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SFTW: The Graveyard

Each week Iain Simons picks a game so you can while away a few hours at your desk. This week the Gra

This week I'd like to share another entry from the Independent Games Festival shortlist, and something of a radically different timbre.

One of the qualities that excites me the most about the videogame is that after more than 30 years of development it's impossible to concisely describe what one is. More than any other kind of media, they can be characterised by the fuzziness of their boundaries - this week's game is especially provocative in its questioning the definitions of the form.

Belgian developer Tale of Tales create their work from a conspicuously artist-led approach. Their declaration that they "..explicitly want to cater to people who are not enchanted by most contemporary computer games, or who wouldn't mind more variety in their gameplay experiences.." gives a strong indication of the kind of project to expect.

Working as they do within a critical framework of new-media art, founders Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn take a transparent approach to their development, publishing papers expressing their ideas and maintaining a series of project blogs which candidly expose their process.

Their nominated project at IGF is The Graveyard, a radical and innovative piece which casts you in the unusual (for a videogame at least) role of an old lady. As the description of the project states on the site, " walk around, sit on a bench and listen to a song...", and that's really all the description you need.

The Graveyard is extremely challenging in that it constantly instills in the player the nagging sense that they should somehow be doing more- after all this is a videogame? Surely there must be more required of our intervention in this than simply hobbling an old woman slowly over to a bench? It's in the playing out of those limitations within the beautifully rendered world of the game, that the atmospheres that ToT are aspiring to create become evident. The Graveyard is as much about what you can't do, as what you can. The developers would describe it as a painting which you can explore, a useful summation.

The Graveyard requires no particular skills to 'play', just a little time. Wonderfully, the free to download demo version is exactly the same as the $5 one except for one feature - the full version offers the possibility that the old lady might die.

The Graveyard

The Graveyard development post-mortem

The Graveyard from Tale of Tales on Vimeo

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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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.