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Oculus, VR and the loss of childhood innocence

February 25, 2022, 04:35:46 PM by kat

Being old enough to remember "The Before Times", and knowing the authors background, a subscriber got in touch the other day to ask for a second opinion about a nephew playing a first-person game using an Oculus headset and controllers. The just-turned-six-year-old, yes six, was playing a 'shooter', a PEGI 12 rated game, that used featureless dummies for 'bad guys' and 'oil' for blood. It wasn't expressly graphic, at least by 18+ Triple-A standards. So, no problem there per se, yet.

Whilst screen-casting a session the youngling could be heard saying things like "you just have to rip his arm off" and "just kill it using his arm" (the aforementioned arm having to be ripped off first, character then beaten with it to death). Okay, that is a little weird, at least for a just-turned-six-year-old to be explaining to their new audience member quite so enthusiastically.

As play progressed they had difficulty coordinating themselves while attempting more difficult tasks, as most six-year-olds do, so the relative took over to continue. And this is where things got... interesting, for want of a better word, not because of who was playing the game, or even what was being done, rather how, the actions the player had to perform to drive the game onwards.

In the game mechanics tutorial, and subsequently game-proper, the player learns weapons handling, loading, unloading, readying and so on. While not specifically an issue in of itself, within the context of a VR headset and accompanying hand controllers the problem this presents is immediate; the formation of reflexive bad habits and intuitions.

At face value this seems like a nothing burger so what gives?

The way we learn about the world as children is defined by play against, ultimately, the hard cold truths of reality; a child only need stick a folk in an electrical socket once for lesson to be learned (one would hope, cue attention-deficit over-compensatory mechanism feedback loop). Virtual reality may disrupt this reactive development because it presents to the user environments that are constructed from objects grounded in a still-being-learning-about reality almost wholly without consequence (vertigo, motion-sickness aside) - the same child sticking a virtual fork in a virtual socket may be rewarded with a colourful dopamine dripping lightshow that obviously, at least to cognisant adults, doesn't translate into reality [1].

Watching the games weapons training, a high-fidelity, high-resolution approximation of a semi-auto pistol and long-gun had to be loaded and unloaded with magazines similar to inRL, albeit in a much cruder, fumbling way, like trying to load a firearm with thick fingerless gloves. Seeing this it was immediately apparent that, while these processes might be considered completely harmless operations for the target audience (12+), or using a console controller or mouse and keyboard, in VR, using a headset and handhelds, the user has a much more visceral and proximate experience when performing these tasks, especially as they explicitly replicate reality; magazine picked up from the ground in one hand that has to motion and load the ammunition in to a firearm grasped in the other.

Although it was clumsy and downright instructor-takes-weapon-away-from-a-person dangerous activity to watch, it highlights an aspect of VR gaming that harbours the potential for negatively impacting a child's development. In other words, learning bad habits by rote so early in life may be consequential in later years, especially when picking up other skills that might use those same or similar actions. Imagine then, 5 or 10 years hence, when this youngling is given a lightsabre for the first time and simply can't reflexively help themselves, flashing, buzzy, choppy thing (where's the music)!. Turns out Darth Vader din do noffin after all.

Unlike PC and console gaming there never was any real risk of their being "murder simulators" because the user often interacts passively with a screen, watching from a fixed perspective and distance, and in circumstances that typically don't promote disassociation from the reality of the immediate surroundings, i.e. sitting on a couch, cheezits and dew close at by. VR on the other hand is different. It's immediate, visceral and replicatory in ways young minds, very young especially, may have difficulty delineating from reality - vertigo inducing experiences being an obvious example of this conflation, fake environments making the body reflexively behave as though they're real.

Just to be explicitly clear here, this isn't an bad-faith malformed, misleading or misrepresentative Jack Thompson or Anita Sarkeesain politicised argumentative fallacy that's anti-gaming, or anti-VR, rather a genuine question about young kids interacting with clumsy approximated alternative realities in ways that may misinform at best, malformed at worse, their developing understanding of the world and how things behave within it, themselves included.

And yes, where are the parents, the responsible adults in this story? Why does the child have access to this sort of hardware and/or content? Is it okay for young children to use this type of technology as they grow? And more broadly in doing so, does VR facilitate the formation of coherent and cogent pictures of the world they are growing in to, especially when play is often unattended and absent any authoritative parental direction or guidance? Is the possibility of a maladjusted future really worth five minutes of temporary peace [2]?

What can be done about this, pragmatically, realistically, in a fast-paced, technologically driven world where a social credit score (self, corporate or government imposed ) demands individuals participation and interaction or a price is paid - loss of services, ostracization etc.? How does one even ethically test for the potential of malformation in order to take preventative or remedial action? What strategies can be used to mitigate minds being enveloped by the unfeeling, unemotive, unloving embrace of the machine that consumes childhood innocence and the joy of just being silly.


Footnotes

[1] Outside a clinical setting (non-clinical) that assesses VR's usefulness as a means to treat various disorders, ADHD, Autism and other cognitive and emotive dysfunction (e.g. Google Scholar search "virtual reality child development"), very little research has been made into VR's influence on child development more generally, so the affects, if any, are unknown.

[2] Teen suicide in the US and globally has been on the rise since around 2008. Markedly since then there appears to have been a historically disproportionate increase in the number of girls committing suicide. "Key risk factors found were: mental disorders, previous suicide attempts, specific personality characteristics, genetic loading and family processes in combination with triggering psychosocial stressors, exposure to inspiring models and availability of means of committing suicide." - Suicide and Youth: Risk Factors. Similarly rates of anxiety, depression and other mental and cognitive disorders are on the rise (not necessarily accounted for by better diagnosis), young girls being particularly prone ... "The strongest risk factors for depression in adolescents are a family history of depression and exposure to psychosocial stress. Inherited risks, developmental factors, sex hormones, and psychosocial adversity interact to increase risk through hormonal factors and associated perturbed neural pathways." - Depression in adolescence.

GDPR & CCDA Data Phishing Scam

December 11, 2021, 03:02:07 PM by kat
UPDATE: see reply below.



Owning, running or being the admin of an online property that's openly accessible to the public means being answerable to a number of privacy regulations, notably the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), both essentially meant to give the User power to refuse or inspect what Personally Identifying Information and data might be collected while browsing the Internet. Under normal circumstance this isn't a issue as Users can be (re)directed to any available Privacy Policy or other 'terms' document that should inform as to what may or may not be being collected and who would be responsible for it.

However, scammers, phishers & 'hackers', always looking for inroads and avenues of attack, use the legislation to formulate boiler plate inquiries to 'process phish', that is gauge points of socially engineered attack that might be ascertained from any responses given. Fortunately, genuine enquiries tend not to be formulated with so much formal specificity and can be safely ignored (search email and contact information to verify sender).

Quote
From : Mary Clark <maryclark@potomacmail.com>
Subject : Questions About GDPR Data Access Process for [domain]

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Mary Clark, and I am a resident of Roanoke, Virginia. I have a few questions about your process for responding to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data access requests:

1. Would you process a GDPR data access request from me even though I am not a resident of the European Union?
2. Do you process GDPR data access requests via email, a website, or telephone? If via a website, what is the URL I should go to?
3. What personal information do I have to submit for you to verify and process a GDPR data access request?
4. What information do you provide in response to a GDPR data access request?

To be clear, I am not submitting a data access request at this time. My questions are about your process for when I do submit a request.
Thank you in advance for your answers to these questions. If there is a better contact for processing GDPR requests regarding katsbits.com, I kindly ask that you forward my request to them.

I look forward to your reply without undue delay and at most within one month of this email, as required by Article 12 of GDPR.

Sincerely,

Mary Clark

Quote
From : Victor Coutand <victorcoutand@envoiemail.fr>
Subject : Questions About CCPA Data Access Process for [domain]

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Victor Coutand, and I am a resident of Nice, France. I have a few questions about your process for responding to California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) data access requests:

1. Would you process a CCPA data access request from me even though I am not a resident of California?
2. Do you process CCPA data access requests via email, a website, or telephone? If via a website, what is the URL I should go to?
3. What personal information do I have to submit for you to verify and process a CCPA data access request?
4. What information do you provide in response to a CCPA data access request?

To be clear, I am not submitting a data access request at this time. My questions are about your process for when I do submit a request.
Thank you in advance for your answers to these questions. If there is a better contact for processing CCPA requests regarding katsbits.com, I kindly ask that you forward my request to them.

I look forward to your reply without undue delay and at most within 45 days of this email, as required by Section 1798.130 of the California Civil Code.

Sincerely,

Victor Coutand

Minecraft themed 'Trominoes'

June 11, 2021, 08:05:28 AM by kat

Following on from the previous Minecraft themed game of dominoes is another papercraft game of sorts for parents, guardians or grownups otherwise responsible for those same kids who can't seem to drag themselves away from Minecraft sans 'episodes', especially when they should be doing something else, again (homework, chores, eating, sleeping etc.).

The below 'Minecraft themed 'Trominoes'' (tri + dominoes = trominoes) is another print-n-play table top game to help redirect and engage young minds with a simple Minecraft themed game that encourages real world participation through artwork they're familiar with. It's 'Minecraft' RL Trominoes!.

Quote
Instructions for use: download the Minecraft themed trominoes PDF (c. 4MB), print the sheets (A4, Letter or larger 'A' formatted page) and cut out along the outside of the black borders to create a set of 34 'Minecraft' tiles they can play InRL (34 tiles to keep printing and cutting to a minimum). For added durability, after printing stick the sheets to cardboard then cut out the tiles. Alternatively cover front and back with clear wrapping tape. For even greater versatility print on magnetic paper to create dominoes fridge magnets!



*the themed dominoes printout is based on material copyright Mojang and Microsoft and provided for personal use only. It is not endorsed by, or otherwise associated with, either entity. In-game assets have been recreated thematically to resemble artwork and to facilitate ease of printing (personal printer, facsimile, photo-copying etc.). NOT OFFICIAL MINECRAFT PRODUCT. NOT APPROVED BY OR ASSOCIATED WITH MOJANG.

Minecraft themed Dominoes (PDF)

May 15, 2021, 04:19:17 PM by kat

Papercraft of sorts for parents, guardians or grownups otherwise responsible for kids who can't seem to drag themselves away from Minecraft sans 'episodes' [1], especially when they should be doing something else (homework, chores, eating, sleeping etc.), the below 'Minecraft themed dominoes' game worksheet* is provided for convenience in helping redirect and engaging their minds with a simple game that encourages real world participation through artwork they're familiar with. It's 'Minecraft' RL Dominoes!.

Quote
Instructions for use: download the Minecraft themed dominoes PDF (c. 4MB), print the sheets (A4, Letter or larger 'A' formatted page) and cut out along the outside of the black borders to create a standard set of 28 'Minecraft' themed tiles they can play InRL. For added durability, after printing stick the sheets to cardboard then cut out the tiles. Alternatively cover front and back with clear wrapping tape.



*the themed dominoes printout is based on material copyright Mojang and Microsoft and provided for personal use only. It is not endorsed by, or otherwise associated with, either entity. In-game assets have been recreated thematically to resemble artwork and to facilitate printing (personal printer, facsimile, photo-copying etc.).


Footnotes
[1] assuming children don't have general behavioural issues, being intently focused on games like Minecraft shouldn't cause problems in the long term. The goal of 'Themed Dominoes' is to encourage their participation in the 'real world', away from computers and other electronic devices, using artistic themes they are already familiar with. This is especially so for younger children who need broader engagement to foster physical (limit how much time they spend hunched over something) and mental (limit how much time is spent in a sensory/experiential overstimulation feedback loop) development of a well adjusted sense of themselves and how they fit into the world around them. NOT OFFICIAL MINECRAFT PRODUCT. NOT APPROVED BY OR ASSOCIATED WITH MOJANG

Effects of sexualized video games on online sexual harassment

July 02, 2019, 04:16:42 AM by kat


In a recently published research paper[1], "Effects of sexualized video games on online sexual harassment", Brad J Bushman[2] and co-authors[3] write they were able to successfully evidence the assertion that playing video games containing sexualised themes causes sexism and (online) sexual abuse towards women.

Whilst it might appear at face value the assertion was proven, looking deeper the paper is actually little more than partisan political advocacy dressed in a lab coat for, like most examples of what is now euphemistically referred to as "grievance studies", the papers fundamental premise is to pursue its 'truth' from a gynocentric perspective, that sexism is a 'norm', an expectation that is also only directed at women. In other words the question being asked, contextually unbound by the researchers, is "how much", not "if".

Best paraphrased as "sexist games doth sexist gamers make", what this expectation does to the paper and research is create an investigative narrative that is (mis)appropriately framed towards supporting a 'sexist' conclusion - because sexism exists in the minds of the researchers the question does not need to be asked whether it exists in games or that they might cause it, just the degree to which they contribute or perpetuate it - citing as it does non-academic advocacy research[4], and a highly controversial series of events in which a number of prominent anti-game/r, sex-negative, personalities[5] were subject to alleged online and offline abuse[6] said to have been perpetrated ostensibly by male gamers[7].

In defining the papers operational environment this way its authors grant themselves sufficient thematic rationale, and the necessary degree of latitude, to direct the study omni-directionally towards its preordained, sex-negative, outcome[8], that 'sexual' can only ever equate to 'sexist', or 'sexualised games always lead to sexist behaviours (sexism)'.

This is highly problematic to say the least because at no point is this theory tested again or acknowledge; harassment is gendered (sexed); that women tend to face more sexually themed abuse whereas men face more violence/death related abuse; that men tend to receive more harassment and abuse generally. In other words, only the abuses faced by women matter to grievance research.

With this said the study did find[9] its female participants were more likely to be abusive towards other women in the group, supporting a growing body of data that women are as toxic, if not more so, than their male counterparts. Unfortunately, but as perhaps expected, this observation is rationalised as a reflection of toxic male behaviour because bad behaviour and behavioural pattens or expressions; i.e. aggression, abuse etc., are all considered to be 'male traits' by grievance researchers due to the intersectional framework, the "grievance hierarchy"[10], within which they function.

Put bluntly: all roads lead to patriarchal (male) sexism regardless as to who perpetrates it.

"Negative consequences of video games have been a concern since their inception. However,one under-researched area is the potential negative effects of sexualized video game content on players.

This study analyzed the consequences of sexualized video game content on online sexual harassment against male and female targets.We controlled for a number of variables that might be related to online sexual harassment(i.e., trait aggressiveness, ambivalent sexism, online disinhibition).

Participants (N=211) played a video game with either sexualized or non-sexualized female characters. After gameplay, they had the opportunity to sexually harass a male or a female partner by sending them sexist jokes.

Based on the General Aggression Model integrated with the Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression (Anderson & Anderson, 2008), we predicted that playing the game with sexualized female characters would increase sexual harassment against female targets. Results were consistent with these predictions.

Sexual harassment levels toward a female partner were higher for participants who played the game with sexualized female characters than for participants who played the same game with non-sexualized female characters.

These findings indicate that sexualization of female characters in a video game can be a sufficient condition to provoke online sexual harassment toward women." Effects of sexualized video games on online sexual harassment.



Further Reading
- 50% of women are misogynists
- Men harassed online more but like, seriously, it's not about them - Pew 2017
- The mediating effects of violent video games on violent individuals
- Games Media, Cultural Critics and Partisan Duplicity on Violent Video Games
- Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents, a new phenomena
- Females, despite being 50%+ of gamers, spend 2/3rds less than males




Footnotes:

[1] paper was received for publication in Aggressive Behavior late 2017, accepted late 2018 and published Mar/Apr 2019.

[2] Bushman is responsible for a number of controversial research projects that have been shown to use shoddy work to the extent that one in particular, "Boom Head-shot...", was retracted and a project researcher let go from their position as a consequence.

[3] "Each slide contained a pair of jokes written in French [...] Participants completed a French version of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory" etc.. Although the jokes used to test the hypothesis were written in French (a translation of English text) it's not clear if it the entire project was conducted in France, at a French University, or other French speaking Region (e.g. Belgium), or of individuals who spoke/speak the language located elsewhere. As incidental as this may be at face-value, cultural differences do play a part in attitudinal display that does not appear to be compensated for in the research - the French, when compared to the British for example, are stereo-typically less reserved about sexuality and expressing such sentiments such that an two Nationalities might see the same comment in completely different light.

[4] the use of 'advocacy research', investigations of a given topic conducted under the auspices of public awareness campaigns or advocacy, is itself controversial because such research is often poorly conducted and/or intentionally framed towards a given outcome - in this instance the material cited is heavily criticised for the broad and leading nature of the questions asked of participants such that a supportive conclusion was guaranteed.

[5] the series of events in question is 'GamerGate' and the alleged harassment and abuse received by a number of prominent personalities who happened to be female, a consequence of their politics (being sex-negative, intersectional fourth-wave radical feminists). It is not an untenable suggestion that the "Effects of sexualized video games on online sexual harassment" is another attempt by academia, media, political activists and advocates, to indirectly evidence their assertions on GamerGate, that it was only ever about the harassment and abuse of women in games rather than as a direct response to, what was discovered to be, a highly coordinated and deliberate effort to marginalise gamers in media and through high-profile public events simply because they, gamers, were unwilling to support, or cow to, the particularly divisive and toxic political invective being 'jacked' ('culture jacking') into gaming culture by the same media and political figures attacking them whilst simultaneously denying them access to avenues of discussion - literally every mainstream news, media and corporate gaming website (including 4Chan of all places) removed article comments and comment sections, communities and forums, or imposed strict no-tolerance discussion policies, as a direct consequence of the fallout from GamerGate; had discussion been permitted unrestrained the controversy would have ended relatively quickly. As it was, GamerGate blew up, and was sustained by the reaction from TPTB, their push back and outright refusal to allow any discussion, any where.

[6] Anita Sarkeesian is perhaps the most notorious exponent of the "sexist games make gamers sexist" trope, her use as an argumentative prop for this study is particularly egregiously and disingenuous as the authors omit, as grievance researchers and media propagators are want to do, important reasons for the reaction received, ostensibly from the very group subject to her criticisms, gamers, of the self-confessed variety, those who often spend more hours gaming than watching TV. Of this broad demographic, and bolstered by an undisclosed (at the time) network of similarly embued advocate and activist journalists in key positions at prominent publications (GameJournoPros), Anita Sarkeesian would; persistently refer to this group of individuals as "sexist", "misogynist", "women haters" and "bigots" due to the types of games played (typically FPS, shooters and action games); ignore challenges or counter-arguments, claiming such criticisms as sexist, abusive and hostile; ignore or refuse debates with those opposed to her ideas or philosophy; police conference panels and public events and appearances, shuttering them or cancelling if opposition were given an opportunity to speak; constantly claim harassment, abuse and victimisation if messaged or spoken to solicited or unsolicited; promote a 'sex-negative' image of women, minorities or other genders in games if such representation did not meet her specific undefined demands/criteria; appear in-front of a special UN panel on women, using the opportunity to call for the censorship of the internet; claim her critics were "grifters", harassing and abusing women in games solely because it generated ad revenue; and so on. To Sarkeesian, as is common to many pushing agendas that feed on legitimate grievances, criticism and push back is waived aside by simply claiming words themselves are an abuse, a form of overt marginalising patriarchal oppression, and therefore do not need to be addressed, leaving their toxic research and unfalsifiable conclusions to spread into the wilds, dangerously into academic and legislative/policy development circles seemingly unchallenged with a degree of authenticity and authority that is entirely fake. Perception is far more powerful than truth. And all of this is notwithstanding recent and troubling revelations concerning her mafia-style tactics to raise funds for failing non-profit Feminist Frequency in a series of controversial tweets (many of which were 'ratio'd') sent to CD Projek Red, developers of the SciFi game CyberPunk2077, which she claimed she could improve, for the right price, not at all dissimilar to revelations about the unhelpful and bullying behaviour of Zoe Quinn and her CON initiative.

[7] omitted from the story of GamerGate in mainstream sources on the topic, Wikipedia included, is the fact that as an expression of their politics, the personalities on the receiving end of the backlash from gamers targeted communities ostensibly comprising male gamers specifically because they were (are) male domains - the culture jack into gaming culture is not so much about the games themselves or their content as it is the presumption antagonistic and divisive ideological thought could be interjected unchallenged into the community as a means to disrupt and control what may have been (is still) hither unto considered male spaces (first person shooters and other games in the action genre, the targets of attack by intersectional activists and advocates, are still largely played by male gamers) - the foundational aspect of intersectionality, the politics that fuels fourth-wave radical feminism and associated ideological thinking to which many critical proponents of GamerGate subscribe, requires male protagonists, benevolent recipients of patriarchal privilege based on an all pervading systemic hierarchical structure that enables their, males, exercising of hegemonic power over other marginalised groups - there is no sexism in games without male gamers.

[8] the research is not dis/proving the existence of sexism and the correlation to sexualised game content, i.e. whether sexism might result from playing sexually themed content, that sexist remarks might be a consequence of playing with sexualised characters, rather who sends and receives more sexist content. In other words, it starts with the presupposition that sexualised games cause sexism and concluded, due to the way participants communicate, that sexualised games cause (increased) sexism.

[9] to the authors apparent surprise female participants sent more sexist jokes to other women, males receiving more overall from both male and female participants (which inadvertently reveals the dangers associated with use of unchallenged or tested advocacy research (Stop Street Harrassment in this instance) - "Another unexpected result in this study was that female participants sent significantly more sexist jokes than male participants. This might be due to the fact that sexual harassment is perceived as usually committed by men, and toward women (Stop Street Harassment, 2018). Therefore, among our participants, women are likely to have experienced sexual harassment. Therefore, when sent to the in-group (i.e., another woman), it might be perceived as a simple joke, but when sent to a man, it might be perceived as a form of retaliation." - which is an explicit imposition of a rationale contrary to that suggested by the data - the authors are impugning intent where none exists. In other words, and to paraphrase, 'it's not sexism when women do it' (to either sex) thus revealing the bias and gynocentric nature typical of grievance studies, and why such research is fundamentally and persistently flawed.

[10] 'grievance hierarchy' is a colloquialism for 'intersectionalism', a hierarchical framework that's built on a victim/abuser power dynamic that places white men at the top of a 'power hierarchy' because they hold the power in society, and at bottom of the 'reparation hierarchy' because they have no need for the latter, reparations, so should be last in line in terms of equitable outcomes, e.g. de-prioritised because they're white and have everything ("everything" being 'power' and the freedom to act unilaterally against others) - intersectionalism is not specifically about need in the sense of putting food on the table, it's about the distribution of power. In this context, sexualised games, the theory being tested means women cannot be sexist towards other women, even when they most certainly are, because sexism is an expression of male power ("patriarchy"). Males on the other hand, can be sexist towards anyone regardless. In other words, intersectionalism is a self-reinforcing system of oppression that sees women as perpetual victims, a 'victim-class', always negatively affected and subject to, men and male behaviour, even at the hands of other women. This is the description of a systemic pathology not the qualification of a principle.

^