In This Issue:
- Celebrating Women's History Month
- Q&A With Maytal Olsha
- Risks of Deploying Biometric Authentication
- Have an Idea?
Celebrating Women's History Month
The Future Is Female, and the Future Is Now
For the past year, we have celebrated women in the Project W community who are disrupting industries, making our society safer, healthier, and more equitable, and opening doors for the underrepresented. Whether deploying their solutions to address the COVID-19 crisis, breaking through barriers that have impeded the success of women of color, or giving their time and expertise to raise up others, these women are driving change. And they are representative of the millions of other women who—in big and small ways—are changing our world.
This Women's History Month we celebrate women in political leadership who, through their positions of power, amplify the voices of all women making change, each in her own way.
In the United States, on January 20, we ushered in an era with an unprecedented number of firsts for women in the highest level of government. THE FIRST:
- Woman – and Woman of Color -- Vice President: Kamala Harris
- Native American Cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Interior) (confirmation pending): Deb Haaland
- Woman Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines
- Woman Deputy Defense Secretary: Kathleen Hicks
- Woman of Color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers: Cecilia Rouse
- Woman of Color as U.S. Trade Representative (confirmation pending): Katherine Tai
- Woman Treasury Secretary: Janet Yellen But, the second Treasury Secretary to have inspired a rap song. Have a listen: https://music.mxdwn.com/2021/01/22/news/dessa-answers-joe-bidens-call-for-janet-yellens-own-hamilton-style-musical-with-new-song-whos-yellen-now/)
And around the world, we are experiencing a moment where more women are leading countries and changing the balance of power. Take a look.
In this moment, women in high office throughout the world are driving transformational change by leading with compassion, empathy, and creativity. If you wondered whether the future is female. Think again. That future is now.
The Project W Team
Q&A With Maytal Olsha
Maytal Olsha, Co-founder, Signal Fox & Mitosis Games
Maytal Olsha has been in the mobile games industry since graduating from business school. After a stint at Zynga, she founded and then sold her first gaming company. She then went on to found two more companies, Signal Fox and Mitosis Games. Signal Fox is a data analytics company which applies the complex models and analysis techniques used in the gaming environment to other industries. Mitosis Games is a mobile games studio that is developing a first-of-its-kind genre of game combining the puzzle and social casino categories. We asked Maytal about the engineering and design complexities involved in building a blockbuster game, what it's like to be a woman in the historically male-dominated game industry and the potential for the gaming industry to be a force for social good.
Q: Building a game requires sophisticated engineering, beautiful artwork and great storytelling. How do you weave all these strands together to create a product?
It really starts with the team. Great products are built by great teams. It's not just about hiring people with the required skillsets. It's about finding people who have intellectual breadth, the curiosity to learn more every day, the creativity needed to build entire narratives and most important, the endurance required to build games. The mobile games industry can be compared to the bio tech sector in many ways. Games are often hit or miss. Teams work for years on perfecting the 'core loop' which is essentially the heartbeat of a game. It's the core essence of why people return to play games over and over again. There is no single discipline that is more important than the others in a games studio. We are all storytellers. Whether you are an engineer, concept artist, animator, 3d modeler, mathematician or data scientist, every discipline has a part to play in creating a compelling narrative and core loop that players will come back to play again and again.
Q: What makes a great game?
A great game is one that provides intrinsic 'stickiness', high retention, engagement metrics and organic traction. Players' satisfaction comes from well-structured core loops, aesthetic appeal, meaningful social interaction and brand value leveraging players' affection. Game makers must continuously deliver 'surprise and delight' elements to their players, making the game entertaining and engaging throughout the customer lifecycle. There are millions of games out there and only a handful make it to the top grossing categories. The most successful games use advanced machine learning techniques. If designed correctly, AI can revolutionize a game by predicting user behavior based on historical and real time data.
Q: Tell us about the secrets to building a successful game.
It's all about tapping into the basic psychology of players. When building a game it is highly useful to incorporate the learnings of well-known game theorists and psychologists, such as Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli psychologist and economist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, who is recognized for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making. By applying principles of game theory and psychology, game makers can create meaningful experiences for their players. This involves tapping into players' non-rational behaviors, heuristics, beliefs, emotions and gut-feelings that guide their decisions when playing a game, especially under extreme conditions such as time pressure or critical situations that require quick decisions. And the quality of a player's experience is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experience felt at its PEAK (best or worst), and how it felt when it ENDED. A successful game maker must always strive to understand the basics of human psychology in order to create a meaningful product.
Q: The mobile game industry has traditionally been dominated by men. What has your experience been as a woman in this sector and as the co-founder of two gaming companies?
This is changing. I have had the privilege of meeting some incredibly talented women in the gaming sector over the last few years, but the industry is still predominantly managed by men at the executive levels. And it is unclear why. Gaming is an intellectual field, design intensive and highly data driven, which makes it a sector in which many women should excel. When I was younger I had to work harder to prove my hypotheses, to tell my stories and to gather as much data as I could to back my findings so that I could ultimately get my ideas 'greenlit' by a room full of male dominated execs. But as a female I also had an edge as I represent the target audience in many ways and thus am able to better understand the players' motivations and needs. Nowadays, I still work longer hours than most but for different reasons. I love what I do and over the years I have applied the knowledge I've accumulated in the games industry to other sectors. I enjoy working on multiple projects and across multiple disciplines. It's what makes me tick.
Q: Why is diversity important for the future of the gaming industry?
There are several genres in the gaming sector that cater to female audiences. From personal experience, understanding what makes your audience tick, what excites them, what annoys them, and what makes them have meaningful experiences significantly increases your chances of building a successful game.
In my own companies, I always strive to build teams that are diverse, not just gender-wise, but culturally as well. It all ties back into understanding your audience. Game makers don't just cater to American audiences, they serve the rest of the world as well and hence your customer base will always be diverse. The more one understands this, the more one realizes that having a melting pot of genders and nationalities contributes greatly to creating a winning product.
Q: Mobile games transport players out of their own worldview and life experience and, in doing so, have the potential to create immersive experiences that build empathy and foster inclusiveness. Are you seeing any trends in storytelling that suggest this medium is being used to tackle some of the seemingly intractable issues that divide us as a society?
When people engage in play of any kind, they are asked to take on a perspective that might be unfamiliar to them. Mobile games provide the platform for authentic, collaborative play that broadens perspectives and builds new communities by connecting people who may otherwise have never met and by often connecting communities that are divided. In the U.S., the gaming audience covers all political and religious viewpoints. Players regularly play with (and against) people from other countries who might not even speak their native language. These connections increasingly allow players to put themselves in the shoes of others, helping to foster greater sympathy and compassion.
Mobile games also possess more than just the power to connect people emotionally. Two-thirds of games have some type of tournament element, where you play in teams online or in person. Brought together by servers and matchmaking algorithms, millions of people who were previously strangers to one another quickly learn how to work together to achieve a common goal.
All of this subtly lays the framework for players to recognize that even if people are miles apart on the political or geographical scale, they have more in common with each other than is immediately apparent. Knowing that helps to build empathy, which is the first step in bridging the gaps that separate us.
Risks of Deploying Biometric Authentication
Maryam Casbarro, Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine
As a member of Davis Wright Tremaine's Privacy & Security Group and a Project W leader, Maryam helps companies through counseling and advising on cybersecurity compliance and best practices. Here, she shares her unique insights on the challenges and opportunities of utilizing biometric authentication to help secure a company's data.
Biometric authentication is the process of digitally verifying an individual using distinctive physical characteristics. Because the type of identifiers that are typically used—fingerprints, retinas, iris recognition, palm prints, etc.—are unique to an individual, this method of verification, especially when combined with other verification measures, can provide a higher level of security than simply requiring a password or pin. The benefits of the technology are clear:
- Biometric data is hard to fake; some types, e.g., fingerprints or DNA, rarely undergo significant change over an individual's lifetime and, with few exceptions, are unique to an individual.
- Biometric authentication is more reliable than requiring traditional identification documents.
- The use of biometric data encourages accountability.
- Biometric authentication is convenient to use.
It is no wonder then that biometric authentication has gained momentum as an identity verification method across multiple industries and with companies of all sizes. If your competitor is allowing people to access services with a quick scan of their finger, you do not want to require your customer to enter a complicated password, which they likely do not remember, as a prerequisite to gaining access to their account. Still, companies should be aware of potential risks when adopting biometric authentication technology.
Here are a few issues to keep in mind when looking to leverage biometric authentication to gain a competitive edge.
Biometric Data Can Never Be Changed
The factors that make the data used for biometric authentication suitable for security are the same variables that may make them riskier and more vulnerable than traditional methods of verification. Biometric data is distinct, difficult to replicate, and consistent over a lifetime—the precise reasons why compromise of such data can be disastrous for an individual. Consumers can change passwords. They can obtain a new ID card with a new identification number assigned. They cannot change their fingerprints, DNA, or iris. This means that if your company's biometric database is hacked, or if the consumer's biometric data is compromised in some other way that allows an unauthorized individual to then access the consumer's account with your company, there is little, if any, recourse for regaining control of the data or preventing its use.
Biometric Data Is Attractive to Hackers
As more companies adopt the technology, the ubiquity of biometric authentication comes with an unfortunate reality: not all companies will utilize the same level of protection to protect biometric data. This means that consumer data will be stored in systems and databases that can be accessed by nefarious actors. Compromised biometric data could have extremely serious consequences for individuals. Biometric data is attractive to hackers because once they have accessed the data, they have an unfettered ability to use the information to the detriment of the individual whose information they possess—a master key that will work on virtually any lock.
Essentially, this means that companies that utilize biometric authentication may become a target for hackers looking to exploit flaws within hardware and devices at the time of collection as well as any vulnerabilities present in the storage databases.
The Technology Is Prone to Error
Not all biometric authentication technology is created equally, meaning some are easier to trick than others. For example, individuals that look similar, such as relatives, can spoof some facial recognition systems. Similarly, voice recognition technology can be impacted by background noises or an illness that distorts an individual's voice. Even authentication methods like retinal scans or fingerprints that seem more distinct and less prone to variations can have some error. For example, wet or dry hands can affect fingerprints and light can affect the size of pupils. These types of errors can lead to false rejects of an individual, denying them access to their device or an account. More worrisome, however, is false acceptances, which can also occur, mean an unauthorized individual may be able to gain access to a device, account, or system. A serious security threat.
Emerging Technology May Undermine Effectiveness
A few years ago, hackers were able to trick facial recognition software with still photos or recorded videos. In response, companies introduced technology to detect the liveness of a data subject. However, advancements in AI has led to the ability to simulate biometric identifiers which can fool some authentication methods. This includes technology such as deepfakes, which are capable of learning images or behavioral patterns and generating convincing fake images or videos. In some cases, the technology can also generate fake biometric identifiers like fingerprints.
Fortunately, many major technology companies have committed to developing technology to fight back.
The expanded use of biometric authentication over the last few years has highlighted the importance of sound data privacy and security practices. Companies can take a variety of extra security precautions in conjunction with a biometric check to help make the authentication process more secure and ensure that their desire to keep up with competitors does not turn into a massive migraine.
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Have an Idea?
If you would like to submit an opportunity, event, or thought leadership in our monthly newsletter, please contact MollyKlein@dwt.com.