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Inside the sexual harassment lawsuit at Activision Blizzard

Engadget

When California's fair employment agency sued Activision Blizzard, one of the largest video game studios in the world, on July 20th, it wasn't surprising to hear the allegations of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the company. It wasn't a shock to read about male executives groping their female colleagues, or loudly joking about rape in the office, or completely ignoring women for promotions. What was surprising was that California wanted to investigate Activision Blizzard at all, considering these issues have seemingly been present since its founding in 1979. Activision Blizzard is a multibillion-dollar publisher with 9,500 employees and a roster of legendary franchises, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo and World of Warcraft. On July 20th, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging executives had fostered an environment of misogyny and frat-boy rule for years, violating equal pay laws and labor codes along the way.


Free Guy review – Ryan Reynolds bounces through fun videogame existential crisis

The Guardian

The great big handsome-goofy face of Ryan Reynolds looms out of the screen in this fantasy comedy from screenwriter Matt Lieberman and director Shawn Levy (of the Night at the Museum franchise). It's an undemanding and cheerfully silly riff on the themes of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and what the heck we're all doing in this big old universe of ours: as if someone took The Truman Show or Inception – or even The Lego Movie – and stripped out every serious satirical ambition, replacing it with M&M-coloured spectacle. The result is not something that's in any way challenging, but Reynolds is so puppyishly eager to please. Reynolds plays a normal, boring guy whose name is Guy (amusingly, it is never clear if this is his actual given name, as in Guy Crouchback, or the more generic "guy"). He smiles incessantly, wears a bland, short-sleeved blue shirt and goes to work every day as a bank teller in a serenely marvellous-looking modern city, resembling Vancouver.


Navigating online harassment: How to take control

ZDNet

In the United States, gaming is a $35.5 billion industry, with an estimated 211 million people playing online games -- which adds up to 67% of the population. Surveillance isn't just the purview of nation-states and government agencies -- sometimes, it is closer to home. In addition to the general allure of gameplay and competition, online gaming platforms also establish connections between people, allowing gamers to strike up conversations with friends or complete strangers and to build what can sometimes turn out to be long-lasting relationships. However, the ability to easily connect socially through a simple internet connection also means there's a platform for negative social interactions, leading to instances of online harassment. A 2019 study by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) revealed 74% of gamers had experienced some form of online harassment, and 65% of people playing games online have experienced "severe" online harassment, which is defined as including sustained harassment, physical threats and even stalking.


Online workers are creating new tools to improve their working conditions. Will it work?

ZDNet

Mechanical Turk requesters outsource paid tasks and processes via the platform, where they are made available to workers, or Turkers. About a year ago, shortly after having a baby boy, Brittany set out to find ways that she could contribute financially as a stay-at-home mum. She soon discovered the crowdsourced work marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) – and after working her way through the platform, started landing jobs that pay up to $50 per hour. At times, she laughs, she is even making more money than her husband. That is not to say that the "good work" came easily. Some savvy Googling and a few Reddit channels got things moving, but she still remembers starting off with "crappy stuff". Which video conferencing platform is right for your business? We've gathered details about 10 leading services. "I compare it to a video game," says Brittany, who did not want her full name reported.


'The Ascent,' an arcade shooter throwback, is my favorite game of 2021

Washington Post - Technology News

Neon Giant flirts with open-world concepts by creating several "town" areas where players can rearm and reconstruct themselves or pick up side missions and flavor text about the world. Like with the skill and weapon improvements, the game is light on role-playing mechanics, but that helps it achieve its mood and pacing. It gives players time to soak in the atmosphere and take stock of the environments and absorb its booming soundtrack. While action sequences thump with bass, the quieter moments are backed by music like the Buddhist prayer chants in anime films like "Akira" and "Ghost in the Shell." If "The Ascent" has one big issue, it's that its aesthetics are almost too obviously referential.


Is DeepMind's new reinforcement learning system a step toward general AI?

#artificialintelligence

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. This article is part of our reviews of AI research papers, a series of posts that explore the latest findings in artificial intelligence. One of the key challenges of deep reinforcement learning models -- the kind of AI systems that have mastered Go, StarCraft 2, and other games -- is their inability to generalize their capabilities beyond their training domain. This limit makes it very hard to apply these systems to real-world settings, where situations are much more complicated and unpredictable than the environments where AI models are trained. But scientists at AI research lab DeepMind claim to have taken the "first steps to train an agent capable of playing many different games without needing human interaction data," according to a blog post about their new "open-ended learning" initiative. Their new project includes a 3D environment with realistic dynamics and deep reinforcement learning agents that can learn to solve a wide range of challenges.


8 great songs from video games that aren't instrumentals

Mashable

Sound is incredibly important in video games, both for conveying information and influencing the player's mood. Video game history is packed with memorable tunes, from Tetris' rearrangement of Russian folk song "Korobeiniki," to the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme, to Untitled Goose Game's innovative use of Debussy's "Préludes." Yet while instrumental tracks are by far the most common, some of the best video game songs also include vocals. Early video games didn't have the technology to include music with lyrics, limiting 8-bit games to compositions of chiptune beeps and trills. But an impressive catalogue of vocal video game songs has formed since then, many of which are more than capable of standing on their own.


Amazon's 'New World' wants you to walk miles to see your friends

Washington Post - Technology News

Last weekend, I logged on again, and Andrea and I played with another friend who was starting the game and had spawned in First Light as well. This made the game more bearable for Andrea; she now had a buddy to do quests with, which is the point of an MMO. I started to do faction quests to level up and increase my standing with the Marauders, my chosen allegiance, which involved killing sheep, skinning them and venturing to some mines. After I completed these quests, I received the same quests again. In the beta, at least, it didn't feel as though there was much for me to do.


Blizzard President Departs as Workers Demand Systemic Change

WIRED

Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack stepped down today following weeks of controversy over the company's alleged culture of sexism. On July 20, California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an explosive suit alleging rampant gender-based discrimination at Blizzard parent company Activision Blizzard. Employees at Activision Blizzard say Brack's departure is just one step toward addressing systemic issues. "No one person is responsible for the culture of Blizzard; the problems at ABK go beyond Blizzard and require systemic change," tweeted the Activision Blizzard King Workers Alliance, a self-described "organized group of current Activision Blizzard, Inc. employees committed to defending our right to a safe and equitable workplace." Oneal was previously studio head for Vicarious Visions, known for developing the Tony Hawk and Skylanders series.


Save $5 on 3 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Mashable

SAVE $5: Walmart and Amazon have three-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate memberships on sale for just $39.99 (normally $44.99) as of Aug. 3 -- an 11% savings. Being a membership service that offers access to hundreds of titles for one monthly fee, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass has frequently been called "the Netflix for video games." That should probably be amended now that Netflix is actually planning an expansion into the market, but it doesn't change the fact that the Game Pass is still one of the best deals in gaming -- even more so right now. They typically sell for $44.99, so you're saving a good 11%. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the highest tier package for the service, combining all the perks of the standard Xbox Game Pass for console and PC (including 100 high-quality games, release-day access to Xbox Game Studio titles, and exclusive discounts) with Xbox Live Gold.