Friday, July 31, 2020

Is There a Thaw in Sight for Turkey and Israel, or Is It Just a Mirage?

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Nikhita Gautam

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Is There a Thaw in Sight for Turkey and Israel, or Is It Just a Mirage?

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Global Views 360

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July 31, 2020

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Mavi Marmara on the way to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza | Source: Hevesli via Wikimedia

The Gaza Attack soured the relationship so much that Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Israeli former President Shimon Peres had a showdown during the World Economic Summit 2009 in Devos, Switzerland.

The relationship reached its nadir when 10 Turkish social activists were killed aboard a ship  Mavi Marmara by the Israili commandos in the international waters. Mavi Marmara was part of the flotilla which was going to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Palestinian enclave barricaded by Israel.

As a reaction to this action Turkey recalled its Ambassador from Israel and downgraded the diplomatic status. The relationship was restored after a lot of back channel meetings and the ambassadors were reappointed by both the countries in Sept 2016.

However after another deadly attack in May 2018 by Israeli forces in Gaza ,Turkey recalled its ambassador and expelled Israel’s ambassador from Turkey. In July 2018 there was a report that Israel and Turkey were holding backchannel talks in a bid to restore the fragile diplomatic relations between the two nations. However nothing came out of these discussions and these countries have still not restored full diplomatic status.

In mid-May 2020, there was some unverified news on a delimitation deal between Turkey and Israel, something these countries could not achieve in the 1990s when the relationship was excellent. However, the joy could not last for long and the news was denied by an Israeli official who called the claim a “complete nonsense” but at the same time said that Israel is looking to establish full-fledged diplomatic relations.

There were continuous backchannel efforts by the USA, EU, NATO and international bodies for the normalisation of Turkey and Israel relationship. A large segment of citizens in both the countries also want the relationship to improve.

According to the survey entitled “The 2019 Israeli Foreign Policy Index of the Mitvim Institute,” the number of Israelis seeking improved ties with Turkey increased to 53% in 2019 from 42% in 2018. It included 50% of Jewish Israelis and 68% of Arab Israelis.

Turkish media which was so critical of Israel has also been discussing a possibility of better relations, and both these point to a desire for reconciliation.

However all the positive news so far have turned out to be false starts. The key hurdle which time and again has put a spanner in any effort to bring the relationship back to normal is the Palestine issue in general and Israeli blockade of Gaza in particular.

As far as the possibility of an early thaw is concerned, a report of “The Middle East Eye” is a rude jolt of reality. As per this report, the Turkish officials who were asked about a thaw responded that it would be impossible as long as Benjamin Netanyahu is the prime Minister under whom oppression of Palestinians has increased manifold.

As Turkey under President Recep Erdogan and Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to play to their respective bases and keep the rhetoric high, any thaw in the frigid relationship between these two countries is likely to remain just a mirage.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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