Hello, and welcome to GYGO! I’m Kael, the cool teacher who plays video games. After beating Dishonored, Spyro, and Superhot, I’ve spent the past couple days just watching the wind go by in Ghosts of Tsushima. As someone who’s never watched a samurai movie or particularly enjoyed open-world exploration, I don’t actually think this game is for me. But here’s the thing: I’ve already ignored three of the trendy games this year and my students are starting to question if I actually own a console. Anyway, when I wasn’t bowing to the peer pressure of middle schoolers and writing haiku, I was scouring the web for this week’s gaming news—just for you!
Amendment to Keep US Military off Twitch Fails to Reach House
Military recruitment forms are being sent out to children on gaming platforms.
The forms can be filled out by kids as young as 12 years old, and include consent to be contacted by a recruiter.
Although my amendment to end this practice failed, have a conversation w/ your kids. https://t.co/NOMqaB3xIh
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 31, 2020
Last week US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed an amendment to the House Appropriations Bill which would restrict military agencies from using the budget to maintain a presence on live streaming sites, like Twitch, or in esports leagues. On July 27th, the House Committee on Appropriations discussed which amendments would make it to the House proper. The committee voted 126 to 292 against the amendment.
AOC is quoted on Twitter saying, “When our legislative bodies aren’t sufficiently responsive to tech, then that means we don’t have the tools required to protect people.” Her claims that Congress lacks sufficient tech literacy to make informed decisions about websites like Twitch resonated strongly with me, as did her call to parents to have conversations with their kids about the military and the importance of protecting their information online.
Xbox Controllers Can Now Pilot Real Weapons of War Too
Earlier this month, AOC and others weighed in on the link between gaming, the military and Twitch.
Today, I learned about tanks steered with Xbox controllers and tested by Fortnite-playing teens, and AI honed on Starcraft and DOOM.
Dystopian stuff here.https://t.co/vXOZhYKcy8
— ℳikhail Klimentov (@LeaderGrev) July 28, 2020
A prototype tank developed by Israel Aerospace Industries makes use of Xbox controllers to “bring [combatants’] skills to operational effectiveness in no time,” according to Israeli battalion commander Col. Udi Tzur. While it’s horrifying to imagine an Apex Legends or Call of Duty fan using their gaming skills to take human lives, this isn’t actually the first time the controllers have been used to control weapons of war. The IAI’s Caramel tank follows the design of the U.S. Navy’s USS Colorado submarine and Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, according to the Washington Post. The Caramel’s controls and game-like user interface were reportedly tested and critiqued by teenage civilians.
Games also play a large part in training the tank’s AI system, which is designed for aggression in urban environments (such as populated cities). IAI used games like Starcraft II and Doom to teach the tank to navigate environments effectively. The game-trained AI can operate most of the tank’s functions autonomously, stopping just short of firing weapons on its own.
I think it’s important to point out that Israel is currently only in open conflict with occupied Palestine. In 2019, the UN found Israeli soldiers guilty of human rights violations, including using snipers to shoot more than 6,000 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in 2018, which is just one dark entry in a more than 50-year-long colonial project. I can’t imagine that using gaming technology to rapidly train a young generation of Israeli soldiers, with the possible side effect of emotionally distancing them from acts of war, is going to lead to a better world for Palestinian civilians.
Tabletop Gaming’s Diana Jones Award Announces Black Excellence as Winner
This year's @DianaJonesAward goes to Black Excellence in Gaming. See our main page for the news (https://t.co/7FSpALkNVT) and then visit the 2020 Award page for full details, an FAQ, and short profiles of exemplary honorees: https://t.co/UgRfcdT06L
— Diana Jones Award (@DianaJonesAward) July 30, 2020
This year’s prestigious Diana Jones Award was announced this week. The voting committee of industry professionals elected the concept of Black excellence as the winner, and honored a number of Black creators specifically. These include tabletop game creators like Cody and Mike Pondsmith, streamers and journalists like Tanya DePass, and illustrators like Jabari Weathers. Over two dozen Black tabletop games industry professionals were honored with the award, though—in an effort to avoid reactionary harassment—some have chosen not to have their names or likenesses announced on the site.
There has also been pushback on this award choice from Black professionals. Honoring the concept of Black Excellence and a loose group of over twenty people—instead of individuals for identified achievements in other award areas—can serve to dilute and de-emphasize each person’s specific efforts. The process of organizing and contacting honorees was also clumsy at best.
In Other news…
The Outer Worlds rakes in a GLAAD Media Award. The award recognizes the inclusion of Parvati, an asexual party member with a queer romantic questline. Much of Parvati’s dialogue was notably written by asexual writer Kate Dollarhyde.
Splinter Cell is coming back, this time as an animated Netflix series (reportedly headed by John Wick co-creator Derek Kolstad).
1997 Cult classic “anti-RPG” Moon making it outside Japan for the first time. The former PlayStation exclusive will be released on the Nintendo Switch and promises to turn JRPG tropes on their head.
CD Projekt Red warned consumers this week about scams offering Cyberpunk 2077 beta access. They confirm that there are no plans for a beta, and caution people to check the address of any email claiming to be from them.
Matt Fraction and David Aja’s version of Hawkeye is coming to Marvel’s Avengers as a post-launch hero.
Ian Alexander and Victoria Grace open up about how their personal experience and identities influenced their voice acting in The Last of Us Part II.
A genderless eldritch beast bound to mortal flesh. Interests include games, gardening, magical realism, and the complete restructuring of America’s political and economic systems. Frequently orders too much food at restaurants. Tweets @unnnez.