Tidbits in the News: Gaming for Everyone, The Centralization Conundrum, Back to the 80’s

This news cycle has been incredibly hectic. There’s the tragedy that just happened on the date of this writing (May 18th, 2018) in Santa Fe, TX, as well as North Korea unilaterally halting diplomatic talks with South Korea as a protest for recent military exercises, and, ostensibly, for the US with regards to the Iran deal, and John Bolton’s comments on “a Libya model”.

These are all things you can keep up with elsewhere. We’re here to focus on the tiny stories.

Gaming for Everyone

Gaming has always been in a rather precarious situation. On the one hand, it was seen as a highly inclusive activity that allowed people to compete and play on a level ground. On the other hand, there was always an issue for people with disabilities to fully vest themselves in gaming, particularly due to their rather finicky controls. It’s an issue that many have dedicated their lives to fixing. And now, Microsoft, itself, is looking to throw its hat into the ring.

Xbox recently unveiled its Adaptive Controller, which is aimed at allowing people with disabilities to control its console.

Now, I’m not entirely qualified to say how effective this solution will be in addressing pressing issues for people with disabilities. I can, however, talk from a more general perspective of the market as a whole.

Back in the previous generation, when people were arguing between the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Wii was seen as the console to go to if you wanted to enjoy gaming, but were looking for a more inclusive experience. The Wiimote allowed for motion controls, which took away the need to rely on finicky button presses to input commands, which allowed for more people to get into the hobby, specifically people who are unable to use the traditional controller for whatever reason.

Trouble was, with the release of the Wii U, interest for this type of gaming died quickly. There are a myriad of reasons why the industry shifted away from motion controls, but the chief complaint was that it was difficult to implement it into hardcore, mainstream titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Even today, you don’t find innovative control schemes for PUBG or Fortnite.

This was the main reason why 3rd party support for the Wii was so stagnant, and the main reason for the failure of the Wii U — the first time, consumers bought into the novelty of the brand new control scheme. The second time, everyone was sick of the gimmick. Couple that with a drop in consumer confidence that 3rd party titles will ever make it to the Nintendo platform, and you can see why Nintendo decided to end the console life cycle rather prematurely in favor of the Switch.

This was also an issue for gamers with disabilities, specifically because game makers simply would not support their control method of choice.

That’s not to say there was a lack of effort from game makers (though their recent streak of “effort” have been questionable at best). We’ve had instances where hardcore titles got ported to the Wii using motion controls, including an entry from Call of Duty. Except, it was fundamentally flawed in order to make it run properly on the limited Wii hardware, and had to somehow make motion controls act in lieu of a second control stick, and certain buttons that the Wiimote lacked.

The market quickly realized that motion controls weren’t worth the effort. It’s not what gamers wanted, nor was the implementation simple enough to make it worth the effort.

This controller from Microsoft is fundamentally different. It’s a controller that allows gamers with disabilities to experience the same titles as their non-disabled counterparts in a control scheme that fits them. The system it’s made for isn’t fundamentally underpowered, nor is this the exclusive method of input that drive ordinary gamers away from the platform, decreasing the financial viability of a game. It’s an option — an that’s important.

Moreover, it’s an exclusive option. Now, when gamers with disabilities think gaming, they’ll think Microsoft and the Xbox. What’s more, this move will help increase the number of overall gamers in Microsoft’s ecosystem, which will help justify a subscription to Xbox Live for even more gamers.

This isn’t an altruistic move for Microsoft — it made business sense for the company. The altruism is just the cherry on an already delicious cake.

The Centralization Connundrum

Cryptocurrencies, and its underlying blockchain technologies, have always been about decentralization. The motivations behind this may be different for everyone — it may be in the name of security; it may be in search of a full meritocracy; it may be even an exercise in anarchy. Except, Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, it’s a rather ironic rise in centralization efforts for cryptocurrencies.

The latest of these efforts seems to be setting interest rates for crypto lending.

When you read it, it seems this isn’t centralized at all. Afterall, it’s individual crypto holders that are lending their holdings to other individuals at a market set interest rate. Except, Compound is looking to become that market.

You can read more about it in the link provided, but it’s a lending platform that sets market rates dynamically based on supply and demand, and even has measures to provide collateral for any loans made. But what we’re concerned about here is that the whole thing is a centralized process (though it is worth noting that it seems to be different from traditional banks by quite a bit).

This isn’t an isolated case either. This seems to be an ongoing trend in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, with an emphasis on the latter. It seems that the new vogue is the centralization of these concepts to provide stability and efficiency.

Tether, for example. is looking to provide stability to the highly volatile crypto markets by “tethering” its valuation to the US dollar, which it holds in reserves. Circle is another crypto looking to do much the same. The goal of these cryptocurrencies is to eliminate the need to liquidate crypto to fiat currencies, allowing for quicker transactions, while providing the stability that fiat currencies boast.

To those in the industry, these are called stable coins.

The value of these centralized processes are obvious. In fact, it’s the whole system that our current, underlying society is based upon. Except the whole premise for the blockchain, and its resulting cryptocururencies, was to move away from centralization, to allow for a world where we don’t need specialized people with authority to oversee this process. Moreover, the technology was supposed to make us safer, by eliminating central points of compromise.

I think it’s apt to look back in history to analyze this a bit further in its own article, but for now, I want to leave it at this: our current system of finance is the culmination of a millennia long journey from decentralized to centralized. There was hope that the blockchain would reverse this trend. And yet, with these new developments in the crypto space are increasingly creating an online equivalent of a traditional financial system. It may be that the journey back from centralization may be harder than we first thought.

Back to the 80’s

This is a rather strange story, and it’s one that no one saw coming. In fact, it seems they can’t find the culprit either. In the meanwhile, the situation has only gotten worse since the problem first began to heel its nasty head back in 2012.

CFC emissions are on the rise again, having risen by 25% since 2012.

Ostensibly, according to the source, CFC emissions should have been at or near 0 by now. Yet, it seems that couldn’t be further from the truth. Somewhere, someone is using CFCs, seemingly without concern about what’s happening to the world’s atmosphere in the process.

Just as a quick refresher for everyone, CFCs are the culprit for the ozone layer decay back in the 70’s and 80’s. It was the main driver for environmental activism during the era, culminating in the Montreal Protocols in 1987. These accords were directly responsible for the creation of sustainable alternatives to CFCs that are widely used today. You can do more research on what the ozone layer does, but essentially it protects the earth from some of the deadly radiation emanating from the sun. The move away from CFCs were to prevent further decay of the ozone layer, while giving it time to restore itself to its full potency.

Except, like I said, someone isn’t keeping to these protocols.

Now, it’s been long known that most international organizations and accords have no real teeth to them. The most recent Paris Climate Accords is a great example of this — countries were held to targets that they set themselves, with no real repercussions for missing said targets. Moreover, when President Trump pulled the US out of the climate accords, there was nothing that could hold the US accountable.

But the Montreal Protocols were different. Each member country were to be held accountable by each other. Moreover, there was a real and viable alternative that was supposed to replace the chemical in question, allowing for a relatively painless transition.

And yet, we’re still in a situation where CFC levels in the atmosphere are rising.

This raises very valid concerns pertaining to international treaties, accords, and protocols. If something that was supposed to be this simple, painless, and trackable turned out to be rather difficult to even find the responsible party, how difficult is it going to be for other international efforts?

It’s something worth exploring, preferably by better minds than mine. But I want to end with this point — with every new issue that’s exposed in the world, the world emerges on the other side stronger than before. This CFC issue caught everyone by surprise, and it’s raising more questions than many would like to answer. But, the reaction from the international community is showing that it’s committed to upholding the protocols and finding the culprits. But it does show the fundamental flaw in international cooperation — there’s no real mechanism to hold parties responsible. It’s an issue we need to figure out, especially in this uncertain age of global warming.


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