A Little Big Problem

LittleBigPlanet promises to take user-generated creativity to new levels, providing it can first ove

LittleBigPlanet, probably the most anticipated videogame this year (about which we have talked before) has been for delayed a few weeks. Usually, such a stall would be down to last minute bugs found in the code or something rather mundane. No-one expected something like LBP to be delayed due to an outbreak of corporate religious sensitivity.

The problem was discovered in one of the pieces of music licensed for the soundtrack, specifically a piece by Toumani Diabate which contained two expressions which are found in the Qur’an. This discovery appears to have triggered a spasm of corporate religious sensitivity with Sony immediately recalling all copies globally and Guildford-based developer Media Molecule left ‘shellshocked and gutted’. A new date for the game has since been announced.

Sony’s Playstation 3, on which the game is based, has had a previous well publicised conflict with a major religious organisation. Last year they fell into a well-publicised dispute with the Church of England over the use of the interior of Manchester Cathedral as an environment within their ‘Resistance : Fall of Man’ title. Clearly, they don’t want to enter the same kind of conflict again - and in particular not with something as family-friendly as the LBP brand.

Perhaps what’s most interesting here though, is the precedent implied for LBP as a platform for user-expression. It’s one of the flag-bearers for the idea of user generated content, the game itself is essentially a tool to allow the player to create more levels and share them with others. On the evidence of the beta version, which players have been using for a few weeks, it’s a startlingly powerful one. LBP is intended to be a place for free creativity and expression, so it’s going to be very interesting to watch the corporate reactions as the game evolves with the public expressing themselves within it.

After all, the previous poster-child was Will Wright’s Spore - and we all remember what happened there…

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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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood