Age of Empires and maturity...

There are certain types of video games that I would encourage parents to let their young children play. I understand the controversy about whether video games influence children in a positive or negative way, and I openly agree that intensely violent or disturbing games should be off-limits to underage gamers. But I also argue that some genres are beneficial to play, and real-time strategy (or RTS, if you will) is one of them. Age of Empires is one of the most successful RTS franchises. Playing Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings—recently re-released in 2013 with updated graphics based on the original 1999 version—brings back childhood memories. And what I remember most is being unspeakably terrible at it. When I played a game the other day, however, I won the match in flying colours. How had I so improved without practice? Oddly enough, I think it’s because I became a very different person after I moved out of my parents’ house. Making poor, short-term decisions no longer appeals to me, and that seems to have translated into my gameplay. To excel at Age of Empires, you need to master multi-tasking and making smart, long-term decisions for the future of the army and the civilization you are building.I can still feel proud of those little achievements I succeeded at. These strategies can easily translate into real life. When I start putting money into a savings account, it grows slowly over the years until it meets a certain goal—perhaps enough money for a car, a down-payment on a house, or… I don’t know… an unopened copy of E.T. for Atari 2600. This idea of investing is paralleled at the very beginning of playing Age of Empires, where you deploy workers in gold mines, forests, and farms to begin your...

Not just another number Sep16

Not just another number...

When Chihiro Ogino finds herself trapped in a magical world, she has her name taken from her. The plot of Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 animated film Spirited Away begins when Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs by eating forbidden food from an uninhabited buffet. Chihiro learns that the place they stumbled across after taking a wrong turn is, in fact, a spiritual realm; a place of retreat where weary spirits can relax. She begs Yubaba, the cruel owner of a bathhouse, to give her a job so she can survive in this spirit world, and Yubaba eventually hires Chihiro in exchange for ownership of the girl’s name. Yubaba renames her Sen. Later, Chihiro learns that Yubaba takes people’s names in order to trap them in this spirit world; if she ever forgets what her original name was, she will be permanently unable to return to her home world. Despite losing her name, she doesn’t lose herself. I wondered where Yubaba got the name “Sen” from, and once I noted the kanji characters that make up both names, I realized exactly what Yubaba was trying to take away from her. “Chihiro” is written as two kanji characters: the first is pronounced “chi” (which means “one thousand”), and the second is “hiro” (which means “questions”). But kanji characters almost never have just one single pronunciation or meaning attributed to them; in this case, the character used for “chi” can also be read as “sen,” the basic number for one thousand. The name “Chihiro” does not necessarily express a finite quantity, but could be interpreted as an endless or uncountable number. Her full given name therefore could be roughly translated to “endless questions.” To me, the translation behind this name paints a mental picture of a girl who...

Magic by another name Aug10

Magic by another name...

Sometimes I find myself wishing I lived in Hogwarts or Middle earth. Why? Because of magic, of course. But after a bit of thought, I realized I’m not really missing out on much, because magic exists in my world already. Do you believe in magic? And when I say “magic,” I mean as it is often depicted in fiction: a seemingly all-powerful force which can only be harnessed by a certain number of gifted people. So do you? No? You’re not alone. Magic is generally accepted by our modern society to be an impossibility, and to say otherwise seems like nothing but foolery. However, “nothing but foolery” is my middle name—well, close enough. I believe magic is, in fact, a very real part of our everyday lives. We just know it by another name. I believe that even the most deeply spiritual occurrences can be explained scientifically. In order to dismiss magic as an impossibility, you should first be able to not only define it, but explain why you believe it cannot exist. I would define magic using these words: that which is amazing and unexplainable. In Season 5 of Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum describes magic exactly how I see it: “All magic is science!” she says. “You just don’t know what you’re doing, so you call it magic!” (Episode 26: “Wizards Only, Fools!”) Take Hermione Granger from Harry Potter casting “Alohomora,” for example. Is it scientifically impossible to unlock a door? Not at all. Can we explain exactly how her magic spell accomplishes this? No. Our quick dismissal of its possibility simply stems from our own lack of understanding. Or consider Vivi from Final Fantasy IX casting “Firaga.” Is it impossible to create a massive fiery blast which has the ability to harm...

Overcoming envy Jun18

Overcoming envy

It’s not often that I turn on the news to watch an uplifting story. It’s usually about death, or pain, or hunger, or taxes, or, you know, sports… Unfortunately, the world is just an overwhelmingly negative place. As humans, our greed and blindness to consequence leads to war, poverty, and the slow death of our planet. Even in our personal lives, people are always talking about how things were better “back in the day.” Countless explanations for the cause of such a decline could be brought up, but the way I see it, they all boil down to one answer: sin. Evil exists because we are capable of it and we, more often than not, take advantage of that. Far on the other end of the spectrum of my television-watching experience lies Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a brilliantly-written and gorgeously-presented anime series that seamlessly blends the themes of physical science and the supernatural. Envy is a terrifying and seemingly unbeatable foe.I am often reminded of this series when I think about examples of sin, because the seven deadly sins are personified as physical characters in the show’s universe. These antagonistic beings each possess characteristics and powers associated with their respective vice. Among the most terrifying of these beings is Envy, whose ability to shapeshift allows him to effortlessly infiltrate any group and place the blame for his actions on whomever he chooses. He has a deep love for human violence, and at one point even started a massive war by disguising himself as a soldier and shooting a foreign child for the sake of nothing more than his own enjoyment. And if that isn’t scary enough, his inherent form is a huge dragon-like beast (though trust me, it’s much creepier than a dragon). Due to...

Guild Wars is my sandwich...

In my journeys across the great, expansive world of the Internet, I have come to learn that community is ultimately what makes or breaks an online environment, whether it be in the context of an online game, a forum, or even an entire fandom. I’m a sucker for lame metaphors, and I’ve concocted a doozie to apply to such an examination as this; the online environment itself can be represented by a tasty sandwich, with its community represented as the cheese. Let me first offer an example centred on one of my all-time favourite online roleplaying games: Guild Wars 2. As a sandwich, I see this game as a big tasty reuben (Arguably my favourite sandwich! But not everyone likes them, so if you’re one of those people, just try to see things from my point of view for the sake of this little metaphor). It is a breathtaking beauty to behold, incomparably delectable, highly and unhealthily addictive, and undeniably one of humanity’s finest creations. The cheese is perfectly melted into the sandwich, in such a way that the two are indistinguishably unified and interpreted by the taste buds as one single delicious entity. I prefer communities where we can all move toward our collective betterment together. Now let’s turn things around and talk about the other side of the proverbial pancake. I cannot discuss online game communities without mentioning League of Legends, a game notorious for its unwelcoming, quick-to-anger community of players. And this, more than any other aspect, heavily detracts from new players’ enjoyment of the game. I mean, it really seems like an otherwise great game; I was a big fan of the DotA mod in Warcraft 3, and the similarities between the two are undeniable. I see League of Legends...