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...

Master Chief Morality...

It wasn’t until I watched Halo: The Fall of Reach that I began to understand the enormous issue that surrounded the creation of John-117 and the other Spartans. Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 was created with a purpose: to bring an end to the Insurrection, the undeclared civil war occurring between the United Nations Space Command and groups of rebels in the Outer Colonies. Over the course of 43 years, the Insurrectionists had increased the severity of their actions, moving from peaceful protests to terrorist tactics. This is the political climate of the Halo universe that spurs on the SPARTAN programs. I grew up playing through the Halo campaigns, and I thought about the history involved as much as the next person; that is to say, not very. “I’m a super human and I’m killing the bad-guy aliens.” That’s about as far as it went. What I didn’t appreciate or understand at the time was the vast moral and ethical dilemma that surrounded the game’s premise. In the face of great injustice and evil, is it ethical to suspend our own morality to protect people? In Halo: The Fall of Reach, Dr. Catherine Halsey, a young genius, has a plan that she thinks will bring about the end of the Insurrection. If one soldier could be created that could replace 100, even at a high cost, isn’t that worth it? Especially if this one soldier can’t be outgunned or outmaneuvered by any regular Insurrectionist? If this soldier could be created, strategic targets could be removed with the precision skill of a scalpel. But, what is the high cost of these super soldiers? Dr. Halsey knows what it will take to create her Spartans: children. They needed to start with children. Halsey looks far and wide...

Surviving the Crucible...

I don’t think I would be willing to sign up for any sort of training regime that would end with my demise. Granted, I don’t have a Ghost following me around to resurrect me. Why do the Guardians from Destiny put themselves through this? If you’re a Guardian, that means that you’ll die several times in just a single match! Lord Shaxx’s arena is designed to bring the absolute best out of the Guardians of the Tower. From fighting to control strategic points in a battlefield, to igniting the enemy’s rift, to straight up firefights, the Tower’s Guardians are pitted against one another in ruthless matches with live ammunition. I think if we’re to have a better understanding of why the Crucible exists, and is even encouraged, we need to understand the man behind it and his reasons for pushing the Guardians to their limits. Centuries previous, the Traveler, a large mysterious sphere, appeared in our solar system and ushered in the Golden Age. Technological advancements were occurring at rates never seen before. Humanity spread to the moon, Mars, Venus, and beyond. Humanity was at the height of its power, thanks to the knowledge it gained from the Traveler. But then the Darkness came. Humanity, even Earth, was overcome by the Darkness, a mysterious enemy of the the Traveler. The Traveler sacrificed itself to save humanity from the Darkness. Now, the humans live on in the Last City on Earth, protected by the now-silent Traveler hanging above it. We all need some sort of community that acts as a Crucible of sorts. Few remember exactly what the Darkness is, but it has returned and gives power to evil alien races, like the Fallen. These ruthless scavengers united in a desire to secure the Traveler from the hands of humanity. They...

Experiencing Emotions Like Thrall...

His name stands as a testament of the abuse he experienced throughout his youth. His orphaned past is, perhaps, an understandable reason for him to hate humanity. Of all the stories that I immersed myself in as a child and teenager, and of all the characters in those stories, Thrall was the one who taught me the most. And, now as I reflect again on the tale of him coming to be Warchief of the Horde, I can recognize what it means to experience emotion in a healthy way. Having been raised by humans, Thrall possessed the strategy and education of a human and the brute strength of an orc. By all accounts, he’s the best of both worlds, except he has no idea where he comes from. Throughout his childhood and much of his adolescence Thrall never had any sort of relationship with another orc. The human, Aedelas Blackmoore, who had “adopted” and named Thrall, had taken careful precautions to ensure that Thrall was just that: a slave gladiator. His upbringing was a nightmare of abuse, total disconnect from his own kind, and an absolute removal from his culture. One might expect Thrall to be a psychological mess, or, at the very least, to have a distinct hatred for humanity. I’m totally uncomfortable with emotions and I want to stay as far away from them as possible. But he doesn’t. After escaping and discovering the full extent of his people’s plight, he doesn’t lead his people in total war against humanity. Even in the midst of chaos, huge decisions, and mental distress, Thrall remains relatively controlled. There’s a certain beauty, I think, in how Thrall experiences and works through emotions. He’s passionate and yet collected, fierce and yet peaceful. He’s experienced more than his...

A Misunderstood Redhead Feb08

A Misunderstood Redhead...

A wizard who doesn’t yet know how powerful he is, a genius witch who does, and a poor, often befuddled redhead. One of these people is not like the others; can you guess who it is? I have been rereading (and rewatching) the Harry Potter series lately; inspired in part by a friend of mine who has never seen the movies and by the lack of fiction in my life since beginning my academic studies a few years ago. As I travel through this narrative again, I feel much more attached to the Weasleys, especially Ron, than to any of the other characters. I was a bit surprised when I began feeling this way. In the past, I’ve liked Harry’s personality. I’ve admired his bravery, his dedication to develop himself in his craft, and—later in the narrative—his humble leadership. As well, I naturally connect with Hermione, particularly her drive for academic achievement and her ability to problem-solve. Ron’s more than willing to put himself second to others and to do all that is within his power to help them. Ron doesn’t shine. He doesn’t stand out, except for his flaming red hair. His family is poor and generally looked down on by the magical community. His academic achievements are all thanks to Hermione, and he’s consistently brought along kicking and screaming with Harry and Hermione on their adventures. When you stand him up beside Hermione, the muggle-born witch who is top of her class, and Harry, the Chosen One, Ron doesn’t seem very heroic. He’s not much to aspire to. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Ron is the very kind of person I want to be. Imagine for a moment that Ron and his family never existed,...

Monopolizing My Integrity Dec18

Monopolizing My Integrity...

It’s not often that you see a boot, a dog, a thimble, and a battleship compete for economic domination. Nor is a car crushing the hopes and dreams of a down-on-its-luck wheelbarrow as it demands $2000 for staying at the luxurious Boardwalk hotel for the night a common occurrence. Unless we’re talking about Monopoly, of course. Monopoly may be the single greatest board game out there. Here’s why: its gameplay is simple enough to be understood by children, it teaches basic economics (it’s fun and educational!), and while luck plays into it, it’s a largely strategic game. Will you wheel and deal your way to victory? Or will you crumble under the pressure, hoping to be sent to jail so you can avoid another rent payment? However, house rules generally allow for a different way to avoid paying rent, and here’s how: We very easily allow ourselves to suspend our own integrity when it benefits us. You rolled a seven; you knew if you were going to survive another round you needed an eight. But rather than landing neatly on ‘Free Parking’—which would have scored you a sweet $735—you’ve landed on New York Avenue, which incidentally has a hotel on it. You know you don’t have the $1000 to pay rent, but look! The owner is checking their phone! You quickly pass the dice to the next player, abruptly ending your turn, saving yourself from bankruptcy. Here’s what the game manual says, with our house rule added in brackets: “When you land on a property that is owned by another player (and that player notices), the owner collects rent from you in accordance with the list printed on its Title Deed card.” The same house rule can be applied to Settlers of Catan, where players...