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“New eyes”: Gamers greet Microsoft’s Activision deal with guarded optimism

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“New eyes”: Gamers greet Microsoft’s Activision deal with guarded optimism

By Erin Woo and Kellen Browning, The New York Times Company

When Drew Bienusa began playing Call of Duty, a first-person shooter game published by Activision Blizzard, he was immediately smitten. He loved how immersive having a digital avatar was, and the game was a favorite among his friends.

Bienusa was so dazzled that in 2016, he began livestreaming himself playing Call of Duty on the Twitch platform. He gave himself the gamer name Frozone and amassed 114,000 Twitch followers. In January, he became a professional Call of Duty: Warzone player for the esports organization XSET.

But by then, Bienusa’s feelings about Call of Duty had changed. Bugs in the game went unfixed for months, he said. Activision’s communications with competitive players fell off. And he was turned off by a recent sexual harassment lawsuit against the company that exposed its toxic workplace culture.

So on Tuesday, when Bienusa, 26, woke up to the news that Microsoft planned to buy Activision for nearly $70 billion, he was jubilant. “New eyes, new people, new owners, new management — it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s almost at a point where it can’t get worse.”

Bienusa was one of many gamers who expressed cautious optimism about the biggest-ever deal in the $175 billion games industry. The acquisition of Activision, if approved by regulators, will help bolster Microsoft’s video game ambitions with a library of popular titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Crash Bandicoot and Overwatch. Microsoft also positioned the deal as one that would help it delve into the futuristic digital world of the metaverse.

Yet ultimately, the deal’s success will hinge on how it is received by gamers. Historically, many players have expressed alarm about how acquisitions might affect the quality of online games. When Microsoft bought the maker of Minecraft in 2014, for instance, some gamers were concerned.

This time, the reaction has been more positive, partly because of how much Activision — with more than 400 million players worldwide — has appeared to stumble with its core users in recent years. In interviews, gamers said they saw Microsoft as a potential life raft for Activision Blizzard and as a welcome chance to bring new people into gaming.

In an email to employees, Activision’s chief executive, Bobby Kotick, said the purpose of the deal was to continue strengthening Activision’s games and its company culture. Activision declined to comment further. Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Activision’s decline with gamers has unfolded over the last few years. Many said they had been down on the publisher for some time, concerned that Activision put too much pressure on some divisions — such as Blizzard, which it merged with in 2008 — to deliver frequent hits, rather than giving developers the time to create iconic games. Then last year, Activision became embroiled in a lawsuit over workplace harassment brought by a California employment agency, raising questions about its conduct.

Activision’s track record with some of its games also became spottier. In November, it delayed new versions of Diablo and Overwatch. That same month, the newly released Call of Duty: Vanguard was widely panned as being boring and full of glitches.

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Kayla McBride is back for the Lynx, and not a moment too soon

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Kayla McBride is back for the Lynx, and not a moment too soon

Already 0-4, the only team in the WNBA still winless this season, and facing a pair of tough road opponents this week in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the Lynx will receive important reinforcements Tuesday against the Sparks in the form of Kayla McBride.

The standout shooting guard, who just won a Turkish League title over the weekend, has been activated and will join the team in Los Angeles, the Lynx announced Monday.

McBride averaged 13.7 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 38 percent on three-pointers last season. The sharpshooter gives Minnesota a needed additional scoring punch.

Joining the team just in time for a game is nothing new for McBride, who arrived just in time for Minnesota’s season opener a year ago. She immediately scored 17 points to go with six rebounds in her first game.

Until now, McBride has been supporting the Lynx this season from afar. Last week, amid the team’s early struggles, McBride tweeted: “Everyone speaking on my dawgs there in minny,” she said. “just make sure that you speaking come august too… we ain’t going without a fight.”

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Thompson Lake closed after 50,000 gallons of wastewater sewage flows into the West St. Paul lake

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Thompson Lake closed after 50,000 gallons of wastewater sewage flows into the West St. Paul lake

A wastewater sewage discharge into Thompson Lake has temporarily closed the West St. Paul lake and prompted city and county officials to urge people not to have contact with the water.

According to the city, a valve leak released about 70,000 gallons of sewage into the lake over several hours.

People and pets should not have direct contact with the lake water, including fishing, until levels can be tested “and we know it’s safe again,” the city said in a Monday afternoon statement.

Public Works Director Ross Beckwith said the sewage leak was discovered around 7 a.m. Monday after someone from St. Croix Lutheran Academy, which is just west of the lake, noticed water running out of a 15-foot-deep concrete manhole.

The leak began after an air-release valve gasket of an underground pipe broke, Beckwith said. By 8:30 a.m., a new valve had been installed.

Considering that 1.2 million gallons of sewage runs through the underground pipe each day, the leak “could have been catastrophic,” Beckwith said.

The city is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of the Pollution Control to determine whether any mitigation needs to be done.

“We’re waiting for the PCA to tell us next steps,” Beckwith said.

The county has posted signs alerting visitors to not come in contact with the water until further notice.

The seven-acre lake is located just west of U.S. Highway 52 and south of Butler Avenue within Thompson County Park.

For updates as available, go to dakotacounty.us/parks or call 952-891-7000.

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Nestor Cortes deletes his Twitter account after old tweets surface: ‘It’s not who I am’

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Nestor Cortes deletes his Twitter account after old tweets surface: ‘It’s not who I am’

BALTIMORE — After taking over as the American League ERA leader on Sunday, Nestor Cortes took down his Twitter account. While the 27-year-old was on the mound in Chicago, fans had combed through his social media accounts and found Tweets and Instagram posts from 2012-2015 where he used a racial slur. Some of his tweets appeared to be quoting from rap lyrics.

Cortes took responsibility Monday.

“I hate myself for having done that, it’s not who I am or want to be,” Cortes said. “I found out about it [the social media posts going viral], I sought out help on how to handle it and I am taking a break so that going forward I can use [social media] in the right way. I want to have a good message, especially for kids.”

While Cortes was mowing down the White Sox Sunday, fans of a Yankees rival found the tweets and social media posts and put them together. At the time of the posts, Cortes would have between 17 and 20 years old.

“I didn’t know how it happened, but it doesn’t matter,” Cortes said. “I shouldn’t have done it. I don’t want it out there now. I want to use my [social media platform] to give a positive message to fans and especially to kids out there.”

Cortes has been the Yankees’ best pitcher this season, posting a 1.35 ERA through his first seven starts this season.

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