Halloween has come and gone, and the internet has responded by producing an overabundance of Five Nights at Freddy’s Lets Plays videos and streams. Thankfully, there was more than a few other interesting events taking place over the last week from around the internet – starting with abscientist continually playing video games on super expensive pieces of hardware, before moving onto the lack of silence in Alien: Isolation, and finally Net Neutrality and why you should be paying attention.
The Big Stuff
“Games on laboratory research equipment is a tradition perhaps as old as video gaming itself.”
Indeed, videogames were created in a laboratory, birthed by the innovative minds coming out of Stanford and the Pentagon. Fueled by boredom and the newly created and relatively powerful computers that filled rooms and buildings. Originally, the first videogames came to life and were shared between the teams as a way to show off their newly constructed machines. So it has been and so it shall be, for as long as there have been computers there will always be games to play. These were games created by scientist and engineers to be played in secret on machines that would eventually change the world, books have been written about their exploits. Or should I say their continued exploits.
Even now in the high-tech laboratories of today games are being played on machines that potentially cost millions of dollars. However, these machines are not designed for videogames, they’re not your average home computer that is able to support a host of functions. Often times experimental computers and machines are designed for a singular purpose – running complex algorithms and simulations, managing ever increasingly layered lines of code, and answers the questions to life, the universe, and everything – and many of the games they can support are often old 70s and 80s classics like Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Pitfall. Powerful Graphics cards are not high priorities for these machines and often they are left out.
Now for the off-the wall-hypothetical that isn’t really a hypothetical because it is something that can and will happen, but hasn’t necessarily be asked en mass.
With computer engineers dreaming of hyper and even quantum computing – imagine what games could be created on such devices. Games that could suspend your perception of reality and time, to create a living experience much in the way that Sword Art Online proposed. A living game, would this be something we want to even play let alone create? The Matrix is a movie driven by technophobia and warns of a future of people living in a fake reality, and these are real concerns and questions we should ask ourselves. However, to those living in side of the machines, the Matrix was indistinguishable from reality.
“Alien: Isolation doesn’t have a great sense of economy in its lush sound design. Everything makes noise, not just the alien. The Sevastopol Space Station hums, save stations beep, and Amanda Ripley, the player character, is a veritable noise fountain. Her shoes squeak when she sneaks around. Her breathing lures the alien in close. What starts as a series of absolutely terrifying sounds in Alien: Isolation dulls as the game drags on past the 10-hour mark.”
In my review of Alien: Isolation, I praised Creative Assembly’s sound design and direction, notably their adherence to Ridley Scott’s sound direction. I loved that Sevastopol Station felt like a living world that was alive with sounds. The music was used sparingly and even then it felt complimentary to the environments natural sounds. The original Alien movie and Isolation work so well for me because of their use of sounds that often are left out of other games and movies.
However, not everyone has to agree with my love of “natural sound” design and it is great that Isolation is of a quality that demands this level of analysis that is often rare for your average AAA title. Anthony Angello of the A.V. Club argues that Isolation should have restrained its use of sound and instead incorporated more silent moments. Silence, much like darkness, lets our minds fill in the gaps, and this is even more effective when the silence is unnatural. Often I would argue for this point myself that the use of unnatural silence should be used more often in games – I’m looking at you Dead Space 3 – to raise tension, but for me this runs counter to what Isolation was trying to accomplish.
Creative Assembly wanted to create a game that adhered to the original film as much as possible, and that includes the natural sound direction that prevails through the film. The richness of the environments and multi-layered sounds that accompany it helped create a sense of immersion for me that I’ve not experienced for some time in a mainstream videogame.
Check out the video by Extra Credits on the use of the Uncanny to instill fear that I linked below.
“Here’s a simple truth: the internet has radically changed the world. Over the course of the past 20 years, the idea of networking all the world’s computers has gone from a research science pipe dream to a necessary condition of economic and social development, from government and university labs to kitchen tables and city streets. We are all travelers now, desperate souls searching for a signal to connect us all. It is awesome.
And we’re fucking everything up.”
It has happened, with no regulation or assistance from the FCC and with little mainstream new coverage, Netflix caved into Comcast demands and agreed to pay the behemoth more money for higher streaming speeds to their customers. This is after months of Comcast arbitrarily slowing down Netflix for Comcast subscribers to lessen their overall product and is exactly what the advocates for net neutrality have argued would happen if the internet was not protected. The full details of the deal have been made private to prevent the full ramifications of the precedent it set to fully be known to the greater public. Furthermore, Comcast has also announced their plan to merge with Time Warner Cable which would change the face of the internet for Americans. The new company would server 40 percent of Americans and be the dominant provider in 19 of the 20 top markets in the country.
All of this is extremely bad for videogames, consumers, other companies not named Comcast, and the internet at large. Comcast already muscles around Google, Apple, and Microsoft by preventing their applications and services from launching as they directly compete with Comcast services – which generally are lesser products compared to its rivals. Many in Washington and those ignorant of the issues will argue that the free market has always fixed any errors and will do so here, but a monopoly is not a market. For those of reading this who do not live in America and question why you should even care about this issue should also worry as many potential and current services you enjoy are based out of the United States.
Furthermore, this will have a far reaching impact on the videogame industry as many of your current favorite games are always online experiences that will be subjected to your internet cap. Games and services like Dota, League, Warcraft, Hearthstone, Twitch, and YouTube – all of which dominate the current videogame landscape. These telecommunication companies are massive and their tendrils are far reaching across the internet, they will stagnate growth of new companies and ideas that will lessen the overall quality of product for everyone – not just in the states.
What is worse is that at this current moment many online are not fighting for their right to have neutral internet access, no they are fighting against a perceived corruption in videogame journalism. Dare I say it is a red herring issue, one that is easily distracting the bulk of twitter from fighting against something that will have more of an impact on their lives than any journalist ever could? Priorities need to be checked as the fight for the intent is this generation’s fight, and it is one that has largely gone unnoticed.
Nilay Patel has a fix to this problem that is easy to grasp and easy to pick up for the average person, all we have to say is “the internet is a utility.” Simple.
His lengthy article paints a picture of how shitty things have gotten, and should be a wakeup call to anyone not yet aware of the full ramifications of this problem. Give it a read and join the fight, the good fight.
Want to know more on how important the internet is? Check out Paul Miller as he returns from his year off the grid – “I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet”
Shia LaBeouf is an Actual Living Cannibal
What is the future of food?
How the Uncanny Instills Fear
Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
Extra Study Materials
Continue Play’s very own Oliver McQuitty has something to say about graphics in games. “We need to stop being obsessed about resolution and framerate.”
Travis Bradberry of Forbes warns of the risk of multitasking. “Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest”
Matt Geradi reports on how Nintendo wants to watch you sleep. “Nintendo unveils plan to watch you sleep”