7 Video Game Characters with Disabilities...

Roughly 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability. Applied to video games, that means one of the seven Sages, two members of Organization XIII, and eight fighters on the Super Smash Bros. Wii U roster should, realistically, be disabled. There’s quite a gap in representation from video games and other pop culture mediums. However, some games are beginning to tell stories featuring heroes, villains, NPCs, and playable characters with disabilities. Since you might already be familiar with Joker, Taimi, and Bentley, here are seven video game characters with disabilities that deserve deeper discussion. Noctis Lucis Caelum, Final Fantasy XV Noctis spends part of his childhood in a wheelchair, having barely survived a daemon’s wrath. Even after recovery, however, his left leg retains a permanent limp—most easily noticed during gameplay when he’s not sporting a jacket. The game never points out Noctis’ impairment with words, nor does Noctis’ character arc require him to overcome his handicap as the “chosen one.” Yet, by the time he confronts the final boss while wearing a leg brace, it’s obvious that Noctis is the first Final Fantasy hero (and one of few gaming protagonists) with a physical disability. “Though [Noctis] was chosen by the Crystal to serve as the savior of this star, an injury incurred as a young boy deprived him access to the full potential of his innate power.”—Final Fantasy XV Dossiers Ardyn Izunia, Final Fantasy XV Try as he might to disguise it with his swaggering gait and layered clothing, Ardyn’s stiff left hip is betrayed by a wobbly knee, skewed center of gravity, and myriad of other anatomical winces, twitches, and nuances. These unspoken subtleties not only serve as the earliest clue to Ardyn’s heritage and reinforce his role as Noctis’...

Experiencing Psychosis through the Eyes of Senua...

“But the darkness, it just builds onto itself, growing stronger, towering over her. You might try and ignore it, turn away, but it’s always there just out of sight, where you are most vulnerable. It’s like it knows that just enough light is all you need to see it’s suffocating power.” Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a video game about Senua, a Nordic warrior who lost her lover and journeys to the gates of Hel to retrieve his lost soul. Immediately the game makes it clear that all is not well with Senua. From the moment you hit play, there are voices in your head, and they haunt you throughout the game. They question your purpose and self-worth, fading in and out throughout your journey. Almost as soon as the voices appear, you try to tune them out. The voices’ consistent and persistent nagging form a backdrop of cacophony that saturates the very air you breathe. Throughout the game, enemies fade into reality or appear behind you. It’s unclear whether they are real or not. In fact, everything from the gods and spirits you fight to the feverish narratives explaining Senua’s story seem questionable. Yet, in the midst of this chaos, the game delivers heart-breaking moments of clarity, where the voices stop and Senua can remember clearly the beauty of her relationship, and the horror she went through watching her lover die. Senua set out on her quest after meeting Druth, a strange, shaman-like character who was a slave to the northmen; he told her the stories of the Nordic gods, the gates of Hel, and a chance to retrieve her lover’s soul. It’s unclear whether Druth’s narratives are actually helpful, or whether he is sending her on an impossible errand, giving false hope to...

Sight without Vision: Ignis and the Impact of Integrity...

The glasses-wearing Ignis is a character who makes sharp-sighted observations, despite his “passable vision,” in Final Fantasy XV. His attention to detail certainly helps when Prince Noctis, the protagonist of the game, is vulnerable to unforeseen dangers—which in Ignis’s book is everything from a hidden assassin to an unraveling button. But Ignis’s perception reaches a crossroads in his DLC side-story, Episode Ignis, when he is shown a vision of Prince Noctis’ imminent death. His good judgement is thrust into my hands and I can choose to “save” Noctis from his canon fate and alter the end-game… if I’m willing to follow the villain for a time. But this choice comes at the cost of compromise. In “playing along” with the villain rather than fighting him outright, I feel I’ve put a hairline crack in Ignis’s uncompromising integrity—his oath to remain loyal to Noctis. Such a choice might be considered developmental for other characters, but Ignis is written to be a personification of medieval loyalty: the type of guy who could rub shoulders (and skillets) with Samwise Gamgee. Ironically, I feel like I am betraying Ignis by taking this path, even though the cooperation is a facade. Ignis teaches that focusing on what can’t immediately be seen with the physical eye gives context to every moment and the motivation to follow through. But I do it. Ignis declares (through unhinged rasps) that the world means nothing to him and that Noctis must be saved at the cost of all else. I’m more disquieted than moved. Gone is the Ignis who rebuked others for trying to force Noctis into becoming king and saviour. Though well-intentioned, Ignis fails to be true to himself and loses sight of his role as a result; instead of helping Noctis “share...

7 Meaningful Video Games from 2017...

1. RiME This game is a balm for my torn-up soul. It begins as a quiet, peaceful exploration of a gorgeous, sunlit island, then turns dark as I stumble belowground, meeting shadowy figures that whisper as I pass by. The character I control, a young boy in a red cloak, never meets anyone else on his journey, and for some reason the solitude and lack of dialogue is comforting. Finding a way back to the sun and some surprising scenes with the boy’s father reveals the game has been about working through grief. RiME, with its intriguing puzzles and gorgeous soundtrack, reminds us that sometimes we have to let ourselves experience the darkness before we find hope again. —Allison Barron 2. Destiny 2 Destiny 2 brings me all the joy I’ve been missing since the original Halo trilogy. The single-player experience resonated with me deeply. The Guardians have lost their powers. Not only does this rob them of their immortality, but makes them vulnerable to the onslaught of the Red Legion. This loss gives way to hope under the light of the Traveler. The multiplayer is where the game really shines, incentivizing friends and clanmates to play together to complete the quests, spurring us into community with each other.  —Justin Koop 3. Assassin’s Creed: Origins I love the determination of Bayek as he moves through Egypt to destroy the people responsible for his son’s murder. The game’s attention to cultural and physical accuracy was remarkable in the art full of vivid blues and greens, the temples and their devotion to worship. The waters were muddy and you could see how dirty it was when you swam in it. The environment looked so real that our dog kept trying to play with the camels. The first time Bayek...

Go to Pinstripe’s Hell...

“Go to hell!” was a popular phrase during my parents’ generation. The concept is pretty straightforward—Hell, a place of eternal torture and torment, is somewhere you’d want to send your enemies. I never grew up with any form of spirituality, but Hell or the idea of an underworld always caught my attention. It’s not that I was afraid of it, but fascinated by the mythologies that surrounded it. As a teenager, I became interested in Christianity and was confronted by terms like “lake of fire” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” However, as I continued to mature, that concept of Hell didn’t match up with with what I was learning about a loving God. The definition of Hell was too simplistic. Why would a God who cared let anyone go to such a horrifying place? It’s a question that I’ve wrestled with over the years. So when I stumbled upon an indie video game called Pinstripe, which featured an ex-minister who journeyed to the depths of Hell to retrieve his kidnapped daughter, I couldn’t click “Back this project” on Kickstarter fast enough. As a father myself, it was like this game was made specifically for me, engaging with this idea of Hell and punishment. Why would a God who cared let anyone go to such a horrifying place? Before Pinstripe was released, Thomas Brush (the game’s creator) asked followers to complete the following sentence in a tweet: “Hell is a place where…” Most, if not all, of the responses referenced some form of external punishment imposed upon people who deserved it. Hell is where “every step is torture and pain,” “your deepest fears live,” “you are eternally falling,” or “the game Pinstripe never got funded”… You get the idea. However, the game’s interpretation of...

YouTube for the Fandom Loving Soul, Vol. 1: Video Games...

New from the Geekdom House Records! Four explosive hits from original stars! It’s the YouTube for the Fandom-Loving Soul, Volume One. Mistersyms, Malukah, Lindsey Stirling, and William Joseph all make the cut in this once-in-a-lifetime combination that will knock your socks off. All for the low price of FREE. Money back guaranteed. Don’t wait. Watch now. 1. Piltover Dubstep (League of Legends) 2. The Dragonborn Comes (Skyrim) 3. Halo Theme Honourable Mention: The Legend of Zelda movie...

When We’re Shunned by Society...

Geeks have a history of being unloved. I have felt an outcast, particularly growing up in the church, for enjoying things like video games. Magic: The Gathering and comics were spoken about as worthless, vile and even deadly, yet I found joy, hope, community and even God in these passions. It’s tempting to turn my back on the society that rejects me. And yet, if we contribute to it instead, we foster joy instead of hate (plus, we make a better name for ourselves). In Horizon: Zero Dawn, you play an outcast from the Nora tribe named Aloy. When she encounters other people from the tribe, they throw rocks at her, ignore her, or treat her with disdain (sounds familiar). Her adopted father trains her in hunting, combat, and survival so when she comes of age she can participate in the Proving, a series of physical tests (sounds less familiar). Passing the tests would mean rejoining the tribe. Why do these people, why do I, strive to give back to a culture that doesn’t understand? Understandably, Aloy isn’t even sure if she wants to join them because of the way they have treated her. After she defeats a Sawtooth, the final challenge of the Proving, her adopted father says, “For years you’ve trained to win the Proving, but only for yourself. As a brave, it will be your duty to fight for your tribe.” “My tribe?!” she replied. “You said I wouldn’t need them.” “But I never said the tribe wouldn’t need you.” Aloy could turn her back on society and leave them to die without her. But she doesn’t. Instead, she steps into the role of protector for several tribes. She sacrifices her future for the very people who spurned her. Most people...

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...