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‘Returnal’ and Why Games Need More Badass Middle-Aged Women – News Nation USA

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I bought Returnal, a video game from developer Housemarque, without knowing a thing about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I knew from the trailer that it had something to do with escaping a time loop and there was some futuristic-looking technology and monsters or something. None of that mattered, because I wasn’t buying it for the gameplay, I was buying it because of its protagonist, Selene. Selene is a fairly ordinary video game character in most respects: agile, capable, smart, facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge. It’s unusual for the playable character to be a woman, but that’s not what makes Selene special. It’s that she’s middle-aged. I finally get to see myself in a video game.

I turn 50 this year, and it’s not what I expected at all. I know I’m not young anymore, but I certainly don’t feel old. Middle age, it turns out, feels exactly like what it is—that time of life when you’re smarter than you used to be, and more importantly, smart enough to know you don’t know everything. I can’t move as fast as I could in college, and I’ve got lines on my face, but overall I’m doing OK physically. If I may be so bold, I think this is the best version of me that’s existed so far. Too bad nobody seems to notice.

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People tend not to pay me much mind because I lack the one thing that would make me relevant to them: children. Whether they mean to or not, the second someone discovers I don’t have kids, they recoil slightly. Not out of disgust, but out of confusion. What does one speak to a 50-year-old woman about if not her kids? What do women that age … do?

It’s an attitude that’s replicated across the characters in video games. Women in games typically are either young and sexy or old and wise—unless they’re villains, of course, in which case they’re sexy and evil. They’re companions or party members or just not there at all, but they’re not the star all that much. It’s not as bad as it used to be; the video industry has come a long way since the big reveal of Metroid was that, gasp, the hero was a woman all along! Yes, we love Samus now, but never forget, it was supposed to be a huge twist that you were playing as a female. There are far, far more opportunities to play as a woman than there once were, especially when you factor in games where you can make your own character, but they’re almost always young.

Which, let’s be fair, makes a certain amount of sense. A young body is typically more capable than an older one, and if you’re making a game with a lot of physical activity, skewing toward someone in their twenties or thirties is a logical choice. I have nothing against younger characters. In fact, I think the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider is great in part because Lara Croft is so young. She’s just out of university and hasn’t had to face any real challenges yet, so when she’s shipwrecked, hurt, and alone, she has to dig into emotional resources she had no idea she had. That’s a really powerful experience, and one virtually all of us go through in our own lives.

Imagine, then, what Lara would be like as a person 30 years after that first adventure. What would decades of adventures have taught her? What friends has she made—and what enemies? How many times has she cheated death and how has that impacted the way she approaches danger? Well, we’ll probably never know, because game publishers seem to believe Lara’s only interesting when she can make Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30.

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Twitter Opens Algorithmic Bias Bounty Competition – PCMag.com

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Twitter introduced a new bounty program that will reward DEF CON AI Village participants who discover and disclose signs of bias in the company’s image cropping algorithm before August 6.

The algorithm in question is used to determine which part of an image should be shown in Twitter’s mobile apps, and the company said in May that it had received complaints that the algorithm “didn’t serve all people equitably” because of “gender and race-based biases.”

Twitter’s analysis backed up those complaints: It said “an experiment of randomly linked images of individuals of different races and genders” that was conducted on 10,000 images showed that its image cropping algorithm was indeed biased in favor of women and white individuals.

The company responded by giving Twitter users direct control over how an image would be cropped in mobile timelines before it was sent, which it said “reduces our dependency on [machine learning] for a function that we agree is best performed by people using our products.”

Now Twitter is challenging DEF CON AI Village participants to find similar problems in the same algorithm. The company said that “with this challenge we aim to set a precedent at Twitter, and in the industry, for proactive and collective identification of algorithmic harms.”

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Participants were told to examine Twitter’s image cropping algorithm and the code on which it relies in an effort to “demonstrate what potential harms such an algorithm may introduce” and could affect “anyone from Twitter users to customers or Twitter itself” in the process.

The program will offer between $500 and $3,500 in cash prizes to five winning teams who will present their work on August 6. More information about the program is available via HackerOne.

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Anvil Centre vaccine clinic shutting down after Aug. 7 – The Record (New Westminster)

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If you’ve been meaning to make an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine at Anvil Centre, you’d better get on it.

The mass immunization clinic in downtown New Westminster will soon be shutting down, as Fraser Health shifts into the next phase of its vaccine rollout.

More than two million doses have now been given out in the region (which spans the territory from Burnaby to Boston Bar), according to a Fraser Health media release issued July 29. Region-wide, more than 80% of eligible people have received at least one dose, and more than 60% have received their second dose.

With the demand for doses declining, Fraser Health will now be offering just four mass immunization clinics at regional hubs: Abbotsford’s Ag-Rec Centre, Poirier Forum in Coquitlam, Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, and North Delta Recreation Centre.

Immunization will also be available at the COVID-19 testing and immunization centres already running in a number of municipalities, including Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby (BCIT).

But New Westminster’s Anvil Centre clinic is among a long list of sites that will close. Its final date of operations will be Saturday, Aug. 7. The clinic at Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair Community Centre will also wind up the same day.

In the meantime, people in search of a first dose can walk in to the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia St.) any day between 10:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to get their shot; no appointments are needed. Second doses will also be given out for those who are eligible, as capacity and supplies allow.

Next Wednesday, Aug. 4, has also been declared a provincewide “Walk-In Wednesday,” where first and second doses will be given out without appointments at all clinics in B.C. Anyone who received their first dose before June 16 will be eligible for a second dose that day.

Fraser Health says it will continue to focus on providing convenient access to vaccine for those who still need it.

“Fraser Health is committed to ensuring everyone who wants to be protected against COVID-19 by being immunized has access to the vaccine,” the release said. “We continue to ramp up our pop-up clinics, mobile clinics, outreach clinics and community initiatives to meet people where they are congregating, so access to vaccine is easy.”

In New West, several neighbourhood clinics have been offered in past weeks at St. Barnabas Church in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood and the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op downtown. So far, no new neighbourhood pop-up clinics are scheduled for New West, but anyone looking for clinic info should check the Fraser Health website, as listings are always being updated.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca.

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Twitter to Offer 'Bounty' to Users, Researchers for Finding Algorithmic Bias – Gadgets 360

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Twitter said Friday it would offer a cash “bounty” to users and researchers to help root out algorithmic bias on the social media platform.

The San Francisco tech firm said this would be “the industry’s first algorithmic bias bounty competition,” with prizes up to $3,500.

The competition is based on the “bug bounty” programs some websites and platforms offer to find security holes and vulnerabilities, according to Twitter executives Rumman Chowdhury and Jutta Williams.

“Finding bias in machine learning models is difficult, and sometimes, companies find out about unintended ethical harms once they’ve already reached the public,” Chowdhury and Williams wrote in a blog post.

“We want to change that.”

They said the hacker bounty model offers promise in finding algorithmic bias.

“We’re inspired by how the research and hacker communities helped the security field establish best practices for identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in order to protect the public,” they wrote.

“We want to cultivate a similar community… for proactive and collective identification of algorithmic harms.”

The move comes amid growing concerns about automated algorithmic systems, which, despite an effort to be neutral, can incorporate racial or other forms of bias.

Twitter, which earlier this year launched an algorithmic fairness initiative, said in May it was scrapping an automated image-cropping system after its review found bias in the algorithm controlling the function.

The messaging platform said it found the algorithm delivered “unequal treatment based on demographic differences,” with white people and males favored over Black people and females, and “objectification” bias that focused on a woman’s chest or legs, described as “male gaze.”


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