The Importance of Rest and Save Points...

I’m quick to believe life can be lived as a speed run. I move from one project to the next looking for adventure and thirsting for success. Stopping for a break means I’m lazy. If I’m not busy with something, I’m wasting my time, God’s time, and using up valuable resources. Or am I? Before the ever-present autosave showed up, older video games had different ways of encouraging players to save their progress. In order to rest, recover HP and MP, and save the game, players often stopped at inns, shiny spheres, or, in the case of Resident Evil, old typewriters. The purpose of rest stops is practical for gaming, and maybe I have more to learn from these quiet markers of saving grace than I realize. At the beginning of this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish. I had a roster of new projects to take on so I could push myself professionally and personally. I planned to search out more freelance work, spend quality time with my wife, serve my church, help my friends, and attend to the needs of my family. Plus, there were video games to play, books to read, and exercise to commit myself to every day. The plan to rest just became another item on my to-do list. I’m an expert in what I want, but I rarely want what I need. Eventually, my needs caught up with me, and I couldn’t keep up the impossible pace I had set for myself—though I wasn’t quite ready to give up. An opportunity came up to get away on a spiritual retreat, so I jumped at it and thanked God. This is exactly what I need, I thought. It was a chance to recharge and maybe catch up on...

Reconciling with Mickey: Choosing Peace over Resentment...

Oswald Rabbit understands what it feels like to be forgotten. As a creation of Walt Disney, he starred in cartoons even before Mickey Mouse was a thumbnail sketch. But as the white-gloved rodent grew in popularity, the rabbit faded into obscurity. It’s fitting then, that in the video game Epic Mickey, Oswald lives in a world called the Wasteland, where Walt’s forgotten cartoon characters dwell. They all lack hearts because they no longer exist in human memories (poor things!). While Mickey stars in film after film, Oswald performs for the small crowd of his fellow forgotten cartoons. He feels usurped and bitter against his sketchbook brother for stealing the world’s love from him. Oswald could have easily been the villain of Epic Mickey. But instead of letting his anger incite him to lash out, he makes the Wasteland into the most pleasant place he can for the other forgotten toons by building them a safe city called Ostown to live in, performing for them at the theater on Mean Street, and protecting them from the Mad Scientists and other monsters. The other characters (and I) admire him for his desire to find good in a depressing place. I can’t force someone else to care. However, there is still pain festering inside Oswald. Oswald erects a statue of himself and Walt Disney, similar to the one in front of Cinderella Castle in Disney World (except that one features Disney holding Mickey’s hand, not Oswald’s). He builds a house for Mickey in Ostown, hoping the mouse will be forgotten too and end up living there. Though he’s never unkind to those he considers his friends, he’s bitter when he finally comes face to face with Mickey Mouse in the game. Similar to Oswald, I often hold resentment against people who’ve caused me pain. I’ve avoided going to stores and restaurants I’ve previous loved because I used to work there and I don’t want to run into the bosses or fellow employees who were unkind to me. I’ve felt so hurt by people, including family, that I react negatively when I see their faces in pictures, catch the sound of their voices, or even hear their names mentioned. I’m ashamed to admit that their opinions matter to me. In Epic Mickey, Mickey sacrifices his heart to the Blot, a malevolent creature created from paint thinner, to save Oswald from being squeezed to death by the Blot’s giant fist. After the battle is won, Mickey’s heart ends up in Oswald’s hands. Oswald has a choice: keep the heart for himself and leave the Wasteland (replacing Mickey and gaining all the fame for himself), or give the heart back to its rightful owner. As the scene pans out, conflict rages in Oswald’s eyes. He holds the heart, wavering back and forth on his decision. To make matters more complicated, Mickey had admitted to causing the Thinner Disaster in the first place, which unleashed the Blot on the world. Surely, Oswald would never have made such a stupid mistake. Wouldn’t Oswald be a “better” Mickey? He wants so badly to be remembered again. But instead of succumbing to his selfish desires, he gives the heart back to Mickey, because he doesn’t want to inflict his pain on someone else. Sometimes, I want to hurt people the same way they’ve hurt me. I want to lash out at them for not caring, for not thinking well of me, for injuring my self-esteem (whether their actions were purposeful or not). But vengeance is a selfish choice, and it’s not mine to take. Hurting someone else to get what I want won’t make me feel better or mend things in the long run. I want to hurt people the same way they’ve hurt me. Like Oswald, I’ve had to find a way to make peace with the ones who’ve wronged me. Mickey didn’t have bad intentions. He didn’t...

How Portal’s Turrets Model the First Step to Empathy...

Because Portal is an iconic video game series within geek culture, I felt like I knew almost everything about it before I started playing. I already understood the concept—a young woman, Chell, wakes up in a testing facility, solves puzzles at the instruction of a demented A.I., and attempts to escape Aperture Science. My foreknowledge made the learning curve seem really shallow, and I already knew about GLaDOS’s personality, having heard so many of her lines out of context. While I enjoyed the game immensely, none of it seemed particularly new to me—except for the turrets. The turrets are the complete antithesis of GLaDOS. Whereas GLaDOS is out to get Chell, the turrets are just doing their job. GLaDOS insults; the turrets say please. GLaDOS lies and manipulates; the turrets are completely straightforward. When I encountered them, the turrets hadn’t been programmed to encounter test subjects. Instead of the military androids they expected, they got Chell, and they weren’t quite sure what to do with her. It’s a far simpler answer than I want it to be. I’d love something more complex that gives me permission to stay in a bad mood. As the turrets tried to fulfill their job with limited information, Chell dropped them from the ceiling, hurled weighted cubes at them, or just picked them up and tossed them, but their tone never changed from polite helpfulness. As they shuddered and died, I was startled and intrigued by their words: “I don’t blame you.” “No hard feelings.” “I don’t hate you.” “Why?” The turrets didn’t seem to take Chell’s attacks against them personally. Rather than get angry at her, they asked her to stop. And when she didn’t, they didn’t hate her for it. They weren’t offended by her actions, and...

KONA: Lost to Justice...

In Canada, we imprison people who have committed serious crimes with the intent to rehabilitate them. The hope is that, when removed from society, they will have time to consider their actions and get the help they need in order to become better citizens and no longer commit crimes. By reporting a crime and hunting down the one who committed it we are supposed to be serving justice and restoring people. But more often then not, we hunt down people and prosecute them in order to make them suffer for their crimes. I’ve seen many interviews of victims’ families where they say things like “I hope they rot forever behind bars for what they did” or “I can’t believe all they get is X years of jail when they’ve caused us such pain.” In a lot of cases the hurt party wants to see the offender suffer and we call that justice. I wonder if this is less justice and more vengeance. I held onto my pain as if it would somehow lead me to justice, but all it did was fill me with anger. Society doesn’t have a problem with equating punishment with justice. In the video game KONA, you play a private investigator hired to visit a small hamlet surrounding a mine in northern Quebec to look into a case of vandalism. Upon arriving, you find the landowner, Hamilton, dead and the small community shrouded in an unnatural blizzard. You aren’t getting out of town any time soon, so you start investigating the absence of people and the mystery surrounding your would-be employer. Almost immediately, you find some glowing blue snow (for our non-Canadian readers—snow doesn’t glow) that leads you to a human encased in ice (also something that doesn’t normally happen, even...

Video Game Music for the Soundtrack Obsessed...

Special care must be taken in composing video game soundtracks, since the majority of the pieces are played in the background on loop while the player is traversing the game. Thus the pieces must be good enough so they don’t drive the player bonkers. I’m a complete soundtrack junkie, so when I find at least one piece that I love from a video game soundtrack, I must check out the entire thing. Below is a list of my favourite pieces from my favourite video game soundtracks! 1. “Three Years of Anger” by Austin Haynes from Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller This soundtrack was composed for an indie game, and this piece was actually what sold me into buying the game. It has a sense of sinister grittiness with the grating instruments and the male vocals. 2. “The Star Festival” by Mahito Yokota from Super Mario Galaxy In my opinion, Super Mario Galaxy by far has the best soundtrack of all of the Super Mario franchise since it actually was performed by a full orchestra! I love the light and bouncy tone of this piece. The synthetic instruments add a celestial feel. 3. “The Adventure Begins” by David Stanton & Ben Stanton from King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember I wasn’t too crazy about this remake of a classic PC adventure game series, but I have to admit some of the tracks are quite beautiful. This piece has an enchanting fantasy flavour with flutes, piano, and harp. The original game soundtrack theme even plays into it. 4. “Main Theme” by Gustavo Santaolalla from The Last of Us The reason why I decided to play this game was because I first heard this piece. I love the prominence of the guitar. With just this main instrument...

Seeing Chell: Portal and Seeking Approval...

There was a moment in the first Portal game that I remember with utter clarity. I had fired an orange portal at the wall behind me and then a blue one at the wall ahead of me. There, framed in the glowing, blue ring, I could see Chell’s back. As I moved, she moved. A strange, out-of-body feeling flushed through me and for a brief moment, Portal was so much more than a video game. It was a revelation. The phrase “seeing yourself clearly” suddenly took on layers of new meaning. I was, of course, literally seeing Chell from a new perspective. More importantly, I started to think about how others might perceive me. What did they see when they looked at me? When they interacted with me? In my own mind, I was witty and caring and generally fun to be around. Was that really true? Maybe others had an entirely different view of who I was and how I behaved. Maybe I was really a downer who made people uncomfortable or unhappy. So I started paying close attention to what people said and how they behaved around me. I was looking for clues about myself. In the game, Chell spends her time looking for clues about how to escape the Aperture Science Testing Center. The only feedback she gets is from the wicked and slightly manic AI named GlaDOS. After Chell is awakened from suspended animation, she is subjected to multiple tests involving logic, spatial reasoning, and the threat of imminent death. At first, GlaDOS seems helpful, if a bit creepy. But at some point, perhaps after she gives Chell the following warning, you realize GLaDOS isn’t all that benevolent. It says so here in your personnel file: unlikeable. Liked by no...

Our Steam Summer Sale Recommendations...

You can stop hitting refresh on the app, because the Steam Summer Sale hype has finally died down enough to scroll through the endless options without tearing your hair out. If you’re looking for a new game or two to purchase, here are some of our favourites that are on great deals. You’ve got until July 5 to take advantage! Big Name RPGs Final Fantasy ($8.49+) BioShock: The Collection ($16.49) Borderlands 2 ($9.68) Fallout 4 ($19.99) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ($24.99) Indie Gems Stardew Valley ($10.19) Inside ($13.19) Ori and the Blind Forest ($11.04) Rain World ($13.19) Pinstripe ($11.38) For the Co-op Inclined Aragami ($10.99) Shift Happens ($13.59) Trine Trilogy ($8.86) Don’t Starve Together ($11.04) Hyper Light Drifter ($17.59) Under $10 Pid ($1.09) Magicka 2 ($6.62) Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine ($2.37) Portal 2 ($2.19) Mass Effect 2 ($9.89) For Kids (and adults too) ABZU ($6.17) Yooka-Laylee ($33.74) LEGO Star Wars ($5.49) Sonic Games Collection ($5.49) Plants vs. Zombies...

10 Classic Video Games Still Worth Playing...

We talk fondly about the classic video games from our childhood, but which ones, if we pick them up for the first time without all the warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, are still worth playing today? The Area of Effect staff has weighed in with their thoughts to give you this exhaustive and entirely probably not very unbiased list. 1. Chrono Trigger (1995) At it’s prime, there were numerous other JRPG games available, but Chrono Trigger clearly rose to the top to be among (if not the) best of the bunch. So much of the game itself is iconic; the story, the gameplay, even the music all culminates into something that, ironically, maintains greatness outside of time. Each character has a unique and interesting story, none of them are red shirts or hold some “mysterious past” that you never get to see, hear, or feel. Combined with a near infinite amount of duo and trio skills, your party shines. To say it simply, Chrono Trigger a story about time travel that truly remains timeless. —Kyle 2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) If you’re wondering whether it’s still worth playing this game that everyone talks about from their childhood—it is. The first Legend of Zelda game with 3D graphics is all puzzle-solving, dungeon-exploring, item-finding fun. Plus you could play the remake for 3DS, which has prettier graphics and rearranged dungeons. —Allison 3. Secret of Mana (1993) Plucky characters, a magic sword, a quest to save the world! It’s the classic tale of a boy in the wrong place at the right time who receives an old, rusty sword and a quest. Only in this case, the boy is joined by a strangle little sprite and a lovely young woman who is less a romantic interest and...

Chrono Trigger and a Green Legacy...

In How I Met Your Mother, there’s a system by which Ted and Marshal defer difficult, painful or boring decisions and tasks: they leave it to future Ted or future Marshal. I have adopted this language in my own life. Sometimes when someone asks why I’m just watching TV rather than cleaning up and I say, “that’s future Dustin’s problem.” It’s also future Dustin’s problem when I choose to see a late-night movie but have to get up early, when I buy something with credit, or when I leave sermon-writing to the last minute. And then future Dustin shakes his fist in the air and curses past Dustin for putting me in this situation. It’s often difficult to make choices with the future in mind. Our society prioritizes immediate gratification. We buy for the feeling now regardless of the payment plan. We build things to maximize profit without thought of sustainability. We make things to be discarded without considering the waste it will create. That’s ‘future humanity’s’ problem. As a Millennial, it’s easy to see the extreme housing costs, exorbitant grocery prices, mediocre job prospects, asbestos, and coal powerplants, shaking our fists at ‘past humanity’ for putting us in this situation. It would be nice to go back there and slap those people. We are going to have to stop dumping things in “future humanity’s” lap and make changes now. In Chrono Trigger, you have a chance to do that. The future is a bleak landscape of starving people who are sustained through technology. The sky is polluted and the world is a wasteland, deserted and lifeless. But you can travel back and forth in time. You can go back and smack the people of the past and tell them to stop killing all...

Not THE Chosen One

Destiny says Zelda is chosen to defeat Calamity Gannon. She was raised on the stories of her line’s power to seal his evil away and knows she is supposed to save her people from darkness. But try as she might in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the power won’t manifest. She’s travelled to the shrines, she’s said the prayers, she’s wished with all her being that this power would just appear so she could fulfill her role as the chosen one, but it doesn’t. Her father is frustrated with the attention she gives to the ancient war machines found in the kingdom and refuses to let her focus on them rather than unlocking her power; she’s looking for something else that could save her people, because she doesn’t seem to be able to. And to top it all off, the sword that seals the darkness chose some half-mute kid rather than her. Because of her failures, the divine beasts—those that should have been able to resist Gannon—rampage across their regions causing destruction and harm. Their pilots, the heroes of each race, have died and their spirits are trapped. The guardians that were to protect the castle now patrol and destroy anyone who comes near. The world is in ruins and Link lays in stasis for 100 years; hopefully he will recover before all darkness takes the land, but his wounds were grave. Zelda had failed everyone. Link awakes 100 years after being mortally wounded, weak and with no memories, knowing only what a mysterious voice tells him: that he must regain his strength and defeat Calamity Gannon. Part of regaining that strength is restoring his memories of the kingdom, and of Zelda. As the story of their preparation to face Gannon...

Lacking Faith in Science Fiction...

One the biggest differences between science fiction and fantasy is how religion is treated. In fantasy, there are robust faith systems where the gods who interact with people and their organizations do both great or terrible things; there is often an acceptance of these deities within societies. This is my case for calling Star Wars a science fantasy rather than science fiction because the Force has true power, its followers live good lives and society recognizes it as significant, even if some people disagree with the Jedi mandate. The Death Star was science perfected, but Vader could still Force Choke an admiral over vid-call. Religion had power. In science fiction, however, religion is usually treated with scorn, particularly in the face of science. The crew of the Enterprise meets many new people and many different faiths; often religion is failing or abusing those people, and the crew uses science to help them. Science is also king in Mass Effect. The Reapers aren’t out for blood until a society becomes scientifically advanced enough to start using Mass Effect relays and access the monoliths. In response, the first Reaper arrives and uses something called ‘indoctrination’ to twist and control people and begin killing others. Through indoctrination, Saren is converted to their cause and tries to undermine the Alliance and keep them from mounting a defense against the Reapers’ return. Science and faith don’t have to be in direct opposition. Some people respond to the Reaper invasion by saying it is the judgment of God, and they are laughed at or mocked. Faith as a response to the Reaper invasion is faced with extreme criticism, though one of the Normandy’s crewmembers, soldier Ashley Williams, does profess a faith in God and Commander Shepard is given the opportunity...

Sleeping Dogs and Where I Belong...

When left in isolation, humans experience a range of physical symptoms and even deeper damage to their minds. A McGill study that was attempting to analyze the effects of isolation by having people stay in sensory deprivation rooms for a month had to be cut short; by the second day, almost all the volunteers were hallucinating sound, sight, and pain. The effects were too dangerous and overwhelming to continue. Even hermits that remove themselves from society keep a pet or talk to God or seek some sort of community; being alone is unbearable. Sleeping Dogs, an open world adventure video game, makes me feel like I need to belong somewhere, but where I belong matters just as much as belonging. In the game, Wei Shen returns to Hong Kong as an undercover cop set on infiltrating the Sun On Yee triad. His mission is to destabilize the triads and reduce their control over society, but Wei has a vendetta against one of the mid-level bosses named Dogeyes who he blames for introducing his sister to heroine, the drug that would eventually take her life. His goals were infiltrating the gang, undermining its bosses, and getting revenge. As Wei Shen, you join a triad boss named Winston who is in competition with Dogeyes. It’s a perfect situation to target your rival while undermining the triads. The characters are crude and violent, so it’s easy to feel good betraying them and putting a stop to their misdemeanors. Even throwing someone else under the bus in order to protect your cover seems like the “right” thing to do. It was nice to not be constantly under suspicion and know that if I ran into trouble, they had my back. To prove that you aren’t a cop, you...

Choice and The Stanley Parable...

Seeing how different game creators attempt to make a believable world fascinates me. I mean “believable” in the sense that the world gives the player real choice; where there’s a sense of unpredictability. There are board games, like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne, where the board changes each time you play, or open world adventures, like Skyrim or Fable, that allow you to choose what quests to complete. However, there is always a limitation to the player’s choices (an exception is Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop role-playing games where the dungeon master writes narratives on demand. But even then, the DM is limited by setting, characters, and background if she wants to create a realistic experience). Perhaps this limitation of choice reflects reality. Maybe, regardless of what we do, the world is destined for the same fate. Perhaps Fable has it right; the final fate of the world is destined and all we can control is our own morality. Not long ago, I was introduced to the video game The Stanley Parable. In the game, you are Stanley. You work in an office where you are tasked to monitor data on your computer and press buttons as you are told. The game begins by telling you that you’ve done this diligently for quite some time, but you notice now that no information is being sent to your computer. A little puzzled, you get up and leave your desk to investigate what’s happening, and that’s where the story begins. If our actions didn’t matter, what would be the point be of acting? I should say the stories begin there. The game attempts to give the player real choice by regularly offering options for action, each of which changes the storyline. As you walk through the...

Who Pays for My Choices? The Cost of Sacrifice in Final Fantasy XV...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for Final Fantasy XV. Most video games expect us to sacrifice something to save the world, rescue a princess, or stop an evil dictator. Sometimes we must sacrifice some of our resources, sometimes we have to make the choice to back one country over another, and sometimes we are asked to give up our very lives to save the ones we love. I’ve played a lot of games and come to expect at some point that there will be some sort of sacrifice, although there is one franchise that has consistently made sacrifice uncomfortable and cut through the familiarity: Final Fantasy. I have a vivid memory of the moment Sephiroth appeared behind Aerith and impaled her on his Naginata. I can even smell the carpet I was sitting on the first time I witnessed that death. And I remember wondering how she was going to come back or who they were going to give me to replace my main healer. Once I realized there was no replacement and I’d have to make someone function less effectively to make up for the loss, I was infuriated. It was frustrating and angering and maybe the first time I really felt the loss of a sacrifice (in game or otherwise). I’ve played a lot of games since then, experiencing the pattern of sacrifice in their stories. I’ve shed a tear for a lost brother escaping the locust and I’ve been furious watching a valiant warrior give his life for people who don’t even realize their freedom has a cost. To a certain degree, I’ve grown tired of sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake and find myself annoyed that a hero can’t just win without giving something up. Does everyone always have to...

7 Indie Games to Play in 2017...

These days, bigger budgets don’t necessarily mean better games, and we love seeing the creative projects that independent developers are coming up with. Here are seven of our most anticipated indie games of 2017: 1. Tacoma “Tacoma is the new game from the creators of Gone Home, set on Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma where, 200,000 miles from Earth, you must uncover the mysteries of the station.” 2. Rain World “You are a nomadic slugcat, both predator and prey in a broken ecosystem. Intense, bone-crushing rains pound the surface and make life almost impossible for most of the year, but the dry season has just arrived. Grab your spear and brave the industrial wastes, hunting enough food to survive another hibernation cycle, but be wary—other, bigger creatures have the same plan… and slugcats look delicious.” 3. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice takes you on a journey into savage viking heartland with Senua, a Celtic warrior struggling with trauma & psychosis.” 4. Perception “Perception is a first-person narrative horror adventure that tells the story of Cassie, a blind heroine who uses her extraordinary hearing and razor-sharp wits to unravel the mysteries of an abandoned estate that haunts her dreams.” 5. Aer “An adventure among the clouds. Turn into a bird and fly to explore a shattered world of floating islands, nomads and secrets of old.” 6. Frostpunk “Frostpunk takes on what people are capable of when pushed to the limits. What interests us is what society do to survive and how it changes in the process. How survival in the end leaves us different beings.” 7. Below “Explore. Survive. Discover.”...

Stardew Valley and Avoiding Community...

On its surface, Stardew Valley is a game about farming, crafting, and collecting. These tasks can easily take up most of the players’ time but they aren’t the point of the game, because Stardew Valley is really a community simulator. The game begins as many pastoral fantasies do, with the romantic promise of escape offered by a return to the dirt—our collective roots. In Stardew Valley, the promise is a deed to a small farm in the game’s namesake town, where I was greeted by a field overgrown by weeds, rocks, and a forest that has taken advantage of years of neglect to encroach upon my one-room shack. I got straight to subduing the land and started dreaming of upgrading my hovel and how I would build a nice fence for the cow pasture I didn’t have yet. Then my old-fashioned mailbox started blowing up with messages. First with words of welcome, but soon people were dropping by in person—with requests. I decided it might be tactful to go into town and actually figure out what kind of person would pay 150 gold pieces for three dandelions. By the time I made it back home, I’d been taught how to fish, met a fellow urban refugee making art just outside of town, and realized that most of these digital people had their own challenges. I wasn’t the only person living in the valley. I can barely give a turnip to a pixel-person without working out how it benefits me. This kind of self-centredness isn’t just a feature of my gaming, it’s a feature of me. I find it startlingly easy to put on blinders; to go my way and tend to my patch of land with little thought to those around me. I can...

Taking Over Artemis

The multiplayer LAN strategy game Artemis might as well be titled Enterprise. The only thing preventing this is trademark law, since the creator of game and titular ship is in no way affiliated with Star Trek. But as my friends and I opened hailing frequencies, sounded alerts for enemy ships, and fired torpedoes, the name of the ship we ran stopped mattering. Artemis lets players become crew members on a ship tasked with protecting the galaxy from invaders. It’s a video game and a LARP at the same time, if you do it right. And by right, I mean yelling, “I’m giving it all she’s got, Captain!” in a Scottish accent and punctuating all commands with “Make it so.” My first time playing was in a dimly lit basement, sitting at a row of computers with the captain nearby, giving orders while looking at a giant projection of the ship’s movements on the wall. “Give me visuals,” “Do a long-range scan,” and “Fire when ready” were actual commands given, Captain-Kirk style. I was in Trekkie heaven. “I have been and shall always be” a Vulcan at heart, so the science officer position was a natural fit. I plotted jump calculations and scanned enemy ships for weaknesses. But during occasional downtime, I learned how communications, navigation, engineering and the other stations worked. And due to my type-A personality, I found myself trying to do them too, even when I was already occupied: How well would the Enterprise function if Chekov began telling Scotty how to run his engines? “Communications, offer terms of surrender to those two enemy ships on our tail,” I would order, even though Communications can see the enemy ships just as well as I can. “Helm, we need to be set on bearing...

Her or the World

Many people joke about the end of the world, but the concept of an apocalypse frightens me. I shudder at the thought of humanity falling into depravity. I cringe at a devastating loss of cities, nations, and people. I feel empathetic towards the pain humanity will experience. The human race is a confounding, yet beautiful thing, which is why the ending of the Last of Us made me stop and think. Joel witnesses an apocalypse firsthand. As a disease that turns humans into fungal monsters plunges the world into ruin, his daughter, Sarah, dies in his arms, and humanity degrades. He becomes bitter towards humankind until he meets a girl named Ellie, who is about the same age as Sarah when she died. A woman hires Joel to deliver Ellie to a group called the Fireflies. Over the course of their journey battling infected humans, cannibals, and murderers, he begins to see Ellie as his own daughter. If we force someone else to give up her life to save ourselves, are we worth saving? When Joel and Ellie finally reach their destination, Joel discovers that to acquire a cure for the disease that plagues the world, Ellie must die. After hearing this news, he breaks Ellie out of the operating room and escapes, but not before killing all of the Fireflies to make sure they can never come after them. When Ellie wakes up, he lies to her; he tells her the cure wouldn’t have worked. Later, she asks him to look her in the eyes and tell her the truth. He swears that it was the truth, and she accepts that. The game ends there. This finale took me aback. I was appalled at Joel’s actions. He left humanity to die? That felt...

It’s the End of the World and I’m S.P.E.C.I.A.L....

Sirens rage and people flee, the moment feared as come to be. Pack up the kids don’t take a thing for death is coming on steely wing. All seems lost as bombs descend, the nuclear fire swells. But for the few steel doors roll shut and inwardly life dwells. 122 vaults are sealed in the Fallout universe as nuclear bombs fall across the USA. As far as humanity knows, those vaults host the only survivors. Humanity has ruined the planet with wars, aggression, and violence, and now the only hope for the species is to lock itself away until the consequences of their evil abates and the surface is safe. Decades go by, generations are born and die, and finally as vault systems begin to break down or fail, lone wanders, merchants, and survivors venture out into the wasteland in hopes of finding a way to sustain life and begin again. As the locks cycle and the door slides away breaking the 200-year seal, I’m struck with the harsh colours and unfiltered lights of a changed world. Dust blows and something ominous howls in the distance… its clear I’m no longer in the safe arms of Vaultec™. But it’s okay. I took the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test (G.O.A.T.) and it said I was handy with a pistol, knew my way around an IED and could probably sweet talk my way into an extra couple caps for that old junk I found. I made sure my Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence and Agility complimented my G.O.A.T. and I even threw in a little Luck, well, for luck. Knowing I’m S.P.E.C.I.A.L. gives me total confidence that as a survivor of the war I’m ready to go out, blaze a trail of glory in the empty wasteland,...

Our Response to Fear and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided...

In 2027, Hugh Darrow activates a signal that sends augmented people into a hallucinogenic rage. This results in the Aug Incident in the video game Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Though the signal lasts for mere hours before being shut down, the damage is done. With a push of a button, Hugh Darrow has created a rift between augmented (people who have been “improved” by using cybernetics, nanites, and implants) and naturals (people with no augments). There was already mistrust of the power wielded by the mechanically augmented so this act of violence across the world creates such fear that a mechanical apartheid is put into place in Prague. The first time I took a train in game from one of Prague’s boroughs to the next, there was a cut-scene where police ask for identification. Two minutes later, when I was walking between sectors of the town, I was again subjected to a short cut-scene demanding identification. The second time I took a train, I was accosted immediately after exiting the train, threatened amidst derogatory terms like ‘clank’ or ‘hanzer,’ and informed that if I kept using the train they would take more drastic measures. That was the first moment I looked around and realized that I’d been using the norm’s entrance/exit to the train and not the aug’s. I pushed it one more train trip and the police were extremely rude and promised violence if I didn’t shape up… Suffice it to say, I didn’t use the normal entrance again. Fear creates a perfect environment where attacking first seems like the only way to survive. I started paying more attention to my surroundings after that. I saw an uninviting walkway surrounded by an electric fence, the entrance for augmented people. When I used this...