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The Last of Us Part II: Why Abby Deserves Your Empathy – Flickering Myth



Kate Harrold on The Last of Us Part II and why Abby might not be the villain she’s made out to be…

Major spoilers for The Last of Us Part II lie ahead so proceed with caution…

The Last of Us Part II has been divisive to say the least.  Naughty Dog’s long-awaited sequel was released in June to rave critic reviews earning itself an impressive score of 94 on Metacritic but just days later, the game was panned by fans. Writer and director Neil Druckmann must’ve anticipated some form of backlash as – and this is where the spoilers come in – he killed fan-favourite and lead character Joel (Troy Baker) in the first act. It’s brand new character, Abby (Laura Bailey), who did the deed – someone you’re then forced to play as for half of the game. Detractors even sent actress Bailey death threats stating, ‘I’m going to find where you live and slaughter you for what you did to Joel.’ Part of The Last of Us‘ major success is how the game challenges our morals. As the player, we become complicit in almost every action – every kill. Joel and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) relentlessly kill both clickers and non-infected alike yet we root for them. Nothing justifies what Abby did to Joel, but why shouldn’t we lend her the same kind of empathy.

Abby has a rough time in The Last of Us Part II – and that’s before fans tore her to shreds. No one in this game has it easy, but it’s clear that Abby suffers more than others. We learn that Joel killed Abby’s father. OK, so loss isn’t new but this is only the very beginning of Abby’s misfortune. In their quest to find Abby, neither Ellie nor Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) have any hesitation in killing her friends which includes Manny, Owen, Mel, Nora, Leah, and Danny. Unlike Ellie, Abby doesn’t have somewhere like Jackson to call home. Western Liberation Front leader, Isaac (Jeffrey Wright), is clearly just using Abby and is all too happy to cast her aside. In addition to all this loss, Abby is no stranger to physical pain. She’s almost hung and disembowelled by the Seraphites and then is later captured and tortured by the Rattlers – a slaver cult. Abby is left a broken women both mentally and physically. Thematically, we also leave Ellie in a similar place but she chose to leave Dina just like she chose to leave Jackson. Abby didn’t have that choice.


Some may argue that this is all Abby’s comeuppance for killing Joel, but would we wish the same kind of suffering upon Ellie in a potential The Last of Us Part III for her actions? No way. Abby’s arc is one of redemption which is a fact that feels hugely overlooked. Despite spending much of the game hunting Abby down, Ellie ultimately lets her live – cue outrage – but by this point in the game, Abby is on a clear path of redemption. She’s no longer the villain we assumed her to be in the first act. Abby holds her cards close to her chest but it isn’t a push to assume that she might on some level be thinking, ‘maybe I do deserve this.’ After all, why else would she save Seraphite outcast’s Yara and Lev, if not to redeem herself. Seraphites are the Western Liberation Front’s mortal enemies but this section of the game seeks to test Abby’s perception of who the enemy is. In saving their lives, she takes a step towards ending the cycle of violence. Many credit Ellie with doing this when she lets Abby live, but didn’t Abby do this much sooner? She didn’t even want to partake in the fight. Abstaining is proof of Abby’s growth and redemption.

So much of the hate directed towards Abby is simply to do with our pre-existing alliances. In The Last of Us, we become so attached to Ellie and Joel due to our complicity in both their journey and their relationship. We’re with them every step of the way and so it’s natural for us to grieve for Joel when he dies. Now this takes a little bit of imagination because there really wouldn’t be a The Last of Us without Joel and Ellie, but imagine if the first game centred around Abby and her father Jerry. Then, Part II comes along and Joel kill’s Jerry. By this point, Abby would be what Ellie is to us. We’d root for her to go after Joel and exact her revenge. We’d have no alliances to Joel whatsoever.


The point is, there are no heroes in The Last of Us. Regardless of who we’re playing as, the ‘other’ will always be the villain. This is a game of survival – a game that asks how far would you go to survive? We can’t justify Abby’s actions, but as we so intensely love and support the equally-guilty Joel and Ellie, isn’t it hypocritical for us to condemn Abby’s actions too? This isn’t a world of good vs evil. It’s a world of messy morals. Deeming Abby to be a villain only discredits the rich narrative that is certainly worth paying more attention to.

So what did you make of The Last of Us Part II? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @FlickeringMyth…

Kate Harrold

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Samsung officially reveals Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra – MobileSyrup



Following weeks of rumours, Samsung has officially revealed the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20.

In terms of look, both smartphones are very similar and take their visual cues from Samsung’s still somewhat recently released S20 series, but with a slightly more boxy design.

Regarding technical specifications, both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra feature Qualcomm’s 5G-capable Snapdragon 865+ processor and start at 128GB of storage, though the Ultra also has a configuration that features 512GB of storage.

The Note 20 Ultra’s 6.9-inch curved Dynamic AMOLED screen measures in at 3,088 x 1440 pixels with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s important to note that, according to Samsung, the Note 20 Ultra’s screen can’t run at 120Hz when it’s set to 3,088 x 1,440 pixel resolution, just like the S20 Ultra. Other Note 20 Ultra specs include a 4,500mAh battery, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 12GB of RAM and Android 10.

On the other hand, the Note 20 features a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED 2,400 x 1,800 pixel display with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a 60Hz refresh rate. Other Note 20 specs include a 4,300mAh battery, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 8GB of RAM and Android 10.

In terms of cameras, the Note 20 Ultra features a 108-megapixel, 48-megapixel and 12-megapixel camera, on its rear. The front-facing camera comes in at 10-megapixels.

The Note 20 features a 12-megapixel, 64-megapixel and 12-megapixel rear camera array, coupled with a 10-megapixel front-facing camera.

In terms of new features, Samsung says the S Pen now features a 40 percent improvement in latency across the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, coming in at just 9 milliseconds. The stylus is also getting new S Pen gestures, including ‘move forward,’ ‘home’ ‘recent app,’ ‘smart select’ and ‘screen capture.’

Samsung’s Notes app has also been expanded with timestamps when you’re making a voice recording and taking notes, as well as PDF editing. Further, the Notes app now syncs with Microsoft’s Outlook and OneNote apps.

Other information worth noting is that Samsung says that smartphone features “optimized latency with powerful 5G connectivity” and “Wi-Fi optimization technology” in relation to Microsoft’s project xCloud video game streaming service. It’s unclear precisely what this means, but the experience with xCloud should be improved when the platform is running on the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra.

Dex, Samsung’s desktop platform, is also going wireless with the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, allowing users to view media on any TV that supports screen mirroring. Finally, the Note 20 Ultra features Gorilla Glass Victus, a new form of glass that is capable of surviving a two-metre drop and that is twice as scratch resistant as Gorilla Glass 6.

Samsung is offering the first 15,000 Canadians that pre-order or buy the Note 20 an ‘e-voucher’ available through the Samsung Members app that gives purchasers the option of 3-months free of Game Pass Ultimate, an Xbox controller and a wireless charger, or free Galaxy Buds+. With Note 20 Ultra pre-orders, you’ll be able to select between the same free gaming bundle, or Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Live earbuds.

In the box, the Note 20/Note 20 Ultra include an S Pen, 25w charger, a USB C-to-C data cable, a screen protector, but no headphones. Despite rumours that Apple would be the first smartphone manufacturer to stop including wired headphones in the box, Samsung made the controversial move first.

It’s also worth noting that while the Note 20 Ultra still features a microSD card slot that works with up to a 1TB card, the Note 20 doesn’t. Further, the Note 20 features a flat display, while the Note 20 Ultra’s screen is more curved like last year’s Note 10+.

The 128GB Note 20, which is available in new ‘Mystic Bronze’ and ‘Mystic Green’ colours is also available in ‘Mystic Black,’ and costs $1,399 CAD. The 128GB Note 20 Ultra costs $1,818, and the 512GB configuration costs $2,029. Ultra colours include ‘Mystic Bronze’ and ‘Mystic Black.’

Pre-orders for the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra launch on August 5th with the smartphone being available on August 21st.

Image credit: Samsung

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Here's how to watch Samsung's August 5 Galaxy Unpacked event – MobileSyrup



Samsung’s August 5th Galaxy Unpacked event will kick off at 10am ET/7am PT. The event will be completely online thanks to the ongoing pandemic, but it’s bound to be an action-packed affair.

The South Korean phone maker is expected to launch several new phones and devices. That includes the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Galaxy Watch 3, Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7 Plus.

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff. It should make for a hectic morning and potentially a long live stream for anyone who tunes it. Still, for Samsung fans, it should be a fun event.

For those interested in tuning in, it looks like the event will run a little different than in years past. For starters, you have to head to ‘’ to watch it. When you first arrive on the site, an animation plays showing the tip of an S Pen dropping a copper colour, which splashes and fills the screen.

After, the site shows an image of a copper splash and says the ‘Galaxy Unpacked’ event will start ‘live’ on the website. Further, the Samsung Canada site includes a link to a sign-up form, although it’s not clear what, exactly, users sign-up for.

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There will also be a live stream accessible on YouTube (either by clicking here or watching the embed above).

For those who don’t want to or can’t follow along live, keep an eye on MobileSyrup for the latest from Samsung. Check out our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for details as well.

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Samsung’s next folding phone needs to feel more normal – The Verge



Today, Samsung is going to announce a giant pile of new gadgets. Here’s what to expect: Two Note 20 phones, a couple of Tab S7 Android tablets, a new Galaxy Watch, and Galaxy Ear Buds Live. I am on record that Samsung should have the guts to call those earbuds Ear Beans because tech needs to have a little more fun but also look at them.

The event kicks off at 10AM ET and although it’s an online-only affair, we’ll be doing a liveblog with real-time commentary — so you can find it all in one place instead of trawling for takes on Twitter.

If you ‘d rather just get the highlights, here’s a story stream that will have all the big news: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 event: all the latest rumors, news, and more.

When Samsung first announced the event, I wrote in this newsletter that the company needs a certifiable flagship — the kind of device that is the best thing Samsung can make, one that will put a halo on the brand and draw people in to buy the other phones. Of the contenders, I put my money on the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

The leaks in the past week or so have shown that the Note 20 Ultra isn’t going to be a sleeper, though. AT&T just whiffed and put out a video confirming nearly every feature in it. But the Z Fold 2 looks impressive in other ways: the smaller hole punch and the gigantic front screen resolve two of the many issues I had with the first one.

Rumor has it that the Fold 2 may be somewhat delayed (there’s a lot of that going around this fall), however, so we may just get a tease today. Late breaking rumors say we should expect “some real hype shit” about the design.

Something interesting has happened in the world of tech YouTubers and Android writers in the past couple of months: they love the Galaxy Z Flip folding phone. Granted, that’s an audience you’d expect to be into a fancy device like that — but also I think that it’s the only audience that really should be buying a fancy device like that. The people I see using folding phones the most are starting to advocate for them. That doesn’t mean you should get one, but it’s interesting.

If Samsung can make the Z Fold 2 just a little more durable, I think it has a shot at getting a small cadre of dedicated users who love it and advocate for it — something more than the YouTubers and writers, but enough normal users to form a community around the device. That’s not far from what happened with the original Galaxy Note, the phone that was panned as a “phablet” until its size became the new normal.

Every folding phone to date has been too expensive for me to feel comfortable recommending. Unless Samsung absolutely shocks me with the price, I’m sure that the Z Fold 2 will also not be something I think is a good value. Objectively, it’s only fair to expect it to be a thing for the very wealthy (or somewhat foolish).

Tech companies very much want to make folding phones just another option in the smartphone ecosystem. To get there, they need to be approachable not just in terms of price but also in their durability and technology.

It’s going to take a little more than a few devices from Samsung. Microsoft needs to get its Duo out the door (it’s not a folding screen, but it’s a similar idea). Motorola needs to make a Razr that doesn’t creak like a door in a bad horror movie. LG needs to, well, let’s not ask too much of LG right now it’s been a rough half decade.

I’d also like folding phones to become a normal part of the smartphone world, simply because I think diversity of form factors is good and leads to more innovation. One of the reasons the original Fold’s failures were so disappointing is they threatened to poison an otherwise promising new well.

The Z Fold 2 doesn’t need to singlehandedly make folding phones feel mainstream — but it does need to push them in that direction.

The course I’m describing here is one of slowly building momentum. It could fall apart at any moment if the phones themselves fall apart physically. But the Z Flip’s very modest success is something to build on. Here’s what I wrote at the end of that review:

If folding phones are ever going to stop being just expensive curiosities, they have to start being normal. I need to be able to just tell you about the screen and performance and camera, not spend the majority of my time explaining why this time maybe — maybe — the screen and hinge won’t explode. They also, obviously, need to start having much more normal prices.


Apple News

Apple updates the iMac with new Intel processors and a better webcam. I’m pretty bummed that it’s not the new design, but I’m happy to see Apple sees that people want matte — excuse me, nano texture — displays. Hope it makes its way to laptops someday, and hope it won’t be a $500 upgrade when it does.

Greg Joswiak replaces Phil Schiller as head of Apple marketing. This is very big news! If you aren’t familiar with the names (which would be surprising), the thing I’ll note is that you should not assume “marketing” means what it does at other companies, either. It’s the central org for most of the stuff you care about from Apple. Here’s how it’s put in Apple’s press release:

Joswiak takes on the role of senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. This organization is responsible for Apple’s product management and product marketing, developer relations, market research, business management, as well as education, enterprise, and international marketing.

Apple is not interested in buying TikTok. Busy day for Apple news, honestly.

Google news

Android’s ‘Nearby Share’ file sharing feature is finally launching. Why did it take Google nine years to come up with a viable Android version of AirDrop? It’s ridiculous. If you’re an iPhone user, you probably have taken AirDrop for granted. Now if Google can get the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac to work with this, I’d be very happy. Better not take another nine years!

Nearby Share works very much like Apple’s AirDrop feature for the iPhone: you simply select the Nearby Share button on the share menu and then wait for a nearby phone to appear. Then whatever thing you’re sharing is sent directly over your transfer method of choice to the other phone.

Google Play Music will begin shutting down in September. RIP.jul

Google is adding new homeschooling features to Assistant smart displays and speakers. Most of these features are variations on broadcasting messages to your household. Nice, but also digital interactions can never truly replace the bonds that are formed by wandering around your house yelling your children’s names until they are forced to respond.

EU launches full investigation into Google’s Fitbit acquisition over health data fears.

More from The Verge

Prototype of SpaceX’s future Starship rocket flies short hop to 500 feet. Loren Grush:

The prototype is that of SpaceX’s Starship, a spacecraft the company wants to build to transport people to deep-space worlds like the Moon and Mars. The final version of the spaceship would stand at nearly 400 feet high and 30 feet wide, and be capable of sending more than 100 tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, according to SpaceX.

We can’t skip steps on the road to a COVID-19 vaccine. Clear, cogent explanation of why even in an emergency, rushing through the important third phase of testing isn’t a good idea from Nicole Wetsman:

Sticking with the car metaphor, once a vaccine hits the test track, there’s a chance it’ll stop running (not actually protect people from COVID-19) or, in the worst-case scenario, crash (have some serious side effects). Its first test drives have to be carefully watched, so that the people designing it can monitor exactly what’s happening.

Mulan is heading to Disney Plus on September 4th for $30. On Twitter, Julia Alexander characterized this move as a giant middle finger to the theater industry. No more waiting around and Disney gets to keep literally every penny of revenue from people who watch this. Disney says this is a one-off, but I doubt it.

Cloak your photos with this AI privacy tool to fool facial recognition. James Vincent:

The way the software works is a little complex. Running your photos through Fawkes doesn’t make you invisible to facial recognition exactly. Instead, the software makes subtle changes to your photos so that any algorithm scanning those images in future sees you as a different person altogether. Essentially, running Fawkes on your photos is like adding an invisible mask to your selfies.

The biggest problem with Microsoft’s fractured TikTok deal. Russell Brandom nails it:

Microsoft isn’t bidding for TikTok; it’s bidding for the portion of TikTok in four countries: the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. No one has ever split up a social network along regional lines, much less under threat of a national ban from the president. Peeling those four countries away from the rest of TikTok would be enormously difficult, and even if it were successful, it would leave Microsoft with an undersized and strangely regional social network, presenting significant investment and revenue challenges. Trump, ByteDance, and Microsoft have a lot to hash out over the next six weeks, but if they can’t solve that central problem, then none of it matters. And that central problem is much harder than anyone is willing to admit.

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