve that sort of fame.
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Sacked Off That’s right – it’s a small sacky version of Dappy from N-Dubz. See him in action at www.youtube.com/user/LittleBigPlanetUK
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