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...

Faith, Self-Harm, and Depression in Far Cry 5...

It’s no accident that Far Cry 5’s fictional district in Montana is named Hope County. The game features many people looking for hope, reminding me of North America’s current political landscape, changing values, shifting economics, and fear of war. In Far Cry 5, you play as a deputy tasked with arresting a charismatic cult leader. His cult, one that hijacks many Christian themes and practices but warps them into something sinister, has slowly been taking over Hope County. Though the game features several characters with tragic stories, John Seed’s journey of “faith” is perhaps the most horrendous to me. Introduced as he makes a speech reminiscent of contemporary televangelists, complete with electric guitar music, bright lights and even a catchy slogan, John tells his “testimony” of abuse, addiction, and seeking escape, until meeting “The Father” (the cult leader—Joseph Seed). John says, “I spent my whole life looking for more things to say yes to . . . then Joseph showed me how selfish I was being, always taking, always receiving . . . the best gift is not the one you get, it’s the one you give.” He has experienced tremendous trauma over the course of his life and done things that haunt him. On the surface, his words sound nice. But the hope he offers turns out to be false. I am often angry at myself for not being able to overcome depression. For one thing, his method of atonement is tattooing the names of his sins on his body and then cutting them out—a practice he encourages others to partake in. Freedom is experienced through self-torture and suffering, according to John—an idea that is not all that foreign in the real world, though not always to this extreme. Inflicting pain on ourselves can...

A Symptom, Not a Disease: Gaming Addiction and Isolation...

With the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classifying “gaming disorder” as an addiction, parents across the nation are breathing sighs of relief that their concerns are validated; they may have access to more specialized services now to get help for their gamer children; they may feel they have even more reason to ban video games from their children’s lives. In this eleventh revision of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), gaming disorder is defined as: “1) impaired control over gaming (e.g. onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” What the WHO doesn’t clarify, unfortunately, is that many of these signs can very easily be misread as coming from gaming when the source is actually something else, such as bullying, parental neglect, depression, social isolation, or anxiety. Growing up, I was labeled a “video game addict” because I would come home from school, do my homework, then hide in the basement playing as many hours of Halo and Gears of War as I could squeeze in. My parents would often yell at me and take the games away, considering me lazy or entitled. What they didn’t know was that I was being bullied and abused at school, and depressed to the point of considering suicide. My parents targeted the only thing they could see, my gaming habit, and didn’t go deeper. I wasn’t articulate enough and didn’t feel safe enough to tell them about how awful life at school was. I had bad grades, didn’t want to be at school, and exhibited every sign the WHO names as symptoms of gaming disorder. What I needed, however, wasn’t fewer games, but a life free from the social anxiety I had been experiencing. The games were just a symptom. This is the best way to love a nerd—to show interest in the things they love. After graduating, I moved out and my gaming habits changed overnight. Getting out of high school and leaving abuse behind, dating a wonderful person, gaining a spiritual mentor, and being independent all changed my context. Without any intervention, all the signifiers of a gaming addiction went away. I have always enjoyed games and will always enjoy games; I still play them for hours on end, just like someone else might golf, knit, garden, or play guitar for hours. As opposed to these other hobbies, video games are often considered inherently worthless, which is why they’re stigmatized. But I was never addicted; I was alone, afraid and hurting. The WHO identifying gaming disorder as a mental health issue could, with the correct mindset, help those in need find help, and give those who are not addicted more breathing room. However, the reporting on this issue continues a trend of shaming, judgement, and harassment towards the gaming community, which is a strong basis for the addiction itself. While gaming addiction is a real thing that has serious consequences, misdiagnosing it when there is an underlying cause is dangerous. When one of the reasons we retreat into exploring digital worlds to the point of shunning other people is feeling isolated, the solution is be very simple: connection. Most parents look at their children’s passion for video games and think that limiting time on them, forbidding their children to play them, or throwing the games in the trash are good solutions for solving what they see as an addictive habit. However, more often than not, this drives gamers to extremes to seek out the hobby and escalates conflict in the home. When parents refuse to consider their children are investing so much time in their hobby because they have difficult lives, not because games are making their lives difficult, gamers can feel misunderstood and even more isolated than...

God of War and the Weight of Fatherhood...

I never wanted to be a father. I love my two children and the people they are growing to be, but there are many days I wish I wasn’t responsible for them. Not that I’d want my children to cease to exist, rather I often wish I could give them a better father, one who acts more like the other dads I meet. I’m sure I’m not alone in these feelings of inadequacy, but when I talk to other fathers, they often mention how much they love being dads. They show off their photos of their kids and enjoy being in the company of children. I never feel that way. That doesn’t mean I want to be a distant father, I just feel like my goals for parenting, and the “unconventional” ways I may express love or encouragement, are wrong when compared to others. I’ve struggled with feeling alone in these emotions. But when I began playing the latest installment of God of War, I found a kindred spirit in Kratos. Kratos is the god of war in the Greek pantheon, and after spending three games murdering every other god he could get his hands on, he’s grown tired of killing and retired to Midgard. There, he’s settled down with a fierce warrior woman, Faye, and had a son. But with her death, he is left alone with “the boy” (this is literally what he calls Atreus, 99% of the time). Near the beginning of the game, Kratos cries out to his dead wife: “Why did you leave me alone with him? You were always better at this.” As we discussed the ways Kratos is making a mess of fathering and how destructive his secrets are, I found myself understanding how he feels. Every...

Playing Light Fall Means Accepting I will Fail...

Light Fall, a recent platformer released on April 28, 2018, by Bishop Games, is not an easy game. Once past the tutorial stage, the game moves so fast I had trouble seeing danger before it was too late. And yet, I still find it fun. I’ve enjoyed the hours I’ve put into it. I’ve liked the challenge. I rarely ever feel this way about my own life or work. I tend to associate ease with skill, so I expect a successful journey to be a smooth one. If I have difficulty achieving a goal, then I assume there’s some deficiency in me. But if I actually enjoy the challenge of Light Fall, shouldn’t I also face them well in life? Light Fall puts players in control of a bright-eyed sprite in a dark world and demands the world is explored at breakneck speed. Characteristically, I found myself taking a slow, methodical approach to the opening levels but soon discovered I needed all the momentum I could get. It was impossible to make it through some stretches without failing two, three, or even ten times! Light Fall offers limited tools to get the job done—namely, the Shadow Core, a magical box that lets me move through the game’s stages in ways that would be impossible for Mario or Luigi. It literally allows me to make a way where there was none before, and although it grants me more mastery and freedom, there are limits and obstacles that are still tricky to overcome. In life, as in Light Fall, flawless first runs are happy coincidences; even so, I’ve come to crave and expect them. It turns out the biggest obstacle is me. Light Fall makes it possible to string together beautiful, satisfying runs and it’s a...

10 Female Video Game Characters Who Aren’t Objectified...

Sex sells, which is why video games have a history of objectifying female characters. Many games also feature women with little to no autonomy—think of the princesses Peach and Zelda, waiting in their respective castles for the heroes of plumbers and time to rescue them. They are often stereotypical in their roles—soft-spoken healers who care for the emotions of the party, only there as a side character or love interest. But female, playable characters with three-dimensional personalities and backstories, those who are not objectified for their body types, are gaining momentum in the video game industry. Here are some of our favourites: 1. Chell — Portal Chell is a silent protagonist and, as a test subject, she is physically fit but her jumpsuit is not designed to look sexy. You learn about her, not through dialogue, but by your unrelenting attempts to escape and GLaDOS’s responses to your actions. In the Portal 2: Lab Rat comic, her file says: “Test subject is abnormally stubborn. She never gives up. Ever.” We love that her stubbornness is built in as a function of the game. “The female protagonist of Portal remains fully clothed, from head to knee, throughout the entire game. Moreover, her gender is not used to sexualize the shooter, or market it to horny teenage boys, in any way. No, the hero of Portal just happens to be a normal-looking and normal-dressing woman, like 50% of the world’s population. Imagine that.” —Charlie Barratt “The Top 7 Lazy Character Cliches” (GamesRadar) 2. Aloy — Horizon Zero Dawn Aloy doesn’t deny her femininity to be strong. She isn’t crude, arrogant, or violent to overcome being a woman in a man’s world. She isn’t searching for a male figure to date or marry either, and isn’t consumed with the desire...

6 Video Game Characters with Chronic Conditions...

Video games let us live power fantasies, playing as heroes who epitomize mental fortitude and physical vitality. Characters too sick to leave home or struck with debilitating symptoms mid-combat aren’t usually the playable heroes; usually, characters who suffer from illnesses are the NPCs in need of escorting or rescuing. However, some video games are beginning to reframe empowerment by telling stories about characters who live (and save the day) with chronic conditions. Here are six that should be on every gamer’s radar. 1. Rhys, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance & Radiant Dawn Rhys spends his childhood sickly and bedridden, daydreaming of sword fights, flying, playing with the laughing children outside his window—anything but living with cramps, fevers, body spasms, nausea, dizziness, and the fear of being a burden. Eventually taking up the staff of a priest (but unable to cure himself), Rhys endures many years being denied permanent employment due to his chronic illness before finding acceptance among the Greil Mercenaries, a group led by a warrior with a disabled arm. Years later, Rhys gains enough field experience to become a wielder of powerful light magic, but finds his greatest joy simply in being surrounded by friends and coworkers who understand that he “can’t help being barfy all the time.” “Rhys participates in battles despite his illness. He’s a rare example in [the Fire Emblem] series of a healer you get in the early game who is a male.”— Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Memorial Book Tellius Recollection: The First Volume 2. Athena Cykes, Ace Attorney: Duel Destinies An 18-year-old prodigy lawyer, Athena uses her ultra-sensitive hearing to help discern witnesses’ emotions in court. As a child, her susceptibility to sensory overload provoked anxiety and insecurity, causing her to skip school and live a...

Not How We Look, but How We Play: Facial Deformity and Video Games...

Many of us struggle with our appearance, particularly our faces. We want to be attractive, but we don’t feel that way. And faces can be important to understanding each other; movements of the eyes and lips allow us to share warmth or heartbreak. But when we are uncomfortable with ourselves, we hide behind a mask of indifference, hoping to please others or protect ourselves by playing a role. Sometimes, however, masks allow us to genuinely share who we are without fear of rejection, and video game avatars have allowed me to do just that. As someone with hemifacial microsomia—a lopsided face—feeling respected for who I am deep down is challenging. People with facial deformities or blemishes relate to others in ways that may be difficult to understand (the recent movie Wonder helped demonstrate this). Many of us grew up experiencing funny looks and hearing less-than-kind remarks. Most kids eventually learn that it is not polite to ask, “Why does your face look funny?” but by the time a person’s peers reach that stage, the question has already been internalized. (As an adult, however, I sometimes appreciate the candor of people who politely inquire.) In fiction, disfigurement can be a sign of being destined for something amazing, like Harry Potter’s scar, but often it is a symbol of shame or villainy, like Batman’s Two-Face. Video games create worlds where those who look strange can interact normally through digital masks. Video games that include underrepresented characters allow players to enact aspects of their own stories. Many have enjoyed Horizon Zero Dawn because they know what is like to be an outsider like Aloy. Similarly, Overwatch’s Symmetra is on the autism spectrum. Finding ourselves in these stories, being characterized as heroes instead of villains, reminds us that...

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...