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What’s actually being done about workplace harassment in the video games industry | Games

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Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian’s gaming newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every week, just pop your email in below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email.

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If you’ve followed gaming news over the past couple of years, it has been impossible to avoid the many appalling stories about workplace harassment and discrimination that have emerged as part of a long-overdue reckoning in the games industry. As a woman who’s worked in the games media for over 15 years, I can only say that I have been grimly unsurprised by the revelations. The consequences that women face for speaking out on these issues has meant that until recently, few were willing to do so publicly. Last month, however, marked a turning point, as Riot Games paid out $100m in a settlement to more than 2,000 women who brought a case against it for gender discrimination. Other scandal-hit publishers and developers will be quaking in their boots.

It is not an exaggeration to say that workplace harassment is endemic in the video games industry. Off-colour humour, boys’-club mentality and sexist or racist ‘banter’ might once have been written off as “studio culture” (I have heard this with my own ears), but companies are now facing consequences for failing to protect their employees from the harmful people who have unfortunately found a home in game development. At this point, few of the biggest companies in gaming remain entirely untouched by allegations and lawsuits. So what is it that can actually be done to ensure that the people making games can count on a decent working environment free of creeps and bullies, especially at huge studios comprised of hundreds or thousands of people?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is difficult to get executives at big video game companies to comment on this. But I spoke to EA’s Chris Bruzzo, who as the company’s chief experience officer was put in charge of creating a more positive culture both for EA’s employees and its players, and seems committed to the task. “It was about four years ago that we as a leadership team spoke very clearly to the whole company about not tolerating harassment, abuse or misconduct,” he says. “We have made significant investments and seriously stepped up consequences in our offices all over the world, to ensure that people who feel that they’ve been harassed or abused get heard … I myself have exited several people from the company in the past five years.”

EA has 11,000 employees globally, which of course increases the odds of someone, somewhere behaving inappropriately on any given day. Bruzzo acknowledges that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for everyone, but believes that the biggest companies in games have the resources to combat harassment at the source. Unconscious bias training is now mandatory at EA, reporting tools allow anyone to flag issues they may be experiencing, and the company has also diversified its hiring; as of this year, EA is one of few companies to have closed its gender pay gap, according to its internal reporting. When somebody is told that they’re breaking the code of contact, he says, they will generally apologise and change their behaviour. “When you tell people about what they’re doing and the harm it’s causing others, intentionally or unintentionally, 9 times out of 10 that’s all you gotta do.”

Bruzzo tells me that he was previously himself the victim of a toxic working environment, involving a boss who was a bully, and so has first-hand experience of the toll it can take. “This person would call me late at night or on the weekends and scream and yell, threaten to fire me; in large meetings they would question why I was even at the company or why I was born,” he says. “I had to take anxiety medication, my health was deteriorating … it was pretty serious. When I resigned, people said, we didn’t know that you couldn’t take it. This is very personal to me.”

There are, in Bruzzo’s opinion, three things that the biggest companies in gaming need to prioritise if things are going to change for the better. “First we have to really set the expectation, be on the record, that we will no longer be bystanders; and second we need great tools for investigating and enforcing. Third and most importantly we have to take concrete steps towards improving diversity and inclusion, in our company and in our games … We’re not going to get the kind of real gains we need to get until we start to hire our employees in a way that eliminates more biases and creates diversity.”

I agree entirely that if actual, lasting change is going to be effected in the games industry, it needs to be a priority for every company that makes games. People known to be toxic can’t be allowed to simply bounce from studio to studio. Lip-service to diversity can’t take the place of actual investment of serious time, money and effort in rooting out problem people and solving hiring biases. It’s an expensive problem to solve – but given the legal, reputational and share-price cost to publishers and developers who have let these issues run riot, it’s going to be much more expensive to ignore it.

What to play

A screenshot of Wordle, the word going viral this month
Word of mouth … A screenshot of Wordle, the word going viral this month Photograph: powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle

It’s unlikely that you’ve escaped Wordle so far this year, a super-simple online word game that went from totally unknown to ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE in the last month, but if you’re still wondering what all those wee squares in your social media feeds are, this is it. It’s extremely simple: go to the Wordle website every day and try to guess a new five-letter word. You have five guesses and it’ll tell you which letters you got right. What’s particularly endearing about this puzzle game, as Simon Parkin explains in his review, is that it was made by a guy called Josh Wardle last year as a gift for his partner, and remains entirely unmonetised. Given how wantonly capitalistic the games industry mostly is, that makes for a nice change.

What to read

  • A few weeks ago this newsletter took a critical look at the sketchy economy behind Roblox, the wildly popular game platform that’s valued at over $40bn and used daily by tens of millions of kids. For the Observer, Simon Parkin uncovered several truly alarming stories of abuse, exploitation and grooming from the platform’s young developers, which only highlights the urgent need for more scrutiny of these platforms.

  • Speaking of kids and online safety, the UK’s data watchdog is “seeking talks” with Facebook owner Meta because a bunch of parents bought their kids an Oculus VR headset over Christmas and were shocked to discover that it has no parental controls, and apps like VRChat are basically unmoderated, resulting in a lot of inappropriate conversations with minors. I donned my Quest 2 headset and returned to VRChat after a couple of years’ absence to discover somewhere that reminded me of the wild west of the early internet: random, full of trolls and dominated by edgelord humour. So, pretty much like most other places online. Given what we all know about Facebook, and given how endemic toxicity is in all online worlds, at this stage I highly doubt that any big tech company has the will or the means to make the virtual world universally safe and pleasant.

  • E3 – the June event at which every company that makes video games traditionally whips up a frenzy of hype for whatever’s next – will again be digital-only this year. For me, that means three days of sitting in front of a laptop watching an overwhelming barrage of game trailers and trying to calibrate what’s most interesting, as opposed to three days of running around a big sweaty conference hall in LA watching an overwhelming barrage of game demos and trying to calibrate what’s most interesting. For the wider games industry, this raises questions about whether these huge in-person events will ever return, and whether they should.

  • The developers of forthcoming run-away-from-the-zombies game Dying Light 2 have proudly announced that it will take at least 500 hours to 100% complete it. The Internet has reacted to this news with either excitement or a kind of dead-eyed existential ennui, depending on the age and life circumstances of the player in question.

What to click

Question Block

This week’s question comes from Pat McGibbon, who asks: As a keen gamer and also a hobbyist language learner, I often change the settings to play games in a foreign language. Do any other readers do this, or am I the only one?

You’re definitely not the only one, Pat, because I am also a huge language nerd and I also do this! It’s how I learned one of the Japanese alphabets: in order to navigate the menus in the weird PS2 games I used to play on import as a teen, I had to be able to read katakana. I played the first Mass Effect with German subtitles to make myself feel better about playing it instead of studying for my German degree. The Yakuza games helped me keep up my Japanese for a while after living there. In Assassin’s Creed I switch to the “native” language of the game wherever possible. When you’re a native English speaker it can be really difficult to find films, TV or music to absorb in another language, because English is the global default – but plenty of games have full voicing in several languages, and I find that because you’re actually doing stuff in games rather than just watching, some of it actually sticks.

If you’ve got a question for Question Block or anything to say about the newsletter, email us on pushingbuttons@guardian.co.uk.

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Angharad Yeo: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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I am a child of the internet. I was always drawn to computers and tech, and used to beg my dad to bring us to his office on a weekend so we could use the high-speed internet to play Neopets games. As I got older it was all MSN, MySpace, Paramore fan forums, Tumblr, Twitter and now TikTok. I want nothing more than to zone out and look at my little pictures.

One of my favourite things about the internet is that it allows you to see everyone’s best joke. The moment in their life where they were at their absolute funniest – whether it be because they had a moment of brilliant wit or because they got pulled through a panel roof while practising for a high school play (I assume).

The internet has rotted my brain with the following content. Please now allow it to rot yours.

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The Pandemic Years have (and continue to be) difficult for everyone. Who among us has not, at one time or another, needed to just explain themselves by saying: “It’s mental illness, innit?”

2. Perfect burger

When I showed this video to my fiancee, she flatly said: “I like how absurdist it is.” That’s her code for, “I don’t get it, but I’m happy you’re happy.” And I am happy. Look at how confident and brave this burger is – ready to take on the world, come what may. I wish to be the burger.

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I have been to court precisely once because I inadvertently got in a cop’s way and he was grumpy about it so he booked me. The penalty was dismissed but not before I cried in front of the judge trying to explain what happened because I was so stressed out. Court is a daunting place and I simply cannot imagine walking in there with any level of irreverence. However, I’m extremely glad there are people who simply do not care, will say whatever damn thing and then an internet angel turns them into TikToks.

4. Turtle choir

This tweet is made all the more majestic by the vaguely threatening Sylvanian Families-style profile picture, on a Twitter account named @bigfatmoosepssy.

5. Trying coffee with pasta water

Climate change is slowly turning the Earth into a barren ball of pain as Mother Nature smacks us for being extremely bad. Even though individual responsibility for climate change isn’t enough to turn the tide, I still applaud those who try. Twitter user @madibskatin woke up in the morning and decided to be the change she wants to see in the world, tastebuds be damned. One could argue that it’s pretty obvious that pasta water isn’t going to make a good coffee but like my dad says as he puts pineapple juice in his coffee: “If no one tries it, how will we know? What if it’s secretly good?”

6. Soaring, flying

If you look closely, this video is actually a metaphor for the ways in which we attempt to break free from our circumstances, yet are entirely at the mercy of them.

7. You cannot trick me

This may be a parody Twitter account, but the spirit of Gail Walden speaks truths. There is no victory sweeter than that which is gained on thine enemy’s own soil.

8. Self-deprecating jokes

Humour is a coping mechanism. I am coping.

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Dairy products are delicious. Ice-cream? Revolutionary. Cheese? Life-changing. Whipped cream on a pavlova? Essential. But milk? Disgusting. It’s not a drink, it’s a stepping stone to greater things.

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I am absolutely 100% not at all lactose intolerant (I promise) so I don’t relate to this video at all (not even a bit).

Angharad Yeo is the host of Double J Weekends, 9am – midday, Saturdays and Sundays.



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F5 cuts revenue 2022 forecasts amid low network chip stocks • The Register

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The artist formerly know as F5 Networks – it moved to plain old F5 in November – is clipping revenue forecasts for fiscal ’22 by $30m to $90m because it can’t source enough specialised chips to produce systems.

The continued impact of the shortfall was outlined in F5’s Q1 results to 31 December and subsequent earnings conference call, during which chief exec François Locoh-Donou opened up on the challenge of suppliers cancelling orders because they can’t meet demand.

“As a result of persistent strong system demand, our systems backlog continued to grow in Q1,” he said. “Over the last 30 days, suppliers of critical components that span a number of our platforms have informed us of significant increases in decommits.

“These came in the form of both order delivery delays and sudden and pronounced reduction in shipment quantities. The step function decline in components availability is significantly restricting our ability to meet our customers’ continued strong demand for our systems.

“Like others in the industry, we are seeing worsening availability of specialized networking chipsets. Within the last 30 days, we have learned that deliveries for 52-week lead time components or at a year ago have been pushed out and that our expected quantities have been reduced.”

Group turnover grew 10 per cent year-on-year to $687m in F5’s Q1, fuelled by a 47 per cent leap in software to $163m, 2 per cent in services to $344m, and 1 per cent in hardware to $180m.

“Our software transition continues to gain momentum,” said Locoh-Donou, adding later in the earnings call: “While we are solely disappointed that supply chain challenges have gated our ability to fulfil customer demand for systems in the near term, we are more confident than ever in our position, our strategy and our long-term opportunity.”

The backlog grew by 10 per cent so the sales pipeline is looking healthy, said the exec, who was at great pains throughout the call to tell analysts: “It absolutely is a supply issue. And the revision we’ve just done to our annual guidance is 100 per cent linked to the supply issue.”

For the year, F5 now expects sales to grow 4-8 per cent ($610m to $650m).

“The issue with our supply chain has deteriorated steadily. And last year, we were not able to ship the demand, which is why our backlog grew so much during the year.

“Things have been getting worse. And at the beginning of our fiscal year, when we were doing the planning for this year, we actually took into account the number of decommits that we were getting from various suppliers and a situation that was already very tight on a number of components.”

He said in the past month it was seeing more than 400 cancellations from suppliers, “and we were running about 30 per cent less than that even just a month ago – the situation is quite unprecedented.”

In a bid to ameliorate the supply situation, F5 said it is working to design and qualify replacement parts – which may improve thing in the second half of the year. It is also trying to pre-order more components.

F5 is confident that it will not see orders cancelled. “The demand we have is very real. Our lead times, unfortunately, have gotten progressively worse over the last five, six quarters, but we haven’t seen any increase in order cancellation, and we don’t expect to see that going forward,” Locoh-Donou stated.

Supply chain problems with silicon components have been hitting companies in the IT industry and beyond for multiple quarters now, and networking vendors are no less vulnerable.

Last year, Arista warned that lead times for key chips were extending out to 60 weeks, twice what would be expected before the pandemic. Both Arista and Juniper announced they were being forced to bump up prices in November, while Cisco warned its buyers and investors that supply chain issues were likely to persist for several months more, although it expected to see some improvement in the situation for Q3 and Q4, taking us into the second half of 2022. ®

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Cork data centre equipment maker Edpac acquired for €29m

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Munters, a Swedish air treatment technology company, will use the Edpac acquisition to expand into the European market.

Irish data centre equipment manufacturer Edpac has been acquired by Swedish company Munters in a €29m deal.

Based in Carrigaline, Co Cork, Edpac manufactures cooling equipment and air handling systems for data centres in the European market, with additional sales in the Middle East, South America and Asia.

For Munters, which has significant operations in North America, the acquisition is an opportunity for it to expand in the European market. Once complete, the deal will see the transfer of Munters’ technologies and engineering capabilities to Ireland.

“The European data centre market is a prioritised segment for Munters, and the acquisition is a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Klas Forsström, president and chief executive of Munters.

Forsström said that Munters’ experience in the North American market will provide Edpac with “opportunities for further profitable growth” by collaborating on “technology development and establishing unified processes”.

Edpac has two manufacturing facilities in Ireland – Newmarket and Carrigaline – and employs around 150 people in the country. Currently a manufacturing partner for Munters, Edpac sees approximately 7pc of its revenue come from the sale of Munters products.

In the financial year ending April 2021, Edpac reported net sales of €17m and earnings before tax of €1.7m. According to The Irish Times, Edpac managing director Noel Lynch has led the company since it was bought from its Swiss parent in 1991.

“We are excited to welcome Edpac to Munters. Edpac brings an attractive, differentiated customer base and high-quality products,” Forsström said, adding that Edpac’s operating model “is a perfect match with Munters ways of working.”

Founded in 1955, Munters aims to create energy efficient air treatment technologies for customers in a wide range of industries. Listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, it employees 3,300 employees across 30 countries – with annual sales exceeding 7bn Swedish krona in 2020.

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