iTrojan

iPhone is set to transform the handheld gaming market, but not just as a platform in itself. It’s al

Disregarding Snake, gaming on the mobile phone has never quite managed to attain any real ubiquity.

There have been two main problems. First, the sheer variation in handsets available on the market at any given time makes it hugely expensive and time consuming for any publisher/ developer to create their game for enough models to be financially viable. Second, it’s been very difficult for publishers to get their content onto the devices. Bandwidth has been very limited and the install process less than streamlined, causing many users to quit even after deciding to make a purchase. (Snake of course, was successful because it was already on the phone when you bought it…)

Whilst as a device the mobile phone has saturated our live, outside of the core enthusiast base, mobile phones have never really been true lifestyle objects of desire. That was of course, until a Cupertino company decided to get involved and radically intervene in the market.

A few weeks ago you might have noticed the media hysteria around the new mobile phone by Apple. Apple’s release of the new iPhone 3G was an embarrassingly botched affair - marred by critical system failures and inadequate stock. Of the faithful individuals queuing outside stores, few who wanted one got one - and those who did had problems activating them as servers crashed.

It’s an extraordinary testament to the brand loyalty they have managed to create that even following an embarrassing catastrophe such as this, goodwill can be restored so quickly. Within 24 hours all had been forgiven and the nerdsphere was back to doe-eyed worship of Steve Jobs and all he touches.

But whilst an irresistibly device, the biggest leap in iPhone 3G isn’t the built-in GPS or the faster connectivity, but the app-store. Finally, Apple are allowing third-party developers to create applications for the device (and the iPod touch - essentially the iPhone without the phone) and in doing so elevating it from being just a phone, to a mobile computing platform.

The App-store is based within iTunes, and by exploiting an already hugely established install-base users Apple has done what it does best - humanised software.

By removing the clumsy download and install problems that have blighted the mobile games market for years and replacing them with the slick, seamless and, most important, familiar iTunes conduit - mobile gaming has suddenly become accessible.

At the E3 show in LA last week, the major publishers all came out in strong support of the platform, with key games being announced by many. It’s clear that it has the kinds of titles coming to it which will ensure its appeal amongst more discerning players - this will be about more than just Snake and Tetris clones.

But how is it to use? Well, the built-in accelerometer is a joy, albeit one that takes a little getting used to. Tilting the device from side to side is a surprisingly easy interface and it’s deserved that SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball should have been at the top of the download charts since launch.

It’s only when playing titles that demand touch control that the real shortcomings of the device become startlingly clear. Even with my delicate, artiste's hands it’s a frustrating experience on occasion to touch and drag over the screen with any real accuracy. It becomes very clear, very quickly why handheld pc’s usually come with a stylus.

Perhaps the real trojan horse of the new iPhone though isn’t its ability to run games itself, but the potential it has as a controller for another system. One of the other most downloaded applications at launch was ‘remote’, a small and free-of-charge app which enables the user to control another machine's iTunes library from your iPhone.

In a moments download, the potential of the device as not just a platform in itself, but as a peripheral is revealed. Anyone with a basic WiFi network can control music around the house from a single handheld device. The AppleTV, their initial mis-fire entry into the media hub market is suddenly given new possibilities as a gaming platform when coupled with the iPhone as a remote. This is surely the real potential here.

iPhone is set to transform the handheld gaming market, but not just as a platform in itself. It’s also the sexiest controller you ever had.

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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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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