Today's Login is a pithy 1,203 words, less than a 5-minute read.
1 big thing: LGBTQ game characters get their moment
In a significant move toward diversifying the world of video games, two major-studio titles due out next year will place queer protagonists at the center of the action.
Why it matters: Gaming has historically been a tough world for LGBTQ players, with plenty of harassment and few visibly queer characters.
Driving the news:
- Announced Thursday and debuting next summer, "Tell Me Why" is an Xbox title that features Tyler, a trans character, as one of the two playable options — a first for a major-studio game.
- "The Last of Us Part II," a highly anticipated sequel to a PlayStation game, features Ellie, a young lesbian, as the game's sole playable character. (Ellie was one of two main characters in the first game in the series.)
History lesson: The debuts come 5 years after Gamergate, a controversy that involved the online harassment of a number of prominent female game developers, and is frequently interpreted as a precursor to the broader alt-right movement.
What they're saying: GLAAD's Jeremy Blacklow notes that in many ways these new game titles represent a response to Gamergate, given that major-release games take several years to develop.
- The industry, Blacklow adds, is effectively saying: "We care more about reaching the people who need to see themselves represented than the trolls. That’s huge."
The creators of "Tell Me Why" said Tyler wasn't created just to be a transgender character, but rather as one aspect of a complex character telling a unique story.
"With 'Tell Me Why,' we want to develop a unique depth of characters that includes a special strong bond between the twins. When we decided on having Tyler be a transgender man we didn’t want him to be recognized just for being transgender."
"Tyler is a very likable young man, courageous, who knows who he is and what he stands for. He's full of hopes, dreams, but also fears. He has a bright side, but also flaws, like all of us."— Florent Guillaume, game director
Out gamers: As important as what is happening in the games is the experience of those playing the games, especially in a world of live-streaming. One of the world's top gamers, Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, proudly identifies as gay, black and furry.
Yes, but: Everyone is prepared for a possible backlash when the games come out next year.
- "We all know what's in the comments section," said Blacklow.
As a result, Microsoft has been tightening the policies on its Mixer streaming service and said it is "already hard at work on several new programs and tools aimed at reducing harmful content and toxic behavior."
- "We are committed to making intentional choices that embrace the vibrancy found in our differences, and hostility is not welcome in our culture," Microsoft Xbox senior creative director Joseph Staten told Axios.
Some stumbles: Progress hasn't been linear, even in the last couple years since GLAAD started working with the gaming industry to be more inclusive.
- Ubisoft had a game, "Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey," that let people choose whether their characters would find same-sex or opposite-sex romance, but a download forced all characters into heterosexual coupling. The company later reversed course after an outcry.
The bottom line: Done right, games that represent a wider range of human experience can help us all broaden our horizons. And if that helps a generation of video gamers better understand a bit of the transgender experience, all the better.
2. Exclusive: Apple to remove vaping apps
Amid growing health concerns over e-cigarettes, Apple is removing all vaping-related apps from its mobile App Store, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: The move comes after at least 42 people have died from vaping-related lung illness, per the CDC. Most of those people had been using cartridges containing THC, though some exclusively used nicotine cartridges.
What's happening: As part of the move, Apple has removed 181 vaping-related apps from its store.
- The company has never allowed the sale of vape cartridges directly from apps. But there were apps that let people control the temperature and lighting of their vape pens, and others provided vaping-related news, social networks and games.
- Apple has been heading in this direction since June, when it stopped accepting new vaping apps and allowing the promotion of vaping apps in the store.
- Those who already. have a vaping-related app on their iPhone will be able to continue using the app and install it on new devices.
What they're saying:
- "We're constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users' health and well-being," Apple said in a statement to Axios.
- "Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic."
- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew L. Myers praised Apple's move. "By taking e-cigarette related apps off the App Store, Apple will help reduce youth exposure to e-cigarette marketing and discourage youth use of these products," Myers said.
3. States to expand Google probe
The multistate antitrust probe into Google will expand beyond the advertising business to search and Android, CNBC reports.
Why it matters: Google is already facing investigations into potentially monopolistic behavior on many fronts, and the expansion of the states' probe will further widen the scrutiny, reports Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.
Driving the news: The states investigating Google plan to write up civil investigative demands for information on search and Android, according to the CNBC report.
- The Texas-led probe began with a focus on online advertising, though state Attorney General Ken Paxton said in announcing the inquiry, "Right now it's about advertising, but the facts will lead where they lead."
- The Justice Department, which is also investigating Google, is reviewing the competitive dynamics around personalized advertising, antitrust division chief Makan Delrahim said during a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing Wednesday.
Flashback: Google disclosed in September that the Justice Department has requested information on prior antitrust investigations in the U.S. and elsewhere.
4. Amazon challenges loss of $10B defense contract
Amazon Web Services told the government it intends to fight the Defense Department's decision last month to award a gigantic cloud computing contract to Microsoft, Margaret reports.
Why it matters: The politics surrounding the decision made it almost certain Amazon would challenge it, opening up the latest front in the long-running fight over the massive JEDI contract, worth up to $10 billion.
Driving the news: AWS CEO Andy Jassy told employees about the company's plan to fight the contract award at a company meeting, per the Federal Times.
- AWS believes government procurements should be done "objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence," a spokesperson said in a statement.
"Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it's important that these matters be examined and rectified."— AWS spokesperson
5. Take Note
- Techonomy takes place Sunday through Tuesday in Half Moon Bay, California.
- Lyft's head of communications, Will Valentine, is stepping down after three years, per the Holmes Report; Adrian Durbin will be interim head.
6. After you Login
So which one of these should I try with my editor next week?