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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Beware Tory Brexiteers trying to wreck EU negotiations

It is not in the interests of either moderate Tories or the opposition to let them. 

Our government has promised the United Kingdom the exact same benefits when it leaves the European Union that we have enjoyed while in. 

In the words of David Davis, Brexit secretary, the government’s plan is “a comprehensive free-trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have".

The negotiations that lie ahead are unprecedented and will be difficult and complex. It’s unlikely a deal will be reached in two years that can guarantee what Davis has promised - and what Labour holds the government to account on, as outlined this week by my colleague Sir Keir Stamer. But reaching a deal we must. It would be economic and political idiocy not to.

We know that those on the EU’s side of negotiations are not willing to negotiate on trade or customs without first making a deal on the Irish border, treatment of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, and money owed. If these are not agreed to, we will have no deal at all.

In precise terms, a leaked letter from the European Parliament said the UK should pay all its liabilities “arising from outstanding commitments as well as make provision for off-balance sheet items, contingent liabilities and other financial costs that arise directly as a result of its withdrawal”.

It added that without a withdrawal agreement on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the border in Ireland, the UK “would exit automatically the union on 30 March 2019 and this in a disorderly manner”.

Brussels estimates the bill to be around €60bn. Aside from the fact we will need to pay (or be open to negotiating some of the bill) as a prerequisite for future negotiations, it is the right approach to take. These are liabilities stemming from obligations that our country has made. It would not be right to renege on them simply because we do not want to pay. And, if we want a co-operative relationship in the future, we must be reasonable and willing to negotiate now.

Yet there is a small cohort of Conservative MPs that are saying just that.

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin's response on the potential of failing to reach a trade deal? “If they want us to pay too much for that, we say no, that’s okay, we’ll pay the tariffs." He laster added that we “won’t have to pay a penny if we don’t want to”. Earlier this month, when asked about the prospect of paying our bills, Foreign secretary Boris Johnson responded: “I think we have illustrious precedent in this matter: I think you can recall the 1984 Fontainebleau summit in which Mrs Thatcher said she wanted her money back and I think that is exactly what we will get.”

This is not a party political matter. Former Tory frontbencher Nicky Morgan  has said there are some members of her party who seem to want to pick a fight with the EU and not strike a very positive tone.

This negative tone is the least of our worries. There are legitimate fears in many corners of Westminster that a small group of Conservative MPs are trying to highjack the EU negotiations, get a number of newspapers on side, and refuse to pay a penny with the specified goal of crashing of the negotiations and bouncing Britain onto World Trade Organisation rules.

We know this would be devastating for our economy, for jobs, and for investment. Failing to reach a deal would be bad for everyone, but particularly for the UK.

True enough, Davis has acknowledged that the UK should pay something, but that the amount is open to negotiation.

The Prime Minister must stand up strongly to a small group of her own party’s backbenchers, who are actively trying to disrupt her efforts to negotiate with the EU.

Catherine West is the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.