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ESA: Essential facts about the games industry 2016

May 03, 2016, 07:40:23 AM by kat
This statement, "Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%)", always strikes as being a little odd; why would it be appropriate to compare a data group of 17 years with another of 83, assuming everyone lived to 100, as a means to illustrate, or legitimate, a point about numbers. Surely it make greater sense to compare like with like, i.e. women 18 and above compared to men 18 and above, like so, "when comparing men and women 18 years and above, fe/males represent a significantly greater/lesser portion of the game playing population".

The yearly ESA survey, like nearly every single one of these types of surveys, are always very careful not to provide information that could (in)validate the point either way (and what does it matter anyway, people play games, some lots, others little. Who really cares. Ed.). This makes the statement statistically disingenuous at face value based on tangential information that is available. And marks the significance of the statement being 'political' rather than a statistical conclusion of meaning.

In other words the intent of the statement, and those like it, is to deliberately mislead the reader into thinking the numbers are comparative when used to illustrate the point being made. Its a purposefully misleading comment meant to push a narrative of it's own (girls play games too!) as counterpoint to the stereotyped mainstream narrative that gamers are all young males[1].

So rather than presenting a truer reflection of the numbers, they have to fudge, blur or misdirect like a magician playing cup n' ball. And this just makes people angry. In fact, reading through the entire report one may be forgiven for noticing a pattern whereby very little data is provided to allow deeper gendered analysis. But that is par for the course at this point.

[1] individuals playing games, that also consider themselves to be "hardcore" or "serious" gamers, tend to be younger males (where "hardcore" and "serious" are largely defined by 1) the amount of time dedicated to playing, and 2) appreciative level(s) of skill improvement).

Improving Content ID for creators

April 29, 2016, 07:36:45 AM by kat
This, "Improving Content ID for creators", is genuinely confusing. YouTube's Content ID system is NOT Copyright arbitration. That's supposed to be done exclusively through DMCA - where "Copyright disputes" exist, the United States Code requires they be dealt with through the DMCA provisions of the Copyright Act, which further obligates hosts/providers disable content during dispute claims; disputed content is not supposed to be available during a dispute, least of all it being monetised (itself an infringement of Copyright under such circumstances).

YouTube being able to do this and monetise disputed content, puts it entirely at odds with the Corporations obligations with respect to the aforementioned Copyright Act and the Safe Harbor provisions. In other words, this means YouTube doesn't appear to interpret content claims and dispute resolution as 'copyright' issues, but 'Terms of Service violations' (uploader lied when they said the video was theirs). There is no leeway here, either something infringes another's Copyright and has to be dealt with through DMCA. Or its not, and Service Providers/Hosts are simply providing 'arbitration services' to mitigate use of DMCA(?). In either case YouTube et al need to be explicitly clear on this.

Same goes for their "Fair Use Protection Program", which similarly conflates disputes concerning "copyright" with "content ID" and "Terms of Service Violations".

It's no wonder YouTubers and Users find YouTube's Content ID system so confusing when YT themselves constantly conflate ToS violations with Copyright. They are not the same thing dagnabbit (howling at the moooonn!)!

Further Reading
- Its a Terms of Service violation, not Copyright dispute
- Google to help defend Fair Use on YouTube

"Freedom of speech ends where threats abound"

April 28, 2016, 02:19:18 PM by kat
In a new(ish) European Parliaments report "on gender equality and empowering women in the digital age" (pub 8th Apr) concludes with a 23 point call-to-action on "gender equality" by way of special treatment and allowances for women in Tech (ITC) in addition to current legal obligations business and employers are beholden to. Although all 23 point are contextualised as "gender equality", men, or males from underprivileged minority backgrounds, are not expressly mentioned unless as a means to set-up a negative contextualisation against which female workers are measured - it's men's fault fewer women are in ITC, men's fault there are fewer female Directors or industry leaders; men's fault women aren't as successful in ITC; men's fault women experience disproportionate work/home life issues; men's fault employers won't allow women more work/home flexibility; men's fault there's a "culture of long hours", etc., etc., etc.;
1. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the social partners to promote gender equality, particularly in the digital economy, representative bodies and training institutions, to promote gender balance in decision-making and to closely monitor the changes and trends; calls on the Member States to follow up on the progress that still needs to be made and to share best practices within and between Member States; calls on the Commission to update current data regarding female workers in the ICT sector and to assess the economic impact of more women in the sector;

But that's not the main rationale of the report. What the European Parliament really wants is more authority, to be able to 'obligate compliance' to EU Directives under the guise of "gender equality" whilst simultaneously blaming men for, pretty much for everything, really;
2. Strongly supports efforts to increase the proportion of women managers in the EU; notes that legislative initiatives to improve gender balance should be considered if a gender is structurally disadvantaged within a working place and is denied the chance of self-realisation; emphasises that companies are more successful if they have gender diversity in their teams; emphasises that any quota obligation must take into account the different sizes of companies and the different situations in the Member States;

And to obligate Signatory's towards providing systems that encourage subsuming EU Authority under the guise of "gender equality";
8. Encourages Member States to have tax and benefit systems that are free of disincentives for second earners to work or work more, because women tend to be second earners, with ICT jobs featuring heavily in this field;

But all of that is a slight side-issue, but it's important to mention to lay out context because reading the news items about the report on the EU Parliaments own website, one would be mistaken for thinking the document was about "online violence" and how that should be addressed with legislation that undermines free speech, hence the articles title Violence against women online: "Freedom of speech ends where threats abound" (pub 27th Apr), which misrepresents not only what the EU Report is largely about, but also the nature of "online violence", or more broadly "online harassment" - that it's only a problem faced by women and girls. It's not, and never has been[1].

And to speak to that misrepresentation directly. The title is a corruption of "your Rights end where mine begin"[2]. Even then it's a falsehood; freedom of (specifically[3]) speech has no limitations or (a)boundaries. It has repercussions. Individuals can say whatever they want. They can threaten, intimidate. They can even make calls to incite acts of violence. They can. This doesn't means they should. Or that doing so is free from consequence. This is not a "free speech absolutist" position. It's what the principle of free speech means.

The solution to "online violence"[4], is not Government intervention or interference with the underlying Rights Individuals are guaranteed (by Government not-so-ironically). Instead more effective means to hold those responsible to account should be sought, that way the Individual and their actions are criminalised, not the 'group' or 'community' to which they may belong, nor Society at large, nor their guaranteed Rights. This might mean penalising Institutions that fail to act upon, or otherwise interfere or impinge upon, lawful Orders to identify specific individuals or 'identities'[5]. However this should not grant blanket authority to take or implement shortcuts to Due Process. Nor should it be used as an excuse to prosecute flimsy accusations just on the say-so of a particular party. Nor should it mean women and girls be afforded special privilege or status when it comes to prosecuting "online violence" (beyond current prescriptions in law), given the fact that both males and females receive as much the abuse online as each other[1].

[1] Pew Research: Online Harassment ("... 73% have seen OH, 40% experienced it..."). International Journal of Cyber Criminology: Battle of the sexes: An examination of male and female cyber bullying ("... females have been shown to be involved in cyber bullying just as much as males (if not more) ..."). Gender and Alcohol Consumption: Patterns from the Multinational Genacis Project ("... the prevalence of high-frequency drinking was consistently greatest in the oldest age group, particularly among men ...").

[2] which itself is a further 'corruption', or simplification, of a quote attributed to John B. Finch that had something to do with waving one's arms about and other people's noses.

[3] taken as read, "freedom of speech" is less 'dangerous', for want of a better word, than "freedom of expression" because the former could be considered circumscribed, i.e. localised to the written or verbalised words rather than expressed 'acts' or 'actions'.

[4] the rhetoric of politics and activist discourse on "online violence" defines it as essentially being  anything anyone might deem subjectively harmful or objectionable; "The virtual world is an expression of a society in which there is a lot of violence against women. Women, especially those who are very active on the internet, may be threatened, stalked or harassed and this can go all the way to real physical violence." [emphasis added]; "...the term "online violence" is often framed using language that conflates it with real-world (physical?) violence (in terms of 'actual harm' that may be done). In other words the [UN] Commission equate the phrase to a person "not just receiving death threats but the daily grind of being told 'you're a liar' or 'you suck'" with a women in an Emergency Room contused, rids broken, wrists fractured due to 'violence' perpetrated by another.".

[5] in this context "individuals" means "identity", a Court Order issued against a specific IP address for example (which should not mean Authorities have blanket powers to issue orders that might otherwise compromise systems, a la Apple,  San Bernardino v. Fed Gov.). It's important to stress the "Lawful Orders" observation, that is, Court Orders based upon the weight of objective actionable evidence; anonymous accusations, or receiving "mean tweets" online is not enough in light of existing legal system that necessitate there be an initial "cause of bodily harm", "threat to life" etc., threshold before prosecutory action can be taken. This is why "online violence" is difficult to resolve without there being secondary conditions attached - when one or more people in a ex-relationship send threatening messages to others, the fact that they knew each other in real life means the threats carry greater weight than might otherwise be considered semi-anon comments made on Social Media; the threshold is the possibility of actual bodily harm occurring, rather than simply a threat having been made. Failures are nearly always associated with over-sight or being under-powered, not that "authorities don't take threats seriously" or "fail to act" as a systemic response.

How social context influences violence-aggression relationship

April 22, 2016, 11:12:21 AM by kat
A new study from the University of Amsterdam "A different(ial) perspective: How social context influences the media violence-aggression relationship among early adolescents" looks at the problem of violence in media from a slightly different perspective. Rather than trying to say whether games cause violence, a non-falsifiable supposition[1], they instead look to see what type of person is likely to be more influenced by violent media consumption. The thesis is interesting in this regard because it takes a less inflammatory approach to the problem, one highlighted by the opening page;
Parent: My stepson (12) has been playing Call of Duty Black Ops [...]. We wanted to limit it, but then he would just play at his friendís house. Since weíve had the game, he gets angry or aggressive over nothing at all. At school, theyíre also having problems with his behavior. Iím not sure if itís the game, but itís certainly remarkable.

Child: Well, sorry, but this is just ridiculous. I am 17 years old now and have been playing Call of Duty since I was 13, and it didnít make me violent. Games like that donít harm us, especially because theyíre not realistic.

This raises a lot of questions in terms of the differing levels of concern Individuals have over the consumption of violent media, which given the boys response, seem largely unfounded; does this mean the father was a good Dad able to steer his son away from an expected outcome over the intervening years. Or was the boy just a good Son able to filter virtual violence and avoid becoming the murderous monster his father feared. Why did the father even equate the game as the cause of sons apparent behavioural issues rather than perhaps turning that gaze inwards towards the home, or just the 'growing pains' of adolescence. The Amsterdam Thesis attempts to address this by taking into account participants backgrounds and disposition to see what, if any, correlation there is to aggression in teens.

In a nutshell the Authors conclude that individuals poorly situated societally are far more likely to be drawn to violent media, and that for them, it has greater potential for more profound negative effect than it does for those in better circumstances. With that said however, the study goes to great length to make clear correlation does not equal causation, that some, not all, from such backgrounds may be predisposed, but that in of itself does not mean they will be aggressive or violent. In other words, poverty or poor social status is a predictor of potential, not confirmation of fact.

As even-handed as the thesis is though, its still prone to the same shortfalls, namely not recognising that "aggression" and "violence" mean both mean something entirely different to academics than they do to the media narrative; for academicians "violence" is highly conditional and temporal, to the media its an explosive evil to be sensationalised and exploited. The two interpretations of the word are so vastly different they might as well be polar opposites. In this regard the Amsterdam study fails, like so many others, so it's results will yet again be used as proof of the media narrative, that now individuals from socially deprived environments playing violent games will be killers, despite that not being what the study actually concludes.

[1] To definitively answer the question it would be nessariy to test the theory in ways that an actual killer or at least violent person was the outcome.

Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it

April 14, 2016, 03:52:56 PM by kat
Brilliant example of confirmation bias in academia right now; "Acting like a Tough Guy: Violent-Sexist Video Games, Identification with Game Characters, Masculine Beliefs, & Empathy for Female Violence Victims".

To test our predictions [...] the type of video game played was entered as predictor, the identification with the game character as a moderator, masculine beliefs as the mediator, and empathy toward female violence victims as the outcome variable. We predicted that participantsí gender would moderate the effects of the identification with the game character on the relationship between the type of video game and masculinity beliefs. (see Fig 1). Participant age, video game violence rating, and frequency of video game play were also included as covariates.

Summary using a couple of notorious games to prove a prediction, essentially that males are un-empathetic psychopaths.

For male participants, simple slope analyses showed a significant positive relationship between identification with the game character and masculine beliefs for males who played with a violent-sexist game [...] For female participants, there was no significant relationship between identification with the game character and masculine beliefs in any of the three video game conditions.

It's important emphasise their methodology here; essentially they were testing the prediction that male gamers respond positively (there was an uptick in cognitive association, not that they then went out and did something objectively bad) to reinforcing media (stimuli), essentially a given, especially when tested immediately after playing. Where the study fails catastrophically and enters the realms of confirmation bias is in the following;

1) did not test against MALE victims.
2) did not test FEMALE perpetration against MALE victims (FEMALE protagonist against MALE victim).

In other words, without male/female, protagonist/victim counter-balancing, the conclusion is predetermined and weighted towards a positive outcome in support of the premise being tested - "Men bad. Woman good. Ug"

To properly get to the bottom of this (non)issue tests and studies need to be conducted and assessed against games where male and female victims and protagonists can be swapped interchangeably without there being any other discernible difference to the way the underlying mechanics behave[1]. In using games like GTA5, which makes a point of playing with the idea of 'machismo', using it as a central plot device - the main character operates in a criminal world, they enter the project already biased and predisposed towards a given conclusion.

They literally might as well just say "games cause sexism because: GTA 5" and be done with it.

Absolutely appalling 'research'.

[1] There are broader issues testing these kinds of gender related theories on violence due to societal predispositions towards the disposability of male victims - most crime related perpetrators, victims, injuries and deaths are male but perpetration is the only societal focus (predominates the news cycle). What this well known but rarely acknowledged fact - male disposability, might mean within the context of games as a medium of social study, is perhaps that female gamers, playing female characters, committing violence against females NPC's, victims or other players, find it immediately incongruous, it does not fit their predefined and already established notion of the world as it is, subsequently biasing the response. To truly get to the bottom of whatever is being asked with these studies, not only would they need to be a complete role reversal, but in doing so the genuine implicit bias towards male disposability must be accounted for just as readily as it is not for male on female violence.
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