Can’t decide what to eat?

They've got you jumping around on their Wii Fit and you can keep your faculties in trim with Brain T

Now regularly invading the Sunday supplements and lifestyle technology sections of the dailies, the middle-brow appears satisfied that gaming is ‘mainstream’, something ‘older’ people and on occasion ‘females’ are now enjoying as a pastime of choice.

Upon closer examination though, it rapidly becomes apparent that such editorial is usually talking about the work of a one company in particular - Nintendo, and the rest of the industry is benefitting from their innovation hugely.

Since the launch of their handheld DS and latterly Wii systems, this old Japanese company has become an accepted synonym for mainstream gaming. Their most recent success, Wii Fit, sent non-gamers rushing to the shops to buy a brilliant (and expensive) ‘balance board’ with software which could apparently measure and improve their fitness.

Despite also emitting the same whiff of pseudo-science which some found objectionable about their Brain Training games, the masses were mostly able to make the leap that their ‘Wii Fit Age’ score was simply a motivational device which encouraged them to play, and not a clinically accurate diagnosis of their cardio-vascular health.

There was of course, the unfortunate subjective analysis (you’re fat) that the software doled out to one ten year old girl, but most people emerged relatively unscathed.

So, having convinced aging gamers that they can delay the onset of Alzeimers with Brain Training, and selling an elaborate set of bathroom scales into living rooms with lucrative success with Wii Fit - they now make a move into a previously untapped room of your house - the kitchen. Their latest DS release, Cooking Guide, prizes open the gap between them and their ‘competitors’ even farther. Subtitled ‘Can’t decide what to eat?’, this is a snappy, convenient little tool designed to help you answer that recurring question and then guide you through the culinary process.

It’s a perfectly effective recipe software and most useful in the manner in which it allows you to interrogate its database, selecting recipe options based on your available ingredients, spare time or country of origin.

Having chosen your meal, the software takes you step by step through preparation and cooking in a surprisingly un-patronising manner. Fears of your DS’s circuitry becoming jammed up with raw pork are unfounded, as there’s really no need to touch the device once you start cooking.

The entire process can be driven through effective voice-recognition, requiring you to clearly shout ‘continue’ to move on to the next step. A chef avatar thankfully devoid of any particular character traits guides you through the cooking, and suggests a real opportunity for celebrity chefs in the future.

Surely Ramsay will see this as an opportunity to stretch his franchise even further and license, ‘Can’t decide what to fucking eat?’

The whole exercise is more a very effective proof of concept than an essential purchase, and it’s unlikely that the software will make the same headlines that Brain Training did. That said, as another demonstration of the durability of the DS as a device, it’s very persuasive.

Quite how effective Brain Training and Cooking Guide are as a gateway drug into other gaming experiences isn’t wholly clear as yet. The DS remains one of the richest platforms for innovation in game design around, and it would be great to think that having had their brains trained, players move on to try other experiences. Cooking Guide is also suggestive of a yet un-tapped market for decision making software. Politics Guide : Can’t decide what to think? Anyone?

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.