A deliciously uneasy atmosphere lies under the mask of a welcoming smile in the intensely unsettling Saint Jude. We're here to volunteer for a good cause, but as we're shuffled through eerie, clinical corridors, it quickly becomes clear that nothing is as it seems. Taking part in this immersive, tech-centred show is like walking into a choose-your-own-adventure video game: inventive and enjoyable, if a little restrictive. We're on a trial shift to be a "Guide Star" for Saint Jude, a private company that purports to connect volunteers like us to "Sleepers", people in the depths of a coma. Our job, we're told by beaming clinician Stefan (Bryan Moriarty), is to talk to our Sleeper and dig up details that will help them wake up.
Life moves pretty slow on a video game magazine when the last pages are being sent to the printer. As a writer on Edge, I'd have to be available in the office to write captions and headlines, but often we were there long into the night as the art team designed pages. So the writers and subs would have nothing to do but wait and play games. And for many months, the game we played was GoldenEye. Released two years after the film, into a market where tie-ins were never exactly epoch-making products, it's fair to say expectations were low for the N64 shooter.
It made you realise how, despite all the sophistication of modern society, we're still reliant on water falling from the sky." Sam Alfred, the lead designer at Cape Town-based video game studio Free Lives, vividly remembers his city nearly running out of water. During 2018, the area surrounding South Africa's second largest city suffered months of dwindling rainfall. Dams were unable to replenish themselves at the rate its inhabitants required. The situation even called for its own grim version of the Doomsday Clock: hour by hour, the city ticked ever closer to Day Zero, marking the end of its fresh water supply. Terra Nil, the video game that Alfred has been developing since 2019, is a response to these terrifying events. Dubbed a "city-builder in reverse", it foregoes the consumption and expansion of genre classics such as Civilisation and SimCity to paint a picture of environmental restoration. At light-speed, and with eye-massaging flushes of emerald green and azure blue, the environment transforms into lush vegetation. Terra Nil's simplicity is as beautiful as its visuals, offering the satisfaction of a colouring book while doling out a clear-eyed critique of environment-wrecking extraction. With Terra Nil's story of "climate positivity", Alfred is part of a burgeoning wave of game makers attempting to both educate players on the dangers of the climate crisis while stretching perceptions of what is possible in response to it. Niantic, the maker of Pokémon GO, has used the real-world setting of its augmented reality game to spearhead a tree-planting initiative. Ubisoft, meanwhile, staged an in-game climate march for Riders Republic players, and is set to unleash a virtual forest fire to demonstrate the devastating real-world effects of such arboreal disasters. The idea with each of these ventures is to use video games as tools of moral instruction. For the past three years, a United Nations project called Playing for the Planet has catalysed these efforts with its annual Green Game Jam. Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, founder of partner organisation Games for Good and organiser of the jams, believes video games are perfectly placed to encourage changes in mindset and behaviour. "The idea of player agency is a really big piece [of the picture]," she says. With games, you get to be part of a story – you have a say in its outcome."
In the top 10 list of my favourite-ever video game moments – a list that changes radically every year or so – there are two absolute immovables. And they both involve Star Wars. The first time I sat in the beautifully elaborate arcade cabinet of Atari's 1983 Star Wars game and experienced its thrilling depiction of the Death Star assault was a life-changing moment in an otherwise unremarkable holiday in Blackpool. To a boy who watched the film practically every week on video it was a dream come true. Much later, in 1996, I was a young writer for Edge magazine visiting Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, for a feature on their Direct X graphics technology. After the interviews they took me to a new multiplayer gaming centre in the city; it was a roomful of pods, each housing a state of the art PC and flight controls.
One crisp spring evening, the Wasteland Theatre Company gathered to rehearse Romeo and Juliet. Jonathan "Bram" Thomas was playing Romeo. A self-confessed Shakespeare geek, he'd graduated with a BA in theatre, and this wasn't his first time playing one half of the star-crossed lovers. But it was the first time a mutant scorpion the size of a Jeep had rampaged on to his stage. Panicking, the show's crew rained bullets down on its blackened shell, but not before Juliet fell to its sting.
Background checks and ID verification systems in dating apps are among the measures being considered as governments around the country grapple with how to keep people safe while they are looking for love online. The strategies were discussed by ministers, victim-survivors, authorities and technology companies as part of national dating app roundtable talks in Sydney on Wednesday. The federal communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said it was an "important first step", flagging discussion of possible longer-term changes like background checks for dating app users. "None of us underestimate the complex issues around privacy, user safety, data collection and management that are involved," she said. "There's no one law that is going to fix this issue."
One night this January, as Robert Stewart scrolled through old Hinge matches, he decided to revive a conversation he had begun months ago with a woman on the dating app. After picking up where they left off and exchanging a few pleasantries, Stewart asked if the woman wanted to get on a phone call. He hoped it would lead to an in-person date. "We could do that," the woman answered, but with one caveat. Stewart, who lives in Dallas, clicked on a Google Form the woman sent, titled "Dating Compatibility Q&A".
Microsoft has announced a deepening of its partnership with the company behind the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT by announcing a multibillion dollar investment in the business. It said the deal with OpenAI would involve deploying the company's artificial intelligence models across Microsoft products, which include the Bing search engine and its office software such as Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, has been a sensation since it launched in November, with users marvelling at its ability to perform a variety of tasks from writing recipes and sonnets to job applications. It is at the forefront of generative AI, or technology trained on vast amounts of text and images that can create content from a simple text prompt. It has also been described as "a gamechanger" that will challenge teachers in universities and schools amid concerns that pupils are already using the chatbot to write high-quality essays with minimal human input.
Millions of Chinese players of the roleplaying epic World of Warcraft (WoW) will bid a sad farewell to the land of Azeroth, with the game set to go offline after a dispute between the US developer Blizzard and its local partner NetEase. Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy medieval world. It is known for being immersive and addictive, and players can rack up hundreds of hours of game time. Blizzard's games have been available in China since 2008 through collaboration with NetEase. Under local law, foreign developers are required to partner with Chinese firms to enter the market.
'Woman reading book, under a night sky, dreamy atmosphere," I type into Deep Dream Generator's Text 2 Dream feature. In less than a minute, an image is returned to me showing what I've described. Welcome to the world of AI image generation, where you can create what on the surface looks like top-notch artwork using just a few text prompts, even if in reality your skills don't go beyond drawing stick figures. AI image generation seems to be everywhere: on TikTok, the popular AI Manga filter shows you what you look like in the Japanese comic style, while people in their droves are using it to create images for everything from company logos to picture books. It's already been used by one major publisher: sci-fi imprint Tor discovered that a cover it had created had used a licensed image created by AI, but decided to go ahead anyway "due to production constraints". The biggest players in AI include companies such as MidJourney, Stable Diffusion and Deep Dream Generator (DDG). They're free to use, up to a point, making them attractive to those just wanting to try them out. There's no denying that they're fun, but closer examination of the images they produce shows oddities. The face of the woman in my image has very odd features, and appears to be holding multiple books. The images also have a similarly polished, somewhat kitsch aesthetic. And, while there's an initial thrill at seeing an image appear, there's no creative satisfaction. The implications of AI image generation are far-reaching and could impact everything from film to graphic novels and more. Children's illustrators were quick to raise concerns about the technology on social media. Among them is author and illustrator Rob Biddulph, who says that AI-generated art "is the exact opposite of what I believe art to be.