Video games

The Last of Us is a video game adaptation that actually works

The Last of Us may be remembered as the point when Hollywood’s approach to video game adaptations finally changed. In this, it’s as significant a creative development as Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was in creating a new formula for Marvel superhero movies. The series, which began on Sky Atlantic last week, is set 20 years after a fungal pandemic wiped out modern civilisation. Joel (Pedro Pascal) is a smuggler hired to get 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone and across a post-apocalyptic America. It’s based on a 2013 video game developed by Naughty Dog. For decades, moviemakers have struggled to create live-action films based on the intellectual property of

War games do something seriously unpleasant to our brains

Three years ago, I killed several thousand people over the course of a single weekend. Late into the night, I ran around butchering everyone I saw, until by the end I didn’t even feel anything any more. Just methodically powering through it all, through the wet sounds of splattering heads, bodies crumpling, shiny slicks of blood. I thought I was past caring. But when I finally went to bed, I couldn’t sleep, and in my dreams I was haunted by all the men I’d killed. I saw their brains exploding, again and again and again. In my defence, I’d had a bad week. It was December: a grotty English winter,

What to get a gamer for Christmas

The bad news for video game fans – and the parents or grandparents of same – as Christmas approaches is that our old friend ‘supply chain issues’ means that the latest consoles – the PS5 and the XBox Series X – are going to be tricky to get your hands on. Best hope that Santa drops a bumper sack of the elusive components they need down the industrial chimneys of the Sony and Microsoft manufacturing plants. The good news, though, is that 2021 has bought a goodly crop of new games to play in the consoles you already have; or to download onto your PC via Steam. First off, whoohoo! There’s

Barometer | 1 August 2019

Growing fanbase A photograph of the Queen meeting Boris Johnson revealed that she uses a Dyson electric fan. How many of us own fans? — Sales of electric fans rose from 471,403 in 2008 to 648,829 in 2017, according to Prodcom figures collected by the Office for National Statistics. — The retailer reported that sales rose six-fold during last week’s heatwave compared with a week earlier. — Fans are popular in Britain because so few homes have air conditioning. A Mintel survey from 2009 revealed that only 0.5% of homes have air conditioning. In the US the figure is 87%. — The use of air conditioners and electric fans currently

Resident Evil 2

Grade: B Resident Evil 2 takes the original zombie shooter, which has become a cult classic and, to many, the quintessential horror video game, and gives it a lick of digital paint. Gone are the blocky hallways of the Raccoon City police station, along with the slow moving hordes of undead who, if you squinted, might’ve had a pixel of drool at the corner of their mouth. In their place is a German expressionist labyrinth of disorientating shadows, and antagonists so realistically putrefied the game ought to come with the sort of warnings they put on particularly pungent cheese. As ever with the franchise, it veers between survival elements and

Low life | 19 July 2018

Saturday morning. Quarter to 12. Sit-down fish and chips at the Silver Grill: me, Oscar and Oscar’s cousin Atticus. Atticus lives with Oscar because his life is arranged by social workers and the courts. He is a year younger than Oscar, which is to say seven, and they share a bedroom with another, older boy. This is Atticus’s first weekend with Oscar’s grandfather (me) acting as host and entertainments officer, and it could be termed an experiment. The relationship between Atticus’s little bottom and the seat of his chair suggests opposing magnetic fields. ‘And what to drink?’ said the waiter. ‘Tango or Fruit Shoot?’ Atticus chose Tango. Oscar peached that

The simulation game

Digital art is a crowded field. It’s also now older than I am. Yet despite a 50-year courtship, art galleries have been reluctant to allow it more than a toehold in their collections. Things are changing. Take MoMA’s visit to Paris last year. Alongside the Picassos and Pollocks was a very popular final room, made up of a single, beautiful computer-generated animation, in which a huddle of humans tramp across a constantly disintegrating landscape. ‘Emissaries’ (2015–17) is the work of the 33-year-old artist Ian Cheng, who two weeks ago opened his first show in the UK at the Serpentine Gallery. Cheng’s first inspirations were video games like The Sims, and

Fantastic Mr Fox

Sand in the Sandwiches is the perfect show for those who feel the West End should be an intellectual funfair. It sets out to amuse, surprise, divert, uplift and nothing more. Edward Fox’s biographical portrait of John Betjeman has a smattering of his most famous poems ingeniously woven into the narrative. Fox knows his stuff. His shrill, elongated upper-middle-class accent is 99 per cent impersonation and 1 per cent exaggeration. He reminds us that when Betjeman said ‘Edwardian’ he rhymed the second syllable with card, not sword. From early boyhood Betjeman knew that poetry would be his trade. Aged 14, he read the sonnets of Oscar Wilde’s chum, Bosie, and

A puzzling phenomenon

Everyone has played it, or one of its manifold variations and rip-offs. Blocks of different shapes fall from the sky; you have to rotate and shunt them around so they fit perfectly together at the bottom, and then that horizontal line of blocks vanishes. This is Tetris, and it was created in 1984 by a Soviet mathematician called Alexei Pajitnov. But how it came to the West is a remarkably complicated cloak-and-dagger story, here given its first book-length treatment. The narrative opens with all the bad bravado of a Dan Brown novel, as one of the several businessmen chasing the rights to the game flies into Moscow for a meeting

School report

Teaching maths the Asian way English primary schools have received funding of £41 million to embrace the ‘Asian style’ of teaching maths. The method, used in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong — all of which are at the top of Pisa’s study into the school performance of 15-year-olds — is more visual than the ‘normal’ British style of maths teaching, and focuses on children being taught in a mixed-ability group, rather than being divided into streams. The funding, announced in July, will allow 700 teachers to be trained in the Asian method, in addition to the 140 who have already completed their training. At the moment, the UK sits in

What will I do with my second chance at life? Play more video games, for a start

Does a near-death experience make you a better person? This is something I’ve been thinking about on and off since my pulmonary embolism. Initially, it hadn’t occurred to me that a PE was a big deal. But the research that I’ve done since suggests that these things aren’t unserious. My seen-it-all ex-army GP, for example, was properly impressed. As too have been the various people I know whose friends and relatives have died of them, one a 23-year-old girl who succumbed after breaking her ankle while walking on the moors. So yes, as my fellow ‘survivors’ keep telling me, I should be grateful for my lucky escape — and perhaps

The greatest joy of playing Grand Theft Auto V? It lets you give the finger to the PC brigade

The last — and only — time I had sex with a whore she was so impressed by my performance that she begged me to do it all over again. I thank the drugs. Before popping out in my stolen car for my rendezvous with my skanky ho, I had smoked a couple of fat blunts which I’d found ready prepared for me by my bitch next to my beer fridge and it put me in just the right mood. But none of this was ‘real’. I was playing the video game Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) and enjoying the transgressive thrills of living the life of a young black