Identifying with a Sarcastic Martian Apr04

Identifying with a Sarcastic Martian

Sarcasm is my love language. If anyone can understand what I mean by this, it’s Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian novel by Andy Weir. Watney, a brilliant botanist and astronaut, finds himself stranded on Mars after his crew abandons him for dead. Completely isolated, he has to survive in a hostile environment that is basically out to kill him every second of every day. New problems stack up during his indefinite stay on the planet while he waits for a rescue that may never come—how to get enough oxygen? What to eat? Where to get water? How to pass the time when you don’t have Netflix? You know, the important stuff. But perhaps the biggest problem he faces is psychological. How to stay sane? (Remember, there’s no Netflix on Mars.) Watney answers this question with one coping mechanism. Watney is stranded for several months before being able to communicate with Earth. His ten days of isolation training at NASA is a joke. Even the most introverted of people (and I would know) need a certain amount of social interaction to stay mentally sound. How does he deal with his isolation? The only way he can: with humour. “I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.” (The Martian) Many studies have shown that humour and laughter are therapeutic for relieving tension and anxiety. There is even evidence to support that a good sense of humour can contribute to muscle relaxation, control of pain, positive moods, and overall psychological health. NASA psychologist Al Holland also says it’s actually healthy for a completely isolated person to start interacting with inanimate objects (think of the volleyball named Wilson from Cast Away). Watney has a similar relationship with his camera and logbook, using them to talk out what he is going through. This is also a way for him to express his delightful sarcasm. “Problem is (follow me closely here, the science is pretty complicated) if I cut a hole in the Hab, the air won’t stay inside any more.” (The Martian) Humour, for me, has always been a way of coping with less than optimal experiences and, most importantly, it helps me battle loneliness (that, and Netflix). My close friends know to crack a joke when I am sad, because it will relieve my tension. I know that if I make a joke about my own negative feelings, it will shed some light in my darkness. Growing up in an evangelical Christian environment, I often felt like humour was frowned upon when talking about God or my beliefs (not by my parents, bless my dad’s sarcastic heart, but by “the church” in general). God was serious business; you didn’t joke about him and certainly not with him. (See “A Laughing Matter” for more on humour and the Christian Church.) I only thought to question this later in life. If I’m operating under this presumption that I am created in God’s “own image,” is it so far-fetched to extrapolate that God may have a sense of humour of his own? I mean, talking donkeys, kings literally caught with their pants down, stomachs so big they swallow up the sword they’re stabbed with and it’s not discovered until the autopsy—some of these biblical tales are rather amusing. There’s definitely irony there. Is it so unbelievable that Jesus could have cracked a joke? Wouldn’t his listeners have laughed when he talked about rulers calling themselves “benefactors,” when the working folk knew very well those in authority were just the opposite? That’s actually bordering on sarcasm. Jesus, sarcastic? No, that can’t be right. Could it be that Jesus knew about this trick that Mark Watney employed, that psychologists have confirmed? That humour is the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Okay, fine, perhaps not the answer to everything, but it sure makes my...

But Nobody Came

It was with gritted teeth and DETERMINATION that I slayed Toriel, the sweet, mother-like figure who only wanted to guide me through the ruins and keep me safe. She wasn’t difficult to destroy. It took one hit. There was no heroic fanfare upon her death, no flashing text congratulating me on my victory, no epic loot, and there shouldn’t have been. The sight of Toriel’s heart breaking in two was all the reward I got for my efforts. I wasn’t a hero. I was a murderer. Before you completely write me off as a monster, let me explain how I got there. I’d already played through Undertale’s pacifist route, going through the game without killing a single creature, talking my way out of battles and making friends with monsters. The most endearing characters in the game (i.e. all of them) became my companions in the adventure, and I grew attached to each of them; from Papyrus, the skeleton with a heart of gold who just wants to be tough enough to join the Royal Guard, to Alphys, the reptilian creature with a fondness for anime who stutters her way through conversations, to Mettaton, the robot who hosts a popular TV show in the Underground—I loved them all. “It was you who led the world to its destruction. You think you are above consequences.” And I killed them all. Because there was more story to be learned from making a genocide playthrough, and I must know ALL THE THINGS. The things that were… the things that are… and some things that have not yet come to pass. Like a serpent was offering me an apple, I was tempted. I had to know. ALL OF IT. The scenes in the game became drastically different compared to...

Biting Bullets: LoL and Toxicity

I got yelled at the other day by a stranger. Full blown, at the top of the lungs yelled at. It was a dark and icy Winnipeg evening. I was driving home from my friend’s place and there came a point where I was yielding right onto a highway. As I waited, I saw a break in traffic and I thought I had plenty of time to merge. I misjudged the speed of an oncoming truck, though, and the driver had to slow down for me. I didn’t hear any squealing brakes or see any fishtailing, he just had to slow down a bit. We were approaching a red light so it’s not like he lost any time. But he honked and honked, drove up to the right side of my vehicle, and when he didn’t see me respond to his horn, backed up and drove around my other side, rolled down his window and let it loose. I looked over at his angry, yelling face, and I did not want to roll down my own window to fully hear whatever swears and insults he was shouting at me. “I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being.” I wanted to apologize. He was right, I had made a mistake. I had misjudged his speed. The roads were icy and maybe he had pumped his brakes or skidded a little, and that can be dangerous. But I was pretty sure if I rolled down my window in an attempt to apologize, I wouldn’t be able to get a word in before the light turned green. I would have had to shout to be heard, and “I’M SORRY!!” doesn’t sound very contrite when you’re yelling over the person you’re trying to apologize to. So I uncomfortably stared straight ahead, counting the long seconds until the light turned and I was able to drive off in relief. As I drove home, I realized the situation uncannily reminded me of League of Legends. My experiences in League are where my natural response (or lack of) came from. “Don’t feed the trolls,” the internet will tell you, and this is a habit I’ve picked up. I ignore the players who are angry at me. I call them jerks in my head for not understanding that I hadn’t meant to feed bot lane (i.e. die several times to the other team). It hadn’t been my intention to apparently ruin my jungler’s entire life by doing so. Sometimes the other player is just better, you know? It’s not always because I suck (and never because the Jinx yelling at me does, obviously. She’s Gold 2 and she never makes mistakes. She told me so herself). Ignoring the angry players doesn’t make it better, but at least it doesn’t make it worse. I can’t help turn that event with the angry driver over in my mind, though, wondering if I should have bitten the bullet, rolled down my window and attempted an apology. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe he was just taking out other frustrations on me. Maybe if I burst out crying in front of him because he was yelling at me, he would have let me get out an “I-I-I’m sorry”? In a recent League of Legends match I played, I was jungling (running around the map killing creatures to level up while my teammates fight the enemy players) and made the mistake of starting to kill the dragon (a creature that gives the whole team gold and advantages when you kill it) at a poorly planned time. I thought only one enemy champion was nearby, but the entire opposing team was lying in wait. We were outnumbered. We died. We lost the dragon to the other team. Our Brand (Leaguers generally refer to teammates by their character names rather than their gamertags because who can keep track of those) was… well… “upset” was putting it mildly....

Lessons of the Emotionless Jan13

Lessons of the Emotionless...

In “Chuck Versus the Three Words,” when Sarah is trying to train Chuck to be a spy, she tells him, “You need to learn to ignore your emotions. Spies do not have feelings. Feelings get you killed. You need to learn to bury them in a place deep inside.” I know exactly how Sarah feels. Well, maybe not exactly since I’ve never been a spy (or if I have, I certainly wouldn’t admit it here. Shhh.). But I understand. I experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum growing up via members of my family. I had a couple extremely unemotional family members, who kept their feelings buried deep inside, and a couple extremely emotional ones, who let out their pent-up feelings in outbursts of anger and shouting matches. As a quiet introvert myself, I decided the latter didn’t look healthy or fun, and I would join the ranks of the stoic flag holders in my family. I came to believe that letting people know how I felt was a weakness; it made me feel vulnerable and I didn’t like that feeling. Crying in front of someone was an absolute no-no. If you loved someone, you didn’t tell them that; and you especially didn’t tell a guy you had feelings for him. That was just giving them the opportunity to hurt you…   Read the whole article from Christ and Pop...

Earthbending stereotypes Jan04

Earthbending stereotypes...

“My daughter is blind! She is blind and tiny and helpless and fragile. She cannot help you!” Toph Beifong’s father describes the convention of portraying disabilities in television. Typically, mainstream television shows depicts characters with disabilities through one-off episodes. These characters are admired for their courage, but pitied for the disadvantages they face on a daily basis. The stories almost always focus on the character’s disability and how this teaches the main character something about life, and rarely on the disabled person’s abilities, personality, or accomplishments. Few shows, if any, challenge that stereotype better than Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Aang and his friends are searching for an earthbender powerful enough to teach the Avatar everything he will need to know, they attend Earth Rumble VI, an earthbending tournament held underground in a giant arena. They watch huge men pummeling each other with rocks until the final round, where the reigning champion known as the Blind Bandit shows up. “I am the greatest earthbender in the world! Don’t you two dunderheads ever forget it.” The Blind Bandit turns out to be a tiny girl who is literally blind. She uses her abilities to sense vibrations through the earth in order to tell where her enemies are. And of course, she beats the hulking champ, “The Boulder” to a pulp in the final round. After she disappears when the tournament concludes, Aang uses clues from a vision to find her, and discovers she is the only child of a wealthy couple who treat her with kid gloves; they allow her to learn earthbending, but only at beginner levels, hire servants to blow on her soup when it’s too hot, and make sure her walks (within the confines of their property, of course) are supervised. When her help...

The Best of Area of Effect 2015 Dec30

The Best of Area of Effect 2015

If you want to bring in the new year with some Area of Effect reading, check out our best of the best from 2015. These are the top three Editor’s Picks from every category for the year, spanning topics from Iron Man’s sarcasm to cancer and LARPS. Read the stories you’ve missed and refresh yourselves on the articles you’ve loved as we move on to a new year! ANIME 1. “Slaying Zuko”by Christopher Johnson AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER 2. “Meek, Weak, or Chic” by Casey Covel DEATH NOTE , TRIGUN 3. “Not Just Another Number” by Mark Barron SPIRITED AWAY COMICS 1. “Irony Man” by Jason Dueck IRON MAN 2. “Oh, the Superhumanity” by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry BATMAN 3. “Swinging a Mile in Spiderman’s Tights” by Jason Dueck SPIDERMAN FANTASY 1. “Letters from Father Christmas” by Kyla Neufeld TOLKIEN 2. “Fairy Land Meets Real Life” by Christopher Johnson PHANTASTES 3. “A Mennonite Reads The Lord of the Rings” by Robert Martin SCI-FI 1. “Faith Like Obi-Wan’s” by Jason Dueck STAR WARS 2. “Retreating into Mercy” by Michael Boyce DOCTOR WHO 3. “Let’s Be Bad Guys” by Kyle Rudge FIREFLY TABLETOP 1. “Confessions of a DM” by Sheela Cox DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 2. “Don’t Bounce Burgundy” by Michael Penner DIPLOMACY 3. “Monopolizing My Integrity” by Dustin Asham MONOPOLY VIDEO GAMES 1. “Sorry, Sora” by Casey Covel KINGDOM HEARTS 2. “Does It Matter If I’m a Jerk?” by Steven Sukkau DAYZ, DESTINY 3. “Snuffed Out” by Rob Horsley FIRE EMBLEM: AWAKENING HUMOUR 1. “A Gremlin’s Guide to Gift Giving” by Michael Boyce GREMLINS 2. “Battle of Cute and Deadly” by Allison Barron FUTURAMA, POKEMON 3. “Unlikely Friendships” by Kyle and Allison HARRY POTTER, HALO OTHER/CROSSOVERS 1. “Retcon, God, Please Retcon” by Kyle Rudge LARPS 2. “Mechon, Titan, Black and White” by Casey Covel ATTACK ON TITAN 3. “In Sickness and Unhealth” by Allison Barron BSG, FULLMETAL...

A gamer’s guide to depression...

I am left with oddly strangled emotions as I watch Limbo revert back to the title screen. This was a dark game. As someone who has experienced depression, I am not horrified, but rather relieved that someone else can express the difficult emotions that I have felt in the past. It might sound odd, but by playing a nameless boy who runs through a dark forest solving emotionally disturbing puzzles, I feel like I am not alone. There’s something about actually playing a character myself, about walking, running, and sliding through a dark world, dying and getting up again, that is cathartic. This is different than watching someone go through numbing emotions in a book or a movie—when I play, this is me. I make the choice to go forward or stand still. Though my control is limited to where the game takes me; this ironic similarity to life does not escape me. One of the hardest things about depression is facing friends who don’t understand what it feels like. It can be exhausting trying to explain that you can’t just “cheer up,” even if there is no particular reason for your sadness. Depression can be affected by events in your life, In a game like Limbo, dark feelings are not shoved under a rug because they make people feel uncomfortable.yes, but biology can also play a part. (Recent studies suggest depression is not, contrary to popular belief, caused by a “chemical imbalance,” but other biological factors are likely involved.) Regardless, it’s not something you can kick by plastering a smile on your face and pretending you feel fine. I am encouraged by games that deal with this emotion; not only does it make me feel like other players might understand me better, it is...

In sickness and unhealth Oct16

In sickness and unhealth...

Being sick sucks. There, I said it. And though I suspect this is pretty obvious, I still think it’s worth saying and perhaps even repeating. Being sick sucks. It is the general consensus that if you are sick, you should be coddled, babied, taken care of, and in some cases even pitied. This is hardly the state we expect a hero to be in. When we doodle Superman on our fourth-grade notebooks (or for some of us, on the edges of the manuscripts we are currently editing), we don’t depict him in bed hugging a blanket with a bucket close at hand. We like our heroes to be strong, and how are they supposed to be powerful if they are suffering from an unbearable illness? Okay, some notable heroes catch the odd bug, like when Lucy comes down with a cold in Fairy Tail and Natsu makes it his mission to help her feel better, or when Buffy passes out because of the flu while fighting a vampire, but those are all short-term. I’m talking about the long-term, chronic, debilitating kind of sickness that seriously sucks and all of us dread. Sometimes we have to give up our independence and ask others to carry us when we can’t crawl any more (flans, unite). The truth is, we don’t see a lot of heroes suffering from this type of disease, and for good reason. It’s hard to write around if it isn’t the main focus of the story or episode. Also, psychological disorders and pain seem to be more romantic or something (Batman, Wolverine, or Deadpool anyone?); so you will probably notice characters thus afflicted a lot more frequently. But when I do see a character fighting a long-term physical illness, I love it. I love seeing that particular battle because the...

Short story contest Sep28

Short story contest

Area of Effect wants YOU! …and your Christmas-themed stories. Then why is the image above not of Santa Claus, you ask? Because we don’t want stories about Santa Claus, or Frosty, or Rudolph, or even Jesus, necessarily. We’re looking for creative stories that focus on the mythos of Christmas that takes place in your fictional land, and that could include whatever you dream up. Perhaps the tradition started when space pirates had to drop a load of cargo and rained down treasure on your planet. Perhaps Christmas is a time of fear because that’s when the dark elves come out. You tell us! Length: Between 300 and 1000 words. Manga, comic, or graphic novel stories may be up to two pages long. Acceptable Genres: fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, dystopian, horror, sci-fi/western, fairy tale, folklore/legend, superhero, space opera, science fantasy, steampunk, graphic novel/manga/comic Deadline: October 25, 2015 Prizes: The top three entries will be published in the Christmas issue of Area of Effect magazine alongside other Christmas-themed stories written by published authors. The winning entries will also be posted online at www.geekdomhouse.com. Restrictions: Stories may not include (1) harsh language or profanity, (2) explicit sexual content, or (3) any bashing of people groups or religions. Stories should not surpass a PG-13 rating. Editing: Geekdom House reserves the right to edit the winning entries as necessary, with author permission. How to Enter: Email your submissions with the subject line “Christmas short story submission” to casey@geekdomhouse.com. Written entries should be sent as a Word document; art entries can be sent as a JPG or PDF. Include your full name and a short biography. Questions? Send Casey an email or ask in the...

The devolved Doctor Sep23

The devolved Doctor

Sometimes change is good, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The Doctor has lost something fundamental to my definition of a hero. He changed. And I don’t like it. Mercy is the ninth and tenth Doctor’s frequent weapon of choice. Here is a hero who doesn’t fight for justice by brandishing a blaster, but who is full of forgiveness and looks for nonviolent solutions to the battles surrounding him (unless we’re talking about Daleks, but I consider them the exception to prove the rule). At the end of the rebooted Series One, the Daleks are back in numbers and threatening the Earth. The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) creates a signal that will wipe them out completely, but unfortunately, it will also destroys everything living, including the humans on Earth. The Doctor has his hand on the lever and is faced with the decision to end the lives of everyone he knows on Earth, though the Daleks are presumably going to destroy them anyway. At this moment when every viewer is holding their breaths to see what he will choose to do, the Dalek emperor taunts him. “I want to see you become like me,” he says. “Hail the Doctor, the great exterminator!” The Doctor weeps over his dying enemy. Now that’s a true hero. And as the Doctor’s fist tightens on the lever, the emperor asks him: “What are you, coward or killer?” The Doctor makes a move to push the lever down, but then steps back. “Coward, any day,” he replies. Cowardice. He chooses cowardice. He is the opposite of a Dalek. He is compassionate and merciful. He values life and abhors violence. He is the hero who warms the cockles of my heart. Fast forward to the newest Doctor (Peter Capaldi). There is a distinct contrast between these two doctors. With this latest Doctor we have a bitter and angry Time Lord, ready to destroy (as demonstrated by his willingness to kill Missy in the episode “Death in Heaven”). A Dalek tells him, “I see into your soul, Doctor. I see hatred. You are a good Dalek.” You are a good Dalek. Becoming what you hate is many a person’s fear, and for the Doctor, whose worst enemy is the Dalek, that fear must be tenfold. (Spoiler warning) The first episode of Series Nine, recently aired, ends with the Doctor holding a Dalek weapon that appears to be aimed at the child Davros. The Doctor is so afraid of what Davros will become, about what he will do, that he has returned to Davros’s childhood to destroy him (or that is the assumption). How ironic that the Doctor should wield the weapon of his enemy. Regardless of what the most merciful act truly is—destroying Davros or letting him survive to kill millions—the Doctor appears to be choosing violence as the solution to the problem. Where was compassion? Where was mercy? These values that the Doctor has come to epitomize are lost in the hatred of an evil being. I can’t help but bring back memories of Ten (David “Dreamy” Tennant), whose repeated phrase is “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” words said with genuine empathy. The major plot in Series Three comes to a climax when the Doctor defeats the Master with words. No weapons, just words. “You are a good Dalek.” “As if I would ask her to kill,” the Doctor says to the Master in reference to his companion, Martha, who has saved the day. Then the Doctor forgives the Master for all the evil he has done, and offers to take the Master with him on his travels. Unfortunately, the Master’s wife intervenes and shoots her husband; the Doctor is left with his enemy dying in his arms. And he cries. The Doctor weeps over his dying enemy. Now that’s a true hero. What makes mercy and nonviolence so much more powerful than cold justice?...

Subscribe to Area of Effect Aug19

Subscribe to Area of Effect...

If you enjoy reading these articles that we post online, check out our Kickstarter for the print edition of Area of Effect magazine! There are still some cool rewards you can snatch up, including 1- and 2-year subscriptions, a special edition, and writer for a month. Why print, you ask? Because: 1) There are some amazing artists in there that make it look absolutely beautiful (see the gallery below if you don’t believe us). 2) It will include some special content. 3) It makes a great geek gift. We’ve searched far and wide to find incredible troubadours (think 5e bards, not boring 3e bards) who long to explore geek culture and contribute their voice, their words, and their art to the cause. Some of our writers include esteemed published authors, established bloggers, editors-in-chief, and even the less formally educated but equally passionate and important geeks. Our artists span even further afield. We scour for hours on DeviantArt (and similar sites) looking at the amazing work that so many talented folks have done—and have recruited many to join the AoE team. Our staff and guest writers are passionate about discussing everything geeky under the sun. With your help, we plan to continue providing high quality articles like those you’ve been reading. We are stoked that you readers are enjoying Area of Effect so much: “So beautiful. Thank you for writing.”   “A+ Doctor Who Reference.” “Troy and Abed in the moooooorrrnnnniinnnng!” “As a parent, and one who loves multiplayer interactive games, I have nothing further to say, except well DONE!” “This article awoke my desire to become the Ash Ketchum of underwater basket weaving.” “I absolutely agree. And as more women raise their voices as consumers of all things geek as well as contribute to the creative content of geek culture (I...

Link is fated to die

So this sage fellow tells you that you’re the legendary Hero of Time, and it’s your destiny to save the land from evil. At this news, perhaps your soul puffs up with the righteous thought of your future victory. Or, if you’re like me, you get annoyed at the guy who’s not only telling you what to do, but what you’re going to do, as if you didn’t have a choice. Either way, let’s do this, you say. If it’s your destiny, after all, how can you fail? But then, somewhere along the line, you die. Whether it’s because you let an Octorok spit one too many rocks at you, or because you couldn’t figure out the trick with the first boss, Link’s health will eventually go down accompanied by the annoying beeping and his slight gasp before he falls in slow motion to his doom. Or so it would seem. A second later, however, he’s up and at it with only a few missing hearts to show for his trouble. Now that’s what I call a Hero of Time. Death seems to have found its way so readily into video games because it was the logical fail safe for arcades. You couldn’t have one quarter lasting someone for hours, after all. Pac-Man has to die sometime. Mario can’t avoid being bowled over by Donkey Kong forever.It’s my fate as a gamer to win and fail at the same time in a clashing set of universes. Not only does this impending doom rake in the coins for arcades, but games just wouldn’t be fun without that chance of failure looming over the player’s head. A lot of older games capitalized on the thrill of terror and release. As Churchill put it: “Nothing in life...

Eclipsing the future Jul21

Eclipsing the future

My immediate response was, “NO WAY.” But then I thought about uploading my consciousness into a robotic body some more. The role-playing game Eclipse Phase takes place in a society where the technology to supplant a person’s consciousness (their ego, memories, knowledge, personality, and skills) into a new, often robotic, form exists. Should you get old, sick, or damaged your body is disposable and easily replaced. I was reminded of the argument by Sheldon Cooper—one who displays robot logic himself—about teleportation: “Assuming a device could be invented, which would identify the quantum state of matter of an individual in one location and transmit that pattern to a distant location for reassembly. You would not have actually transported the individual, you would have destroyed him in one location and recreated him in another.” I have a similar problem with this idea of being able to “live forever” in a digital environment. Would it really be me living on? Or would I have died and my memories, personality and skills simply be recreated? Scientists are actually working on the concept of memory transference, even conducting successful experiments by electronically inserting memories into the brains of mice. Perhaps the technology to pass on all my emotional baggage will be available sooner than I would have guessed. And if it works, I ask myself: what if I did it and found myself lost in a sea of ones and zeros, no longer the person I used to be but just a faint reflection? Who would be the one who holds the power behind the technology? Can we trust Skynet? You know, the important questions. If it’s okay to accept a heart transplant or brain surgery, why not this? In Eclipse Phase, various factions control agents who run black ops missions; these...

Happy endings aren’t all that Jul20

Happy endings aren’t all that

As with most TV show finales, some people loved the ending of Chuck, and some people hated it. Personally, I love the traditional happy ending. It gives me warm fuzzies when the criminals are dealt with, the best friend is alive, the guy gets the girl (and vice versa) and the show ends on a positive note with them facing life together. The ending of Chuck is not like this. I think most viewers who had journeyed with Chuck and Sarah thus far expected them to end up together in the white-picket fenced home that Sarah imagines. They would live happily ever after and have little spy babies. What happens instead is something that I think is even more beautiful, though it is devastatingly sad. He is willing to sacrifice everything for the ones he loves Sarah loses all her memories of her life after meeting Chuck. She doesn’t remember knowing him; she doesn’t remember the battles he fought to capture her heart; she doesn’t remember marrying him; she forgets that he is her best friend. In the series finale, Chuck has the opportunity to get Sarah’s memories back by using the Intersect glasses. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief at that point. Here it was: the solution that would tie the ending of the show together in a nice, neat little bow. The answer to our favourite couple’s last conundrum. But then the unthinkable happens. A bomb is about to destroy hundreds of people, and the only way for Chuck to save the day is to use the Intersect glasses on himself. He has to choose: does he bring back Sarah’s memories or save hundreds of lives? It’s not much of a question for Chuck, though that doesn’t make it any less hard for him to do or diminish his sacrifice. He chooses to use the Intersect glasses on himself and diffuses the bomb. The day is saved, but there are no downloads left on the glasses, the Intersect is no more, and Sarah is left without her memories. Every time I see a story emulate this theme of sacrifice, it speaks to me about what is important in my life, about what I put first. Giving up your innermost desire—in effect, sacrificing yourself—for others is the most admirable and loving act I can think of. And Chuck does it without complaint. Sacrificing yourself for others is the most admirable and loving act I can think of. If Sarah can’t see what an amazing guy he is just by that single act, regardless of whatever else she remembers, then she needs to have her brain examined. The show doesn’t end there, though. Morgan persuades Chuck to go find Sarah, and he tracks her down at the beach where they first became friends. There she asks him to tell her their story, and he does. Through her tears and laughter, we see Sarah begin to reconnect with Chuck. We’re also given hope that her memories might come back because of a few tidbits earlier on in the episode. But even if they don’t—and even if their magical ending kiss doesn’t jolt Sarah’s memories back into her brain—if Chuck has demonstrated anything in the past, it’s that he’s willing to fight for her to the very end, and that he is willing to sacrifice everything for the ones he loves. That, in my books, is a truly meaningful...

To punch or not to punch...

Punishing bad guys is the staple to most video games, and for good reason. After all, who doesn’t feel satisfied after sending Bowser hightailing it away, destroying Ganondorf  by using his own magic against him, or giving Sephiroth what for? These games appeal to the desire to right wrongs and to give the villains what they deserve. I want to bring justice to my wounded hero, naturally. The Mass Effect series has some impressive dialogue and morality options (yes it is unfortunate that you have to choose mostly Paragon or Renegade options to get the most out of the game, but I won’t get into that here). I like getting to make my own mistakes and deciding whether I want to punch someone in the face or not, rather than watching the hero commit to actions beyond my control. As such, I get to choose (to an extent) how to carry out justice as Commander Shepard. Many scenarios in the Mass Effect games require choices that affect later outcomes, and a lot of those choices involve dealing with injustice. How I go about doing something is just as important as the end it accomplishes. Is it the “right” choice, for instance, to kill the Rachni Queen on Noveria, or to let her go? The rachni are incredibly dangerous and previously hostile, as proven from the Rachni Wars. The queen’s offspring had just rampaged through Rift Station, slaughtering a lot of people, and you don’t know if she is telling the truth that she wasn’t behind the attacks. Would killing her be just? On the other hand, the scientists on Noveria had trapped her and used her children in an experiment, and if she is telling the truth, she had nothing to do with the murders. Maybe...

The secret of Merlin Jun16

The secret of Merlin

If you’ve ever seen BBC’s Merlin, you’ll know it’s all about keeping secrets. One secret in particular, actually: Merlin’s ability to use magic. In the show, Merlin and Arthur are both young adults, and they become best friends (though it can be hard to tell because Arthur treats Merlin like a lowly manservant most of the time). Magic has been forbidden by Arthur’s father, Uther; it is considered evil. Thus, Merlin continually struggles with his secret: that he is the most powerful wizard alive. He wants to tell Arthur (not only to let him know that he’s saved Arthur’s life countless times without Arthur realizing it, but because keeping a secret from his best friend is hard), but he’s afraid. He knows Arthur, having been taught that magic is evil, might not understand, that he might send Merlin away or even have him killed. “I want you to always be you.” But I think what really scares Merlin the most is that Arthur might not accept him for who he is. Magic is a part of him, and if Arthur can’t accept that, he’d be rejecting Merlin as a person. Sound familiar? I think hiding part of ourselves in order to be accepted is a common reflex, especially when we’re younger; though even I as an adult find myself automatically doing it sometimes. If I think I’m not going to be accepted, if I think I’m going to be laughed at or looked down upon, I am going to want to hide that part of myself. If I’m talking to an acquaintance who thinks video games are a waste of time, do I mention that I played them all day yesterday? Probably not. If it’s because we’re talking about something else and the subject just doesn’t come...

Forcing vulnerability Jun10

Forcing vulnerability...

Truth serum is a good idea in theory, I suppose, but Tris Prior would tell you otherwise. In the movie Insurgent, Tris is forced to take truth serum on trial so that the Candor can validate her story about Jeanine’s betrayal. Tris is adamant about not wanting to take it, but Four convinces her to do it, as it’s the only way to prove their innocence. It’s obvious Tris has been hiding something from Four. She’s been having nightmares, but she hasn’t talked to him about them. She isn’t ready to open up. The truth serum forces her to admit what she’s feeling: guilt for shooting one of her best friends, Will. She might have shot him in self defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that she shot him. When I’m struggling with something, I need to feel ready to talk about it. Opening up about your feelings is good, right? It’s important in relationships to be honest. So that means this should help her relationship with Four and assist her in getting over the trauma, right? Wrong. I can imagine exactly how Tris was feeling, shutting away her emotions so she didn’t have to deal with them. I do this all the time (I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s often how my brain deals with things). And it sure doesn’t help when someone, even a friend, tries to dig those emotions out of me. In fact, that just makes me shut down and I am more likely to retreat from that person, not open up more. Unfortunately for Tris, she didn’t have the luxury of retreating. Tris didn’t have the luxury of retreating. The scene where she admits to killing Will in tears to a huge crowd of Candor people is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve ever...

Concerning Writers: Try and make me Jun04

Concerning Writers: Try and make me...

“We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.” —Orson Scott Card “My story sucks and my characters are boring.” Last time I said this to myself, I really thought hard about why it was the case; I had an interesting world, some quirky characters, and a plot to die for (literally). What was missing? After taking a look at some of my favourite books, television shows, and movies, I figured out what it was: motivation. Go on, try and make them. My characters had no reason for doing what they were doing. The plot might have been interesting, but the stakes weren’t high if my characters wanted nothing. Are they out to save the world? That’s all well and good, but purely altruistic characters are boring (besides Captain America, of course). I don’t want to write about a perfect goody two-shoes, and I’m sure you don’t want to read about one either. That being said, I also don’t want to write about a totally selfish butt. So how do we find a proper balance? Let’s take a look at some of my favourite stories. The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen’s motivation is twofold: 1) to save her sister, and 2) to stay alive. She doesn’t really care about much else. Thus, her story is incredibly dark and exciting. Personally, I never felt very attached to Katniss, though. In fact, I didn’t like her very much at all. She found herself in a position where she could make a difference, and all she really cared about was staying alive...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2) May27

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 2)

There were boulders lining the top of the cliff, and enemy cutthroats hiding behind them. I counted at least four, and recognized Varis among them. They all wore the same black garb, so it was understandable, though incredibly stupid of them, that this group had mistaken Varis for one of their own. Varis must have just gone along with it. I padded forward so I was directly in front of Varis. He noticed and made clicking noises with his tongue at me, patting the ground in front of him as though I was some sort of pet that had come by for a scratch behind my ears. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. I darted up to him and put my paw on his hand. He jumped back in surprise. “What are you doing? came a hiss from the shadows beside us. “Stay down or you’ll blow the whole thing.” An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. This was getting me nowhere. I left Varis to make up some excuse and scurried as fast as I could back to Kriv, transforming back into my half-elf self. I explained the situation, and we came up with a plan. “Good luck,” I whispered to him as I walked back to the cliff base, ready for his signal. But before we could put the plan in place, there was a commotion at the top of the cliff, a yell, and a body came tumbling down, bloody, dead. I didn’t recognize him. I did, however, recognize Varis, who stood at the top of the incline with his sword dripping blood. More shouts pierced the silence and shadows flitted behind him. I took that as my cue and transformed into my most powerful form: a huge, white dire wolf. I leapt up the incline in several bounds to stand by Varis’s side, teeth bared at the oncoming enemies. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, I would have laughed at the surprised expression on Varis’s face as I bounded up the cliff. The enemies didn’t look too keen on approaching Varis now that he had a snarling wolf at his side, either, but we didn’t give them much chance to do any thinking. An arrow pierced my side as I lunged forward. It barely tickled. I was tough. I was winter. My claws were ice. my fangs were knives. I ripped the first enemy’s head off and tossed it over the cliff edge with my teeth. If squirrels could roll their eyes, I would have. Varis swung at one of them with his sword, but the enemy ducked and Varis lost his balance, keeling at the edge of the cliff. Then he pulled his dagger out of nowhere and stuck it in the enemy’s leg, pulling himself up from what would have been an untimely tumble, and causing the enemy to fall off the edge instead. I let out a heaving snort, the equivalent of a wolf chuckle. Rogues certainly were resourceful. Another arrow sailed past me from out of nowhere. The last of the cutthroats, wisely, turned tail and ran. “Oh no you don’t,” Varis growled, pulling out his longbow. I left Varis to deal with the runner, leapt across the chasm to the other side where the arrows were coming from. A second group of four enemies lay in wait, though by that time Kriv had made it up that side of the cliff as well, and they were no match for a dragonborn and a dire wolf. We met up after it was all over, dragged the bodies to cover and looted them. Exhausted, Varis and I collapsed for a quick rest while Kriv stood watch. Then the DM proclaimed the session complete; I got up from the table and went home thinking druids were pretty darn awesome. And that I still should never trust a...

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1) May26

Never trust a rogue: a D&D tale (Part 1)...

The DM led our party of three down a path to infiltrate a camp of enemy soldiers. It was just nightfall, and up ahead loomed cliffs that jutted above either side of the path. “We shouldn’t walk through there. That looks like a perfect spot for an ambush,” said Kriv, a dragonborn whose scales glinted in the light of our torches and whose armour weighed more than I did. He probably made an intimidating figure to outsiders, which is a nice trait for someone who had my back. I glanced at Varis; the rogue’s hooded eyes revealed nothing of what he was thinking, as usual. Never trust a rogue, I thought. Just because I couldn’t forgive him for what he’d done in the past didn’t mean I wanted him to get his throat slit. I could’ve volunteered to survey the cliffs, but I was loathe to waste one of my druid transformations. And besides, with our luck we would be outflanked later on by kobolds somewhere; everyone would look at me for bear-fueled tankiness and then I’d have nothing but my staff to hold them off with. While I didn’t trust Varis to maintain his composure anywhere near a keg of ale—plus, never trust a rogue—he was a very good scout. “I’ll do it,” Varis said. Kriv and I nodded in agreement and the rogue left the circle of torchlight, his black cloak merging with the surrounding darkness. Kriv turned to me. “So, got a deck of cards, Lux?” he asked. “I do,” I replied. “Best two out of three?” “You’re on.” Five rounds later, after Kriv had proven he’d spent much more time in taverns gambling than I did, I glanced worriedly in the direction that Varis had disappeared to. The night was eerily silent. “He’s...