Homebrew game-controller

Redditor Ch8s3 created this custom game controller by creating a new case, seating the mainboard in it and soldering new LEDs on, then swapping out the buttons for dremeled-out shell-cases from a Luger 9MM, a Remington 20, and a 12 gauge Hornady 50 caliber. It's beautiful work. Read the rest

Toxic gaming culture explained by the people who study it

Polygon has an amazing piece on why gaming culture and young white male gamers are so toxic. They interviewed a number of folks doing actual academic research and professional journalism on the topic, and the answers are sadly exactly what you expect. Scared racist white guys have had a lot of time to fester in their little bubble, and are very resistant to any change that means they aren't always Übermenschen.

Excerpt via Polygon, but read the whole thing:

Why are gaming’s toxic men so enraged?

Women and people of color are beginning to appear in games as powerful characters with their own agency. Slowly, women and minorities are starting to hold senior positions in game development and game criticism. Why is representation — within and outside the art — so offensive to gaming’s toxic men?

Soraya Chemaly:

There’s a lot of sociological research about hierarchy and status in the gaming space, and the misogyny and aggression that comes out of that.

We know that the dynamics of women’s visibility online, particularly in what are perceived as competitive situations, can often result in lower-status men feeling threatened, and then dogpiling on women who have more prominence, status and visibility.

We see that in gaming, and we see it in the same way on Twitter where they have a two-tiered verification system that makes women extremely visible in prominent ways.

Jen Golbeck (Golbeck is an associate professor at the University of Maryland. Her books on internet and entertainment culture include Introduction to Social Media Investigation: A Hands-on Approach.):

The mythos of heroic, powerful men who are in charge — who are respected, successful and dominant — is a narrative that is really changing.

Read the rest

Snooker champ plays VR snooker, falls over because it feels so real

San Francisco's Computer Museum boasts a state-of-the-art virtual reality pool program that feels so real that the tester, snooker champ Ronnie O'Sullivan, falls over after trying to lean on the VR table. Read the rest

How a 14-year-old Fortnite cheater may rewrite EULA law

A teenager livestreaming a demo of a Fortnite cheat he found online got sued by Epic Games, but the case raises questions about who, if anyone, is legally obligated after he clicked the user agreement required to play the game. Read the rest

Hoaxer with a history of fake bomb threats SWATs and murders a random bystander over a $1.50 Call of Duty bet

Swatting is the practice of tricking police SWAT teams into storming your victim's home by phoning in fake hostage situations; it's especially prominent among cybercriminals, gamers and was a favored tactic of Gamergater trolls. Read the rest

Crunch: game development hell

In the New York Times, Jason Schreier reports on the game industry's cult of crunch: the pervasive practice of making workers put in 20-hour days, resulting in one met deadline and a many lines of low-quality code.

“People think that making games is easy,” said Marcin Iwinski, a co-chief executive and co-founder of CD Projekt Red, the Polish developer of a 2015 game, The Witcher 3. “It’s hard-core work. It can destroy your life.” Mr. Iwinski, like many other top video game creators, sees crunch as a necessary evil ... A growing faction of game developers, however, argues that it’s possible to make good games without crunching. Tanya X. Short, a co-founder of the independent studio Kitfox Games, asked colleagues to sign an online pledge against excessive overtime. The pledge, which was published last year, has been signed by over 500 game developers. “Crunch trades short-term gains for long-term suffering,” said Ms. Short in an email.

Hey, ever met a geeky computer programmer with a bottomless need to prove his own competence and a political ideology perfectly tailored to capital's needs? Read the rest

How griefing got its game

There's a wonderful special section in the New York Times on “Internet Culture” this week. The sociology of online life fascinates me, and I love digging into good, meaty reporting on who we are and why we do what we do online.

How do tools and apps shape our behavior? How do virtual bonds originate, grow, and sometimes degrade differently than they do with face-to-face communication? This is stuff I think about a lot.

There's a great feature in the section by Quentin Hardy about how "trolling" as we now know it sort of originated as "griefing," in games.

In the gaming community, griefing historically meant doing stuff like “repeatedly killing the same player so that the person can’t move forward, reversing the play of newer gamers so they don’t learn the rules, or messing with other people’s play by blocking their shots or covering oneself with distressing images,” Hardy writes:

“Griefing was a way to have power over other people without any repercussions, since you can create multiple characters in the same game,” said Jack Emmert, former chief executive of Cryptic Studios, a maker of online games. “When there are no repercussions, some people will start to do crazy things.”

That was basically acceptable when online communities and games were made up of small groups that understood one another’s behavior, said Ian Bogost, a game designer and professor at Georgia Tech.

“Folks who are griefing or trolling feel like they are in a secondary universe that isn’t the same as the real world,” he said.

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Pokemon demands $4000 from broke superfan who organized Pokemon party

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he'd cancelled this year's party, they'd take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn't let him pay it in installments). Read the rest

Playing games to fight HIV

A couple of years ago, I told you about Foldit, a computer game that harnesses the power of human putzing to help scientists unravel the mysteries of protein structure. There's a new research paper out that uses results from Foldit as a basis for a new proposed structure of a key protein in a virus that is a relative of HIV.

As important as proteins are, we know relatively little about how and why these complex chains of amino acids fold and twist the way they do and how that structure relates to function. Foldit takes advantage of the fact that, given the right rules, people can come up with possible, plausible protein structures far faster than a computer program can factor out all the possible permutations. And that's why Foldit players—citizen scientists of a sort—were so useful in this case. Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science explains:

They discovered the structure of a protein belonging to the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), a close relative of HIV that causes AIDS in monkeys. These viruses create many of their proteins in one big block. They need to be cut apart, and the viruses use a scissor enzyme –a protease – to do that. Many scientists are trying to find drugs that disable the proteases. If they don’t work, the virus is hobbled – it’s like a mechanic that cannot remove any of her tools from their box.

To disable M-PMV’s protease, we need to know exactly what it looks like.

Read the rest