The Key to Triumphing Over Star Wars Trolls

Former Mythbusters host Kari Byron says that her young daughter was enthralled by the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“She was just done with princesses when she saw Rey,” Byron says in Episode 313 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Because it was like, OK, this is a smart badass, and I could see that it was so much more interesting to her than a helpless princess that’s locked in a tower.”

But Byron is well aware that not everyone loves female heroes, a point underscored last week when Kelly Marie Tran, who plays stalwart mechanic Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, deleted her Instagram account presumably after receiving months of verbal abuse. “It’s a strange world that you can’t handle your characters in movies to be girls and kick ass,” Byron says. “That is just crazy.”

She says the level of vitriol directed at stars like Tran is far worse than anything she had to contend with in her early days.

“If I came into this industry right now, just read more

E3 2018’s Most Surprising Trends, From Calendar Shifts to the Rise of MMO-Lites

E3 2018 is wrapping up, which means that it’s time for everyone in the videogame world to pull out their crystal balls. Is extrapolating from a few hours’ worth of press briefings and demos to a cohesive analysis of the prospects of gaming at large isn’t a foolproof venture? Of course not, but I’ve been that doesn’t mean I’m not going to read the tea leaves. Herein, the most interesting trends that emerged at this week’s show.

Everyone Still Wants Cloud Gaming—But No One Knows How to Fix its Biggest Problem

I honestly thought we were past this. For years now, the idea of a robust cloud gaming streaming service has been the City of Eldorado for major games companies: precious, dearly desired, and absolutely impossible to find. After the abiding mediocrity of platforms like PlayStation Now and OnLive, I thought the videogame industry would have seen the folly of the enterprise and moved on. I was incorrect: both EA and Microsoft expressed interest in developing such services at their respective press conferences, read more

On the New Season of ‘Queer Eye,’ Learning Goes Both Ways

The new season of Queer Eye, released on Netflix today, begins with two pilgrimages, one physical and one spiritual. After traveling to the small town of Gay, Georgia (yes, seriously), cast member Bobby Berk opens up about being ostracized from his church at a young age. “Once everyone there found out,” he says, “they completely turned their back on me.” This time, it’s the show’s first female subject, Mamma Tammye—a fervent Christian who struggled with her own son’s sexuality in the past—shelling out wise counsel. Real Christians, she tells him, can’t “antagonize and evangelize at the same time.” Tears follow (this being Queer Eye, there are always tears), but no true aha moment materializes. Hers is gospel of love—but will it be enough for a breakthrough?

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Why Battle Royale Games Like ‘Fortnite’ Are Everywhere (It’s Not Just Money)

When Electronic Arts’ gaming showcase kicked off on Saturday in Los Angeles, one of the first games up for discussion was Battlefield V. No surprise there—the forthcoming title is part of one of the longest-running and most popular first-person shooter franchises in gaming. But in the course of showing off what was innovative about the latest iteration, the two developers on stage wound up paying fealty to emulation. “Every day, we’ll bring something new,” Oskar Gabrielson, a general manager at Swedish game studio DICE, said with a grin. “And as part of that journey, after launch you’ll get something I know a lot of you have been asking for!”

Standing next to Gabrielson, DICE’s Lars Gustavsson was all too ready to wring some drama from the announcement. “It’s…” he said.

Another beat.


Adding a battle-royale game mode to Battlefield V may have come with pageantry, but it was read more

How Pro-Eating Disorder Posts Evade Filters on Social Media

For almost as long as the internet has existed, so too have pro-eating disorder communities: blogs, groups, forums, and social media profiles where users share stories and photos related to disordered eating and body image. Some members simply want a judgment-free place to express their feelings about a complicated illness, but others promote more dangerous behavior, like encouraging extreme diets or dissuading people from getting help.

And as with other kinds of harmful content on the internet, platforms hosting pro-ED communities have long struggled with how to moderate them. In 2001, Yahoo removed more than 100 pro-ED sites from its servers, saying they violated its terms of service. A decade later, a HuffPost exposé about teenage girls creating “thinspiration” blogs on Tumblr prompted that site and others to ban explicitly pro-ED communities.

New research published last month read more

Did the Owl Do It? Unpacking the Weirdest Fan Theory About Netflix’s ‘The Staircase’

As true-crime obsessives already know, last Friday Netflix dropped The Staircase, a docu-series chronicling the 2001 death of Kathleen Peterson and the subsequent murder trial of her husband, Michael. While the project followed a long and circuitous route to the streaming giant—it originally premiered in the US on the Sundance Channel in 2005, then received a two-hour follow-up in 2013, all before Netflix packaged it together and added some new footage—it immediately became a word-of-mouth sensation.

If you’ve binge-watched all 628 minutes, you might be tempted to think that the big question is: Did Michael Peterson kill his wife, or did Kathleen Peterson fall down the stairs? But whenever there’s fervent interest in a murder case, there are often alternative theories—and one very popular hypothesis that you didn’t see in Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s series posits that there was a third party involved in Kathleen’s death: an owl.

Preposterous? It depends on who you ask.

The Raptor Motion

read more

The Secret History of the Racy Module That Almost Ruined Dungeons & Dragons

An epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign, any player will tell you, can take many hours. It’s not just a few rolls of the dice. Yet there is one D&D quest that’s more difficult than even the most fiendish homebrew game run by the most sadistic dungeon master: Finding an original copy of the module known as “Palace of the Silver Princess.”

“Palace” wasn’t your typical pre-packed, ready-to-play D&D module. It had dragons, sure, but it also featured an illustration of a woman tied up by her own hair—not too family-friendly, especially considering that the vaguely erotic image came at a time when parent company TSR was trying to get the role-playing game out of hobby shops and into big toy stores. The module was yanked almost immediately, doomed to become a piece of fabled D&D lore.

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Biggest Surprises (and Missed Opportunities) of the E3 Press Conferences

It’s Tuesday, which means the E3 show floor is now open. It also means we’re finally at the end of a four-day slog of press conferences from some of the gaming world’s largest publishers. While Activision Blizzard still doesn’t do its own pre-E3 event, just about everyone else does, which means these 96 hours have been a deluge of announcements and reveals that we did our best to get our arms around. We didn’t even cover them all: the Square Enix press conference was basically devoid of new information, and the PC Gaming Show, while compelling, was mostly a long list of indie game announcements—some of which we’ll be getting to later this week.

So, for now, here’s everything you need to know about every press conference you need to know about. Get through this, and you’ll be ready for all the other E3 news that starts….well, now.

Electronic Arts

E3 kicked things off on Saturday (yes, Saturday) with a quiet, largely uneventful read more

This Bubble Artisan Might Blow Up, But She Won’t Go Pop

The first thing you notice when you walk into the theater is the smell of soap, followed by a faint stickiness on the carpeted floors, and a tacky coating on the armrests of the seats.

When the lights come up at the Gazillion Bubbles Show, it quickly becomes clear what’s going on. Powerful fans blow tiny soap bubbles into the audience by the thousands. Little kids giggle; bigger kids scream. And like a magician, 27-year-old Melody Yang pulls out her wands.

She uses water-based vapor (she calls it “smoke”) to create bubbles that erupt like volcanoes, and some that launch into the air like rockets. She brings kids on stage and makes huge, tubular bubbles that can encase five of them inside.

“People love it. It’s just something that is so universal,” she says. “It’s something that takes you back to your childhood because a lot of the times when we see a bubble we see it when we’re very young, and we’re just like ‘what read more

AI Made a Movie With a ‘Silicon Valley’ Star—and the Results Are Nightmarishly Encouraging

There’s really no nice way to put this: In his new film, Zone Out, Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch makes you want to do just that. It’s not simply that he talks about having sex with a jar of salsa, it’s also that he looks absolutely ghastly. His face appears to flicker in and out of the head that houses it; his mouth, normally in a wry downturn, droops and then disappears. His co-star, Elisabeth Gray, doesn’t fare much better: a mustache—someone else’s—finds a home above her lips.

The director of the film, who goes by “Benjamin,” was not available for comment. Benjamin is an AI—one that created Zone Out in a matter of 48 hours, piecing it together out of thousands of hours of old films and green-screen footage of professional actors. The resulting movie, created for a two-day AI filmmaking challenge, is not going to win awards.

But it’s still impressive. And the real live humans who made Benjamin are taking steps toward automating video creation read more