Tim Berners-Lee

by David Lumb via Engadget

Today is the World Wide Web’s 29th birthday, and to celebrate the occasion, its creator has told us how bad it’s become. In an open letterappearing in The Guardian, Tim Berners-Lee painted a bleak picture of the current internet — one dominated by a handful of colossal platforms that have constricted innovation and obliterated the rich, lopsided archipelago of blogs and small sites that came before. It’s not too late to change, Lee wrote, but to do so, we need a dream team of business, tech, government, civil workers, academics and artists to cooperate in building “the web we all want.”

Lee reserves his biggest criticisms for the huge platforms — by implication, Facebook and Google, among others — that have come to dominate their spheres and effectively become gatekeepers. They “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared,” Lee wrote, pointing out that they’re able to impede competition by creating barriers. “They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent. Add to this the competitive advantage that their user data gives them and we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last.”

Centralizing the web like this has lead to serious problems, like when an Amazon Web Services outage took down a chunk of internet services over a week ago — ironically, nearly a year to the day after another similar web-crippling incident on AWS. But bottlenecking the internet through a handful of platforms has also enabled something more sinister: The weaponization of the internet. From trending conspiracy theories all the way up to influencing American politics using hundreds of fake social media accounts, outside actors have been able to maximize their manipulation efforts thanks to a far more centralized internet than we used to have, in Lee’s opinion.

These companies are ill-equipped to work for social benefit given their focus on profit — and perhaps could use some regulation. “The responsibility – and sometimes burden – of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good. A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions,” wrote Lee.

You know who could fix the future of the internet? Us, of course — a group of individuals from a broad cross-section of society who can outthink the hegemony of colossal internet corporations who are mostly fine with things as they are. Incentives could be the key to motivating new solutions, Lee concluded.

But there’s another problem that business can’t really solve: Closing the digital gap by getting the unconnected onto the internet. These are more likely to be female, poor, geographically remote and/or living outside of the first world. Bringing them into the fold will diversify voices on the internet and be, well, a moral thing to do now that the UN has decided internet access is a basic human right. But it’ll take more than inventive business models to get them online and up to speed: We’ll have to support policies that bring the internet to them over community networks and/or public access.

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by Rob Gordon via Screen Rant

Valve may be a sleeping giant when it comes to video game development, but it seems like this giant is waking up after president Gabe Newell confirmed that the developer is going to start shipping games once more. The company is behind some of the most influential games in video game history, with the impact of the Half-Life series on game storytelling and mechanics well-documented. On top of that, the likes Left 4 Dead and MOBA title DotA 2 showed that Valve had something of a magic touch.

However, things started to slow down on the game development side for Valve. Instead, it seemed as though the company’s Steam digital distribution platform was taking priority, with the platform becoming the most accessible way for PC users to play video games. Although Valve did announce the development of the DotA 2-themed card game Artifact in 2017, the reaction was far from positive, and many gamers wondered whether Valve would ever move back into full-on game development again.

However, it turns out that Valve is indeed going back to game creation as a whole. As reported by PC Gamer, Gabe Newell has now confirmed that “Valve’s going to start shipping games again,” and this means games being developed beyond Artifact. Instead, the game is going to be one of “several” projects on the cards for the company.

The news was revealed during a presentation on Artifact at Valve’s headquarters, and although Newell was coy about the projects in development, based on previous comments from the developer it may well point towards more than just the three VR games that Valve had been working on. On top of that, however, Newell also hinted that the company could be doing more than just game development. Newell admitted his jealousy when looking at Nintendo, and the way that the company could develop a new Zelda or Mario game with a specific bespoke controller in mind, stating “the new arrow we have in our quiver, really, is our ability to develop hardware and software simultaneously.

This may well mean that Valve is also going to step a little further into the world of hardware, with Newell suggesting “that’s something that you’ll see us taking advantage of subsequently.” The company’s close ties with the HTC Vive headset certainly gives Valve some solid scope to do things within the VR sphere that other developers might not, while the Steam controller and Steam Link also showed Valve dipping a toe. However, going into hardware is always an expensive gamble, and Valve will want to make sure that its next moves have more of a positive reception than its current crop.

Although fans of Valve’s work will no doubt be very happy to hear that the company is going to start making games again, there’s also likely to be a level of caution. It’s been a long time since the developer created a single player game, and some may wonder whether Valve can deliver after such a long time in the sidelines. However, given the company’s track record these new games will hopefully be something special.

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

It’s starting to seem like Call of Duty’s next installment being Black Ops 4 is one of the worst kept secrets in gaming. The game has been whispered about for weeks now, still without any official confirmation from Activision or Treyarch, but this latest leak is probably the funniest one to date.

Houston Rockets star James Harden was spotted en route to a game yesterday wearing a full camo outfit and…a hat with what very much appears to be a Black Ops 4 logo.

The hat is a variation of the Black Ops 3 logo, the “III” symbol, but it appears that instead of going the actual Roman numeral route “IV,” they’re going with a tally mark system instead, as logo is one more notch, “IIII.”

After Harden was spotted wearing the hat, Kotaku checked with its sources who told them that yes, that really was the Black Ops 4 logo. It’s unclear why Harden has the hat, whether he’s part of the promotional campaign for the game or perhaps just a big Call of Duty fan wearing some swag a bit too early.

Kotaku also says that its sources say that Black Ops 4 will continue to be a “near-future” setting. That’s the first time I’ve heard that, and perhaps slightly worrisome to fans who were hoping the next game would continue the tradition of WWII and stay away from “future war.” That said, even if the setting is in the near future, it’s possible that the game will do away with high-speed movement like jetpacks and wallrunning, which fans seem to have grown sick of.

It definitely seems like it’s time for Activision to start talking. These rumors are turning into full-blown leaks, and this seems like the proper time to reveal this officially before even more details pour out of sources they shouldn’t.

Black Ops 4 would be set to square off against another military shooter that is now springing leaks, Battlefield V, which is a sequel to Battlefield 1, reportedly taking the game to World War II, where Call of Duty went last year. And both games will be up against Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar’s monster in the making that might end up eclipsing them both, if it can channel a bit of Grand Theft Auto 5 magic.

We are probably still a few months away from seeing a ton of info about Black Ops 4, which seems likely to be a large part of Sony’s E3 show in June, given the company’s ongoing relationship with Activision, who it stole away from Xbox in the last few years. Black Ops is the one remaining sub-series of Call of Duty that has survived and thrived into the modern era, and one that should put up significant sales, more so than usual, if Treyarch delivers. I’m guessing they will.

Just…start talking before Harden starts wearing a full Black Ops 4 tracksuit to games.

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People try to blame the Florida high school shooting on violent video games and other forms of media


by Christopher J. Ferguson, Professor of Psychology, Stetson University via The Conversation

In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Broward County, Florida high school, a familiar trope has reemerged: Often, when a young man is the shooter, people try to blame the tragedy on violent video games and other forms of media. Florida lawmaker Jared Moskowitz made the connection the day after the shooting, saying the gunman “was prepared to pick off students like it’s a video game.”

In January, after two students were killed and many others wounded by a 15-year-old shooter in Benton, Kentucky, the state’s governor criticized popular culture, telling reporters, “We can’t celebrate death in video games, celebrate death in TV shows, celebrate death in movies, celebrate death in musical lyrics and remove any sense of morality and sense of higher authority and then expect that things like this are not going to happen.”

But, speaking as a researcher who has studied violent video games for almost 15 years, I can state that there is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected. As far back as 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Criminologists who study mass shootings specifically refer to those sorts of connections as a “myth.” And in 2017, the Media Psychology and Technology division of the American Psychological Association released a statement I helped craft, suggesting reporters and policymakers cease linking mass shootings to violent media, given the lack of evidence for a link.

A history of a moral panic

So why are so many policymakers inclined to blame violent video games for violence? There are two main reasons.

The first is the psychological research community’s efforts to market itself as strictly scientific. This led to a replication crisis instead, with researchers often unable to repeat the results of their studies. Now, psychology researchers are reassessing their analyses of a wide range of issues — not just violent video games, but implicit racismpower poses and more.

The other part of the answer lies in the troubled history of violent video game research specifically. Beginning in the early 2000s, some scholars, anti-media advocates and professional groups like the APA began working to connect a methodologically messyand often contradictory set of results to public health concerns about violence. This echoed historical patterns of moral panic, such as 1950s concerns about comic booksand Tipper Gore’s efforts to blame pop and rock music in the 1980s for violence, sex and satanism.

Particularly in the early 2000s, dubious evidence regarding violent video games was uncritically promoted. But over the years, confidence among scholars that violent video games influence aggression or violence has crumbled.

Reviewing all the scholarly literature

My own research has examined the degree to which violent video games can — or can’t — predict youth aggression and violence. In a 2015 meta-analysis, I examined 101 studies on the subject and found that violent video games had little impact on kids’ aggression, mood, helping behavior or grades.

Two years later, I found evidence that scholarly journals’ editorial biases had distorted the scientific record on violent video games. Experimental studies that found effects were more likely to be published than studies that had found none. This was consistent with others’ findings. As the Supreme Court noted, any impacts due to video games are nearly impossible to distinguish from the effects of other media, like cartoons and movies.

Any claims that there is consistent evidence that violent video games encourage aggression are simply false.

Spikes in violent video games’ popularity are well-known to correlate with substantial declines in youth violence — not increases. These correlations are very strong, stronger than most seen in behavioral research. More recent research suggests that the releases of highly popular violent video games are associated with immediate declinesin violent crime, hinting that the releases may cause the drop-off.

The role of professional groups

With so little evidence, why are people like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin still trying to blame violent video games for mass shootings by young men? Can groups like the National Rifle Association seriously blame imaginary guns for gun violence?

A key element of that problem is the willingness of professional guild organizations such as the APA to promote false beliefs about violent video games. (I’m a fellow of the APA.) These groups mainly exist to promote a profession among news media, the public and policymakers, influencing licensing and insurance laws. They also make it easier to get grants and newspaper headlines. Psychologists and psychology researchers like myself pay them yearly dues to increase the public profile of psychology. But there is a risk the general public may mistake promotional positions for objective science.

In 2005 the APA released its first policy statement linking violent video games to aggression. However, my recent analysis of internal APA documents with criminologist Allen Copenhaver found that the APA ignored inconsistencies and methodological problems in the research data.

The APA updated its statement in 2015, but that sparked controversy immediately: More than 230 scholars wrote to the group asking it to stop releasing policy statements altogether. I and others objected to perceived conflicts of interest and lack of transparency tainting the process.

It’s bad enough that these statements misrepresent the actual scholarly research and misinform the public. But it’s worse when those falsehoods give advocacy groups like the NRA cover to shift blame for violence onto nonissues like video games. The resulting misunderstandings delay efforts to address mental illness and other issues that are actually related to gun violence.

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by Ashish Isaac via GamingBolt

With each successive generation of gaming consoles, we’ve seen some major upgrades in terms of performance along with changes to the priorities of the gaming industry as a whole. With the PS4 and Xbox One, the industry seems to be focusing more and more on online services and on keeping consumers engaged to games for longer so as to increase recurrent revenue. Final Fantasy XV’s director Hajime Tabata has shared his thoughts on the subject in an interview published in the latest version of OXM and he believes that the next generation of consoles will move towards cloud based technology.

According to Tabata-san, the gaming industry will also follow the music and film industry in moving towards streaming services. In this way, people would pay subscription fees in order to access the games that they want. Of course, such a situation probably isn’t going to work everywhere since it would require strong internet speeds, but it’s still possible that such changes may come about with soon enough. Already, game developers and publishers are trying to focus more on online services, rather than just the base game.

We’ll have to wait and see when the next generation rolls around if such changes take place. What are your thoughts on Tabata-san’s prediction? Let us know in the comments below.



by Timothy J. Seppala via Engadget

The next PlayStation 4 firmware update will make the PS4 Pro a lot more like the Xbox One X. No, I don’t mean the patch will malevolently shrink the breadth of Sony’s first-party games lineup next time the console is in sleep mode, either. Instead, software version 5.50 adds a supersampling mode to the PS4 Pro.

On the Xbox One X, that translates to higher frame-rates, improved visual clarity and more detailed graphics on select titles when the console is connected to a 1080p TV. Here’s how Sony describes the situation on PS4 Pro: “Certain games already have the ‘supersampling’ benefits as part of their ‘PS4 Pro Enhanced’ feature set, but this new mode can enhance the experience for those games that don’t already have the feature.”

Just hop into the system settings menu to activate it and you should be good to go.

There are a handful of other new features that every PlayStation owner will benefit from as well. Once the software goes live for everyone, you’ll finallybe able to change your PS4 wallpaper to an image from a USB stick, and do the same to customize a tournament or Team page.

A few changes are coming to music playback too. Music controls for Spotify, the media player and USB music player apps are coming to the quick menu. More than that, some PS Now games will let you listen to your own tunes while streaming a classic title from Sony’s servers.

There are a few other quality of life additions, like better organization for the game library and child play-time limits in the “Keiji” update, too. Xbox One added play limits last year with the Creators Update, and the One X hardware has been supersampling games since last November. Outside of a few games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, PS4 Pro owners without a 4K TV on the other hand, have been left in a lurch in terms of supersampling since the system was released in late 2016. Reset Era has a list of games that purportedly support supersampling.

It’s a little strange seeing Sony follow Microsoft’s lead considering how far behind the Xbox One is in sales, of course. But, maybe, that means we’ll see a PS4 Pro with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive in it announced this year. We can hope, right?

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by Jon Russell via Techcrunch

Sony is getting a new CEO after it announced that CFO Kenichiro Yoshida will replace Kazuo Hirai as the head of the Japanese firm.

The move will happen April 1, with Hirai shifting to the role of Chairman.

“I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan, we are expecting to exceed our financial targets,” Hirai said in a statement.

“As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new mid-range plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life,” he added.

Hirai took the CEO role in 2012 and he has worked in partnership with Yoshida to turn things around in recent years. Among its key initiatives, Sony downsized its loss-making mobile division with layoffs and a more focused set of products, while the PS4 has been a huge financial success. The firm also placed more focus on components, moved into AI, and Hirai personally oversaw the appointment of former Fox exec Tony Vinciquerra as Sony Pictures’ new CEO.

The company reveals its latest financial report today so we may get more information on its plans.

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