Free speech in a culture of outrage
By Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair, Stetson University
Last month ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling publicly identified two young men who allegedly posted sexually threatening comments about his daughter. These comments were replies to a twitter feed by Schilling congratulating his daughter for committing to the Salve Regina softball team. Just last month the New York Times Magazine carried a piece on Justine Sacco, whose career as a PR executive imploded after she tweeted insensitive and racially charged remarks about AIDS in Africa before getting on a flight to the continent. Taken together, these incidents bookend the struggle modern society continues to wrestle with regarding free speech in the internet age. How do we balance civility and courtesy with respect for free speech, even offensive speech, when anyone can say anything publicly? And what are the proper ramifications for offensive speech? Is free speech only about the First Amendment?
The hateful, misogynistic and threatening comments toward Schilling’s daughter represent one end of the spectrum. If these statements threatened assault on the young woman as news reports suggest, they would constitute harassment or incitement to violence and wouldn’t be constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. But what if they were not physically menacing but were vicious, demeaning and bullying? Here I’d argue that even non-assaultive hateful speech targeted at specific individuals can threaten free speech, to the extent that they serve to silence the voices of marginalized or underrepresented groups. Young women (and their fathers) should be able to celebrate their successes without being exposed to a cascade of misogyny. Schilling was quite right to call out his daughter’s harassers. Whether a legal matter or not, these individuals should not be shielded from the professional and personal ramifications of their actions, as their behavior specifically sought to silence the voice of young women.
But what about Justine Sacco? Before a trip to Africa in 2013 she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This racially charged tweet makes light of a humanitarian crisis in Africa as well as centuries of white privilege that has held many people of color in lives of bondage and economic deprivation for generations. Was this a message of hate meant to silence African voices, or a stupid, even satirical off-the-cuff comment?
To be clear, I don’t support Sacco’s tweet, which, at best, was ill-advised and insensitive. But I’m also concerned about the “culture of outrage” that has emerged over such events. The New York Times Magazine piece details a frenzy over Sacco’s tweet that seemed more spectator sport than true moral concern. The narrative involved her being a PR executive (who presumably should have known better) and having her fate decided unbeknownst to her while she was on an 11-hour flight. Sacco’s case appears to me to have as much to do with the bloodsport of watching someone’s life splinter in real time as it does any sincere moral concern.
Perhaps more absurd was the case of Breanna Mitchell, a teen girl internationally condemned for the crime of smiling while taking a selfie at Auschwitz (something I suspect most people would unconsciously do). Why does the internet community seethe with rage over slights such as these to the point we demand that these people’s professional lives and self-worth should be ended for all time?
When it comes to saying insensitive, stupid or boneheaded things, if we’re honest with ourselves, most people do this from time to time. If we expected everyone to be fired for ever having said something awful, frankly, the world would be unemployed. In most day-to-day discourse when we say something insensitive, we are given the chance to be confronted and reply, “You know, I was just trying to be funny, but I now realize my comments were offensive. I should have been more thoughtful and I hope you’ll accept my apology.” A careful and constructive challenge to insensitive speech can often set up a situation in which the offender can reflect on what they’ve said and be enlightened why such speech can be hurtful. Sure, some people are jerks and don’t care, but often these situations can be resolve easily with both people satisfied and no one losing their jobs. Unfortunately our culture of outrage deprives people like Sacco of this opportunity.
Of course people need to be careful about what they post publicly. But we also need to think more about whether our outrage fits the crime, and whether our calls for public humiliation do society more harm than good. At what point does this culture of outrage begin to chill not only offensive jokes and tweets, but legitimate dialogue on sensitive issues? How do we have frank and open discussions about race and gender if people are worried that saying the wrong thing might cost them their jobs or place in society?
I think it boils down to what I call sanctimony bias: our tendency to feel better about ourselves by pointing out the moral failings of others. We tell ourselves “I would NEVER make a joke about AIDS” even as we laugh at jokes about a myriad of other public tragedies. It’s hypocritical and it does damage free speech. Sure, the First Amendment doesn’t protect us from professional and personal consequences of the things we say, and free speech should not be a license for public idiocy and bigotry without challenge. But neither should this observation be an open license for cruel overreactions to minor buffoonery that can both damage people’s lives and truly limit freedom of expression.
Curt Schilling: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2015/0302/Curt-Schilling-defends-daughter-from-Twitter-bullies-with-help-of-followers
Justine Sacco: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=1
Breanna Mitchell: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/24/auschwitz-selfie-girl-breanna-mitchell_n_5618225.html
Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the department of psychology at Stetson University. His research interests include examining the effects of media on behavior, such as video game violence, thin-ideal media or advertising effects.
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Students, particularly juniors and seniors, are welcome to join us or a day of portfolio review (and mock interviews) with game industry professionals. This free event is organized by the students in Becker IGDA.
- Friday, April 7, 11:00am to 4:00pm
- Becker College, Design Building, 45 Cedar St., Worcester, MA
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SIP15 roster chosen
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
Year after year applications to our annual Summer Innovation Program (SIP) have grown in terms of quality, quantity, geographic reach and diversity. This year we received applications from 214 undergraduate and graduate students representing 55 colleges and universities from across the world – making it by far our most competitive year ever.
Choosing only 24 was a challenge. After much discussion, the committee selected a talented group. This year’s SIP teams will be made up of interns from 15 institutions including Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Brandeis University, Champlain College, Hampshire College, IUPUI, MIT, Northeastern University, RPI, RISD, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Southern Maine, WPI – and our first international institution, Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Ireland.
SIP begins on May 19 and concludes on August 7. Over those 11 weeks or so, with guidance from professional staff and industry mentors, SIP teams will be responsible for all the work necessary to successfully launch their games. There is no internship program like it in the country.
As in previous years, SIP students will receive housing courtesy of Becker College as well as a modest stipend. Most importantly they will all receive the greatest game development experience of their lives. Yes, it may be a lot of work – but it’s also a ton of fun. We can’t wait to get going.
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Ready, set, go! MassDiGI and HackerRank announce CodeSprint
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
Are you the best game coder in the world? Prove it by competing in our MassDiGI CodeSprint challenge. The challenge, conducted in partnership with HackerRank, gives competing students the chance to test their programming mettle with the winners taking home some great prizes like $250, a Nvidia Shield Portable or a 3-day 2015 PAX East badge. Click here to enter. The online competition starts today and closes on March 3 – with the final bot competition presented at the Pre-PAX East Made in MA Party on March 5.
HackerRank is a site for hackers from all over to solve programming problems in different computer science domains like algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and to excel in different programming paradigms like functional programming. It is the planet’s fastest growing developer platform and it is on a mission to make the world fast by making hackers the best at what they do.
Companies like Riot and Pocket Gems use HackerRank as part of their recruiting process – so competing students just might find they get a call after this CodeSprint is over! Good luck to all.
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The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) is pleased to announce that Wooplex, a Worcester-based independent game studio, has won the overall Grand Prize as well as Indie Beta/Near Release Category honors in the fourth annual MassDiGI Game Challenge with the game Wooplex. Wooplex is a game based on a beloved Ukrainian cartoon character “Kapitoshka” in which players are challenged to help the main character, Wooplex, and his friends save his world after all of the light was stolen away.
Wooplex is being developed by Oles Terletskyy, a Lviv, Ukraine native, WPI graduate student and Fulbright Fellow, Ostap Hrytsyshyn, a student at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and Terletskyy’s father Ihor Terletskyy, an artist.
Grand Prize Winner Oles Terletskyy and Monty Sharma
“Winning the MassDiGI Game Challenge means more to us than you can imagine. The experience, especially the mentoring, was amazing,” said Terletskyy.
The MassDiGI Game Challenge helps indie, start-up and student game development entrepreneurs hone their ideas and products for launch. This year over 30 teams consisting of indie game developers and students from around the United States competed in front of a full-house on February 6 and 7 at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Kendall Square, Cambridge.
The annual event is a key showcase for the growing video game development cluster in the region. A cadre of game industry veterans served as speakers, mentors and judges during the pitch competition.
As the Grand Prize Winner and a Category winner, Wooplex receives $2,250, a legal services package from Greenberg Traurig, customized mentoring and public relations/marketing packages, a slot at MassDiGI’s PAX East demo table and computer hardware.
Playtesting Black Hat Oculus
The People’s Choice Award winner as well as Runner-up in the Indie Beta/Near Release Category was Boston-based Team Future with Black Hat Oculus. A two-player cooperative stealth virtual reality game played in the Oculus Rift or on a computer, where you can sneak past agents, avoid traps, discover secrets or use hacking s skills to disable enemies, unlock doors and more.
“This year’s competition was the closest ever,” said Monty Sharma, managing director of MassDiGI, “We were blown away by the teams, the talent and the creativity.”
Other top Indie Category winners include Medford-based Mob Made Games for Descendants which won top honors in the Demo/Alpha Category. Descendants is a fast paced, tactical hybrid game set in space where each match leaves lasting changes that impact future play-throughs.
Pitching Paper Pests
The Serious Game Alpha/Concept Category winning award went to Studio REKS for The Ecokids and the Paper Pests, a game designed by WPI undergraduates to teach the basics of biodiversity in which players are challenged to strategically preserve as much of an ecosystem’s biodiversity as possible after an invasive species is set loose.
Serious Game Beta/Near Release Category honors went to Cambridge-based Skylight Games for Lyrical: Learn Language with Music. Lyrical is designed to train your ear to recognize a range of pronunciations, remember the meanings of words through the stories of the songs and unconsciously internalize word order through addictive repetition.
Play Nimbus, a student start-up from Becker College, won the College Demo/Alpha Category for Private Eyes, a murder mystery party game where you and your friends try to find the culprit among them. Play Nimbus won a Category in the 2013 Game Challenge for Wobbles, a free game now available on the App Store and Play Store.
Maximum Crash, also from Becker, won the College Beta/Near Release Category with Starlot Derby, an action mobile/web-based app where the player battles an alien species known as “Starmen” in a game of baseball where levels change and pull in elements of classic arcade titles.
Winning the High School Category was Dante Hin-Gasco from La Scuola D’Italia Guglielmo Marconi in New York City with Math for Honor.
“The quality of game design coming up from the high school level is astounding,” added Sharma. “These competitors across high school, college and indie levels are setting a very high bar in making, not only technically sound games, but also novel methods of game play that will soon blaze new trails in the industry.”
Other Category Runner-up honors went to:
- Indie Demo/Alpha: Zephyr Workshop – Florafiora
- College Demo/Alpha: Deli Bar Gaming (Becker, UMass Lowell) – Carpe Diem
- College Demo/Alpha: Two Brothers – (Champlain College) – Hyper Syntax - 2nd Runner-up
- College Beta/Near Release: Mustachio Games (Binghamton University, Northeastern University, Hampshire College & RISD) – Red Survivor
- Serious Games Beta/Near Release: DynamicX (Purdue University) – The Shield: By Storm and Knowledge
- High School: Millbury, MA – Insula Noe
Honorable Mentions were given to:
- Indie Beta/Near Release: Urban Electronic Games – WurmZilla
- College Demo/Alpha: The Hurly Birds (Northeastern) – Get up, Chuck!
The 2015 MassDiGI Game Challenge was made possible through sponsorship and support from Microsoft, Greenberg Traurig, Disruptor Beam, RockStar New England, Proletariat Inc., Thumbspire, MassTech’s Innovation Institute, Becker College, Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton, BlueSnap, Nvidia, Vicarious Visions, Vivox and the ESA Foundation.
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Update – Read full results announcement here on Gamasutra. Read the story here on VR World and here at the Daily Herd.
Update – Winners announced:
- Grand Prize – Wooplex “Wooplex”
- People’s Choice – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus”
- Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” [Runner up Zephyr]
- Indie Beta/Near Release – Wooplex “Wooplex” [Runner up Team Future]
- College Demo/Alpha – Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” [Runner up Deli Bar; 2nd Runner up Two Brothers]
- College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” [Mustachio]
- Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests”
- Serious Beta/Near Release – Skylight “Lyrical” [Runner up DynamicX]
- High school – The Kilskast “Math for Honor” [Runner up Nostradingus]
Update – Finalists announced:
- Indie Demo/Alpha – Mob Made “Descendants” and Zephyr “Florafiora”
- Indie Beta/ Near Release – Team Future “Black Hat Oculus” and Wooplex “Wooplex” (honorable mention to UE Games)
- College Demo/Alpha – Deli Bar “Carpe Diem” (Becker, UMass Lowell), Play Nimbus “Private Eyes” (Becker) and Two Brothers “Hyper Syntax” (Champlain) (honorable mention to The Hurly Birds “Get Up, Chuck”(Northeastern))
- College Beta/Near Release – Maximum Crash “Starlot Derby” (Becker) and Mustachio Games “Red Survivor” (Binghamton, Northeastern, Hampshire & RISD)
- Serious Demo/Alpha – Studio REKS “Paper Pests” (WPI)*
- Serious Beta/Near Release – Skylight “Lyrical” and DynamicX “The Shield: By Sword and Knowledge”
- High school – Nostradingus “Insula Noe” (Millbury, MA) and The Kilskast “Math for Honor”(New York, NY)
Stay tuned for more detailed posts soon.
* Category winner
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Think summer: 2015 SIP application period opens
By Timothy Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
SIP ’14 – Team picture
There may be 33.5″ of snow on the ground as I write but it is never to early to think about our annual Summer Innovation Program. Since the program began in 2012, of 296 total applications, 61 students from 16 different colleges and universities have earned a spot to spend their summer making games with us.
This past year, the 22 accepted students came from Becker College, Berklee College of Music, Hampshire College, MIT, Mt. Holyoke College, Northeastern University, RISD, Smith College, Tufts University, UMass Lowell and WPI. Working on teams – in just a little over 11 weeks – they produced four great games, all of which will be available to play soon, with two being published by Thumbspire. To get a sense of their games and the process, scroll back through some of last summer’s blog entries.
There is no other internship program like SIP in the world. Accepted students will have a game development experience they will never forget. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Details on the program, as well as the application, can be found here. The deadline for applications is March 20, so apply today!
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Drop by our booth (#4248) at PAX East 2015 and say hello! This year we will have game demos from Wooplex, Black Hat Oculus, Cat Tsunami, Midnight Terrors and more! And, as always, we will be offering drop-in mentoring and running the Made in MA QR Quest!
You’re also welcome to join us at our panel: “Game Devs: The Next Generation, Part Two” on Saturday, March 7th at 1:00pm in the Bobcat Theatre. This panel features students from MIT, Becker College, WPI, RISD and Berklee College of Music talking about their experiences making games in our Summer Innovation Program.
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Join us for the best party of the year on March 5 in Cambridge! Click here to RSVP!
Download the program here!
Pre-PAX East Made in MA Party
March 5, 2015, 6-9pm
Event Sponsors: Microsoft and Turbine
Gold Sponsor: Disruptor Beam
Silver Sponsors: Funkitron and Becker College
Bronze Sponsors: GSN Games and BlueSnap
Featured Community Partner: Extra Life Boston Guild
Community Partners: Boston Post Mortem/IGDA, MassTLC, Boston Fesitval of Indie Games, Women in Games Boston, MIT Enterprise Forum Games Circle, MassTech, Boston Indies, Boston Unity Group, Playcrafting Boston, IGC, Pioneer Valley Game Developers, Worcester Game Pile, Lowell Independent Game Development Meetup, Purple Monkey Game Jam, HackerRank, IGDA NH and Game Makers Guild!
Presented by MassDiGI
Main Showcase: Disruptor Beam, Funkitron, Becker College, GSN Games and BlueSnap!
Indie Showcase: The Molasses Flood, Skymap Games, Part12 Studios, Skreens TV, Black Hat Oculus, Glass Knuckle Games, Asinine Games, TestTubeGames, Wooplex, Mob Made Games, Urban Electronics, Nasty Dragon Games, Idle Action Studios, Worcester Game Pile, Pioneer Valley Game Developers, Ysbryd Games, Obey and Half Glass Games
College Showcase: The EcoKids and the Paper Pests (WPI), Midnight Terrors (Becker), Xeero (WPI), Champoline (Fitchburg St.), Drifter (NEIT), Legend of Ora (Fitchburg St.), Sticky Tongue (Becker), Authentic Octopus (Wentworth), Pole Control (Becker), Hikari Michi – Light Road (WPI), Prism Wars (NEIT) and Eye Bot (Fitchburg St.)
- Free for students – email us for a promo code!
- Advance purchase – $10 + fee on Eventbrite
- At the door – $15
- Recommended 17+
- Positive ID 21+ required for cash bar
- No refunds
- Limited capacity
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We will be at GDC from March 2-5. If you wish to schedule a meeting, please drop us a line. In addition, we are hosting our annual Made in MA at GDC Party on March 3. Details below.
Made in MA at GDC Party
Please join us for drinks and snacks before another long night of work. Great chance to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. RSVP required. Contact us for a promo code.
Sponsored by Vivox, BlueSnap, HappyGiant & Pileated Pictures
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