This week, kids are watching season 2 of The Witcher, navigating the pitfalls of virtual reality (spoiler: the problem is other people), and enjoying some old fashioned glitter bombing. They are not, it seems, posting school shooting threats on TikTok.
Is the December 17 TikTok school shooting warning real?
Every week, I vow that I’m not going to talk about the TikTok-hysteria du jour, but parents and school systems are freaking out so hard about the “December 17 TikTok school shooting challenge” that I gotta. So I’ll repeat my cut-and-paste: Even though news organisations, school officials, and police organisations across the country are warning of a shooting threat or challenge originating on TikTok, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of such a threat or challenge having been posted to TikTok. There are a ton of posts about the threat/challenge, but seemingly no actual threat or challenge.
As usual, TikTok cut-and-pasted their own statement that reads in part: “we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok.”
School shooting are so unfortunately common, no one can say one won’t happen on a specific date, but if it does, it’s probably not going to be because of a TikTok challenge. Whether the hysteria over the supposed threat could inspire someone is another question.
I understand everyone is on edge given the recent shooting in Michigan, but TikTok didn’t cause that tragedy. I have no idea how to prevent school shootings — other than the unthinkable, taking away people’s guns — but using a social media site as a scapegoat is not helpful. Neither is hysteria. If you want to know how kids are really talking about school shootings on TikTok, this video from a Sandy Hook survivor is a good place to start.
The Witcher returns for a second season
Speaking of witch hunts, The Witcher is back on Netflix with a second season! Just in time, too — fantasy nerds have had a rough few years. We’ve had endless time inside to watch things, but there hasn’t been all that much to watch. (I was so desperate at one point I watched half of the first Hobbit movie.)
While The Witcher is no Game of Thrones, when you need your fix of swords and/or sorcery, it’s more than adequate. Yes, it’s a little uneven and occasionally corny, but it’s got magic spells and armour! People go on quests to save the world! There are elves! It’s enough, man.
Groped in virtual reality
In a troubling glimpse into our near-future, a beta tester of Facebook/Meta’s virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds reported being virtually groped against their will by another user. The post on a Facebook group for Horizon users reads, “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense…Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people there who supported this behaviour which made me feel isolated in the Plaza.”
According to Facebook — sorry, Meta — Horizon Worlds has a feature that allows users to create a safety bubble around their virtual selves, but the fact that this problem was anticipated and this feature needed is just depressing. I’m going back to bed.
The 2021 Game Awards: winners and announcements
The annual Game Awards were held this week, an event as notable for its reveals of upcoming games as it is for honouring the best titles of the year. In terms of hype, the biggest news (to me, at least) was the reveal of a sequel to horror game Alan Wake scheduled to come out in 2023. There are also Wonder Woman, Matrix, Suicide Squad, and Star Wars games on deck, if you like games based on movies and comic books. As for the awards themselves, It Takes Two was named Game of the Year, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits won best indie game. Check out the full list of winners here.
Viral video of the week: ‘EXPLODING Glitter Bomb 4.0 vs. Package Thieves’
It’s the holidays, the time of annual traditions, and one of the biggest on YouTube is mad engineer Mark Rober’s yearly Glitter Bomb video. Rober spends all year creating elaborately over-engineered fake packages to leave on porches as a way of trapping package thieves. The porch pirates make off with the doctored boxes, and then they explode with glitter, fart spray, police lights, and loud quotes from Home Alone. It’s all documented from multiple angles, of course.
I find the whole operation morally questionable — petty thieves are usually pretty desperate and maybe we shouldn’t make entertainment out of punishing them — but YouTube apparently has more of a taste for crime-revenge than I do: 13 million people have shared the Glitter Bomb 4.0 video since it was posted a few days ago. Interestingly, the videos are so popular that more than one thief clearly knew that they’d stolen a glitter-rigged package as soon as they opened it.