Fatal Frame IV: Blossomed Death

When you think of a horror game, you think scary. Not this game. It’s beautiful. The concept, the plot, the characters, the music, the sound production, the colors, etc. Even one of the ghosts is quite fashionable! Okay, I am being overly enthusiastic about the game. The game is good but it’s not cosmetically perfect. Recycled ghosts, cheesy jump scare moments, and frequent wraiths spotting sort of destroyed the horror atmosphere. However, what the game did right is making a horror game feel and look beautiful. I can only imagine those who enjoy this game tend to lean toward their “feminine side,” the emotional side. If I could describe this game in a sentence, it’s feminine all around just like the moon, and like the sea, it tugs and pulls you in.

Music helps one recall a memory as to the Moon that helps give us shape and form

I am going to confess. I think the order of the story can be confusing. The order of story starts with Misaki and Madoka exploring Rogestu Hall. They were lured to the island by the cause of their friends’ death, believing that the island had something to do with their past. According to the synopsis, 5 girls went missing on the day of the Karuga Rogestu festival which occurred every decade on Rogestu Island. Three out of the five missing girls: Misaki, Madoka, and Ruka went back to the island to solve the mystery that caused their amnesia. While investigating the Rogestu Hall, the girls discovered they were part of an illegal clinical experimentation that attempt to cure the Moonlight Syndrome which caused the people on the island to lose their memories and their sense of self. Their only relief is to head toward the Moon where it gives them some of sort relief (I like how the Moon is used to describe light–a soft light that guides the living because death as we know is presumably and utterly darkness). The incurable disease Moonlight Syndrome caused a mass death on the island which then resulted in the abandonment of the island altogether. But how did this Moonlight Syndrome come about? The answer lies in the Karuga Rogestu ritual dance. In the dance, the maiden wears a mask, acting as a vessel surrounded by five girls called the organs. Each plays a different instrument. Because the mask was not perfect it caused the ritual to fail and the face of the maiden to blossom death. Anyone who sees her dies. If you were to ask me, the story makes more sense if it begins with Detective Choshiro Kirishima, but that would defeat the mystery and suspense parts, and I wouldn’t be able to find joy trying to piece the story together.

Perhaps, I am just a natural detective

When I take a step back and look at the story, what I find so poetic about this concept of this story is the notion that people are made of a tune. Each and everyone have a different tune. When there is no tune or noise–we called it death. Also, the moon is a metaphor for memories that makes up the soul. The Rogestu Karuga ritual also known as the Rite of Descent in ancient times is a spiritual dance where the “living souls meet the dead.” Why perform such a horrific dance? Well, we learned that Rogestu Island is the gateway to Hallow Realm where the dead reside. The dance is meant to ward off the dead from reaching the moon (the living realm). To do that, a ritual is performed by a maiden and girls who have high spiritual potential. They must be in tune with the Moonsong that pacifies the dead back to their graves.

What a gloomy game

There are more details to the story that I left out, but I believe I got the main point out of the way. The story can be a hit or miss with some folks who prefer a linear story. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the abstract idea and the metaphor: The soul is an orb, a light, the Moon that houses one’s memories. One without a soul becomes void. Hence, blossomed death. This game is pretty abstract like a messy painting but it all seems to come together at the end.

Note: This is just my interpretation of the story. I may update and correct information in this article accordingly.

AI: Somnium Files: The Rational I

So I am back with AI: Somnium Files content. This time, I am not going to omit spoilers since it’s hard to explain a concept without putting things into to context for readers to understand. So, if you want a non-spoiler-free review, you can click here.

In my previous blog post, I wanted to discuss the eye metaphor, but at the time, my mind was still wrapping around all the complex ideas surrounding the game. I highly doubt that this game, which is a product of its time will ever go mainstream, so I want to write my thoughts out here and explain the writer’s thesis on AI a little bit more in detail since I find this subject quite relevant to the time we are in. Without a doubt, Kotaro Uchikoshi, the writer of this game is in favor of Artificial Intelligence. In this game, he explains his argument pretty well and made some very valid points done creatively. So, let’s dive into the story.

Six years ago, there was a crime committed against 4 girls who happened to have their right eyes gouged out by the Cyclops Serial Killers. Fast forward, the story opens up into a new case–-a woman is found dead tied to a carousel horse at a theme park with her left eye gouged out.

Shoko sitting on a carousel horse with her left out missing
Not going to lie, the image is unsettling.

As the story unfolds, Kaname Date, the protagonist, learns the new criminal case is unrelated to the old case because of two facts: the side of the eyeball that has been removed, and the fact that the old Cyclops Serial Killers have been arrested. It turns out that the new serial killer is one of the old Cyclops Serial Killers who has been body-swapping with his victims through the use of a machine called Pysncer. His motive is to get his original body back which happens to be the protagonist’s body. Somewhere in the story timeline, Date had his body switched with the killer, which I won’t go into the plot’s detail because that will derail from the topic of this blog post.

Pulling eyeball out
To use the Pysncer Machine to swap bodies, the left eye is removed and then connected to the machine, enabling the pysncer to dive into the participant’s dream for more than 6 minutes. Hence, the reason why solving each somnium file has a time limit.
Date lying down using the pysncer machine
Date connected to the Pysncer Machine.

However, I will explain why it’s important: the Cyclops Serial Killer suffers from oxytocin disorder, a condition where he cannot bond with other people in a healthy, positive manner. It’s the pleasure of killing people that gives him the dopamine and that sense of aliveness. And it’s in his original body that gives him the fullest pleasure in killing. The one he has makes him feel depressed more than happy when he commits murder.

Date’s real body. The Cyclops Serial Killer is not too fond of being in this body.

As the story progresses, Date learns about his past, he remembers why his body has been switched with the serial killer and how it has caused him to lose his memories. It is his boss, the head of ABIS from the police detective department, who has given him a new name and an artificial eye called AI-Ball (Also referred to as Aiba for short). Since Aiba lives inside the Date’s left socket, she helps him keep in check by acting as a voice of reason. Think of Aiba as the rational eye that removes all biases and emotions, although she is more like “good news” and “hope”, according to the game’s double wordplay on Iris.

Aiba is confused to which Iris Date is referring to because Iris is also the name of an internet idol streamer.

Without AI, he doesn’t have that second pair of eyes to help him do his job effectively. But more importantly, stop him from making decisions based on impulse: the worst-case scenario is killing for the sake of killing.

The order in which the story is presented fits like a puzzle, and it helps me understand the writer’s strong thesis: AIs can be an invaluable asset to mankind. Take WiFi for an example, there are pros and cons to connecting online. But we need it. You can’t argue that the accessibility to online is more detrimental than good, do you?

Aiba screaming she can't live without wifi
I can’t argue with that statement…haha. I used WiFi to write and publish this awesome blog post!

The only drawback is the lack of meaningful, human connection. Well, it’s not like society hasn’t been glued to their smartphones and other technology gadgets. But I highly doubt normal people like me will have access to an AI like Aiba anytime soon. I can only imagine having an AI-Ball implanted in me. Say goodbye to humanity! I don’t need anyone. I will be too busy entertaining my very own eyeball! So, I suppose it is kind of scary, but at the same time it could be useful–especially if it helps those who suffer from some form of severe mental illness.

date staring at the mirror
You cannot deny there are some crazy people out there

What Do Damsel in Distress and Bad Boy Tropes Have in Common?

Glad the title caught your attention. If you want a quick answer, they are both annoying. I’m kidding. Please continue reading. It took me a great amount of time to reflect on this subject. Hopefully, you will learn something because I did.

I don’t hate the damsel in distress. I think some of them are quite intelligent and resourceful like Elena from Pandora Tower (Nintendo Wii).  What she lacks in physical strength she makes it up with brains. She balances out the protagonist pretty well. Contrary to what most people think of the damsel of distress, it’s not her timid personality or lack of backbone that bothers me, although that can be equally as annoying when she expects everyone to rescue her. However, it’s her unwillingness to help herself sort out her emotions is what I don’t like. My definition of the damsel in distress might look very much like the character, Juno, from the anime Beastars who barks and demands things to go her way. Why does she need to prove herself to society? She is already on top of the food chain. She is strong. So why does she need a man to protect her unless she doesn’t feel that she is enough? Another example is Aelinore, the queen from Dragon Dogma (PS3). I remember one quest called the Duchess in Distress, I had to carry her because she doesn’t want to get her feet wet! It’s so off-putting, and it must be a joke to the ambitious men who will do anything to climb the hierarchy class. I get the humor. I remember I laughed. However, as a woman, assisting Aelinore was twice the work, twice the burden. No reward other than me being closer to a dead weight myself.

Surprisingly, the same thing can be said about male characters, the bad boy type. The guy needs a woman to help him navigate through the world because he can’t rationalize and reason with himself to see the world in a better light. He needs a woman to save him from his wrath. These types of men were typically raised by strong women when the father figure is on the passive side or completely absent from their lives. I sympathize with the situation. However, they can’t possibly expect the woman to save them from their short falling, do they?

Maybe he is not necessarily a bad boy…but his pouty personality was always a turn-off for me.

In video games (mainly Japanese games), I rarely see games played from the perspective of a woman, and not having male traits with a woman’s body like 2b from Nier Automata does not justify a solid woman’s character. Well, duh…she is an android. So, it’s hard to pull an example from video games on what bad boys are like when you’re always playing from a guy’s perspective, and if you are a guy, you always think you are right. Take Ryo Hazuki from the Shenmue franchise as an example, he travels to Hong Kong so he can kill the guy who has murdered his dad! That doesn’t seem like a good guy’s trait! But he is surprisingly a nice guy who just needs a little guidance. Don’t we all do?

Ryo gambling
Um…what are you doing Ryo? Dropped out of school, and now gambling for big money in the shady part of Hong Kong? Well, at least you stick to a goal. It’s better than being an indecisive guy.

But if you want to analyze the bad boy on a deep level, you’d find more of them in books written by women. Think of Beauty and the Beast as an example. Unlike the damsel in distress, the bad boy doesn’t seem to be a burden. Instead, he brings out the nurturing side of the woman, and thus it elevates her. Have you ever wondered why so many intelligent women end up with the wrong guy? Well, it’s a classic tale. By saving the bad boy–she feels as if she has won a trophy that set her apart from other women. Sadly, she is mistaken. It’s an imbalance relationship dynamic. When the story is told from a woman’s perspective, the bad boy trope is the same as the damsel in distress when we flip the script. It’s a one-sided relationship when one partner is objectified to make another feel superior while the other is being used because the partner feels incapable of helping him or herself. It’s nothing more than a self-centered relationship for both parties, the more I look at it.

So, what do these two have in common? Well, other than the fact they need constant saving, they are tropes used to mask the rescuer’s deep-rooted insecurity which is self-worth. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. The rescuer loses his or her self-worth when there are no more people to save. It may be a noble characteristic, but a detrimental one, especially when one is being used by the cry of distress. Now you know why I don’t like these tropes. Their distress may very well be just another form of control (a.k.a. emotional abuse). Sadly, it’s the rescuer who becomes the victim, not the distress.

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

One thing I admire about J.K Rowling’s writing style is that it’s clear and concise. I had no problem remembering the plot from the previous books because she did a good job at refreshing readers’ memories by taking the time to explain important events. But the greatest magic she did to me has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. As I mentioned before in one of my previous posts, I was never really a fan of sports, but I could appreciate it now when the author used Quidditch to illustrate teamwork and good sportsmanship to support and fight for the right cause. Also, I learned what bravery looks like and why it’s the greatest trait above all else. It takes a lot of courage to conquer death. In fact, the entire story of Harry Potter is like the Christian Gospel for the Wizarding World. It’s meant to soothe and cradle the anxious soul who are fearful of death or have lost a loved one.

Since the beginning of the first book, particularly Book 6, I have always seen Dumbledore as the embodiment of good and wisdom (p.360). To me, he is like God, all-knowing and omniscient and Harry Potter had to have faith in Dumbledore’s instruction even though like Christ he was on a mission to be slaughtered like a pig (p.687). How is this not a parable of the Christian faith? The entire series is bombarded with Christian tropes such as the trinity (Hermione, Harry Potter, and Ron are metaphors for mind, body, and soul); the serpent as being the lesser being; the number 7 as a holy number; finally love, love conquers all. If you are familiar with the Christian faith then you know what I am talking about.

The scale of the story followed the same structure. God sent his beloved son to die for our sins. In other words, a hero sacrifices his life for the greater good. Harry Potter was born to destroy evil and that’s why he is the Chosen One who comes from the House of Gryffindor, which is the greatest House out of all the Four Houses. Why is that? Wit, ambition, and hard work are all great traits but bravery tops it all because they don’t fear death. The Four Houses are just metaphors for the virtuous traits that benefit and develop a stable society. I agree with the author. Great leaders don’t just lead by example but are selfless. Harry Potter puts himself in danger many times for others even for Draco, his enemy! That’s why the author made her point about bravery as the biggest virtue on several occasions by using Ron, the insecure character to show readers that anyone can be great and that there’s bravery in everyone. An example is a part where Ron saved Harry from drowning in Forest’s frozen pool in Chapter 19:

‘You’ve sort of made up for tonight,’ said Harry. ‘Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.’

That makes me sound cooler than I was,’ Ron mumbled.

‘Stuff like that always sound cooler than it really was,’ said Harry. ‘I’ve been trying to tell you for years.’

Book 7, p. 379

As I was reading, I kept wondering what’s the significance of the Chosen One in relation to the story other than fighting evil. That plot in itself is too generic. Then I realized Harry Potter is the symbol of youth and bravery on the verge of corruption in a society. When I saw it in that light, I became more appreciative of the story as something more than just a children’s book. You see, if Dumbledore is the embodiment of goodness and wisdom, then Harry Potter is the embodiment of hope and change. Wouldn’t all parents want to see their children become better than them in some form? Parents would only hurt their children’s future if they make their children serve them by abiding by old outdated traditions. The western concept of rearing children is far different from Asian cultures (particularly Eastern and Southeastern Asians) and that came as a shock to me. We are taught to respect and serve our elders–not challenge them as we see in the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter’s behavior was appalling to me in Book 5 when he was upset that Dumbledore left him in the dark, but sometimes it’s necessary to continuously challenge an established society for the sake of the “greater good” which will benefit all. After all, it takes a brave person to stand up and make changes to a decaying society even at the expense of one’s own life.

So, has my opinion of Dumbledore changed after learning that he’s not a family man and that it was out of selfish ambition that he wished to make peace with the Muggles so that both worlds can live in harmony? Not quite. Like Harry Potter, I felt a little betrayed, but the author did a great job at explaining his actions and redeeming him. Like Voldemort, Dumbledore operated in secrecy, pulling strings to see his plans come through. He wasn’t all that different from Voldemort who was lusting after power and domination. But there is a huge difference between the two. If you can recall the statement in the Sorcerer’s Stone: “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure (p. 297), Dumbledore accepted his immortality whereas Voldemort didn’t. That’s why Voldemort will always fall short. It’s kind of like how Satan will always be less than God or why the number 6 is less than 7. So yes, I still like Dumbledore for many reasons and believe that his traits reflect Christian virtues. One of them is the fact he is modestly humble. He is talented and gifted but chose to be a headmaster of a school rather than be the head of the Wizarding ministry. The logic is that if you want to make a huge impact in the world, you start off in the classrooms. Training and disciplining young wizards and witches have a huge impact on the future of society. That’s where changes really happen. It always starts small, especially if you want to make the world a better place, but of course, great ideas don’t always follow through as we see with Tom Riddle, who turned out to be the evilest wizard. But it’s better to try than not try at all.

Another interesting point made by the author was the concept of respect for all life. Dobby, a slave elf who falls at the bottom of the wizarding community food chain is as grand as Dumbledore. However, when he died, all he got was a small burial and not an elaborate ceremony. It made me think about how society tends to place importance on social structure. Someone from the bottom of the food chain is just as impactful as someone on top. It was a nice touch to say that no matter how small someone’s place is in society, they can make a huge impact!

I could go on and dive deeper into the world of Harry Potter because I enjoyed every single moment of it and learned how to see new perspectives such as the concept of gold and treasure from the point of view of the goblins, but I decided to conclude my thoughts for now. Everything in this book makes sense. There’s the notion of empathy, forgiveness, and acceptance just like the Christian faith. Perhaps, it’s the statement that Harry Potter and Voldemort are one of the same kinds but at the same time different than confused religious people. Still, when it comes to great literacy work, nothing should be taken literally. It’s the lessons that are important.

Now I just need to watch the first two Fantastic Beast films before I can see the third one in the theater to get caught up with Harry Potter. While I was reading Harry Potter, each time I finished a book, I watched the film, comparing and contrasting them. Of course, the books are way better, but the films are cool too. This whole experience took me about 4 months but I am glad to say I have now graduated from Hogwarts and know what bravery looks like. Snape is the bravest and is my favorite character. Maybe if I feel like it, I might write an essay about why I think so, but I will just leave it for now. That was a lot to take in, I am sure.

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: It’s All about the “…ism”

There’s not much difference between classicism and racism. Both have the same prejudice in regard to superiority over others when we apply it in a social context, and you’ll see a lot of it in this book. Contrary to the film, one slight change in the event could change the entire tone of the plot. That’s why I am an advocate for presentations. Don’t underestimate it. It’s everything! The film version turned Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix into a story about friends, family, and love as something to be fought for. Whereas the book, cleverly mentioned all the “…ism (s)” (i.e., classism, racism, ageism, criticism, sadism, favoritism, etc.) that society goes through with seriousness and humor, making it more than just a story about fighting evil. The introduction of Professor Umbridge entering into the series is now and forever engrained in my mind. There is a line between punishment and sadism when it comes to teaching. What a witch!

Looking back at my questions, I am glad some of my questions were answered in this book such as why Harry Potter was given over to the care of the Dursleys and why Voldemort is so fixated on killing Harry Potter. To my surprise, I wasn’t so thrilled to get the answers because Harry Potter sort of reminds me of Oedipus Rex, a play by Sophocles. In the play, the protagonist was prophesized that he would murder his father. Therefore, his father attempted to kill his own son when he was still an infant. Doesn’t it sound just like the little famous Harry Potter who lived to tell the tale that he would destroy Voldemort who is terribly afraid of death? Harry Potter is the Chosen One. I often wonder why western media is so obsessed with being the special one. The difference, of course, is that Voldemort is not Harry Potter’s dad, but both are half-bloods, which makes them both the perfect opponents for the classic tale of good versus evil. However, what distinguishes Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix from a generic plot is that it emphasizes that the good guys are not always wise.

Albus Dumbledore may be strong and powerful, but he is not immortal. Even wise people make bad decisions, and no one is prone to escaping ageism at his age. Dumbledore even admitted to Harry that he failed in judgment when he asked Snape to put his old grudge away and teach Occlumency to Harry Potter whose thoughts were penetrated by the Dark Lord with nightmares and visions. Snape loathed Harry Potter’s father, James Potter. And it’s in this book, we learned the reasoning behind it when Harry took a sneak peek into Snape’s memory during the Occlumency lesson. Snape was heavily bullied by James and his gang of friends for simply just existing. And to be honest, I was a little disappointed in this section of the book to learn that Snape has a legitimate grudge against James Potter. He is made out to look as if he is some sort of weirdo shunned by society because of his obsession with the Dark Arts. For that reason, it’s easy to empathize with Snape, especially coming from someone like Harry Potter who has also been heavily mistreated by his cousin, Dudley. I was turned off by Sirius’ and Lupin’s justification for bullying: they were teenagers who didn’t know any better. Emotional scars don’t heal overnight. Emotional scars in fact rarely heal, which by far is worse than having a cut on your hand. The wound lingers and it stays. Sometimes it subsides but then comes back in waves. Sometimes there are things in life that can be forgiven but NEVER forgotten. His prejudice toward Harry Potter formed out of nowhere. His grudge runs so deeply that he forgets Harry is nothing like his father; even Sirius, his dad’s best friend and godfather, admitted it! Yes, Snape has a reason to justify his hatred toward Harry, but it still doesn’t make it right.

Speaking of prejudice, the house-elves exist to serve their master and we learn a little bit more about their nature by examining the house-elf Kreacher who serves the Black family. They are not entirely innocent and deserving of freedom. It is in their nature to serve their master and they are content to serve as long as their masters don’t mistreat them just like we see in Doby with Lucius Malfoy and Kreacher with Sirius Black. I see the author’s point of view: everything has a functional structured hierarchy. House elves are loyal to a fault as long as you treat them well.

This book opens up a lot heavy loaded topics on social issues: classism, racism, and ageism, and what I found a little disturbing is the conclusion and justification that come from it (I noticed a pattern in the series: everything falls into place at the end of each book). I don’t know if I entirely agree with the author. Harry Potter as a character is not what I ideally pictured as a hero or someone I can admire. He is kind of too arrogant for my liking. Then again, the book did mention Harry’s Potter weakness is heroism. Also, I don’t like how Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood are portrayed as pitiful misfit characters in comparison to Harry Potter. Far too often writers make jokes about it in a way where it becomes insensitive. In this book, Harry Potter is framed as unstable and a liar by the Daily Prophet, a newspaper for the Witchcraft and Wizarding community–simply because he tried to tell the truth about Voldemort’s return. I find it ironic, considering that such a community is able to define what normalcy is considering that magic is involved because there’s nothing normal about magic. The Ministry of Magic should know better or perhaps this is a weak point of the plot. Mental illness is not a symptom of weakness. It’s an invisible disability. You can’t really expect a maimed person to compete in a sport like a basketball if they have no hands to grab the ball, or do you? It’s the same concept with the oddballs. Anyway, that’s beside the point of my analysis and I still got two more books to go to make a final conclusion about Mr. Potter. I want to define the Order of Phoenix as a book about prejudice, but that would simplify it because it’s more than that. It’s more about the abuse of authority. Even the “right authority” (Order of Phoenix) is not immune to failure. And if there is one lesson I took out from this book: be aware of the biases and prejudices when we make a judgment about a person. We are all prone to making mistakes. We are only human, after all.

Now I recalled the time my old boss defended his trusted employees from breaking a company’s procedure. With my own eyes, I attested it; however, my boss was too blind in favoritism to acknowledge it. Tsk…tsk…favoritism can be such a good bad thing. And that concludes my thoughts on this book, the book all about the “…ism”.

The Argument Against Books as a Form of Superior Medium to Video Games

I have been meaning to make more time to read, but sometimes I get discouraged from reading one bad book after the next which are supposedly bestsellers (keep in mind, it’s a matter of taste). Hence, it’s why the book department in my blog is rather bleak and lonely. I have only reviewed one book so far: Handmaid’s Tale and quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I am not completely ruling out books for this blog because I am the poetry huntress. My passion is very particular in that essence. But I struggle to find a good book to read or maybe it’s just that I struggle to find a genuine book to read. So, I’m in a bit of a dilemma.

I used to read a lot as a kid. I fell in love with books before I even started playing games. There’s something about the written word that makes it an intimate experience between the author and the reader. So, it’s hard not to fall in love with books. But games consume most of my time nowadays so I started wondering why I play more than I read, knowing that books are great ways to formulate new ideas and open more dialogues.

And so, I begin to ponder…

There are several films adaptation inspired by books. So, it’s not hard to pay tribute to books as the superior medium. And many video games are inspired by films. Did you notice a pattern here? The video game is a baby learning to walk on its legs, wanting to be recognized by its older siblings. Part of my maternal instinct is I want to see the baby grow. This brings me to conclude why I don’t read as much as I should nowadays: If people read purely for entertainment and the artistic aesthetic, then I want to argue that video games are just as good as books. And perhaps even better than some books in terms of delivering meaningful content that adds value to our lives. Partially this is why I still hunt down to play a good game and why I rather invest in playing games than reading. Out of love for the medium, I want to see it grow into something respectable in the creative community.

Every time, I think about why I created my original blog back in 2016, I kept circling to the same idea: I’m writing to advocate and educate the creative community. I write as a creative outlet because my soul depends on it and I want to share with the rest of the world what I enjoy. Video games can be great companions for those of us who are on the shy side. And on a personal level, video games gave me the inspiration to write most of my songs as mentioned in one of my posts. It’s like we are all connected. Books inspired films. Films inspired video games, and video games inspired me to write songs.

With this whole pandemic thing–isolation is not normal behavior even for an introvert myself. Some alone time is good, but too much is detrimental. I think video games have comforted some of us in some ways to help us cope with mental stress. So, let’s give some respect to video games because self-help books aren’t for everyone. Sometimes the bottled-up emotions just have to go somewhere and for me, it’s shooting virtual scary dogs. Well, I guess it’s time to go shoot some skags in Borderlands 3 now!

If you are just stopping by this blog and haven’t already, please check out some of my blog posts on games that I think are better than books in some ways. Until next time, see you later!

It Doesn’t Sound Right to Say I Beat Art: My Thoughts on Games as an Art Form

Why does it feel good when you complete a game, but not when you finish a film? I remember several years ago, I spent every morning playing Okami on Playstation 2. It was the only time of the day I didn’t feel guilty enjoying a game because video games are known as a waste of time by society’s standards. Nowadays, it’s a bit more acceptable. Gaming and coffee was great way to start the day (that’s how I became a morning person). I remember Okami wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing, but it was good enough for me to complete. It took me about 60 hours. As I mentioned in one of my posts, I play games thoroughly. So when the credits started rolling, I felt a little sad that my journey has come to an end, but the result was quite rewarding. I felt a sense of achievement because I cleared the game.

Amazon.com: Okami - PlayStation 2: Artist Not Provided: Video Games

When it comes to films, I can sit and watch for an hour without feeling anything but entertained, depending if the movie is good. However, games require a lot of memorizations, backtracking, and problem-solving. No wonder, I often feel mentally drained once I beat a game. Games are simply expensive and time-consuming. Movies, on the other hand, are less expensive, less effort, and therefore less rewarding in terms of achievements. I don’t feel the need to brag to my brother that I just finished watching a film. So, when I hear people say video game is art, I sort of disagree even though I enjoy the artistic side of it very much. Yes, video games can be artistic, but it is still not an art form. You see, I didn’t play Okami for art’s sake. I played the game to beat it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the story that comes with the game. However, in the end, you play to beat. You don’t say to someone: “Congratulations on completing the film.” It sounds awkward. Did it really require a lot of effort and time to complete a film other than requiring your full attention?

And before you jump the gun on me, I didn’t write this blog post to promote war, but to open up a dialogue. If you have a different perspective, leave me a comment. I don’t mind being challenged. In fact, I encourage you to prove me wrong.

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967): The Servant Leader

It’s so difficult not to fall in love with the one-armed swordsman as he exhibits all the masculine traits of what it means to be a man. Ideally, he really is the perfect man. I watched this film several times–not just for the poetic concept of masculinity, but for the cinematography. It’s a visually attractive and soothing film to watch in the evening, just when the sun is about to set.

The story is about an orphan, the son of a servant belonging to a prestigious martial arts school that is famous for its swordsmanship. In the opening of the film, the assassins attempt to assassinate the headmaster, teacher Qi, but failed. Instead, the protagonist’s father dies in his place. At the mercy of the protagonist’s father, the headmaster promises to train the orphan like one of his nephews as his disciple.

Even though the orphan is treated well by the headmaster, our hero, the orphan, never sees himself above a servant and continues to accept his social status as a servant. This hard-headed “arrogant” personality irritates the headmaster’s daughter because she has taken a liking to him but he refuses to acknowledge her by her name, suggesting that he is aware of his social status. The protagonist remains distant from her, not because he finds her repulsive but because he is a true gentleman.

Rejecting the headmaster’s daughter who resembles a spoiled brat princess causes lethal consequences. They say a woman’s wrath is quick-tempered, unforeseen, and unpredictable like the changing weather–one moment it’s sunny, and then in a flick of an eye, it’s pouring rain (I hear this generalized statement often in martial art films and I have to disagree with this statement, but I will use anyway because the story is told from a heterosexual male perspective). Out of anger from losing in a duel using just bare hands, she chops off the hero’s right arm, leaving him maimed.

Time and again, being a gentleman, the hero will not lay a hand on the headmaster’s daughter even though he just got his arm chopped off. Instead, he flees and falls into a boat that belongs to a beautiful woman, who happens to be an orphan herself. This is one of my favorite scenes. Fate is kind enough to bring him to a kind-heart maiden who not only nurses the hero back to life, but who is able to help him gain his strength.

Humiliated at the fact, the hero cannot defend the maiden when they were harassed by two martial arts disciples, the maiden offers him a powerful martial arts book that contains only the left-handed portion. We learned the martial arts book was thrown into the fire because the maiden’s mother blamed the book for taking her husband’s life. Magically, it seems that it is fated that this book is meant for the hero. Ironically, he becomes stronger with the new martial arts technique than he was when he still has his right arm.

This new technique not only helps the hero defend himself but also came in handy when he learned the headmaster’s daughter has been captured by the dangerous martial artist named Smiling Tiger. To make the story short, the headmaster’s daughter is saved, and the bad guys are eliminated. The hero is then given praise for being a true martial artist worthy to become the headmaster’s successor. But this recognition and leadership got turned down. His father died because of martial arts. The maiden’s father died because of martial arts. The hero chooses to abandon the martial arts world and become a farmer, living a peaceful life with the country girl, who saved him.

How noble, isn’t it? Willing to die for your fellow brothers and deny the recognition and the leadership role offered to him. The hero is a farmer, maimed, and a simple man. What I find so admirable about the protagonist is how he sticks to his true self. He has always identified himself as a servant, and he continues to fight like a servant. It’s hard not to fall in love with such a character. You use your strength to protect and not use it to harm others. He really is a true leader. I realized from watching the film that sometimes the manliest of men is the one who lives a quiet, simple life.