A bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers has signed a letter expressing "deep concern" over Activision Blizzard's recent decision to punish Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung after the pro Hearthstone player expressed support for continuing Hong Kong protests last week. "This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government's growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech," the letter reads, in part.
Blizzard originally banned the Hong Kong-based player for a year and withheld his prize money after he said "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" in Chinese during the livestreamed event. That penalty was later reduced to a six-month suspension, and Chung's prize money was reinstated.
But the letter, addressed to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, urges Blizzard "in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung. You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it."
I'm not shocked that the first-ever Minecraft board game is cute and fun. But this new game, made as a collaboration between video game studio Mojang and board game producer Ravensburger, has no right to be this elegant.
Minecraft: Builders & Biomes is breezy. It's quick. It's kid-friendly. Yet it's full of the tricky decisions, competitive countermeasures, and three-moves-ahead plotting that can ratchet a game to the top of a diehard tabletop community's rankings.
Best of all, it has a goofy, tactile centerpiece that feeds into the gameplay loop while also looking exactly like what you'd expect from a "Minecraft board game." Builders & Biomes, which is out now in Europe and launches in the US on November 15, has come out of nowhere to punch my licensed-game skepticism down like a blocky, in-game tree.
Rewind to the Internet of 10 years ago and you’ll find an era that made sense for an odd, beloved webcomic like Homestuck. It debuted in April 2009 as a one-off lark from avid webcomic maker Andrew Hussie, and its modest premise—four teenage friends playing a video game—could have been a one-and-done comic miniseries. (Its arrival within the appropriately named MS Paint Adventures, or MSPA, spoke to its modesty.)
From there, the series gradually expanded in scope to become an epic science fantasy story about children from different cultures coming of age without adult supervision. They learn to work together in spite of cultural differences, individual traumas, and the feeling of isolation that comes from being an adolescent in a rapidly changing world—and, in doing so, they defy an evil time traveler with the power to create a new and “better” universe.
Homestuck is a product of its time. It's built on media tropes from when it was written, and its aesthetic evolved with the Internet's tastes, from jokes about TV shows and adventure games to social media and anime references as the story wrapped up in 2013. But one thing that remained constant and set a tone for how creators would operate online in the years that followed is the tight-knit relationship between Homestuck's author and his fans.
Mark Zuckerberg came to Washington, DC, on Thursday to claim the mantle of Martin Luther King and the Founding Fathers as a champion of free speech. Standing in the stately Gaston Hall auditorium at Georgetown University—which has hosted the likes of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bono—the Facebook CEO declared, “I’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.”
And a city full of regulation-hungry politicians and foes of Big Tech undoubtedly thought: How’s that working out?
Zuckerberg’s highly promoted speech introduced no new Facebook features or initiatives but was a defiant reply to critics of Facebook’s destructive effects on global society—manipulating voters, fomenting division, and even aiding genocide. He doubled down on Facebook’s handling of the treacherous business of implementing free expression at an unprecedented global scale. Despite considerable evidence that the approach has often fallen short, Zuckerberg still professes optimism: giving people a voice and connecting the world, he believes, are transformationally positive actions. Essentially, he’s saying—as he always has—that Facebook is essentially positive.
The makeshift family unit that slays together stays together in Zombieland: Double Tap, Director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to his 2009 hit film Zombieland. This hotly anticipated sequel succeeds in recapturing much of the original's magic, with plenty of wit, gore, and playful callbacks to delight diehard fans. And let's just say you'll definitely want to hang around through the closing credits.
(Some spoilers below.)
In the first Zombieland, a virulent form of human-adapted mad cow disease sweeps across the United States, transforming most of the nation’s populace into ravenous zombies. The film follows a ragtag group of unlikely survivors—Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and orphaned sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin)—on a road trip in hopes of finding some place yet untouched by the disease, ending with a pitched battle against zombie hordes in an abandoned amusement park. Audiences (myself included) loved the mix of horror and dark screwball comedy, especially the "Zombie Kills of the Week" and Columbus' hilarious survival rules—cardio, limber up, beware of bathrooms, and buckle up, for instance—often illustrated by various doomed souls who failed to heed those rules. It was a fresh, fun take on the "zom-com" format.
Two American astronauts made history on Friday when they performed a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station—it was the first all-woman extravehicular activity (EVA). Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir spent 7 hours and 17 minutes outside the station.
The pair, who are best friends, worked well together. Not only did they complete the primary task of replacing a failed power charging unit, which is already operating properly, but they also performed several extra tasks. While the astronauts recognized the achievement, they sought to play down the significance of the moment. "You know, for us, this is really just us doing our job," Meir said during NASA's broadcast of the spacewalk. "It’s something we’ve been training for for six years, and preparing for."
That seemed to be the attitude of most NASA people following the event—that this was a good milestone, and an important one for NASA to get past. (Especially after NASA had to cancel the first all-female EVA back in March). But in the future, this shouldn't be a notable thing. "I think the milestone is hopefully this will now be considered normal," NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson said Friday. "I think many of us are looking forward to this just being normal."