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Games teach us the value of doing the same thing over and over

Games teach us the value of doing the same thing over and over
Games teach us the value of doing the same thing over and over


In 1975, musician and producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt published Oblique Strategies, a deck of more than 100 cards which offer short, gnomic sentences intended to inspire artists suffering from creative block. One of these often springs to my mind while gaming. It reads: “Repetition is a form of change”.

Repetition is employed in a great deal of art, ranging from the minimalist compositions of Philip Glass to the catchy choruses of pop songs, from TV procedurals to poetry. Yet it takes on a different aspect in video games, where you’re not simply witnessing something repeating, but are actively performing it. Repetition is foundational to the design of every game, yet paradoxically it is often wielded as a criticism: “I got bored of that game, it was too repetitive.”

A key term in game design is the “gameplay loop”: the central action performed repeatedly during gameplay. You might be in new environments or holding a different weapon, but you’re still pressing the attack button, then the block button, killing enemies and earning loot. In certain casual games, such as Tetris or Candy Crush Saga, the basic gameplay loop is so satisfying that it can keep some players engaged indefinitely with no need for substantial variation. So a successful game does not avoid repetition; it simply employs it in a considered way.

Heavily repetitive elements were once most apparent in retro and mobile games, but over the past year the commercial mainstream has increasingly turned to repetition as an explicit theme. In Sony’s new sci-fi shooter Returnal, the astronaut protagonist crashes her ship on an alien planet and attempts to fight her way out. Each time she dies, she mysteriously wakes up again at her crash site and starts again. The upcoming Deathloop, due in September, is set across a single day that repeats ad infinitum. Two of the biggest indie hits of the past year, Hades and Loop Hero, both stick to a strict rhythm of repeated environments and battles.

Games such as ‘Candy Crush Saga’ lock players into a satisfying loop © Alamy

One of the repetitive tropes of older games often maligned by fans of role-playing game is “grinding”: fighting weak enemies over and over to level up or earn loot. Grinding can be so monotonous that players have been known to write code to perform the repeated actions for them or to stick tape over their controllers to save them forever pressing the same buttons. Today’s developers are more advanced, using sophisticated techniques to explore the philosophical ideas around repetition while maintaining satisfying and rewarding gameplay.

The first priority is to make the gameplay loop as strong as possible, encouraging players to enter what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called a “flow state”, a pleasurable feeling of being wholly immersed in a task. Games such as Returnal and Hades ask players to explore the same labyrinths over and over, but the arrangement of the rooms and enemies shifts with each attempt, adding novelty. They allow you to improve your character across multiple runs, offering a tantalising sense of forward momentum despite regular setbacks.

Players are also offered a random selection of abilities each time, tapping into an addictive phenomenon called “variable ratio reinforcement,” also exploited in slot machines — the fact that you know something good might come up, but you don’t know when, makes it hard to stop playing.

As well as upgrades to your character and minor variations on each play-through, games embracing repetition offer another important draw: they challenge players to master the game’s systems. Titles such as Dark Souls and Cuphead ask you to fight the same difficult enemies over and over, yet the tight combat design keeps you coming back to learn the patterns of the game and then test yourself. The joy of these games is that they teach us how to play them not with tutorials but organically through experimentation and repetition, like learning to play a musical instrument or speak a language. Even if the character’s abilities do not improve, the player’s skill does. The environment and enemies may be the same but you are different, rendering the experience fresh each time.

It’s curious that repetition is a complaint commonly levelled at video games but not at, say, football or chess, both activities which are largely repetitive, with a few variables thrown in to make each game feel different. Repetition is a fundamental facet of human life: we eat breakfast every morning and go to the same offices every day. The pandemic year has unsparingly confronted us with the gameplay loops of our daily lives. Besides offering escape, games can teach us about the value of incremental progress. Our small gestures might lead us somewhere better, and if they don’t, there is inherent value in perseverance. Repeated actions are rituals which ground us in our lives and give us comfort. They offer something to hold on to in a shifting world.



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WhatsApp privacy policy update: No, you will not lose any functions, clarifies company

WhatsApp privacy policy update: No, you will not lose any functions, clarifies company
WhatsApp privacy policy update: No, you will not lose any functions, clarifies company


In January this year, WhatsApp announced an update to its privacy policy. The Facebook-owned company later announced a 15 May deadline to accept the policy. The company has assured that despite crossing the deadline, users will not lose any functions.

The company’s spokesperson told Mint, “WhatsApp continues to provide an important way for friends and family to stay in touch during this difficult time. While the majority of users have already approved our update, no one will lose functionality on May 15 if they haven’t yet and we’ll be sure to provide reminders at a later time.”

“We want everyone to know that this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages. We’re providing information about new options we are building to communicate with businesses that people may choose to use in the future. We’re grateful for the important role WhatsApp plays in people’s lives and we’ll take every opportunity to explain how we protect people’s personal messages and private information,” they added.

The clarification came after earlier reports that suggested that WhatsApp will start cutting down some critical features from the application for users who do not accept the new privacy update.

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Instagram may soon allow users to upload images, create posts through desktops

Instagram may soon allow users to upload images, create posts through desktops
Instagram may soon allow users to upload images, create posts through desktops


Until recently, Instagram did not allow users to access the picture sharing platform through the desktop. However, that changed and now, new features will bring the desktop version of the platform closer to its application counterpart.

A recent leak has suggested that Instagram might soon allow users to post pictures and videos through the desktop version of their platform. Leakster Alessandro Paluzzi has claimed that the social media platform is testing the new feature.

Paluzzi also shared screenshots of the new feature via his official Twitter handle. By the looks of the new feature, Instagram is planning to provide a user experience similar to the application.

The user can use images and video in the local computer storage to upload it to Instagram. Further, they will have the options to add filters, crop images before posting it. The desktop version will also allow the user to add a description and location, similar to the process on the application.

There is no certainty as to when this new feature will be rolled out. Currently, users can only view content via the desktop version.

Instagram has also started showing ads in the format of the reels. The picture-sharing platform will be showing advertisements within ‘Reels’ feature. The organisation has started testing advertisements in the feature in select nations like India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, showing them in the middle of regular content posted by users.

Advertisements in Instagram Reels can be as long as 30 seconds in length and will have a similar vertical and full-screen design as regular uploads on ‘Reels’. Earlier, the platform had implemented ads in their Story feature. However, unlike Instagram Story advertisements, the ads on Instagram Reels can be commented on, liked, saved and also shared.

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Airtel offers digital tools to support users affected by Covid-19

Airtel offers digital tools to support users affected by Covid-19
Airtel offers digital tools to support users affected by Covid-19


New Delhi: Airtel has rolled out new digital tools for its users to help those affected by Covid-19. Bharti Airtel has joined the list of other brands that are trying to provide information and tools to affected users amid the second wave of the pandemic.

The company is using Airtel Thanks application in order to segregate useful information regarding Covid-19. The details can be found in the app’s Explore section. To avail relevant resources, users would need to download the latest version of Airtel Thanks app (iOS, Android), go to the ‘Explore’ section and click on the Covid support banners.

“Covid SOS aggregates verified and updated contacts for important supplies such as medicines, oxygen, plasma donors, ambulance, hospital beds, and testing centres. With a few clicks, the platform connects users to these service providers/resources and tries to ensure that users do not have to waste precious time to access this data,” the statement said.

According to the company, the information available on ‘Covid SOS’ is verified by their teams. 

For help with vaccination, Airtel Thanks app will allow users to book slots as it has integrated CoWin platform API (Application Programming Interface). Users will be able to look into real-time information about available slots.

“Airtel Thanks users can also book a vaccination slot for themselves and their loved ones through the app,” the statement said.

Another feature allows businesses to create free helpline for employees with Airtel IQ. “Business of all sizes can set up free Covid Helpline for their employees within two minutes with Airtel IQ – a cloud communication platform. Airtel is giving 5,000 minutes with each Helpline account so that businesses can stay connected with their employees and organise their efforts,” it said.

This new feature is aimed at medium to small-sized companies that can set up a secure helpline instantly without any in-house telco infrastructure.

India in a day recorded 3,26,098 COVID-19 cases that took the tally to 2,43,72,907, while 3,890 new fatalities pushed the death toll to 2,66,207, according to Union health ministry data updated on Saturday.

A massive rise in infections during the second deadly wave of the pandemic has led to hospitals in several states reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen, beds, and other critical infrastructure.

With Inputs from PTI

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WhatsApp privacy policy goes live: What all changes if you don’t accept update

WhatsApp privacy policy goes live: What all changes if you don’t accept update
WhatsApp privacy policy goes live: What all changes if you don’t accept update


WhatsApp’s new privacy policy will be coming into effect on Saturday. The instant messaging platform had pushed the deadline to accept the new privacy policy to May 15 earlier this year after facing severe criticism from privacy advocates. With the deadline finally here, WhatsApp has revealed what exactly will happen to users who still don’t accept the privacy policy.

The Facebook-owned chat application had put out an official blog stating the changes that users will experience if they don’t accept the privacy policy, moving forward.

WhatsApp has confirmed that they won’t stop users from accessing the instant messaging platform completely on the previously mentioned deadline of 15 May. The company announced that no one will lose functionality of the application due to the privacy policy update. However, the services on the application may be limited.

The Facebook-owned application will continue to remind users to accept the new privacy policy. WhatsApp claims that after a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.

Once users start receiving a persistent reminder, they will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until they accept the updates. However, WhatsApp claims that this will not happen to all users at the same time.

WhatsApp users won’t be able to access their chat list but users will still be able to answer incoming phone and video calls. If the user has notifications enabled, they can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.

As a few more weeks pass, the user won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to their phone.

The user will be able to export their chat history on Android or iPhone, and download a report of their account. WhatsApp won’t delete their account if they don’t accept the update.

Deleting the account erases message history, removes the user from all of their WhatsApp groups, and deletes their WhatsApp backups.

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How traders might exploit quantum computing

How traders might exploit quantum computing
How traders might exploit quantum computing


If you had a sports almanac from the future as did Biff Tannen, the brutish bully of the time-travelling Back to the Future movie trilogy, how might you be inclined to take advantage of the foresight buried within it?

The obvious temptation would be to place sure bets in the market that make you rich. In Biff’s case, the wealth is then used to change the world into a dystopian reality in which he himself exists as “America’s greatest living hero”.

That sort of thing used to be considered fiction. But the dawn of so-called “supremacy” of quantum computing over conventional technology raises the possibility that one day soon someone might be able to effectively see into the future.

This is because quantum computers, when they become fully capable, are likely to be uniquely good at crunching probability scenarios. They are based on the mysterious world of quantum physics. Quantum bits or qubits are the basic units of information in quantum computers. Unlike the binary bits of traditional computing, which must be either zero or one, qubits can be both at the same time.

This gives quantum computers super powers that will allow them to solve probability-based tasks that would previously have been impossibly hard for conventional counterparts in realistic timeframes. If the problem at hand was a game of football, adding quantum computers to the mix is like allowing footballers to use their hands to get the ball into the net, say quantum experts.

It’s a prospect that poses an entire new set of challenges for market regulators and participants. If super quantum computers really can help institutions see into the future, the information advantage will be unprecedented.

It might also represent an entirely new type of front-running and market manipulation risk, one that regulators can’t necessarily even identify unless they too have a quantum computer at hand.

In Back to the Future, the almanac gave Biff a 60-year insight advantage over everyone else in his home 1955 timeline. With quantum computers, the edge might only be nanoseconds. But in the fast and furious world of high-frequency trading, that could be enough to sweep up.

The reassuring news — at least for now — is that we’re still at least five years away from quantum computers being powerful enough to compete with existing supercomputers on much simpler problems. Prediction might not even be their initial forte.

Goldman Sachs research recently noted, as and when quantum computers are rolled out, they are far more likely to be deployed on crunching options pricing conundrums or running Monte Carlo simulations that value existing portfolios than they are on predicting future movements of asset classes.

According to Tristan Fletcher, of artificial intelligence-forecasting start-up ChAI, that’s because prediction is ultimately about solving a very specific, deep problem by understanding the nuances of the data that matters.

“We are already at the limits of what any system that isn’t actually listening to Opec meetings and five-year plans is capable of,” he said. It’s not the complexity of the calculation that is the issue as much as the breadth of the data sample at hand. That means prediction wouldn’t necessarily get more accurate with quantum power.

The appeal to focus on “brute-force” problems such as optimising portfolio analysis or cracking cryptographic problems such as those that underpin bitcoin, the cryptocurrency, is far greater.

But this poses its own problems. If cryptographic systems can be broken, exceptionally sensitive data held across the financial system could be exposed and taken advantage of in unfair and market manipulative ways.

Rather than being able to better predict the market, the true pay off in the arms race might lie in achieving quantum-level encryption-breaking capability and using it subtly to seize the information that can get a trader ahead. Experts say the chances someone is already up to this, however, are low. If quantum supremacy had been achieved, the news of it would leak pretty quickly.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Jan Goetz, chief executive of IQM, a quantum computing builder. “But generally the community is very small so everyone knows what’s going on. The status quo is clear.”

Nonetheless, the financial sector seems to be waking up to this quantum computing issue. Many banks and institutions are introducing teams to think exclusively about how quantum computing will affect their business. How far ahead they are on making their systems quantum secure is harder to say. It’s a secretive issue. For now, most agree, the threat level is low, not least because — as the hacking of the Colonial pipeline shows — system security is low enough to ensure far cheaper and simpler ways to hijack digital systems.

izabella.kaminska@ft.com



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Elon Musk sees personal fortune crash by $20billion in six days following SNL appearance

Elon Musk sees personal fortune crash by billion in six days following SNL appearance
Elon Musk sees personal fortune crash by billion in six days following SNL appearance


Tesla CEO Elon Musk has seen his net worth nosedive more than $20 billion in the six days since his controversial appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Shares in the celebrity’s electric vehicles firm fell by 15% this week, shrinking Musk’s net worth from $166 billion to $145.5 billion, Forbes reported.

Musk remains the world’s third-richest man, just ahead of soon-to-be divorcee Bill Gates, whose net worth is $127.6 billion.

The collapse has been credited to widespread economic uncertainty and fears about rising inflation.

Hesitancy around US-China relations has also delayed Tesla’s plans to expand its Shanghai factory, further slashing shares’ value.



Singer and Musk's partner Grimes made a cameo appearance on SNL as Princess Peach.
caption: Elon Musk SNL

Musk’s haphazard appearance on ABC’s flagship comedy show last Saturday included a shoutout to cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin.

But Tesla’s swift reversal on allowing its vehicles to be purchased using Bitcoin over climate change fears burst the crypto bubble and confused investors.

Gates took Tesla to task for its climate change contradictions, pointing out “Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind.”

The Microsoft founder added: “It’s not a great climate thing.”

Musk used his SNL hosting gig to show his lighter side, playing Wario in one skit and introducing his mum on Mother’s Day.



Musk revealed he has Asperger's
Musk_SNL

He also revealed he has Asperger’s and posed with singer Miley Cyrus.

Musk has a 21% share in Tesla plus a stake in spaceflight firm and passion project SpaceX.

Thanks to his unlocking of stock options, he is still more than $100 billion richer than at this time last year.





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