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.
Photo: Hunter Skipworth / Moment
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Cones and cocaine: the ice cream van's links with organised crime

A cold war is brewing to the tinkling of "Greensleeves".

Anyone who has spent a summer in this country will be familiar with the Pavlovian thrill the first tinny notes of “Greensleeves” stir within the stolid British breast.

The arrival of the ice cream van – usually at least two decades older than any other vehicle on the road, often painted with crude approximations of long-forgotten cartoon characters and always, without fail, exhorting fellow motorists to “Mind that child!” – still feels like a simple pleasure of the most innocent kind.

The mobile ice cream trade, though, has historical links with organised crime.

Not only have the best routes been the subject of many, often violent turf wars, but more than once lollies have served as cover for goods of a more illicit nature, most notoriously during the Glasgow “Ice Cream Wars” of the early 1980s, in which vans were used as a front for fencing stolen goods and dealing drugs, culminating in an arson attack that left six people dead.

Although the task force set up to tackle the problem was jokingly nicknamed the “Serious Chimes Squad” by the press, the reality was somewhat less amusing. According to Thomas “T C” Campbell, who served almost 20 years for the 1984 murders before having his conviction overturned in 2004, “A lot of my friends were killed . . . I’ve been caught with axes, I’ve been caught with swords, open razors, every conceivable weapon . . . meat cleavers . . . and it was all for nothing, no gain, nothing to it, just absolute madness.”

Tales of vans being robbed at gunpoint and smashed up with rocks abounded in the local media of the time and continue to pop up – a search for “ice cream van” on Google News throws up the story of a Limerick man convicted last month of supplying “wholesale quantities” of cocaine along with ice cream. There are also reports of the Mob shifting more than 40,000 oxycodone pills through a Lickety Split ice cream van on Staten Island between 2009 and 2010.

Even for those pushing nothing more sinister than a Strawberry Split, the ice cream business isn’t always light-hearted. BBC Radio 4 devoted an entire programme last year to the battle for supremacy between a local man who had been selling ice creams in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea since 1969 and an immigrant couple – variously described in the tabloids as Polish and Iraqi but who turned out to be Greek – who outbid him when the council put the contract out to tender. The word “outsiders” cropped up more than once.

This being Britain, the hostilities in Northumberland centred around some rather passive-aggressive parking – unlike in Salem, Oregon, where the rivalry from 2009 between an established local business and a new arrival from Mexico ended in a highish-speed chase (for an ice cream van) and a showdown in a car park next to a children’s playground. (“There’s no room for hate in ice cream,” one of the protagonists claimed after the event.) A Hollywood production company has since picked up the rights to the story – which, aptly, will be co-produced by the man behind American Sniper.

Thanks to competition from supermarkets (which effortlessly undercut Mister Softee and friends), stricter emission laws in big cities that have hit the UK’s ageing fleet particularly hard, and tighter regulations aimed at combating childhood obesity, the trade isn’t what it used to be. With margins under pressure and a customer base in decline, could this summer mark the start of a new cold war?

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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