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...

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...

Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone Apr11

Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone...

In the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is still a long way from the agile, clever, gun-toting superwoman plumbing the depths of ancient ruins and uncovering supernatural mysteries. In this film, she’s more of an emotionally stunted adrenaline junkie who throws herself into danger with no care for her life or legacy. Lara’s father disappeared several years ago on “business” and she refuses to sign the papers declaring him legally dead. She cannot handle the idea that her dad, her hero, could be gone forever and so she pursues every lead, even spending thousands of dollars, to find out what happened and where he could have gone. Hanging on to hope seems like an endearing quality. Her resistance to giving up on someone is touted as a great asset to Lara, but it ends up costing her a lot. For seven years, she lives in near poverty and makes few contributions to society because her tremendous assets are frozen. She could help people out, create a foundation in memory of her family, or pursue almost anything to work through her grief, but instead, she lives in delusion. We’re afraid letting go means they are somehow less important in our lives. Lara’s refusal to let go of her father puts not only herself, but others in danger as well. People join her on her journey, facing a vicious storm, a murderous militia, and a deadly curse. Their sacrifices don’t return her father to her. I have been fortunate in my life that very few family members have passed away. I know the days are coming when it will happen. And I’ve spent a lot of recent time with those who have lost loved ones; I have seen the grief I will one day...

Black Panther Invites Us to Make Homes for Those Without Feb28

Black Panther Invites Us to Make Homes for Those Without...

There are few things in the world more precious than home. When I’m there, I can be exactly who I am. I don’t have to put on a good face to be accepted—I can just be me. I don’t have to dress a certain way or agree with a certain ideology. I am loved and safe and valuable even if my wife disagrees with me or my children are angry. Home is safe. It should be, anyway. For many people, the places that should be home—family, community and country—have been undermined or destroyed. Oppression, racism, and systemic violence have denied people security and love. Too often, this is a direct result of the racism the villain in Marvel’s latest movie, Black Panther, is afflicted by. Erik Killmonger grows up in the streets of Oakland without a father, denied a connection to a loving home, land, and family. He sees the oppression and suffering of people like him, rooted in Africa but displaced, and so sets out in anger and vengeance. It’s difficult to respond with grace when someone is angry and bitter. The worst part about Killmonger’s villainy is that his anger is justified. His rage over people’s suffering is understandable. He is angry because people are dying and others could have done something about it, but didn’t. This frustration and anger fuels a need to make a change, which he believes can only be accomplished by from others. And yet this path of vengeance won’t make the world a better place, even if it makes him feel better. T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, recognizes Killmonger’s intent and does not deliver a killing blow in their final fight. Instead, he offers healing. Yet with his final breath, Killmonger says, “Bury me in the ocean with...

Reading Ready Player One: Society Feb09

Reading Ready Player One: Society...

Reality often sucks. For many, just attempting to make a living takes more effort than they can muster, and most countries have a very clear upper and lower class. In North America, where the middle class is still a dream we are attempting to keep, it gets harder and harder to maintain hope that things will improve. Poverty increases, debt is at an all-time high, and if we don’t run out of fossil fuels soon, their use will probably ruin our climate to the point that we can’t live like we do anyway. Ready Player One depicts a world in the not-too-distant future that attempts to answer the question: what will North America be like if we don’t change anything? “At a time of drastic social and cultural upheaval, when most of the world’s population longed for an escape from reality, the OASIS provided it, in a way that was cheap, legal, safe and not technically addictive.” The OASIS provides the escape from the brutal reality of life. For the rich, it’s a place to fulfill the desires that reality can’t or won’t offer, and for the poor it’s a chance to be an ideal version of yourself. How do you escape uncomfortable realities? The OASIS is a chance to travel, to adventure, and to escape drudgery. It’s a place where the obvious hopelessness of poverty can be circumnavigated through questing and avatar apparel. It’s such a successful escape, that even the in-game currency is more stable than anything else in the world. But not only does it offer an escape from reality, but an enticing puzzle as well; when its founder, James Halliday, died, he left controlling interest in the OASIS and his billions of dollars to the player who finds an easter...

When the Princess Tanks: Accepting Others by Disregarding Stereotypes Feb05

When the Princess Tanks: Accepting Others by Disregarding Stereotypes...

When an unexpected attack forces me to crash-land my airship and the party is scattered, I’m left with a giant war golem, a little girl in a green cloak, and a hard-bitten swordsman who’s “getting too old for this crap.” If Battle Chasers: Nightwar followed the norm of classic JRPGs, these three would fill the roles of tank, healer, and soldier, respectively. But I’m surprised to discover that Calibretto, the giant war golem, doesn’t get more hit points than any other character. Despite his hulking frame, he never becomes a tank, nor do any of his skills make him destined to be one. Instead, he is a fantastic healer, and the party loves him for it. Though he can pump out decent damage as well, his character is compassionate and gentle. Gully, the diminutive princess with a kind spirit, is the party’s protector. She generates shields for her companions, defending against and taunting enemies. Out of all the characters, she has the most hit points; she takes a blow like a boss and continues to do so until the enemy has been defeated. Yet, she is also a loving character; she does not have to suppress her emotions or her tendency to care about others, nor does she need protection. When Gully steps in front of cannon fire to save Garrison, the swordsman who fought with her father, he thanks her. He doesn’t scold her or attempt to take the blow for her, because he knows she is better equipped to handle the enemy’s barrage than he is. Other members expect her to stand in the way of danger to provide them chances to use their skills without making a big deal of it. Even ‘Bretto accepts that she is going to get hurt...

Spider-Gwen and the Cost of Justice Jan03

Spider-Gwen and the Cost of Justice...

On Earth-65, Gwen Stacy is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Woman, a wise cracking crime fighter with spider powers—quite like the Spider-Man of Earth-616 (a.k.a. regular Earth). There is a lot of pain in her past. Peter Parker, her shy and introverted friend is bullied more and more in school, until he develops the lizard serum to fight back. Spider-Woman (Gwen’s early persona) ends up fighting him and, in the fight, pushes Peter too far. He dies in her arms. Because witnesses see a reverted Peter Parker dying as a result of their fight, she is branded a murderer and her father, Captain George Stacy, vows to bring Spider-Woman to justice. In a face-off between Captain Stacy and Spider-Woman, she reveals herself to be his daughter and says: “You’re a good cop, dad. You put on that badge and carry that gun because you know if you don’t, someone who shouldn’t will. When I put on this mask, I only did it because it freed me from responsibility. I thought I was special. And Peter Parker died because he tried to follow my example. I have to take responsibility for that. To make his death mean something. But I can’t do it in a jail cell. This mask is my badge now. If I don’t define what it means… monsters like this [Aleksei Sytsevich, a.k.a. Rhino] will” (Edge of Spider-Verse Vol 1 2). A cost has been paid. A life has been lost. A debt is owed, at least in Gwen’s mind. So, she opposes the police and fights crime. She goes after Aleksei and has several run-ins with the Kingpin. She faces the shadow organization S.I.L.K., which is behind all sorts of sinister plots across the multiverse. She travels to several...

The Danger of Denying Rey’s Past Dec20

The Danger of Denying Rey’s Past...

*The Last Jedi spoilers below. You’ve been warned.* The Last Jedi is a bit of a misleading title in that the Jedi aren’t going to end. Yet it is a movie that asks questions about facing the past. Each of the main characters deals with the past in a specific way. Kylo shoves it aside, destroying memories in the attempt to escape previous attachments; Luke hides from it; Poe repeats it with an initial unwillingness to admit his mistakes; and Rey denies her past because she wants so badly to belong. Rey’s past was shrouded in mystery in The Force Awakens. Most assumed she had significant parents (I was hoping she’d be Obi-Wan’s granddaughter). And yet, in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren taunts her with the knowledge that her parents are nobodies. She’s known all along that they abandoned her and were never coming back. She has no legacy of greatness like Luke, no secret royalty like Leia, and wasn’t conceived from midichlorians (thank the Maker). But she wants to be a hero. She wants to be loved. She wants to matter. So, she denies her past, convincing herself that her parents are out there looking for her, and will someday return. Setting aside the familiar and letting go can be frightening, strange, and uncomfortable. Of all the characters’ responses to their past, Rey’s is perhaps the most dangerous. She has created a false hope, and has to stay in denial to keep it. Facing the past would mean losing that hope. It is impossible to make peace with a past that you don’t admit exists. It’s impossible to move forward when you are constantly dodging the shadow in your periphery, refusing to look at it and pretending it isn’t there. When we deny...

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...

Discerning Your Threshold for Violence and Sexuality in Media Sep27

Discerning Your Threshold for Violence and Sexuality in Media...

I thought I would love Game of Thrones because I’m all about high fantasy with serious themes. When Ned Stark died in Season One, I realized just how serious the show was going to be. The stories of vengeance, frustration, hopefulness, and ruthlessness all captured my attention. But by the end of Season Three, I noticed something troubling me after I watched each episode. I’ve always taken sexual abuse very seriously. The rape scene in Show Girls left me shaking and furious. I could not finish watching A Clockwork Orange because the scenes of rape filled me with so much rage that I was ready to destroy something. This fury is partly why I stopped watching Game of Thrones, but has also extended to all media that I participate in. I watched The Magicians until the end of Season One, where a graphic rape scene is played out. I don’t like feeling that angry and media that continually returns to scenes of sexual violence leaves me in a state of constant agitation, which bleeds into my life and causes discord in all my relationships. The more I pack into my mind, the harder it is on me and the more I suffer. To add to that, I have friends who have been sexually assaulted. I’ve spent time with them listening to their pain and anguish. As an empathetic person, I feel their stress, fear, and suffering when they talk about it. My wife has experienced significant sexual trauma and a big part of our relationship has been filled with sorting that out and trying to find peace amidst that sorrow. The specter of sexual abuse haunts the victim for many years, sometimes never fully leaving and manifesting in all sorts of ways at inconvenient...

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering Sep04

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering...

“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.” This is the creed of the gunslingers, a blend of old west sheriffs and holy knights, who have been charged with defending the Tower and the people of the realm. Their word is law and their bullets strike true. They wander the realm defending the weak, caring for people and championing justice—or at least they used to before they all died. The Man in Black, a malicious sorcerer, has made it his life’s goal to destroy the Tower and end the humans’ reign. Two things stand in his way: Roland, the last of the gunslingers, and finding a child with the perfect “shining” (telekinetic-type force of mind that can see into the past and future, defeat demons, and contact people telepathically). Roland, for some reason, is resistant to the Man in Black’s magic so the sorcerer cannot kill Roland personally. But as the Man in Black does the next best thing: kills everyone Roland loves. Roland is left wandering, alone and distraught. This is where Jake Chambers, the missing piece of the Man in Black’s master plan, finds him and hears him profess, “there are no more gunslingers.” Only when Roland truly embraces a vulnerable, loving heart is he able to defeat his foe. Roland has ceased to care about the world around him and is obsessed with destroying...

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...

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...

Rage Against the Humanity May01

Rage Against the Humanity...

Mira is the combination of the best parts of humanity and robot. That’s what the live action film Ghost in the Shell opens by saying, anyway. She combines the mind of a human with its ability to think for itself, respond to changing environments and reason out solutions with the strength and durability of a robotic frame. But is the mind the best part of what it means to be human? The human mind can do some extraordinary things. It has the ability to take in and sort stimuli from multiple sources in a near instant. It can decide on its own what to pay various levels of attention to, and even how to interpret that attention from the gentle touch that tickles to the sharp pain of a cut. It can also use that information to formulate plans that can be changed on the fly. The brain can set out to accomplish a task and as information comes in, alter, change, or completely rewrite the plan to accomplish a goal. Memory and humanity are linked. This is the ability that Cutter is after when he implants Mira’s brain into a robotic shell. He’s looking for a robot that adapts to meet a changing battlefield. He wants a weapon that has instinct, a machine that can serve him not based on logarithms and if/then statements, but with the natural ability of a human being. The problem with his plan, though, is that the human brain is not just an adaptive algorithm computer. It contains something else, something strange and beautiful that makes a human a person: a soul. In the movie, this phenomenon is referred to as a “ghost.” Whether you call it spirit, soul, ruach adoni, or ghost, it is the thing that...

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...

Logan and Overcoming Rage Mar13

Logan and Overcoming Rage...

For Wolverine, denying his rage is like denying breath. Wolverine is characterized by his berserker fury and Logan holds nothing back when it comes to it. He rips, slashes, maims and destroys. He cannot control his anger and knows it. It’s why he warns people they don’t want to mess with him because they will die. But in the film Logan, all that rage has taken a toll on his mind. I can understand where he’s coming from because I have not always been in control of my anger. There have been times when I have lashed out and caused harm to people and things. While the people who have been hurt can forgive me and eventually forget about it, the fact that I’ve hurt them stays with me much longer. Many years later I can still remember hurt that I’ve caused to others because I couldn’t control how I reacted to anger. While I am troubled by the hurt I’ve caused, Wolverine has maimed and killed hundreds of people and while I have moments of remembering and feeling sad, he has outright nightmares. When Logan wakes up from one of these nightmares, Laura tells him that she has nightmares too because people have done bad things to her. Logan confesses that his nightmares are because he has done bad things to people. Giving into rage and lashing out leaves emotional trauma that may never fade. All you can do is try and figure out how to live with it. When Laura, Logan’s daughter, admits that she has done bad things to people too, but justifies it because they were bad people, Logan tells her that the impact of uncontrolled anger hurts you no matter how much the other person deserved it. Logan tries...

Who Pays for My Choices? The Cost of Sacrifice in Final Fantasy XV...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for Final Fantasy XV. Most video games expect us to sacrifice something to save the world, rescue a princess, or stop an evil dictator. Sometimes we must sacrifice some of our resources, sometimes we have to make the choice to back one country over another, and sometimes we are asked to give up our very lives to save the ones we love. I’ve played a lot of games and come to expect at some point that there will be some sort of sacrifice, although there is one franchise that has consistently made sacrifice uncomfortable and cut through the familiarity: Final Fantasy. I have a vivid memory of the moment Sephiroth appeared behind Aerith and impaled her on his Naginata. I can even smell the carpet I was sitting on the first time I witnessed that death. And I remember wondering how she was going to come back or who they were going to give me to replace my main healer. Once I realized there was no replacement and I’d have to make someone function less effectively to make up for the loss, I was infuriated. It was frustrating and angering and maybe the first time I really felt the loss of a sacrifice (in game or otherwise). I’ve played a lot of games since then, experiencing the pattern of sacrifice in their stories. I’ve shed a tear for a lost brother escaping the locust and I’ve been furious watching a valiant warrior give his life for people who don’t even realize their freedom has a cost. To a certain degree, I’ve grown tired of sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake and find myself annoyed that a hero can’t just win without giving something up. Does everyone always have to...

Deadpool’s Unlikely, Perfect Love Jan11

Deadpool’s Unlikely, Perfect Love...

Usually a movie lets you know very quickly who the hero and villain are, painting the hero in the best possible light. Sometimes that hero is a brooding, troubled stranger in need of love or a reluctant, gruff, loner who is forced to become the hero we know he can be. Every now and then, the hero is just a regular person who must face impossible odds and overcome—regardless of the circumstances, the hero ends up being good and the movie lets us know it. Even in a movie like Suicide Squad, where the protagonists are villains, we are constantly shown that there are other ‘bad guys’ because they keep doing good things. We can’t help but tell stories where our heroes are good, and even if the hero is doing questionable things (Captain America: Civil War, anybody?) they still have good intentions. But that isn’t the case with Deadpool. Right from the beginning, he lets you know that he is “no hero” and then spends the rest of the movie being his brutal, crude, and disgusting self. The good guys—Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead—make it very clear that he is not really on their side, although they leave room for hope; the bad guys make it clear he isn’t on their team either, although you wouldn’t know it based on most of his actions. Rather than knowing exactly where he fits, you have to decide if Deadpool is hero, villain, or something in between. Right from the beginning he lets you know that he is “no hero.” Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is not a good guy. He’s a dishonourably discharged black-ops soldier with several confirmed kills and a bad habit of using his considerable repertoire of vulgar and disgusting language to offend those around him. Now...