Where Are the Sick Characters in Pop Culture? May18

Where Are the Sick Characters in Pop Culture?...

As someone who struggles with a chronic illness, I can’t always relate to my fictional superheroes. Thor’s abs and Wonder Woman’s stamina never give up, after all. The heroes are almost always strong, beautiful, and not sick. If a character with an illness or chronic pain does show up, they’re often a weak link for the hero to save; their illness is mentioned once as the butt of a joke; they’re useless until they’re healed; or they’re only there to provide inspiration for the hero’s journey. These tropes are frustrating for those of us who face sickness every day in a society that doesn’t know what to do with us. But sometimes I come across characters who represent accurate struggles of being chronically ill. Here are some of my favourites: 1. Remus Lupin, Harry Potter Lupin doesn’t consider himself a worthwhile member of society because that’s what the world keeps telling him. For example, as soon as word gets out that he’s a werewolf, he has to vacate his position as a Hogwart’s professor in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because people don’t want him teaching their children, even though he is safe as long as he drinks his potions. J.K. Rowling has stated that Lupin’s condition is meant to mimic the stigma of blood-borne diseases. His fear of accepting love is a very real thing people with chronic conditions face daily. “‘I am not being ridiculous,’ said Lupin steadily. ‘Tonks deserves somebody young and whole.’ . . . ‘But she wants you,’ said Mr. Weasley, with a small smile. ‘And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.'” —Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince 2. Izumi Curtis, Fullmetal Alchemist Edward and Alphonse’s alchemy teacher, Izumi is a tough, stubborn, ...

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...

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’...

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...

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...

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven Oct07

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven...

Not many fictional characters stumble into church (except to set the existential mood), and even fewer actually practice Christianity, unless we’re talking Nightcrawler or Nicholas D. Wolfwood. (No, Sephiroth, being a Jenova’s Witness doesn’t count.) But imagine if our favourite characters were—for no particular reason—suddenly forced to choose their epic theme songs from a hymn book (or else face cricket-chirping silence during their otherwise awesome advents). We’ve got a hunch that these 10 hymn-meets-hero mashups might, literally, be matches made in heaven: 1. Obi Wan Kenobi —”Higher Ground” He takes “plant my feet on higher ground” literally. Maybe if Anakin had given this hymn (or, y’know, his Jedi Counselors) a listen, he’d have fewer artificial limbs. 2. Prince Zuko — “Thine Honor Save” Change thy haircut whilst thou art at it. 3. Aerith Gainsborough — “Holy, Holy, Holy” That was the plan. To her credit, the evilest seraphim did eventually “fall down before her.” 4. Light Yagami — “Is My Name Written There?” You’ll know in about 40 seconds. 5. The Night Guard (Five Nights at Freddy’s) — “I’ll Stand By Until the Morning” …if I’m lucky. 6. Edward Elric — “Small Things Count” Except Ed isn’t “small”—he’s fun-sized. I hear arms and legs count, too. 7. Gandalf — “He Lives” And now he comes in more colours. 8. Link — “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?” (1) Yes, though it is dangerous. (2) No, take this! 9. Goku — “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand” 100,000,000. Now that’s a power level. 10. Ned Stark — “Winter is Coming” Yes, this is an actual hymn, though it’s more about ice than...

Immortality According to Zack Fair...

I think about death. A lot. Not in a morbid, “the-end-is-near” sort of way, but with the understanding that each passing day means less time to accomplish my dreams. I’ve got half-a-dozen books to publish, a Master’s degree to complete, a world to travel, and a whole lot of video games to play (hurry up, Kingdom Hearts III!). But more than anything, I just want to be remembered for something—even just a small something. Being forgotten amidst history’s dusty pages is the proverbial “fate worse than death.” Whether I admit it out loud or not, I want to live forever, even after my heart stops beating. Thousands of years from now, I could completely “disappear” from public awareness. That thought used to make me wonder if my existence and actions even mattered in the first place. After all, only a lucky few ever become household names. The other millions of people born every year? History—if they’re lucky. Forgotten—if they aren’t. What chance do I have of ever becoming as recognizable as Stan Lee, as biographical as Tolkien, or even as quotable as Joss Whedon? Perhaps that’s why I empathize so much with Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Growing up in a backwater town, Zack has dreams bigger than his small world can handle. I can’t blame him for suddenly leaving home, with only a scribbled farewell to his parents, promising that he’ll return as a hero of SOLDIER like his idol, Sephiroth. I believe anybody can be “destined for greatness,” but only when pride takes a backseat to selflessness. As rambunctious as a puppy and driven by equal parts passion and prestige, Zack quickly climbs the ranks of SOLDIER, flashing his (overly) confident smile and taking on bigger, badder beasties than...

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...

Guilt and Geostigma

Cloud Strife has had it rough. And he’s not making anything easier for himself. In addition to the deaths of his closest companions, Cloud has witnessed the burning of his hometown, undergone unethical medical experimentation, and suffered from various psychological conditions—including a nasty bout of dissociative identity disorder. By the time we’ve caught up with the unsmiling, spikey-headed hero in Final Fantasy: Advent Children, all that emotional instability has begun to take its deadly toll… and the fact that he’s contracted a cancerous, PTSD-inducing disease called Geostigma isn’t helping either. Spawned from strands of his arch-nemesis Sephiroth’s DNA, the disease literally thrives on Cloud’s guilty conscience, taking every opportunity to remind him that it’s his fault his love interest, Aerith, was brutally killed. Cloud isn’t afraid to die—in fact, he’s exiled himself to a penitent, living death while the disease eats away at his skin. In fact, he’s terrified to live with the weight of his guilt. He isolates himself, attempting to cut all social ties so that no additional failures can taint his conscience, but in doing so he builds emotional barriers that, through misunderstanding, threaten to disconnect the network of friends he considers to be his family. A long sleeve keeps Cloud’s infected arm hidden from prying eyes, metaphorically symbolizing his unwillingness to make himself vulnerable by telling others of his condition. That doesn’t stop his childhood sweetheart, Tifa, from finding out the truth, though, which leads to a heated confrontation:The grace that had ever been available to him is finally able to manifest itself because he’s made himself vulnerable to it. “So you’re just gonna give up and die. Is that it?” she accuses. “There is no cure,” he answers. Cloud is clearly talking about more than his disease here—he’s also talking about his...

Magic by another name Aug10

Magic by another name...

Sometimes I find myself wishing I lived in Hogwarts or Middle earth. Why? Because of magic, of course. But after a bit of thought, I realized I’m not really missing out on much, because magic exists in my world already. Do you believe in magic? And when I say “magic,” I mean as it is often depicted in fiction: a seemingly all-powerful force which can only be harnessed by a certain number of gifted people. So do you? No? You’re not alone. Magic is generally accepted by our modern society to be an impossibility, and to say otherwise seems like nothing but foolery. However, “nothing but foolery” is my middle name—well, close enough. I believe magic is, in fact, a very real part of our everyday lives. We just know it by another name. I believe that even the most deeply spiritual occurrences can be explained scientifically. In order to dismiss magic as an impossibility, you should first be able to not only define it, but explain why you believe it cannot exist. I would define magic using these words: that which is amazing and unexplainable. In Season 5 of Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum describes magic exactly how I see it: “All magic is science!” she says. “You just don’t know what you’re doing, so you call it magic!” (Episode 26: “Wizards Only, Fools!”) Take Hermione Granger from Harry Potter casting “Alohomora,” for example. Is it scientifically impossible to unlock a door? Not at all. Can we explain exactly how her magic spell accomplishes this? No. Our quick dismissal of its possibility simply stems from our own lack of understanding. Or consider Vivi from Final Fantasy IX casting “Firaga.” Is it impossible to create a massive fiery blast which has the ability to harm...

Jokes to make you laugh and cry Jul10

Jokes to make you laugh and cry...

What doesn’t Tara drink? She’s not a fan of shots. What show does Boromir never seem to catch? Arrow. How much did it cost Dr. Horrible to join the Evil League of Evil? Just one Penny. What is Sephiroth’s favourite food? Shish kabobs. How do Reavers clean their spears? They put them through the...

A sonnet for Sephiroth Jun26

A sonnet for Sephiroth

Oh where have ye gone, my foe Sephiroth? Ye go to Midgar or to northern cave? I aim to end ye, yes I swear I doth Your sword has murdered many SOLDIERS brave Each day alone I mourn my Cetra’s death You killed her, jerk, you killed her with your sword And as I knelt, I heard her dying breath For long I’ve cried tears I cannot afford Forsooth, your plot to call Meteor shall fail Faced with my limit break you will cower Even the glow of materia is pale Next to your lust for the life stream’s power For Aerith’s love remembered, I am weak But to this day on you, revenge I...

Final Fantasy battle medley May19

Final Fantasy battle medley...

In honour of music month, one of our guest writers (who is also a musician, you may notice) elected to write us a song. Saddle up your Chocobos, strap in the Onion Kids, and Locke and load my friends. From the Cloud comes the Lightning and takes us out of Winnipeg Snow and right to the Edge, mister Mark Barron. Final Fantasy battle medley! by Mark Barron “No fancy production here; this is all just live in front of my webcam, except the two obvious parts where there are overhanging chords and different effects. The downside is that after the two takes, I realized I had cut off some of my left hand, which I’m thankful to say is much less painful than it...

Video game music that we love May08

Video game music that we love

Since May is our music-themed month, we will be regaling you with fun playlists every Friday. This is some of our favourite tunes from awesome video games. We love that the Civilization IV song is the Lord’s Prayer. And also, Lindsey Stirling is one of our favourite musicians of all time; go listen to all her stuff on YouTube. “Zelda Medley” (Lindsey Stirling) This gives us the feels. Time to go play Ocarina of Time.   “Baba Yetu” (Civilization IV) This is actually the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. It was the first video game theme nominated for a Grammy.   “Never Forget” (Halo) We will never forget how amazing the Halo soundtrack is.   “Fear Not This Night” (Guild Wars 2) This Guild Wars 2 song is our sandwich, along with the game itself.   “One Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy VII) You can’t go wrong with Final Fantasy music. Really, it’s all...

The battle of cute and deadly Mar27

The battle of cute and deadly

Tired, old Yoda was strolling along through the Dagobah swamp like nothing was wrong when suddenly Mega Gnar popped out of the mist and pummeled into Yoda with his great, big fist Yoda force-shoved him back, Gnar landed on his feet Gnar leapt away through the air as they both felt the heat of a lightning bolt crashing between them on the ground and Pikachu came tumbling through the air with the sound of “Pika!” he cried as he zapped Gnar away then “Kupo!” Mog the moogle chose to join in the fray for a moment there was silence, when from out of the fog sinking teeth into Mog’s ear was the Rabbit of Caerbannog Then River Tam, Skull the Troll, Reepicheep, Krtek the mole, Mogwai Gizmo, the Duck of Doom, May Chang’s panda and Rocket Raccoon shouted “for Narnia!” and “Bring the pain!” and “I can kill you with my brain.” Killua Zoldyk sauntered in with a sigh dodging every strike like it was easy as pie Gizmo tried with a leap to jump on his head Gnar was standing by a tree and looking kinda fed Nibbler toddled in, confusion on his face Skull the Troll aimed to smash his head in with a mace Then Nibbler bared his teeth, they were ready to rend And he gobbled up the group entirely. So satisfied. The...

Opening a geek (not greek) pizza shop… Feb13

Opening a geek (not greek) pizza shop…...

The best pizza shops name their pizzas so we decided to give it a go. Not that we have any intention of ever opening up a pizza shop.. or do we? So what did we miss? Any further suggestions?

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been Feb05

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been

We all know (and love) the many friendships that are exhibited within a variety of shows: Han and Chewy, Frodo and Sam, Mega Man and Rocket, Blanka and your face, you get the idea. But sometimes those friendships are just not enough and we need to reach outside their respective genres for the friendship matches made in heaven. Here are our top 10: Calvin & Chewbacca “You know, Chewy, some days even my lucky Millenium Falcon underpants don’t help.” Hermione Granger & Twilight Sparkle They’ll form a group called S.B.E.W. (Society for the Bookworms of Equestria and the World). Edward Elric & Gimli Sometimes dynamite comes in small packages and can explode at anytime, especially if you mention anything about being short. Tony Stark & Tali-Zorah “Testing rocket boots, Day 11, Test 37, Configuration 2.0. For lack of a better option, Tali is still on fire safety.” Arya Stark & Toph Beifong We just want to see these two take on an army together. Master Chief (John-117) & John the Baptist “But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, one who wears the spartan helmet of salvation and wields the energy sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Sephiroth and Scar Scar would get some much needed perspective—“You wanna be king of a rock? Well I wanna destroy the world with a giant meteor”—and Sephiroth can stop being jealous that he doesn’t have a pet lion like the other side. Mal Reynolds & Doctor Horrible So Doctor Horrible can’t be friends with Captain Hammer, but he can darn sure be friends with Captain Tightpants! Caprica Six & Seven of Nine Separated from the hive collective with a strong desire to gain some form of humanity. It’s kind of true for both. Although Seven of Nine definitely has better taste in men. Jayne Cobb & John Casey “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go and get to beat you with until you buy this washing machine.” Certainly we missed a bunch. Which unlikely friendships would you...