Metro Exodus, Devil Engine and Apex Legends: three games that demonstrate the value of genres

From a ‘battle royale’ showdown to a shoot ’em up revival, three mixed new titles demonstrate the value to games of genres

Genres, as the graphic novelist Alan Moore once wrote, are pretty much only useful for directing the WH Smith’s clerk in which section to place the books. The best work is woven from threads of comedy, tragedy, romance, horror and all the rest. It defies, in other words, tedious categorisation. In video games, however, the strictures of genre cannot be so easily dismissed. Game design is tactile, quasi-architectural in nature. Games are more easily grouped, then, and drift in and out of fashion more readily than film and literature, as a trio of this month’s releases demonstrate.

The Ukrainian fingerprints of Metro Exodus’s development team are pressed clearly into each of its snowy, menacing landscapes. This game, based on the bleak, post-apocalyptic novels of the Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, comes from a team clearly familiar with the texture of post-nuclear disaster: the blackened berries withering on the bushes, the homeless dogs, nature’s relentless reclamation of all human edifice. The effects of this fictional nuclear holocaust have surely been exaggerated for video game effect – the swamp sharks and mutant horses, to name but two – but there’s a melancholy near to the surface of this brittle shooter that has the quality of lived experience.

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From self-harm to terrorism, online recommendations cast a deadly shadow | John Naughton

The tragic case of Molly Russell has highlighted their malign influence

My eye was caught by a headline in Wired magazine: “When algorithms think you want to die”. Below it was an article by two academic researchers, Ysabel Gerrard and Tarleton Gillespie, about the “recommendation engines” that are a central feature of social media and e-commerce sites.

Everyone who uses the web is familiar with these engines. A recommendation algorithm is what prompts Amazon to tell me that since I’ve bought Custodians of the Internet, Gillespie’s excellent book on the moderation of online content, I might also be interested in Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism and a host of other books about algorithmic power and bias. In that particular case, the algorithm’s guess is accurate and helpful: it informs me about stuff that I should have known about but hadn’t.

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