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The Activision Blizzard lawsuit shows harassment in the games industry is still rampant — 5 must-reads to understand why – The Next Web

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Sexual harassment in gamer culture burst back into the spotlight on July 21, 2021, with news of California’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, publisher of top-selling video games Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush, and a walkout by company employees. The lawsuit alleges a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture” at the company and discrimination against women in pay and promotion.

The turmoil is an echo of the infamous Gamergate episode of 2014 that featured an organized online campaign of harassment against female gamers, game developers and gaming journalists. The allegations are also of a piece with a decades-long history of gender discrimination in the technology field.

We’ve been covering sexual harassment and gender discrimination in gaming – and technology generally – and picked five articles from our archive to help you understand the news.

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1. Gaming culture is toxic – but community norms can change it

Things have not been getting steadily better. The shift to online activities caused by the pandemic was accompanied by an increase in online harassment and a decrease in the number of women and girls playing video games.

More than a third of female gamers have experienced harassment, and female players have developed coping strategies like hiding their gender, playing only with friends and shutting down harassers by outplaying them, according to University of Oregon professor Amanda Cote. These strategies take time and energy, and they avoid rather than challenge the harassment. Challenging harassment is also fraught, because it typically sparks a backlash and puts the burden on the victim.

Shutting down harassment comes down to creating and supporting community norms that reject rather than allow or encourage harassment. Gaming companies can adopt practices beyond banning harassers that discourage the behavior before it happens, including reducing opportunities for conflict outside of gameplay, adding in-game recognition of good behavior, and responding quickly to complaints.

“If esports continue to expand without game companies addressing the toxic environments in their games, abusive and exclusionary behaviors are likely to become entrenched,” she writes. “To avoid this, players, coaches, teams, leagues, game companies and live-streaming services should invest in better community management efforts.”


Read more: Here’s what it’ll take to clean up esports’ toxic culture


2. It’s not just players – fans are part of the problem

Go to any sports stadium and you’ll see that the atmosphere that energizes players and fans alike comes from the fans. For esports the venues are streaming services, where fan reaction comes not from cheers and chants but in the form of online chat.

University of South Florida professor Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia and colleagues analyzed chats on Twitch, one of the largest streaming services that carries live esports. They found a sharp distinction in the language fans use when commenting on players, called streamers, depending on gender.

“When watching a man stream, viewers typically talk about the game and try to engage with the streamer; game jargon (words like ‘points,’ ‘winner’ and ‘star’) and user nicknames are among the most important terms,” he writes. “But when watching a woman stream, the tone changes: Game jargon drops, and objectification language increases (words like ‘cute,’ ‘fat’ and ‘boobs’). The difference is particularly striking when the streamer is popular, and less so when looking at comments on less-popular streamers’ activity.”

As with the games themselves, combating harassment and discrimination on streaming services comes down to community standards, he writes. The streaming services “need to examine their cultural norms to drive out toxic standards that effectively silence entire groups.”


Read more: Can online gaming ditch its sexist ways?


3. Collegiate esports leagues don’t reflect the population of videogame players

Esports is becoming a big business, with over $1 billion in revenues, and collegiate leagues are an important component of the field. Just over 8% of college esports players and 4% of coaches are female. The low rates of participation are not a reflection of interest: 57% of women ages 18-29 play video games that are in the esports category.

A young woman wearing a face mask stares intently at a large computer screen while a man wearing a face mask stands behind her looking over her shoulder
Boise State esports coach Doc Haskell watches scholarship graduate student Artie ‘N3rdybird’ Rainn compete in a match.
AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger

Female players face overt hostility and harassment, which discourages participation, according to SUNY Cortland professor Lindsey Darvin. College teams often engage in tokenism by bringing on a single female player, and the vast majority of scholarships go to male players.

Professional esports organizations are beginning to address the gender gap. Colleges and universities need to follow suit.

“Colleges and universities that receive U.S. federal aid have an obligation to improve opportunity and access to participation based on Title IX policy, which prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” she writes.


Read more: At colleges nationwide, esports teams dominated by men


4. Lessons from the tech field: Diversity and equity require women with power

The roots of esports’ toxic culture lie in decades of gender discrimination in the technology field as a whole. That discrimination has proved stubborn.

“In 1995, pioneering computer scientist Anita Borg challenged the tech community to a moonshot: equal representation of women in tech by 2020,” writes Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor Francine Berman. “Twenty-five years later, we’re still far from that goal. In 2018, fewer than 30% of the employees in tech’s biggest companies and 20% of faculty in university computer science departments were women.”

Reversing discrimination is a matter of changing cultures within organizations. “Diverse leadership is a critical part of creating diverse cultures,” she writes. “Women are more likely to thrive in environments where they have not only stature, but responsibility, resources, influence, opportunity and power.”

“Culture change is a marathon, not a sprint, requiring constant vigilance, many small decisions, and often changes in who holds power,” she writes. “My experience as supercomputer center head, and with the Research Data Alliance, the Sloan Foundation and other groups has shown me that organizations can create positive and more diverse environments.”


Read more: The tech field failed a 25-year challenge to achieve gender equality by 2020 – culture change is key to getting on track


5. The myth of meritocracy is an impediment to equality

The myth of meritocracy is a large part of the longevity of gender discrimination in the tech field. That myth says that success is a result of skill and effort, and that women’s representation is a reflection of their abilities.

In the U.S., women own 39% of all privately owned businesses but receive only around 4% of venture capital funding, according to Brown University professor Banu Ozkazanc-Pan.

“Yet the meritocracy myth, which my research shows has a stronghold in the world of entrepreneurship, means that women are constantly told that all they have to do to get more of that $22 billion or so in venture capital funding is make better pitches or be more assertive,” she writes.

What the tech field calls meritocracy is in fact gender-biased and results in mostly white men gaining access to resources and funding. “By continuing to believe in meritocracy and maintaining practices associated with it, gender equality will remain a distant goal,” she writes.

Adopting gender-aware approaches, including setting concrete goals for gender balance, is key to correcting the imbalances caused by the meritocracy myth.


Read more: Women in tech suffer because of American myth of meritocracy


This article Eric Smalley, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023: all the news and updates from the event – The Verge

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This year’s first Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event will take place in front of an audience in San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, marking the first in-person event for Samsung in three years. It kicks off on Wednesday, February 1st, at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, and we’re expecting some exciting announcements.

There have already been tons of rumors (and plenty of leaks) about its Galaxy S23 phones, which could cost a bit more than their S22 predecessors. Other leaks indicate that the flagship S23 Ultra could come with an upgraded 200-megapixel camera along with a 6.8-inch OLED display.

Unlike Galaxy Unpacked events in the recent past, Samsung’s product reservation page suggests that the company’s also planning to release several new laptops instead of new earbuds or smartwatches. We could see up to five variations of its brand-new Galaxy Book 3 laptops, featuring thinner and lighter OLED panels with sensors embedded directly into the touchscreens.

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If you’re looking to stay up to date on this year’s Galaxy Unpacked, The Verge will keep you posted on all the news and product announcements from the event.

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    Feb 1, 2023, 2:00 PM UTCUmar Shakir

    These new 45W and 25W GaN fast chargers are compatible with Samsung’s Super Fast Charging 2.0 tech to quickly fill up the batteries in Galaxy phones.


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Why Live Casinos are Taking the Canadian Gaming Community by Storm

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Live Casinos

Were you aware that there are currently more than 2,100 online casinos which solely cater to Canadian players? Ever since the dawn of high-speed Internet, a growing number of fans have become attracted to these platforms thanks to their flexibility and decidedly user-friendly nature. Whether referring to slots, poker or a quick game of bingo, there are numerous options to explore.

However, it is also wise to take a look at some of the latest trends. Perhaps the most interesting involves the notion of live casinos. What do these portals offer, what makes them different than traditional platforms and why might live dealer games represent the next digital wave of the future?

The Basic Concept of Live Online Casinos

The main principle associated with any live casino involves the ability to interact with a human. This normally comes in the form of a dealer. As opposed to playing games that rely solely upon random number generation (RNG), a human dealer will be present via a live streaming portal. This helps to provide what some have called a rather “organic” nature to the games themselves.

For instance, a live casino ontario may offer players the ability to take part in a game of virtual poker. They will be competing against other members of the same table while taking careful note of which cards are dealt. In many ways, this level of interaction closely mirrors the experiences associated with a physical gaming establishment.

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What Games Can be Accessed?

Now that we have taken a quick look at the fundamental principles of live casinos, what types of games can users play? Answering this question will partially depend on the portal itself as well as the software technology that is present. However, live dealer games can nonetheless be segmented into a handful of general categories including:

  • Table games such as blackjack and poker
  • Bingo
  • Slots
  • “Combination” games such as poker that leads into a final round of jackpot slots

Those who wish to learn more should navigate to the site in question and peruse the types of live games that are offered. It could also be wise to contact a representative to address any additional questions.

Are There Any Possible Downsides?

Live casinos are certainly set to make their presence known throughout the nation. Still, it is wise to point out a few potential obstacles that may need to be overcome. One possible issue involves the relatively limited number of games when compared to standard online platforms. It could also be difficult to access certain competitions due to a sudden influx of players. Finally, live online streaming requires a relatively fast and extremely stable high-speed Internet connection. This may present a problem for those who live within the more remote regions of Canada.

Having said this, live casinos are already enjoyed by countless Canadian players. It is a foregone conclusion that they will become even more popular in the near future.

 

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Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review: A smarter smart speaker

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When Apple debuted the HomePod in 2018, it was already late to the smart speaker game. Sure, the company has never been worried about tardiness, choosing instead to focus on being the best. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with its first attempt. The HomePod sounded good, but lacked a lot of the basic functionality and voice assistant smarts the likes of Amazon and Google offered. Apple has spent the last five years improving both HomePod and HomePod mini, adding features like multi-room audio, multi-user support and an intercom tool.

In 2021, Apple discontinued the original model in favor of the $99 HomePod mini. But now, the larger version is back with a familiar look, but lots of changes on the inside. Like the first, the new HomePod ($299) is best suited for those who’ve committed to Apple’s ecosystem. So if that’s not you, I understand if you don’t want to go any further. If it is, just know that the company has given its speaker a lot more tools than it had at launch five years ago, including more capable assistance from Siri and more smart home abilities. Plus, the second-generation HomePod is $50 cheaper than the original was at launch.

A familiar design updated on the inside

If you were hoping for a wholesale redesign with the new HomePod, Apple undoubtedly disappointed you. However, there are some noticeable changes upon close inspection. First, the speaker’s touch panel is now slightly recessed like the HomePod mini. On the original version, that panel sits flush with the top rim. When you trigger Siri, lighting for that panel now goes all the way to the edge too. Next, the power cord is now detachable. This means if you have an issue with that very necessary component, it should be easier to get a replacement (via Apple Care). If you have excellent vision, you might also be able to discern the 2023 model is 0.2-inches shorter at 6.6-inches tall (vs. 6.8 inches) if they’re sitting side by side.

On the inside though, Apple made a host of changes. Both versions have an upward facing woofer with a group of tweeters around the bottom. For the second-generation, Apple reduced the number of tweeters from seven to five, angling them slightly upward where previously they were almost perfectly side-firing. The company also cut the number of voice microphones from six down to four. And perhaps the most important change internally, Apple swapped the iPhone 6’s A8 chip for the much more modern S7 – the silicon that powers the Apple Watch series 7.

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Software and setup

Despite the lack of changes on the outside, the second-gen HomePod is a better speaker because Apple has been improving it and the HomePod mini over time. The company added stereo pairing and multi-room audio alongside AirPlay 2 a few months after launch of the first generation model. Multi-user support and audio handoffs were added in 2019 and the intercom feature arrived ahead of the HomePod mini in 2020. And in 2021, HomePod gained the ability to play any TV audio via an Apple TV 4K over eARC and both spatial audio and Apple Music lossless streaming. So many of the key features Apple is chatting up on the new HomePod are things it has been slowly adding since 2018. And many of which, I’d argue, should’ve been there from there from the start.

Everything you need to set up and control the HomePod is found in Apple’s Home app. First, you’ll need to add a new speaker like you would any other smart home device with this software, including assigning it a room or location in your home. The app allows you to set up Automations and Scenes along with configuring how you’d like to interact with Siri.

Apple Home app
Apple Home app

You have the ability to disable voice cues or the long press on the HomePod’s touch panel in order to activate the assistant (both are enabled by default). You can also have the speaker light up and play a sound when using Siri – or do one or neither. The Home app will let you use Siri for Personal Requests too, where the speaker can recognize your voice for things like messages, calls and reminders so long as your iPhone is close by. The software allows you to disable the HomePod’s intercom feature as well, should you prefer not to use that tool.

Like the first HomePod, the 2023 model is equipped with room calibration. This detects reflections off of walls and other surfaces to configure the sound for the best performance. The HomePod does this the first time you play music, but it isn’t constant monitoring. Instead, like it did on the previous generation, the setup leverages an accelerometer to determine when it has been moved. If it has, the speaker will then reinitiate the room sensing process when music is played.

A smart home with Siri

Apple HomePod (2nd gen) reviewApple HomePod (2nd gen) review
Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review

When we reviewed the original HomePod in 2018, one of our biggest gripes was with Siri’s limited abilities. Sure the speaker sounded good, but the lack of polish with the voice assistant made it seem like a work in progress. Apple has done a lot to improve Siri over the last five years, so a lot of those issues with the original have been fixed.

First, the HomePod, like Siri on your iPhone, is capable of recognizing multiple users. Personal Requests can allow it to peek at your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My and more when you ask. Plus, HomePod can give each member of your family (up to six people) their unique responses from certain iPhone apps. What’s more, Siri can create recurring home automations without you having to pick up your phone and swipe over to the appropriate app.

Even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice, the new HomePod doesn’t suffer any performance setbacks. It’s just as capable as ever at picking out your voice even in a noisy room. And, while playing music with voice commands used to be limited to Apple Music, services like Pandora, Deezer and several others can now be controlled via Siri.

HomePod is also a smart home hub, easily pairing with HomeKit and Matter accessories. The new model is equipped with temperature and humidity sensing, and that info is displayed prominently in the Home app. Of course, you can use that data to create automations with other smart home devices. I don’t have a compatible smart thermostat, but I was able to successfully trigger a smart plug once the HomePod detected a certain temperature in my living room.

Sound Recognition is arguably the most notable new feature that Apple is debuting with the new HomePod, but it’s not ready yet. It can listen for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. What’s more, you’ll be able to “check in” on what’s happening via an audio feed or camera. Sound Recognition won’t arrive until later this spring, so we’ll have to wait to test it.

Sound quality

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

Audio quality wasn’t an issue with the first-gen HomePod and it’s still great here. But like the first version, Apple’s choice for tuning won’t appease everyone. There’s a continued emphasis on voice, so things like vocals in music or dialog on a TV show or movie take center stage. At times it’s fine though, with some genres and content, it leads to a rather subpar experience.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part HomePod sounds outstanding, especially when you put it up against other smart speakers. The fact is many of those don’t sound very good at all, so Apple continues its track record for making a device that has serious audio chops and smart features. RTJ4 has ample bass for its bombastic hip-hop beats while Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy gets enough low-end for its synth-heavy rhythms. Thanks to the HomePod’s excellent clarity, detailed styles like bluegrass and jazz shine. Sometimes the bass is a little too subdued for metal (Underoath’s Voyuerist) or full-band country (Zach Bryan’s 2022 live album), and the vocals too forward, but overall, it sets the standard for smart speaker sound. And the HomePod only shines brighter as a stereo pair.

When you add the second HomePod in the Home app, the software asks you if you want to use them together. Once you tell it which side the additional unit is on (left or right), the app completes the setup for you, assigning the appropriate channel to each speaker. Now everywhere you previously saw a single HomePod icon, you’ll see two, constantly reminding you of the stereo arrangement. The double speaker option is great for music. On Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart, the two-speaker arrangement adds a lot of dimensionality to each track. There was already a spatial element to the tunes, but dual HomePods heightens the sensation, making it seem like you’re in the middle of the musicians while they record each song.

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

When you select a HomePod for use with the Apple TV you still need to deselect your TV speakers. Those aren’t disabled just because you’ve asked the streaming box to also send audio to a HomePod or two. TV audio with stereo pair is fine, but I can’t see using a single unit for the same purpose. In a multi-room setup you might want to send the sound from a live event like the Super Bowl to a solo speaker, but having just one as your lone living room audio from a TV isn’t a great experience. While the HomePod beams sound in all directions, with a single speaker it’s clear the sound is coming from a fixed location – something that’s a lot less noticeable with a pair or with a soundbar.

As is the case with vocals, dialog takes prominence with a HomePod and Apple TV. At times it can seem slightly muffled when watching things like live sports. Otherwise, there’s good clarity, nice bass and great dimensional audio when streaming Formula 1: Drive to Survive or Slow Horses. But, honestly, if you’re looking to improve your living room audio, a soundbar and sub is a better option. The driver arrangement in those speakers does a better job of filling a room completely and evenly. Plus, most companies give you the ability to use adjustments or presets to dial in how much you want those speakers to focus on dialog so you can fine-tune things to your liking.

The competition

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

Because the HomePod is best suited to people who have married themselves to Apple’s ecosystem, the best alternative to the second-gen HomePod is the cheaper HomePod mini. If all you’re after is some Siri assistance with your smart home and a speaker that’s good enough for casual listening and podcasts, the $99 option will work well for you. Plus, Apple just unlocked the smaller speaker’s inactive temperature and humidity sensor and it’s due to get Sound Recognition.

Wrap-up

Apple has been preparing for a new HomePod for five years, constantly improving both the original version and the HomePod mini. And the fact that the company has made Siri a more capable companion certainly helps. Plus, there’s more smart home abilities than before. Apple hasn’t strayed from its emphasis on the spoken (or sung) word for HomePod’s sound profile, but that’s okay. It’s clear that the company is focused on expanding the toolbox for its smart speakers after their debut, so I’d expect that much like the original HomePod, this is just the beginning for the second generation.

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