Video Games 101: What Parents Need to Know...

Many parents are concerned with what games they should allow their children to play. We’ve been asked by parents or grandparents to define age limits for specific games or give recommendations that would make good gifts. We love that these people are reaching out because they want to show interest in what their kids are doing! However, we encourage guardians to consider that these are the wrong questions to be asking. First, the video game market is so wide and so varied, if you ask, “What game will my kid like, one that’s appropriate for her age?” you’ll receive one hundred answers from one hundred different people. (And you’ll receive a lot more questions, such as “What system does he have?” and “What genres does she like?” But we’ll get more into that later.) Second, people have different sensibilities and preferences. A game I loved at 10 years old might not be appropriate for another 10-year-old, because they may be more or less sensitive to certain themes than I am. Or, they may just not like the type of games I did at that age. Just like attending a child’s soccer game, going to their music recital, or reading a book together, engaging with children in their hobbies is an encouragement, and video games are no exception. So, if you know little about gaming but want to be involved in your child’s hobby or to get them a present that they’ll love (but that won’t give them gory nightmares or cause addiction), how do you do it? Step 1: Understand Systems There are a variety of systems, or consoles, that games can be played on, mainly by these brands: Nintendo (e.g. 3DS, Wii, WiiU, Switch), Microsoft (e.g. Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows...

7 Religious Characters Who Aren’t Crazy Sep21

7 Religious Characters Who Aren’t Crazy...

Last week, we listed the religious villains who are crazy and terrifying because of their fanaticism. But today, we’re talking about the characters we love who demonstrate a peaceful, loving faith in a deity beyond their understanding. I love it when faith is depicted as something that real, logical, and smart people choose, despite opposition from society. 1. Leliana, Dragon Age As a member of the Chantry and worshiper of the Maker, Leliana is devoted to her faith. In the first game, you have the option to make fun of her faith or support it, but she remains true to her religion whatever you do. She’s also a wise, useful party member and plays a pivotal role in Dragon Age: Inquisition as the Inquisition’s spymaster and adviser. “In the cloister, away from the fuss and the flurry of the cities, I found peace. And in that stillness, I could hear the Maker.” —Leliana 2. Suvi Anwar, Mass Effect: Andromeda Suvi is a scientist and a believer in a higher power, a combination you don’t see often in science fiction. It’s refreshing hearing her describe science as bringer her closer to something greater than herself. She’s willing to logically discuss her faith if you don’t agree with her, and appreciative if you do. “I’ve had to defend what I believe so often and I have to admit, I’m a little tired of it. Whenever I meet someone who feels the same, or just understands, I really appreciate it.” —Suvi 3. Shepherd Book, Firefly Shepherd is a refreshing type of science fiction missionary, because he doesn’t try to force his faith on others and isn’t a fanatic. He’s simply present, caring for the crew as he can, and he even struggles with his faith and morals as the crew of the Serenity encounter...

Living my Faith through Babylon 5 Sep19

Living my Faith through Babylon 5...

Babylon 5 tells an epic, five-year story about a war of galactic proportions against a terrifying, ancient evil. Surprisingly (especially for a TV series written by a non-believer), the show also encourages me to examine my own faith and how I act on it. The station at the center of the series is a cross between an interplanetary United Nations and a busy seaport. While providing docking facilities and commercial opportunities, it also hosts diplomatic delegations from dozens of worlds. The station is run by the human representatives of Earth Force, who are charged with managing the day-to-day mundanities of life in space as well as providing leadership to the council and protection to all on board. Various faiths of humanity are represented throughout the series, with appearances by Muslim, Hindu, and Christian leaders. One of the most memorable episodes deals with sin and redemption, featuring a group of Trappist monks. But even more fascinating to me is the show’s in-depth exploration of alien religions. The Centauri and Shallow Faith The Centauri are an old race of humans whose religion is based on a pantheon of fifty or so individual gods. Although the people appeal to their gods periodically, their religion seems to make relatively few demands on them. Their empire is in decline and has been for a long time, but propelled by pride, they seek any means of getting ahead–even at the cost of enslaving or destroying other races. Their ambassador, Londo Mollari, embodies their pragmatic approach to life. He is a believer in name only, giving lip service to his gods, but never letting his faith change or challenge his actions. What I wanted was far more important than what God wanted. At the beginning of the series, Londo is a...

The Fundamentalism of the Jedi Order and Christianity Sep17

The Fundamentalism of the Jedi Order and Christianity...

Though the Jedi Council might frown on questioning their faith, Ahsoka Tano has no problem examining it (or anything else that piques her curiosity). If you’re a Star Wars fan, but you’re wondering who Ahsoka Tano is, that’s okay! Many die-hard fans of the series have yet to be introduced to some of its animated components, including the critically-acclaimed Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Chronologically, The Clone Wars takes place between Episodes II and III, featuring the adventures of the Clone Troopers, the Separatists, and the Jedi—namely, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and his padawan, Ahsoka Tano. Ahsoka is a Togruta who is introduced to us as a young girl. Not unlike her master, she is headstrong, defiant, and spunky, though she does have a side that is both cleverer and softer than Anakin. She is overwhelmingly compassionate and savvy, brought to life by the amazing voice of Ashley Eckstein. Ahsoka’s storyline is complex, and to some degree, she was always an outlier while training to be a Jedi Knight. Though she is obedient and strongly trusts in the Force, Ahsoka is never afraid to ask questions, which sometimes appears impertinent to her superiors. She questions motives, desires, and even her faith. In fact, in a climactic moment in The Clone Wars, Ahsoka is framed for a murder, and when she seeks help from the Jedi, they do not advocate for her innocence. Feeling forced to run, Ahsoka escapes the authorities’ grasp, but after her name is cleared, she is left with great doubts about the Jedi Order. I was taught not to question, to obey blindly, and thought that by performing, by being “good,” that I could earn approval. But Ahsoka doesn’t forget the Force, never confusing its solemn power with those who use it, and though...

7 Religious Villains Whose Fanaticism is Terrifying Sep14

7 Religious Villains Whose Fanaticism is Terrifying...

September’s Area of Effect theme is “Religion,” and we asked folks which villains terrify them because of their warped devotion to a religion or specific belief. For some reason, there’s something extra creepy about characters who do horrible things in the name of holiness, or because they believe they’ve become godlike themselves. 1. Caleb, Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Combine priest with serial killer, sociopath, and misogynist—that’s Nathan Fillion’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As the physical form of the First Evil with a strength to rival Buffy’s, he’s one of the most unsettling villains I’ve ever seen; the way he presents himself in such a logical, calm manner, even as he’s poking Xander’s eye out, is terrifying. ” —Allison Barron 2. Apocalypse, X-Men: Apocalypse “Since he’s the first of the Mutants, he has nearly infinite powers. And he’s willing to allow practically unlimited collateral damage to take over the world.” —Alex Mellen 3. L’Rell, Star Trek: Discovery “The use of prayer to awaken her lover from within their previously tortured enemy prisoner was really, truly terrifying. And, if I remember correctly, strong hearts are the most important part of Klingon religion, so she thought she was 100% justified in the manner with which she ‘saved’ Voq. The justification of warped theology that leads to further justification of immoral actions in a time of desperation terrifies me.” —Ashley Mowers 4. Brother Justin Crowe, Carnivale “The evil festering in his soul as he draws a huge crowd of the poor and marginalized to follow him for his own selfish reasons [is terrifying].” —Derek White 5. Anubis, Stargate: SG-1 “Anubis is a goa’uld (which are scary enough because they can take over a host body). Anubis did something so horrible the other goa’uld tried to banish and kill...

Consent isn’t that Complicated: Dollhouse, Slavery, and the Sex Trade Sep12

Consent isn’t that Complicated: Dollhouse, Slavery, and the Sex Trade...

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (or as my sister calls it, “That Porn Show”) never got the commercial success I think it deserved. Arguably much darker than Whedon’s previous fare, the ethical grey areas of the show prevented it from the more casual tones of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly—shows that allowed for a comic flair that would diminish Dollhouse’s themes—in order for it to explore topics like slavery and sexual consent. Following a group of people who have new personalities programmed into them to satisfy the needs of rich clients, the  freedom of the “dolls” to consent seems complicated at first. They have given up the use of their bodies, supposedly willingly, for an allotted time. In the main character’s case, she agrees to the terms under duress. And it’s revealed later that one of the other dolls, Sierra, was put there against her will—an elaborate trap by a rejected suitor who was intent on “owning” her. Because their purpose is fantasy-fulfillment, all of the dolls are extremely attractive. As they are often programmed for sexual contracts, they are essentially sex trade workers, slaves unable to leave or even access their original personalities. However, clients’ consciences are pacified by the Dollhouse assuring them everything is consensual, with the original owner’s persona erased from that body and exchanged for whatever the client wants. While it is people with power that organize sex trafficking, people with less privilege allow the trafficking to continue. According to Canadian laws, it is generally accepted that consent cannot be given by someone who is impaired or sleeping: “It’s a strong and clear judgment that consent requires a conscious operating mind and that you can’t either actively consent or revoke your consent in the absence of that,” says Melanie Randall,...

The Gateway Chronicles Define the Problem with Waiting for a “Perfect” Friend Sep10

The Gateway Chronicles Define the Problem with Waiting for a “Perfect” Friend...

I made my very first friend in grade one with a simple offer: “Wanna play?” As I approach my thirties, I wish making friends was still that easy. The Six, the first book in K.B. Hoyle’s The Gateway Chronicles series, reminds me of the rose-coloured glasses I see my childhood and adolescence through. In The Six, friendship is hard for Darcy Pennington. Darcy is often plagued by self-doubt, but she’s also convinced she knows what she wants. Apparently, I have no problem identifying with a fictional 13-year-old girl, at least not when her problems are this real, because even in my adulthood I find making friends a struggle. Early in the story, Darcy envies the ease with which her little brother can talk to new people and just hit it off, and this sense of having little control over her relationships follows Darcy throughout the story. Friendship may not come easily to Darcy, but it isn’t because nobody wants to be friends with her. Samantha Palm is blonde, blue-eyed and disdained by Darcy for being overweight. Darcy tries to bury this ugly truth about herself under introverted excuses like wanting to be alone, but really, the girl who has trouble making friends is overly choosy about who she associates with. Darcy is worried that Sam’s friendship—and that of tag-along nerd, Lewis—might get in the way of her making other, preferable friends. I scoffed at Darcy’s petty reasoning as I read, but this tug-of-war between what’s available to her and her ideals became the emotional crux of the story for me. Both Darcy and I want the full life that comes with deep relationships, but where we start encountering problems is how we create a very particular vision of the full life we want, missing...

7 Life Lessons from Arcade Games...

Although I missed the heyday of arcade establishments, I grew up playing and loving arcade games. My family had a CD-ROM of Atari games for our clunky desktop computer, and my oldest brother had a Pac-Man game pack for his original Game Boy. At the time, I was only aware of the fun I had competing for Atari high scores with my family or steering Pac-Man around the Game Boy screen. But looking back, I realize those old games taught me some important life lessons. 1. Don’t call it quits, even if you’re on your last “life.” – Centipede When you’re down to your last life in an arcade game, it’s tempting to throw it away so that you can start a new game with a fresh set of lives (especially when you’re playing the game on your computer and not putting coins in an arcade machine). As a kid, I would often get impatient and do this, especially in Centipede. But the times when I stuck it out, I sometimes got my best high scores from that last life (and the extra lives I earned). Those successes taught me that it’s better to work with what you’ve got than throw in the towel just because the odds aren’t good. 2. Keep trying until you figure it out. – Tempest This isn’t great advice in every area of life, but in many situations, perseverance enables  you to eventually “learn the ropes.” Because Tempest was included on our Atari CD-ROM, I played it and enjoyed it. But to this day, I couldn’t tell you what the point is, except that you move this thing around and shoot weird shapes—oh, and avoid the spikes. But that was all I needed to figure out to enjoy the...

Inception: Christopher Nolan’s Masterclass on Storytelling Sep05

Inception: Christopher Nolan’s Masterclass on Storytelling...

Writer-director Christopher Nolan is known for making mind-bending movies. From Momento to The Prestige to his Dark Knight trilogy to Dunkirk, Nolan’s signature style rests in cerebral storytelling that often takes the viewer by surprise, either at the end of his films, or at multiple points along the way as the stories unfold and you realize what you’re watching is not, exactly, what is happening—or at least, not what’s happening at the moment you think it’s happening. It’s a particularly effective storytelling method because it causes you to engage with his stories on another level, whether you want to or not. In Nolan’s films, pure story meets logical function and the faculties of analysis are engaged. As an exceptional storyteller, Nolan recognizes the power stories hold. All stories have the ability to change minds and hearts, and therefore culture, because it is through stories that ideas are planted. I maintain that storytellers are the most powerful people in society. Culture—more than politics or economics or anything else—changes the tide of history. Ideas have power, and it is our art, our stories, that plant those ideas into our psyche, where they take root and grow. Storytellers can slip inside the mind and change people from the inside out just like the architects in Inception. In 2010, Nolan gave us a movie that showed how keenly aware he is of the importance and power of stories. But not only that, in the movie itself, he instructs us in how to harness that power—a power that can be both very good, or devastating. The movie is Inception, a word he redefined for the purpose of the film as the implanting of an idea into the mind. Inception is Christopher Nolan’s masterclass in how to incept people through...

One-Punch in the Face of Jealousy Sep03

One-Punch in the Face of Jealousy...

Not everyone can just decide they want to be a hero and make it happen. But One-Punch Man, or Saitama, does just that. He’s a hero for fun, not in it for the glory. Becoming so strong wasn’t easy—he kept up a rigorous physical routine that put such stress on his body that he lost all of his hair. Imagine, if you can, doing 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and then a 10K run EVERY DAY for three years, without air conditioning or heat. Actually, I can easily imagine it because I have to do that many squats and push-ups every day as part of my black belt training, and we do at least 100 sit-ups in every karate class. I also don’t have air conditioning in my house. So what he does is do-able, and certainly shouldn’t make your hair fall out. But, for Saitama, this training and an unbreakable will makes him the most powerful superhero in the world. Saitama isn’t just facing villains; he’s also battling a painful rumour. I don’t know if it’s the ease with which Saitama became a hero, his genuine humility, or the fact that he tears through the hero ranking system like gangbusters is what upsets the other heroes, but his presence inspires big feelings in the people who meet him. Some are happy to work with him and see his value, and one, a cyborg named Genos, even becomes his disciple. Others are determined to take him down a peg. Right off the bat, as they’re wrapping up Saitama and Genos’ orientation to the Hero Association, Snakebite Snek wants to put Saitama in his place. It backfires, of course, because Saitama is ridiculously strong, but Snek makes it his business to cause him trouble....

10 Top Dogs from Fandom Aug31

10 Top Dogs from Fandom

There’s something special about faithful, furry companions in our favourite stories. And how do we make a top ten list when there are so many wonderful canines in geek culture? Let the fans decide! We ran daily “Dog Days of Summer” matchups over August on our Facebook page to make the following countdown. 10. Cosmo Marvel’s spacedog is a liaison to the Guardians of the Galaxy, helping them plan their wild adventures. Former test animal of the Soviet Space Program and current head of security in a city called Knowhere, the talking dog hides the city’s citizens in a dimensional envelope on his collar during the events of Nova comics. Plus, he’s telekinetic and telepathic; as long as his psionic blast isn’t directed at you, you couldn’t ask for a more protective friend. “That does it. That enough. No more Mr. Nice Dog. Now Cosmo will hurt everyone.” —Cosmo 9. Wolf Link All right, all right, he’s not technically a dog, especially since he’s a human in disguise, but we still want him as our best friend. Playable in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wolf Link can also be summoned in Breath of the Wild as a companion for Link. “Wolf Link is summoned from another plane of existence and can’t be seen by other people in this world.” —Breath of the Wild Loading Screen Tip 8. Gromit Wallace’s loveable companion in the Wallace and Gromit movies, Gromit was originally going to be voiced by Peter Hawkins, but that idea was dropped when creators realized how expressive he could be just from his eye movements. Gromit is skeptical of Wallace’s inventions and tends to do most of the work for his bumbling friend. He also reads books, listens to Bach, and is great at solving puzzles. “Er, Gromit, old pal? It happened again. I’ll need assistance.” —Wallace, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 7. Zwei It’s not every day you find a dog that happily fits into a small package along with enough food to last him months. He’s also apparently fireproof and incredibly tough, as seen when he destroys an Atlesian Paladin-290 in “No Brakes.” His name is possibly a reference to Cowboy Bebop‘s Ein, also a Welsh Corgi. Eins is the German word for “one” and Zwei means “two.” “Are you telling me that this mangy… drooling… mutt… is going to wiv with us foweva?” —Weiss 6. Underdog As long as you don’t mind him speaking in rhyming couplets and phone booths exploding after he changes into his superhero outfit,  Underdog seems like a handy canine to have around. Able to move planets and fly, among many other superpowers, there doesn’t seem to be much he can’t do. “There is no need to fear; Underdog is here!” 5. Snowy Tintin’s companion, Snowy sometimes struggles making th e right decision when bones or Loch Lomond whisky are on the line. He originally had a dry, cynical personality to balance Tintin’s positivity, but eventually morphed into light-hearted comic relief. “Tintin! Are you dead? Say yes or no, but answer me!” —Snowy, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets 4. K-9 First appearing with the Fourth Doctor in “The Invisible Enemy,” K-9 is known for his ability to beat the Doctor at chess and as Sarah Jane Smith’s companion. Apparently, the writers originally wanted to name him “Pluto” after the Disney character, but Disney refused permission. They also considered calling him FIDO (“Phenomenal Indication Data Observation”). “Affirmative!” —K-9 3. Huan Given to Celegorm, Feanor’s third son, Huan is as large as a small horse and has special powers granted by the Valar. He took pity on Luthien when she was captured and helped her escape, assisting her in killing Sauron’s werewolves and even winning a battle against Sauron’s wolf-form. A prophesy stated Huan could only be killed by the greatest wolf that ever lived. “Arise! Away! / Put on thy cloak! Before the day / comes over Nargothrond we fly / to Northern perils, thou and...

Quiet Character Appreciation Day Aug29

Quiet Character Appreciation Day...

Quiet characters are often overlooked. The bold, adventurous characters carry most of the drama, captivating audiences with their flashy fighting styles and quirky personalities. Meanwhile, the unassuming characters play support roles at best and are negatively stereotyped at worst. When a well-represented quiet character comes along, I get excited because I’m one of the quiet ones, too. Here are seven favourites who have inspired me. 1. Spock – Star Trek Although he is half-human, Spock chose to follow the Vulcan lifestyle of logic and restraint. He’s so controlled that it’s easy to forget he’s actually the strongest person on the Enterprise. Although some characters don’t trust Spock due to his lack of emotion, he works hard to maintain his quiet nature. On the rare occasions when he loses—or is forced out of—control, it’s clear why he does so. I admire Spock’s wisdom and scientific skill, but mostly I respect his commitment to self-control, even though he could influence others through force instead of logic. 2. Lie Ren – RWBY Upon first acquaintance, it’s easy to overlook Ren in favour of his extremely outgoing friend, Nora Valkyrie. Ren may not attempt Nora’s crazy stunts—like riding a Grimm monster through the forest—but no one can question his skills as a warrior. He fights with the calm finesse of a trained ninja, but his steady nature is his best contribution to his team. Even during the rockiest of times, Ren is a reassurance to his friends; that’s a skill that I strive to have. And, of course, who besides Ren will make the pancakes? 3. Edwin Jarvis – Agent Carter When Edwin Jarvis begins helping Peggy Carter, he has some trouble keeping up. His genteel existence is suddenly interrupted by exploding buildings, interrogations, and a host of other...

Area of Effect is Open to Sponsors! Aug27

Area of Effect is Open to Sponsors!...

Area of Effect magazine is looking for more advertising sponsors to help us print 1,000 copies of the magazine to distribute for free at conventions and events in Winnipeg. This is a good opportunity for local businesses to reach our demographic, serving the nerd and geek community in a unique way! ABOUT THE MAGAZINE Area of Effect is both online (three articles are published every week at geekdomhouse.com, which gets 5,000 pageviews per month) and in print (1,000 copies of a physical magazine are printed in December). The purpose of the publication is to inspire people to think deeply about the themes and issues that are present in video games, sci-fi and fantasy stories, anime, and comics, and to encourage a dialogue between people of different backgrounds and beliefs. Our regular contributors include editors, university professors, scholars, pastors, and professional writers. View previous copies of the print magazine here. ABOUT THE PUBLISHER Geekdom House is a Christian charitable organization based in Winnipeg, MB, under the Free Methodist Church of Canada. Our mission is to love and serve the nerd and geek community. BECOMING A SPONSOR Your sponsorship supports writers, artists, and readers from around the world who engage with Area of Effect, and helps us distribute copies of the magazine throughout the year at conventions, churches, and events in and around Winnipeg. With your help, the magazine is given away for free, granting access to young adults who can’t afford subscriptions. Sponsors receive a print ad in the magazine and link to their website on the Area of Effect pages at geekdomhouse.com. For more information on sponsorship levels, ad dimensions, distribution, or to set up your sponsorship, contact...

8 Characters Who Impact My Faith from Comic Con Christianity Aug24

8 Characters Who Impact My Faith from Comic Con Christianity...

How does geek culture impact faith and vice versa? Geekdom House is all about answering this question, and Comic Con Christianity by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry contributes wonderfully to the conversation. A Catholic and nerd, Perry connects geek stories to her experience with the Church, and made me think about these characters in a new light. All the quotes below are from her book, and only brush the surface of the hero-inspired journey contained within its pages! 1. The Tick: There’s Space for Everyone The City has tons of heroes to defend it, but they’re constantly “at odds with each other, causing one another to fail.” The Tick sounds kind of insane, but he showed them that they could get things done together instead of wasting time squabbling. This reminds me of the Church—full of really good people, but often too concerned with petty arguments or who they should be shutting out of their doors and not concerned enough about modeling Jesus’ welcoming behaviour. Sometimes I’m ashamed to call myself a Christian because of this public behaviour. “Everyone is necessary. Everyone is welcome. Everyone has a place,” writes Perry. Exactly! “Sometimes, it’s enough to just be willing to step out in faith and show up because something that is whispering in our hearts calls us to be greater.” 2. Aragorn: Jesus is Humble Jesus “was sort of like a Ranger—he was the True King of Israel, but remained incognito until it was time for him to act.” He did miracles of healing but would often tell the healed not to spread word about him, sharing God’s mercy with people who needed to hear it. I think this humility is important for me to model in relationship with others. “It was vital to our understanding of God’s...

A Feminist Re-Watching of Stargate: SG-1, Season 1 Aug22

A Feminist Re-Watching of Stargate: SG-1, Season 1...

Stargate: SG-1 is one of those shows that sticks with me. Yet, the older I get, the more progressive I become, and I wonder if the post-gulf war, pre-911 military sci-fi stands up to my feminist, pacifist, and socialist standards. An ensemble based show that premiered in 1997 following a movie in 1994, SG-1 is carried by its four main characters. They are set up to present the fundamental conflict between scientific humanism versus militaristic forces. Jack O’Neill, retired air force colonel, and his alien buddy, Teal’c, fight on the side of militarism, whereas astrophysicist Samantha Carter and anthropologist Daniel Jackson represent scientific humanism. Jack and Military Masculinity I remember Jack to be affable, yet tough. In my rewatch, I was concerned what I perceived as tough might actually be an indication of toxic masculinity, but his humour and humility carry the show. Because he refused to blow up Abydos in the original film, we know that he doubts the chain of command, but still assumes he knows best. He is essentially date raped into marriage (a slightly more traumatic version of Daniel’s forced marriage in the original film), but despite being infected with an aging virus, he seems to treat his wife with respect. In fact, he treats all women honourably. Mostly. When forced to share a sleeping bag with Sam for warmth in an arctic climate, he says, “it’s my side arm I swear,” and comments on Sam’s crop top when she is suffering a primitive virus that makes her try to seduce him. He later says he is sad that “we’ll never see that saucy number again.” But on the whole, he is a generous, humble guy, presenting a different idea of the military as seen in other movies and in...

Without Great Power Comes Great Opportunity Aug20

Without Great Power Comes Great Opportunity...

It’s the ultimate nerd personality question: what superpower would you want? I wonder whether people’s answers are actually an indicator of personality—like healing powers for a nurturing person—or whether it’s about the side benefits, like using telekinesis in a magic act to make lots of money. I’m not sure I want a superpower at all. Some of the most beloved characters in the geek world are the non-gifted teammates on a team of heroes. Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Marvel’s Agent Coulson, and Tolkien’s hobbits are “weak” and unskilled compared to other characters, but their deficiencies give them experiences other heroes don’t have. As someone without superpowers, those experiences are pretty familiar. When I’m not the strongest or most efficient person at home, at work, or with friends, I can learn how to value my unique attributes and use them well, focusing on what I can offer. Sokka and Contentment All Sokka ever wanted was to become a great warrior, protect his tribe, and find his father. “I’m just a guy with a boomerang,” he says when he and Katara discover Aang and meet Appa. “I didn’t ask for all this flying and magic!” But he agrees to help Aang, and becomes a valuable member of the group, even though he’s the only one without bending powers. Sokka rarely complains about feeling useless, but in the episode “Sokka’s Master,” when he can’t help put out a forest fire, he begins to despair. “All you guys can do this awesome bending stuff, like putting out forest fires and flying around… I can’t fly around, okay? I can’t do anything.” To encourage him, his friends suggest he train under a sword master, and he hones not just his fighting skills, but his creativity, resourcefulness, and...

8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes Aug17

8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes...

Archetypes are a defining feature of anime. They’re part of what makes the medium familiar to fans and what separates it from western animation. These archetypes include characters, like student council presidents and goth girls, portrayed differently than they might be in American television shows, and chuunibyou, hikikomori, and magical girls playing major roles when they don’t even exist here! But even though fans generally know what to expect of these types, every so often, a character will break from the mold and reveal herself to be deeper—and ultimately more interesting—than what viewers originally expected. These are eight of my favourites. 1. Minori Kushieda, Toradora Archetype: Genki Girl At first, Minori seems to be a typical genki girl, the phrase used to describe a character with never-ending energy and enthusiasm: she captains the softball team, works a half-dozen part-time jobs, and says and does the craziest things. But as the classic romantic comedy, Toradora, progresses, Minori demonstrates that her outward cheerfulness is a veneer. Feeling guilty about an attraction she develops toward her best friend’s love interest, Minori acts out in strange ways, even hurting others as her bitterness and jealousy grows. This unexpected arc helps drive the plot of Toradora forward and, as Minori learns to be more genuine with herself and others, becomes one of the most fulfilling parts of this classic series. 2. Kyubey, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Archetype: Cute Mascot Kyubey looks the role of a traditional magical girl mascot—he’s a little white creature that appears to be a cross between a cat and rabbit, and spouts wisdom while resting on the girls’ laps. But in one of anime’s most surprising twists—spoilers ahead—he reveals himself to be the central villain of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, continuing to look the part...

Rethinking Fanfiction and its Role in Gender Inequality Aug15

Rethinking Fanfiction and its Role in Gender Inequality...

When I was a fourteen, I was a member of a Lord of the Rings forum website, where I started reading fanfiction and, eventually, wrote my own. A year and a half ago, I turned to the forums again when I was breastfeeding my daughter; I needed something to keep me awake and engaged during those 2 a.m. feedings. Fanfic gets a bad rap. It is usually derided as something for teenage girls or trashy romance, or it’s silly and a waste of time. It’s also mostly written by women and LGBTQ folks—a factor I don’t think we can ignore when we examine the bias against it. As with everything, women have had to fight for their place as legitimate writers. In the Victorian era, women’s writing was seen as vulgar and taboo, and was never taken seriously. Writers whom we laud today as trailblazers, like Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, had trouble getting their manuscripts published because of their gender. The work of a little-known playwright named Aphra Behn was completely erased from existence after her death because it was too “scandalous” for her time. Even J.K. Rowling’s publisher suggested that she hide her gender so that her book would “appeal to boys and girls.” We also know that LGBTQ representation in mainstream media hasn’t grown very much in recent years. Thor: Ragnarok, for example, came under fire when it failed to include any mention of Valkyrie’s sexuality, even though she is canonically bisexual. Today, shelves are lined with books written by women, but stereotypes still persist. A study by The New Republic, which examined 10,287 book reviews from the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times, found that reviewers adhere to the notions that women are sentimental and men are...

The Wonder Twins and Undervaluing Our Children...

It’s not easy feeling small and undervalued; not in real life, and not in heroic stories. Being overlooked is the constant lot of sidekicks, a reality they probably expect—they’re still in training, after all. The Wonder Twins have to deal with this underwhelming attitude in the 70’s cartoon, Super Friends, and other DC shows they appear in. Most of the time, it seems like they are tagging along with the real heroes, even though they are part of the team. They’re kids, they’re only effective if they’re within physical reach of one another, and by most accounts in the fandom world, they’re fairly lame. I’ll be honest; if I was in need of a hero and the Wonder Twins showed up, I’d try to be polite, but I’d be super disappointed. And worried. If Children Believe in the Impossible, We Can Too Like the Wonder Twins, kids in general are sometimes overlooked or undervalued. They are small, weak, and needy. They can’t do a lot on their own and need almost constant supervision. They’re not the kind of people you’d send out on big missions, much less to the grocery store on their own. But, kids also have a lot to offer—even when they’re little. Just by being themselves, they have value. Their parents love them because they are theirs. They reflect truth on such a pure, unfiltered basis, that if they were listened to more frequently, they could teach adults a ton. Their imaginations make them as super as the Wonder Twins. As shapeshifters, the Twins can become anything from an elephant to a bucket of water, and if you ask a little kid, so can she. Nothing is impossible for little ones. Children inform my faith, too. God says that nothing is...

7 Pieces of Wisdom from Fire Emblem Warriors...

Too many stories include words of advice or life lessons in a heavy-handed manner, which leaves me feeling empty. I wonder how I am supposed to apply such black and white advice in a life full of greys, but I was inspired by the tidbits of tangible wisdom in these conversations between classic and modern characters in Fire Emblem Warriors. Though it’s a battle game, these optional Support Conversations, which are exclusive dialogues between two characters, provide insight into characters’ struggles that remind me of my own. Warriors provides applicable life lessons packaged in only three minutes. Here are seven that impacted me the most. 1. Working Too Hard Can Lead to Failure (Takumi and Xander) This scene opens up with Takumi, prince of Hoshido, discouraged about his less-than-perfect archery practice: “Only 90 out of 100 bull’s-eyes today. Pathetic. . . I’m not leaving here until I hit 96 or more.” Xander, the eldest prince of Nohr, finds him and is surprised to see him working so late; however, Takumi says he won’t take a break until he is satisfied with his performance, since he doesn’t have “the luxury of rest.” Xander explains how he, too, used to train to excess like Takumi: “I was proud of my efforts, until I realized I was in fact setting myself back. I spent almost as much time bedridden from exhaustion as I did actual training. . . If you train too hard, you will get hurt.” When watching this scene, I was reminded of my days as a student, always aiming for that perfect A and not satisfied with a 90. I’ll never forget when one of my friends studied so hard for an exam that she bombed it out of exhaustion. Although it’s hard for...