Quickie: Bloodborne: The Perversion of the Heros’ Journey

The easiest and hardest part about writing about Bloodborne is while there are so many topics which are intimately familiar to me. The clear H.P. Lovecraft comparisons, strong ties to various works of horror to nihilistic psychology, it’s ridiculously difficult for me to articulate about just one element but something I noticed on the several occasions I have played the game is this; it is a deliberate deconstruction and annihilation of the concept of the human myth and it’s place in our culture. To be frank with you, I haven’t the foggiest where this drabble is going to go, and while I will try my darnedest not to go off on too many a tangent, keep in mind this is more a less a string of  consciousness made digital word as opposed to anything remotely resembling academic thought.

Simply put, Bloodborne is a perverse inversion of our exclusively human beliefs and values, things which have been a part of our culture and our psychology since we learned the ability to think beyond what we could merely see. However, it does not do so by employing the strictly strange to show this, quite the contrary, Bloodborne remorselessly presents us all with a knowledge we all know, but performed in a sacrilegious context which lays bare just how fragile our sense of belonging and existence truly is. Although it is tempting to strictly adhere to comparing these notions from the relatively modern source of Lovecraft, let’s keep in mind the concept of existential crisis, both interior and exterior, have always been a part of the human condition before some stringy, socially awkward bigoted racist was a gleam in his progenitors’ eye.

Sack up kids, Real Talk Time.

Like it or not, we are a selfish species; most if not all of what we have done has been to preserve our livelihoods with all over concerns being secondary, even tertiary. We consume and reproduce in an endless cycle with little forethought for the consequences our collective and generational actions will have on our world, despite the fact the world and the universe it exists within is a greater entity than we will ever be. In the broad scheme of things, all of us, no matter how powerful or profitable we are, will mean less than nothing. When we die, the world and universe will continue, altered in the formers’ case to be sure, but save for those who love us, we are not mourned or given an immortal legacy.

We will never become deified by anyone beyond those who we share our lives with because we are only temporary beings. In the case of Bloodborne, the nebulous belief of immortal legacy and godhood is something humans were never meant for, and in the pursuit of changing such a dynamic for our betterment, instead, we end up denigrating further as opposed to flourishing. For the duration of the game, while playing as the Hunter, you make the gruesome discovery that the residents of Yharnam have collectively gone mad and have descended rapidly into becoming blood-thirsty beasts, where a transmorphic event has taken place in their bodies, minds and souls.


Why?

Quite simply, their forebears believed humanity could ascend to meet the Great Ones eye to eye. Scholars attempted to bridge the two races through research and experimentation, all achieving disastrous results, all of which being imperfect, horrendous and abhorrent hence the reason for the Hunter. The Hunter is the tool used to hunt down those who relinquished their humanity in favor of communing with the Great Ones, eliminating the primitive element, but as it becomes apparent, this cycle never ends. As long as humans have the aspiration and the entitlement to go beyond what they are worth, the hunt never ends. This desire in addition to the consumption of the Paleblood (which enables you to look past the veil at what truly lurks in the shadows of Yharnam) is what reverts humanity to it’s most base instincts, stripping away logic, morality and any mores of societal norms and always results in certain tragedy.

Case in point; the lament of Father Gascoigne.

The Paleblood goes beyond exposing a persons’ Jungian Shadow, it transforms that person into the Jungian Shadow. In this sense, the story line pushes forward the truth that despite everything we see and read, despite everything we vow to never do, one way or another, the temptation to give in is greater than anything. This almost suicidal drive to become the animal is the religion of humanity, it’s where we came from, it’s where we could potentially go because it is all too easy for us to give in at the end.
The Hunter, at least to me, represents the figurative Hero in Joseph Campbell’s seminal The Hero’s Journey, a distinctly humanistic trait which shows up constantly in stories because it appeals to our sense of self worth and hope. Below I’ve included the overview of this, however, one of the most recognisable examples of this can be seen in the story arc of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy or the myth of King Arthur which is the epitome of a classic quest of the hero in any story;


1. The Ordinary World: The hero, uneasy,  uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. The hero-in-potential is shown to be torn in various directions due to circumstances, personal dilemmas and other outside forces beyond their control.
2. The Call To Adventure: Something disrupts the current status quo, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within the person’s existence, so the they must be introduced to the genesis of change.
3. Refusal of The Call: The hero feels the understandable human fear of the unknown and attempts to shirk the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and treachery ahead.
4. Meeting The Mentor: The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of who gives him or her the primary training, equipment, and/or crucial advice that will help on the journey.  In some cases, the hero will find that mentorship within themselves through realising their own true sense of resolve.
5. Crossing the Threshold: At the conclusion of the First Act the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and enters a new world, the Special World, filled with unknown challenges, labors and dangers.
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: The hero’s innate strength and/or intelligence is tested and soughts out allegiances in the Special World.
7. Approach:  The hero and new found allies formally prepare and forge a sense of unity for the major challenge in the Special World.
8. The Ordeal: Near the middle or the end of Act Two, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear which they have long been running away from.  Death, literal or figurative of either self or their traveling party occurs which fully pushes the hero to their absolute limits.
9. The Reward: The hero earns the treasure by facing death or something akin to it.  There may be a temporary cause to celebrate, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again and the hero knows better not to rest upon their laurels.
10. The Road Back: About three-fourths of the way through Act Three, the hero is resolute to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought back to their home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission which can last the entire remainder of the story.
11. The Resurrection: At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last monumental sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and intimately complete level.
12. The Return: The hero makes an assured return to home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the reward that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed and has a greater awareness of who they are, what they can do, and a willingness to help future heroes, thus the cycle continues.

Bearing that in mind in addition what I mentioned earlier about the rift between humanity and the gods, I want you to think of the reverse when it comes to the Hunter’s journey in Bloodborne and you will find that Bloodborne is the direct antithesis to Campbell’s celebrated narrative theorem. Despite the fact the game is indeed an RPG while permits you to customize your character’s appearance, attitude, skills, clothes and weaponry, this initial feeling of empowerment is actually a cruel joke which gradually rubs itself in your face when you realise that most if not all of what you have done has been not for the benefit of humanity, but for the Great Ones.
As the Hunter gathers further knowledge and insight about the curse of Yharnam, they start to see the Great Ones and realise every movement they have made has been dispassionately scrutinised. The Great Ones do not concern themselves with the affairs of humanity, instead they observe, watch us as we destroy themselves in the senseless, compulsive pursuit of something they will never have. Witnessing this reminds you as the player that no matter how well you have performed in-game, how many times you have needed to restart an area, regardless of your upgrades, pimped-out wardrobe and enhanced weaponry, is of absolutely no significance in the story, specifically the universe in which the Hunter exists.


Nothing, not a single deed of what you have done, not an iota of your suffering and self-determination matters.


Your Hero’s Journey proves fruitless and utterly inconsequential which in turn cements home the notion that anything human, anything of which has been our thought, our will and our creation, no matter how powerful we may see it as, has absolutely no place beyond our own ego because it is only human. ONLY human. This nonchalant act of perversion against our expectations is the brilliance in the narrative of Bloodborne; it is not interested in giving you yet another optimistic boost about yourself or the human race. It pummels your fragile ego and awareness into oblivion because that is, at least in this universe, where we are all bound and cursed to belong. 

Poopie.

Casting Call: Salem’s Lot

Although there is a mighty contingent of horror fans who look back fondly on Tobe Hoopers’ 1979 adaptation of Stephen Kings’ small town/big deal vampire tale, when one removes the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia and/or childhood trauma previously held there by a levitating Ralphie Glick or the (in what is actually a great design) distempered bald rat appearance of Reggie Nalders’ Kurt Barlow, it’s not the strongest King-based film. As consolation however, one could hardly hold that sin against that particular film alone.
It is a truth widely known that cinematic and television takes on the Kingdom suffer from the imbalanced combination of a promise of concept and ideas with execution limited by reality. It doesn’t happen all the time with some strong examples coming in the form of Geralds’ Game, The Shawshank Redemption, Doctor Sleep, IT (namely Chapter One although Chapter Two could not be blamed for being lazy) and the CBS series of The Stand actually IS quite solid, thankyouverymuch, but more often than not, it takes a certain touch to bring Kings’ particular prose to the screen in a cohesive and competent manner that not only pays respect (if not complete fidelity) to the authors’ work, but also maintains its’ own identity and gels with the audience.

Due to being a fan of Salem’s Lot as a novel and of quality vampire media in general, I found it prudent (and let’s face it, this is me indulging in my own opinions because this is my blog) to play the Game of Wishful Optimism and propose my own current dream casting of a speculative remake of the story, with the preamble of a great creative crew, an agreeable schedule and minor studio interference firmly in place… in other words, the entertainment version of Utopia.

Jovan Adepo as Ben Mears

Adepo is absolutely slaughtering the shop in the aforementioned The Stand as troubled and morally-grey musician turned doomsday survivor Larry Underwood in what has to be one of the strongest casting choices I have ever seen for such a complex character.

Although the character of Ben Mears can is easier to code as a Good Guy despite his outsider status in the town, Adepo is extremely good at portraying nuanced and troubled waters underneath a seemingly cool exterior. Given Ben is thrust into various dangerous situations, it would be understandable to see him struggle through them and have him emerge with scars which will likely stay in his mind long after the story concludes.

Jared Harris as Richard Throckett Straker

Harris is one of my favourite actors who has been working for a very, VERY long time. That being said he has but quite recently become a wide-spread household name due to his amazing work in HBOs’ Chernobyl and AMCs’ awesome The Terror (Season One) but to name merely two examples.

In saying that, I would would like to put forward that it was his earlier performance as the Napoleon of Crime himself Professor James Moriarty in Guy Ritchies’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows where he was so very erudite, so very sophisticated and so very dangerous that it made absolute sense to me that he could play Straker in a similar vein (hurrrrr) as James Mason in the original film, but still carve his own unique path into the role.

Plus, I feel he looks fabulously zaddy in a three piece suit, but that’s not the point.

Stellan Skarsgård as Kurt Barlow

I will in no way deny that this choice was not a package deal with the above casting because it totally was due to how beautifully both actors played off of each other in the previously listed Chernobyl, but by the same token, Skarsgård has a certain touch when he portrays villainy and the guy is physically imposing to boot with his hulking yet poised physique in addition to his raspy, bonesaw barritone.

Skarsgård appears to understand how to create true menace without resorting to bells and whistles, he can be clandestine and guarded in his approach, much like how Barlow is in the story. Barlow is not one to venture out in public on a whim and prefers to emerge with very few witnesses around due to having several centuries’ worth of survival instincts, hence why he has Straker to handle his affairs.

I also figure since his sons Bill and Alexander have been successful in venturing into Kings’ realms of horrors, why shouldn’t Papa Skarsgård follow as same?

Adam Driver as Matt Burke

Driver could play a household cleaning instrument and still be compelling, but when it comes to strong side roles in the form of the leads’ friend, it can by a tricky affair to pull off given how short-shifted such a character can be in a horror film.

In the case of Burke, he serves as social support for Ben and as exposition with regards to the sordid history of the town having lived there for basically his entire life and knows all of those who dwell in it all with an affable air of kindness about him. Driver has such an unconventional yet unmistakable charm that it would be easy to believe Adepos’ Ben could be fast friends with him in a matter of a few short days which in turn would make the dire events Burke finds himself in to follow all the more impactful.

Emma Stone as Susan Norton

Emma Stone never fails to bring a smile to my face whenever she appears, no matter how thankless her role could be. It is of no secret that what makes Stone so endearing is indeed the fact she is one of this generations’ most talented actresses due to her combination of beauty, sass, strength and sincerity. Susan Norton is not one of the most well-known of Kings’ female characters which I feel is criminal because Susan is quite astute, perceptive, keenly intelligent and more than admirably holds her own.

When the danger of Barlow and his vampire plague begins to take hold of her home, family and friends, without fail Susan wastes absolutely no time assisting in the effort to expel the evil and reclaim the town even though she knows to fail will literally cost her soul.

Patrick Gallagher as Father Frank Callahan

Gallagher has been working in the arena since I was a sprite and although until recently when I never knew his name, I always knew his face whenever he appeared in a film or a television series, regardless of the size of the role due to how much charisma the man exudes in addition to his inherent talent. Additionally, he has the honor of portraying one of the best videogame antagonists ever in the form of Khotun Khan in Ghost of Tsushima, but that is beside the point (seriously though, play that game, it and Khan are amaaaaaaziiiiiiinnnnnnnng).

Father Frank Callahan is a man filled with tremendous pain which he keeps hidden underneath a tough yet warm mask he shows to most residents of Salem’s Lot because at the core, the Father is suffering a severe crisis of faith even before Barlow infests the town. With all of these conflicting emotions bubbling to the surface as the town and it’s people begin to suffer, Callahan is thrusted into a dynamic and fascinating position which truly raises the stakes… oh man, I’m on a tear.

Before you ask, I didn’t mind the 2004 miniseries, have at if you wish, I said what I said, come at me, bro/sis.

Digital Damsels of Distress: Heather Mason (Silent Hill 3)

Note: Goodness ME has it taken me forever to pick this series back up! I haven’t had much time to compose a full-fledged analysis for a while due to life being such as it is, but here is the next instalment of DDoD. Hope you enjoy. Also, I would take the opportunity to say this article comes with a trigger warning regarding content touching on sexual exploitation and violence toward young girls and the violation of human rights in general. If you are sensitive to such matters, it may be prudent not to read it, I will not blame you and know your opinion and boundaries are seen and valid. For those of you who roll their eyes at the term ‘trigger warning’, I pity you.

In times what is by now I would hope most apparent, the Silent Hill franchise is one of the most highly regarded survival horror franchises of all time. With the games’ focus on the phantasms of the human mind as the forefront tentpole of what makes the series the most unique, it’s practically a rite of passage for any gamer keen to get in on the survival horror genre. Whilst the watchword of Resident Evil is primarily bombastic, in the early years of Silent Hill, the approach was subtle. Although the saga has since become, shall we say, ECLECTIC in its approach (the later games were not… very… good), the first four games have substantive fondness in fans. Although Silent Hill 2 is rightly and widely recognised as the pinnacle of what the series was at the core with its incredibly bleak tone and confronting material, Silent Hill 3 is my personal favourite entry of the series and a lot of if has to do with our Damsel for today, Heather Mason aka Cheryl Mason, the daughter of the first games’ protagonist, Harry.

Hi Heather!

Prior to the events of the first game, an archaic cult in Silent Hill impregnated the psychic child Alessa Gillespie with the fetus of their creator God that it could be born and bring their horrific version of utopia into fruition on Earth. During the ritual, Alessa sustained significant burns, a trauma so potent which caused her to split her soul in half – one remained within her charred, withered body, a warped consciousness, meanwhile the other half, her innocence, manifested as the infant Cheryl found on the side of the road by Harry Mason. Seven years later, Harry and Cheryl returned to Silent Hill on vacation, which resulted in the two souls reuniting and allowing for the birth of God to take place. Harry was able to stop the deity, but the ritual was too much for the now-whole Alessa. As she died, she was reincarnated as a baby saved by Harry during the ordeal who was named Heather.

After a personal tragedy resulting in Harry losing his wife, Harry raised little Heather all on his own, constantly on the move, which gave Heather very little opportunity to connect with others. By the time Silent Hill 3 occurs, Heather is seventeen years old and winds up once again within the cults’ devious sights.

The first thing that immediately struck me about her looks and her personality and how both of these things defy the expectations of female characters in other horror games. While a pretty girl, she also looks like somebody you could find anywhere be it at a supermarket to a fairground. With her imperfect complexion, asymmetrical features and body composition, Heather could be your friend or your sister, somebody you could realistically connect to in every day life. Because of Heathers’ regular appearance, there is a certain vulnerability to her that many other survival horror characters don’t have and that it what immediately draws you in, but naturally, that is what not what just keeps you invested in her tale.

When we first meet Heather cruising around at the local mall, she is portrayed as a seemingly normal and carefree girl who loves to shop and enjoy life. She has a considerable amount of rough edges and tends to be blunt with others though not out of cruelty but as a defense mechanism. One trait of Heathers’ is that she is moody and loses her temper quite easily at things that frustrate her, which, as we know are completely normal emotions for a teenager. At times, she comes off as a downright brat, but before one judges her too harshly, permit me to ask this; were you ever utterly selfless and completely responsible at that age? Being human means being conflicted, combative and contradictory, a maelstrom of nuance and complexity, all of which personal qualities Heather is not too perfect to have.

While longer a child yet not quite an adult yet either, Heather still displays aspects of childish conceit, naïveté and emotional vulnerabilty. During her nightmarish journey across dimensions, Heather experiences vicissitudes and is a scared, stressed, exhausted, and frightened teenager who, in addition to struggling with a complicated relationship with her father as an adolescent, must fight to survive the ordeal that is Silent Hill and those who live within it.

Going back to themes and logic in the games, I feel the driving force of Heathers’ crucible is one which deals with identity and agency as a young girl in an old world that does not recognise either of these aspects. Due to her aforementioned mystical heritage involving her intimate connection to Alessa, her purpose and existence pursued by the cult of Silent Hill is archaic and insidious; she is to be the mother of God, or specifically, THEIR rendition of God, their construct of God.

If this notion sounds familiar to you, that’s because it is. As much as contemporary Western society has progressed in terms of broad social movements, technologies and other enhanced means of living, antiquated traditions, beliefs and values still linger, refusing to fade like stubborn spirits in a house.

From a very early age, girls are encouraged to value their physical appearance, to please, to speak when spoken to, being told to accept that when a boy mistreats them, it’s because the boy secretly likes them. In addition to this, life is quite difficult for a teenage girl because while they do tend to understand what is morally correct and what is not, they are still trying to figure out who and what they are and are naturally prone to make errors. As their minds and bodies develop, they experiment, push boundaries and because of this desire to express personal freedom, their tastes are condemned by society, their attitudes mocked and peers doubling down on maintaining a strict status quo which forces these girls to focus on families they may never have, children they may never want and relationships they may never desire all the while objectifying and disparaging their bodies to an intensely disturbing degree.

Do you remember that pederasty-fueled countdown the internet had in anticipation for when the Olsen Twins turned 18?

Have you seen how Billie Elishs’ body is shamed and deconstructed by men twice her age?

How about in other countries where young girls are being sold as brides with absolutely nobody batting an eyelid or dismissing it as something-something-their-culture-something-something-not-our-problem?

What of the sexual abuse committed by the rich and corrupt in our own so-called ‘civilised’ countries?

Why is this so?

Because they can. Because they know the most they would ever get would be a slap on the wrist. Because they possess a certain privilege and power which they can abuse with no consequence.

While the #MeToo movement presents it’s own problematic issues, as somebody who has thus far had the experience of life as a female, who was treated in a sexually dubious manner by various male figures, whether or not I knew it at the time, the core issue of the mistreatment and misappropriation of girls is an actuality which has long endured and is still practiced around the world. In the case of Heather Mason, it is this reality which has been amplified to a disturbing degree. She was born to breed, nothing more, and her pursuers will stop at nothing to ensure that her purpose, her ‘destiny’ is fulfilled with no further regard for her own autonomy. That right there? That is more frightening than any of the misshapen, psychologically penetrative monstrosities lurking about in the Silent Hill dimension combined.

Note: You may notice that the header image of Heather features her wearing her signature white ‘life jacket’ hoodie but with no sign of a top underneath despite the fact in-game Heather wears an orange short-sleeved turtleneck underneath the jacket which completely conceals her chest. I wonder if this artistic choice was deliberate on the part of the creator, to display Heather in a somewhat sexualised fashion that before you play the game, your mind can’t but indulge in what appears to be “Jailbait”-style fan service and then, when you realise the context and logic of the story and the character, it would have a completely different effect. If that was indeed the intention, bravo, Konami. That being said, there are some pretty scandalous and downright wrong art pieces of Heather in extremely sexually compromising positions and postures that make me feel extremely icky because I’m not sure that was the deliberate intent of the, ahem, ‘work’.

As Heather makes her way through the Silent Hill dimension, she comes into contact with various creatures, most of which appear to be very masculine in appearance which try any which way they can to grab at and maim her. As a matter of fact, several of the more grotesque monstrosities have names or appearances which can be associated with unwanted and negative attention in addition to rather overt physical appearances such as the Slurper, the Scraper and the Double Heads (rabid and ravenous canine monsters which can appear in packs in order to attack Heather in addition to that name which HAS to be a double entendre, hrrrrrrrmmmm!). Although many of the in-game foes are coded as male, perhaps the most devious, relentless and compelling antagonistic force Heather meets is Claudia Wolf; another woman. Wolf invigilates the harmful, restrictive status quo of the Silent Hill cult that wishes to bring Heather to heel, but her reason for doing so is greatly complicated. However, I will save *that* in-depth character analysis for another time.

Despite being pursued and manipulated by the world around her, Heathers’ emotional strength is not to be undermined. For all of her childish outbursts and snide comments toward mature authority figures, she is able to endure and survive this Hellish ordeal. While she is not completely triumphant by the end of the game, she has managed to reach deep down into an untapped reservior she thought she had only imagined in order to take on the cult. In what has to be one of the most satisfying and thematically *very* telling moments in the game, she literally boots God square between the legs.

While I am not certain of Konamis’ full intentions, I can’t help but read Heathers’ tale as one about the journey of a young girl who not only faces her past and achieves a state of maturity, but who rejects, battles and succeeds in defeating the patriarchy. Allow me to be clear because it’s not my intention to get into The Shit for this; I do not see or define the patriarchy as “MEN BAD!”. What the patriarchy is to me is an institution that is governed by a cowardly cross-section of the powerful %1 (mostly but perhaps not exclusively white males) who seek to enrich only themselves whilst weaving the illusion of benefice and promise of capital toward one demographic of the population (men), but in actuality having nothing but contempt for any and all identities that are not them. The incentives tend to shift with time and figureheads alternate, but the goal remains the same; domination and subjugation of everyone else through the abuse of power and control utilizing a rigid and toxic status quo. It’s cruel, it’s vindictive and it is a very real problem which exists right now, but in varied degrees. Some aspects of the patriarchy is clear and at times comically blunt, but others display a sense of shadowy cunning that is not always visible, hence the opinion held by some who say there is no such thing as the patriarchy; just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there and it doesn’t see you and has you within its’ suffocating grasp. Patriarchy is a corporation rather than one singular avatar and through the various monsters, story revelations and the setting, Silent Hill 3 presents another example as to why horror is a paragon of freely expressing all manner of concerns we possess, and in this case, it proves that it is entirely possible to defeat a fearsome, ingrained evil. The trick is that in order to do so, to truly bring the beast down, you require courage, resilience, humanity and your own forged sense of identity to truly make a difference rather than to submit to the darkness which threatens to encroach you, just like Heather.

Quickie: The Cosmic Horror of Noob Saibot

*Note: What you are about to bravely endure is unapologetically stupid content that is purely speculate on a property which prides itself in abiding by the doctrine of It’s Not That Deep, Bro all in the name of grotesque, delicious merriment and nostalgic delights.

Cosmic Horror‘: “… the philosophical notion of existential nihilism and philosophical pessimism, as well as the desolate quality of the natural world, and cosmos in general.”.

In the realm of Mortal Kombat, the universal language which all of the characters understand is excessive violence, be it as a result of a misunderstanding, a petty dispute or on some occasions, legitimate grievances… which, okay, kinda isn’t too far removed from our own continuity once you mull that thought over for more than five seconds.

“I don’t know who you are!”

FIGHT!

“You killed my clan!”

FIGHT!

“WHY WON’T YOU TAKE THE TEDDY BEAR I MADE FOR YOU?!”

FIGHT!

All good and wholesome fun which has earned its reputation of equal infamy and fondness across generations of gamers with an appreciation for ridiculous bloodlust.

That being said, I would like to take the opportunity to talk a little about one of my mains, Noob Saibot, aka the original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han. Saibot, despite his rather unfortunate name is a far scarier prospect than you think, and it’s not just his penchant for sadistic violence and is the only ninja who is actually DRESSED like a ninja.

Noob Saibot is a powerful revenant who was reborn after being murdered by Scorpion thanks to the forbidden meddlings of Quan Chi in the Netherrealm. What was once a book of blood and bone is now an abysmal grimoire of the darkest of magic and immortal spite. Having divorced himself from the Lin Kuei Clan absolutely, Noob has spent most of the later series looking to usurp his creator, Shang Tsung and others he deems as his enemies utilizing shadowy treachery and utter bloodshed with assistance from his dastardly Shadow Double. In the most recent entry of the series, Mortal Kombat 11, he has literally assumed the avatar of Death itself.. but oh, if only he were merely that. No, Noob isn’t just Death incarnate, he is something worse.

Like Shang Tsung, there is something a little more predatory and vindictive in how Noob fights and his claiming of victory over those he faces. A primary example is his pre-battle entrance in the aforementioned Mortal Kombat 11 which consists of him being birthed by a nebulous oubliette, prying a sickle out of his stomach without hesitation or flinch and dressed as what could only be described as the Grim Reaper itself with a barren, bonesaw rasp of a voice promising the demise of his opponent. It’s extremely badarse, extremely intimidating and extremely befitting the evolution of this powerful character.

All of Noobs’ Kombat powers are Netherrealm-borne with particular focus on teleportation, temporal manipulation and perception alteration but his most well-known attack is the use of portals that he can summon out of nowhere to ensnare his victims where they briefly disappear before being plonked back into the bout again.

Something I have always wondered about this attack is this; where does the opponent go? Time in the wider sense is an ambiguous thing to say the least; for a general example, what we may consider a year could either be a day or a millenium in alternate continuities. In a sense, Noobs’ portals are black holes. While science has worked on honing the most cohesive hypothesis about how a black hole behaves from the human point of view, there still remains a certain romance of these galactic oddities, a terrifying romance to be sure, but nevertheless a persistent and engaging one.

Why?

I don’t believe we will ever fully understand black holes due to the fact our brains simply aren’t equipped to be privy to all of their secrets and realities and we conjure these fancies as a means to make sense of them, the way our ancestors made sense of their world millions of years ago under the stars. Frankly, there are things out there which cannot be understood, at least by the likes of us as a species. Humans were not built to thrive in the void and oblivion above; explore, yes, but truly live? No. To live successfully is dependent on the capacity to comprehend ones’ surroundings in conjunction with ones’ sense of self and there is a seeming infinite of the unknowable up and out there that even the most sharpest and brilliant of minds cannot fathom.

And do you know what?

I feel this limitation is for the best.

The knowledge and the experience would be far too much for any of us to bear that we would be driven mad (-der). In other words, that existentially distressing phantasm of having no place in a world in which your being is completely inconsequential is one of the staple hallmarks of the concept of Cosmic Horror.

So, going back to Noobs’ portals. Yes, I typed those words with a snicker.

It makes you wonder if the unlucky Kombatant in those moments experiences something akin to ab absolute dissolution of the mind, glimpsing of an infinity where they do not belong or wish to belong. What would they see? How long would they see it for? How would their minds rationalise it? What is not to say that when they return back to the present their minds have been thoroughly destroyed and Noobs’ death blow would only be a formality? It would essentially result in what is known in psychology circles as emotional overload; a relentless barrage of trauma the mind is unable to successfully compartmentalize which results in emotional deterioration which can lead to mental and eventually physical death if left untreated. Pair that response to an unknowable stimulus and you have yourself a fate truly worse than death.

In short, I am of the opinion that Noob has already won the battle. He has already slain his opponent with a breed of trauma they could never have been prepared for and physically ripping them asunder in a graphic and brutal fashion is but a grotesque indulgence of his choosing.

Quickie: “If Only…” (Ghost of Tsushima)

Permit me to say this right out of the gate; I adored Ghost of Tsushima. Not only is it a superbly realised samurai power fantasy akin to the epic works of Akira Kurosawa (with a cheeky dosage of Kaneto Shindō mixed in for bloodsport), but also a well-executed and adept character study of the protagonist Jin Sakai, a young samurai who realises that in order to save his people and his home, he must go beyond his staunch code and adopt the persona of something more than a man… a Ghost. It truly is no exaggeration that Ghost of Tsushima is a tremendous contender for Game of the Year and to in any way undermine all of the hard work everybody involved placed into bringing this saga to life would be blasphemy.

In case you were wondering, yes, what you have just read is the preface for a point I promise I will get to.

Although I will not venture too far into any explicit story spoilers per se, I would like to take this opportunity to strongly advise that if you have played the game or don’t really care to do so and are curious to see what nonsense I have to spurt, great, but if you have not yet played it then for the sake of your own enjoyment, I urge you don’t read any further if you want to go in COMPLETELY blindfolded minus the handcuffs.

……

Final warning.

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Okay, here we go.

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Milk.

Yes. You read correctly.

Milk.

Around two thirds into the game, Mongol antagonist and all round husky-cunty badarse Khotun Khan finally manages to capture the protagonist Jin Sakai who has been amassing a reputation as the folk hero ‘The Ghost’ in addition to being an all round thorn in the Khans’ side. At long last, the Khan has Sakai trussed up in the inner courtyard keep of a fort which he has taken over as an ad-hoc base of operations. For the better part of the game, Khan has proved that he is as much about learning about the culture of his enemies than he is merely dominating and destroying them with a genuine respect for warriors whom he even regales as ‘Brothers’. When not committing unspeakable war atrocities through the hands of his troops, the Khan is as much about exposing enemy weakness through shrewd scrutiny, psychological manipulation and temptation which you see at various points in the narrative.

In documents you can collect through Jins’ quest as the young samurai lord traverses the crippled Tsushima, you stumble across written accounts of a Japanese monk who has been travelling with Khan as an observer, chronicling his progress as he moves through Tsushima during his campaign. Through these missives, the Khan reveals what begins as an intense fascination which becomes a full-blown obsession with capturing the young upstart.

However.

Refocusing on Jins’ incarceration, the Khan commits a genuinely grotesque act as a means of proving a point to the insurgent, an act which truly shakes Sakai and by extension, the player to the bone. However, in my opinion, the story itself does not display enough of this struggle to fully slam this crucial dynamic home, not completely.

So, you may ask, where does the milk come in?

As any writer, professional or otherwise will tell you, they all have favourite tropes and four of mine are the We Aren’t So Different, You And I, The Horrible Truth, The Troubling Seduction and The Callback.

Brief tangent; although the We Aren’t So Different, You And I, The Horrible Truth and The Callback tropes are all rather self-explanatory, I would just like to clarify that The Troubling Seduction need not always be sexual in nature, but something unflinchingly personal which can take the form of an offer, a word or an action. It’s such a fascinating concept I find myself experimenting with as a writer due to how wildly diverse an instrument it can be.

By all historical accounts, Mongols, being nomadic and pastoral, possessed extremely diverse and flexible diets whilst staying self-sufficient during their campaigns due to their varied appetites, but a particular staple was dairy. One of these dairy-related products was airag, a concoction of fermented mares’ milk, something the Khan is seen drinking at several key moments throughout the game.

During a cutscene exchange in the courtyard, Khotun offers Jin a sip of his native beverage from a massive golden goblet and attempts to open a discourse with Sakai who, predictably, defiantly refuses, clearly demonstrating his resolute hate of what the Khan has done, which, fair enough, is what any of us would do.

That being said, if the universe granted me the impossible opportunity, if the Gods of Presumption were merciful to grant me one aspect about this story to alter, I would prolong Jins’ incarceration in order to enable the Khan to have more time to mentally whittle Jins’ righteousness right down to the core. It is no exaggeration to state the foundations were all there to incorporate further material and I admit to have been a little sad that the game did not fully embrace this ripe occasion to deliver a gloriously devious narrative kidney punch.

To witness further instances of the Khan resorting to insidious psychological tactics and digging his hooks deep into Sakais’ head, such as dragging harsh facts about Jins’ beloved uncle, the jito Lord Shimura to light AND ruthlessly deconstructing the useless fragile significance of the pageantry samurai code, sharing his disturbingly pragmatic thoughts about how the world requires ‘necessary’ violence to obtain peace for generations to come. All of these deeply troubling insights would be just a terrible joy to behold. Heck, I would even go so far as to insert an explicit reference of the Khan having children of his own (Mongols LOVED to fuck in addition to fucking shit UP) and how he wants only the best for subsequent generations and legacies when he eventually departs the world. To Khotuns’ reasoning, this war he is waging is the means of a better, sustainable end for not only his own, but for that of the world.

All of this information, this invasive and prolonged attack on Jins’ susceptibilities would ferociously penetrate Jins’ mindset and cause him to further re-evaluate everything he feels he knows about not just current events, but his own way of thinking in general. During these exchanges, Khotun Khan would attempt giving Jin airag, each offer would be refuted despite the fact he is taking stock of Khans’ words before finally… in a moment of apparent victory for the Khan and one of defeat for Sakai… the exalted Ghost drinks deeply.

Additionally, my minds’ eye envisioned the Khan inhaling with deep satisfaction, a smile of accomplishment on his face, the glow from the firelight reflecting in his dark eyes as Jin stares into them as he finally tilts the Khans’ gilded goblet to his mouth. In a sense, it would almost resemble a love scene, minus actually resembling anything of the sort. Despite how it may appear as submission, this moment of tainted enlightenment, this dark pay off finally enables Jin to find the piece of the puzzle he truly requires in order to save Tsushima from the Khans’ clutches, but his fall from grace before he rises again is not yet complete.

What do you think? Am I over-stepping my boundaries with my wholesale no-name creator quackery? What would you have done different?

Quickie: ‘Climax’; Smoke, Psych and Mirrors

WARNING.

Very spoiler-heavy thoughts/analysis on Gaspar Noé ‘s outrageous 2018 psychological horror Climax. If you have not yet experienced Noé’ latest freefall into the abyss of disturbia and acrimonious oblivion but intend to, I implore you to turn tail right now.

Seriously, I am gonna spoil a fundamental truth in this movie, so if you haven’t seen it, please, don’t read any further because this one is best experienced going in with very little to no idea about what transpires.

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For those of you still here either because you’ve seen the flick or don’t really care about spoilers, heeeeeeeerrrrrrrrre weeeeeeee gooooooo!

I often joke that when Noé (or as I affectionately call him, ‘Uncle Gaspar’) fathers a film, you should never take your eyes off the man given just how much he dares to delve into the controversial content he creates from all sides, some anticipated, others completely unexpected.

That being said, for all of the troubling thoughts his movies and their characters burrow into your skull, they are not done for the simple shock of it all. Noé possesses his own unique methodology when it comes to storytelling and none of this includes INSULTING the audiences’ intelligence. Shocking their immediate sensibilities, yes, but not once does Noé undermine those who gather the courage to watch his work. He rewards bravery with the breed of savagery and intelligence he combines in each of his projects because he knows what truly begins an intellectual discussion; human conflict in all of its forms with refreshing straightforwardness.

Common reactions to said straightforwardness.

So this dance scene is utterly awe-inspiring. Frantic, pulsating and utterly vital to watch with incredible sound design and camera work to further complement the visual splendor. I can almost always say for certain I watch it at least every day and get swept up in the adrenal rush of it all. Every performer is bringing their A-Game here and may I say, Sofia Boutella is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, her acting in this film is breathtaking, her dress is fucking AMAZING and I love her so much and she is consummate Wife Material.

OMGOMGOMGOMG ❤

Sorry, got side-tracked.

Not only is this number a showcase to the skills every one of these people have at the controlled height of their powers which will soon be snatched away, it also serves as a magic trick of the Smoke and Mirrors variety. A very blatant and sinister one which gives away the identity of the architect of the terror which is about to follow.

At the 4:07 mark, a statuesque blonde (played by Thea Carla Schøtt), unseen prior, effortlessly enters the frame in a spaghetti-string dress which she quickly takes off revealing an eye-catching bikini set of underwear as she boldly stares directly into your eyes as she thrusts, gyrates and sways out of the human cocoon surrounding her.

This is Psyche.

This is the woman who is ultimately responsible for the unimaginable horror you are about to witness.

Before I continue, I feel the need to explain the meaning of Psyches’ name of which there are two major sources because I refuse Uncle Gaspar selected this particular moniker by accident.

The first example of the name Psyche comes from one of two titular characters in the Greek myth commonly known as that of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche, whose name means ‘soul‘, was a beautiful human princess who rouses Aphrodites’ supremely fragile butt-hurt by being THAT hot that she commands her son, Cupid, to inspire Psyches’ love for only the most despicable of men. However, when Cupid saw her, he fell in love and as Psyche slept one night, he spirited her away to his divine bachelor pad and paid nightly visits to her because the term ‘Creepy Bastard’ clearly hadn’t been invented yet. Although Psyche is initially confused about her new dwelling, she more or less falls into routine and does her thing, all the while being told by Cupids’ disembodied voice not to look upon him when he comes to her under the cover of darkness, telling her that he is so obscenely ugly that it would surely kill her. However, one night when Cupid slinks by for a game of Hide The Loukaniko, Psyche can’t help herself and lights an oil lamp to look upon her enigmatic abductor and boom, she gets an eyeful of his sexy, bemuscled, oiled-up winged fuckboi self which… doesn’t go down well with Aphrodite. While sources of the tale are subject to a vast variety of folk motifs, the most common rendition conveys an allegory of the progress of the human soul guided by the power of love. In the case of THIS Psyche however, she is looking for a very different sort of love, or specifically, a perversion of it which I will explain shortly.

Still creepy, guys!

In the second example as to why I feel Psyches’ name is particularly significant, let’s have a quick look into the mind-boggling realm of human cognitive psychology. Although the term psyche has been present since the days of Plato (at least in recorded history), Carl Jungs’ contemporary definition of it is through our own lens the most appropriate. Here is a quote from the man himself which offers a definitive explanation to his theoretical approach.

“I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a “personality”. (1971)

A personality.

While I am not a psychologist, I feel it’s not too far off the mark to say that the character Psyche is a sociopath, and sociopaths have a certain means of living in society, one of deception and total self-interest. Sociopaths adopt and forge fraudulent personas, characteristics and even names to blend in so that they may achieve a goal of their own desire, that of bolstering their self-inflated sense of ego through validation. Sociopaths are hollow predators who only partake in various facades to get what they want and a common thing most sociopaths want is attention, adoration and desire. They want others to love them, be in awe of them even though they cannot reciprocate that love onto anybody but themselves. THAT is the version of love I mentioned earlier. To be unique, to appear having a personality by doing sincerely little as possible.

Again, look at how Psyche dances.

While this is most certainly NOT a knock on Schøtt herself (primarily because I haven’t seen any of her previous work for all I know, she could be insanely brilliant), for all of the characters’ Juno-esque bared body and flashy waving of arms and legs, her set is not as physically dynamic and individualistic as the rest of the troupe, suggesting that while she may look and perform to a certain degree, she is missing what everybody else on the floor has.

So here she is, openly exposing herself for you to see, but you are so caught up in the overall spectacle that it doesn’t even occur to you that you are seeing a true vision of human evil before your very eyes.

Throughout the entire film, Psyche lingers in the background, appearing as a vague thought in ones’ mind, but upon second watch, knowing she is the perpetrator, the scenes she appears in takes on a whole different meaning, but it is this very scene which lays down the measure of evil you are about to see.

“You’re welcome.”

The Transformative Effect of Shay Patrick Cormac: A Personal Tale

Disclaimer: No, my Damsels of Digital Distress project has NOT fallen through but I GOT A BADASS COLLECTIBLE FIGURE OF SHAY CORMAC AND THE GUY ROCKS AND THIS IS MY BLOG, DAMN IT!!!

While the Assassins’ Creed franchise has undoubtedly veered into different and controversial directions, 2014’s release of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is the game which has firmly lodged itself in my mind like that of an ice-cold hidden blade… and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

Taking place prior to Assassin’s Creed IIIRogue follows the journey of young firebrand Irish Assassin Shay Patrick Cormac in the Colonial Brotherhood and his eventual realization that the Assassin Brotherhood is as questionable as the infamous Templar Order which he eventually falls in with when he begins to question the validity of The Creed and those who myopically abide it.

The game offers nothing new mechanics-wise save for a few alterations of traditional AC formula and rather pedestrian mission parameters, but the games’ true beauty lies in its story as well as, and most importantly, character arc of the protagonist/antagonist himself, Shay Patrick Cormac.

Many of the principle characters of the AC franchise are commendable, some more so than others, but I didn’t feel connected to any of them on a personal level.

That all changed when I played Rogue for the first time.

Shay was the one who broke the veil for me, the polygon who made me look at myself, reflect on my own history and realise we had a few things in common. Obviously I’m not an Assassin or a Templar (officially) and I don’t adhere to their doctrines because let’s face it, that would be utterly nuts, because I am the very picture of sanity, nor have I been through the identical trials and tribulations as Cormac, but playing the game as him allowed me to step further into his boots at a psychological level.

When we first meet our man, he is a brash crackerjack with a Woodstock mane and a quick mouth, but he is clearly clever and he is thoughtful. Very early in the game, he displays that he thinks outside of the box and makes it a point to question some of the more nebulous aspects of the Assassin Brotherhood of which he serves. For example, the Brotherhood preaches freedom for humanity yet it is very staunch in the tenants it demands its indoctrinated to follow. Shay doesn’t feel free except when he is commanding his ship on the high seas, but even that is policed by the Creed.

Shay isn’t contemptuous of the Brotherhood itself though, quite the opposite, he believes in the true cause, or rather the cause of which he has been inducted into and he jumps at the chance to ruin some Templar lives in the process. He’s a go-getter, he doesn’t rest on his laurels and he isn’t content waiting around for the action to come to him because he knows he has a lot to give. At the same time, his betters, while convinced of Shay’s talents still call his incendiary personality into question because he is lackadaisical about the finer details of training for the Brotherhood. While Shay is a good student when it comes to utilizing the abilities he is taught, he doesn’t like the monotony of waking up every morning and spending hours in bettering his approach to his work.

Backwhen Beatrix Harper was that way, and in a sense, she still is.

I like to get in there and get my hands dirty because I enjoy gaining experience and respect from my peers and while I will always be happy to learn, I can also be impatient when it comes to getting something done. I feel if something is within my purview, I can take decisive action. This has been a curse and a blessing for me as for every success I have in following up on a hunch, I’ve also been meet with failure and it burned my arse. I’m confident you too are privy to the feeling.

I truly do not consider myself a violent individual in sum, but I tend to take my more grievous errors seriously, yet in recent years, I’ve learned to galvanize that sense of self-loathing defeat into resolve. It’s not a trait I have always possessed; in fact, it was one I developed when I chose to invest myself into my nursing career, so you could say I was definitely a late bloomer in that regard. Regardless, when I want something, I will chomp at the bit to get it, even if others are questioning my integrity from an misinformed perspective of me.

Another element of my identity I can confirm is that I am a very curious, inquisitive person. Much as I would like to say my first word was ‘Why’ (it was actually ‘Ging now’), this leading inquiry was always something I asked if I did not understand something being said to me or I wanted to know more. When somebody gives me the vague answer of ‘Because’, I want to know why, I have the compulsion to strongly request justification because I need to understand. Although I performed at an average level in my early schooling, my teachers always wrote in my report cards that I was incredibly persistent with my questions to the point of which it almost frustrated them. Of course there was only so much my undeveloped brain could comprehend, but nevertheless, my desire for that magical ‘Why’ continued to drive me through primary, to secondary and to tertiary education and now I am thankful I had never let that go. The world is a complex place filled with complex entities, every twist, every turn can be a curve ball to one’s mind, but daring to question, wanting answers, that is a constant if you choose to wield it.

A quarter way through the game when Shay realises that the Assassin Brotherhood are actually not as wise or benevolent as he originally believed, it strikes him so hard.

BIG BUBBA KISS-BOY SPOILERS AHEAD

IF YOU HAVE NOT YET PLAYED THE GAME AND WISH TO DO SO, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.


On a tip about a Piece of Eden being located in the city of Lisbon, Shay is tasked by his Mentor Achilles Davenport to commute to the Praça do Comércio during All Saints Day where he enters the house of worship during a religious service. After clambering around the ceiling, suspiciously unnoticed by parishioners , he opens a door toward the back of the building which leads him to the mythical Piece of Eden hovering near a grand altar. Shay regards it for a moment before he takes it and that is when everything goes to Hell. The cathedral shakes violently and Lisbon is thrown into the infamous earthquake of 1775. Shay bolts through the streets, the cries of the confused locals echoing in his ears and he makes for his ship, braving infernos, crumbling buildings and the splitting earth. Finally he makes it back to the ship as the city collapses into devastation. Shay looks on in horror and shock, realising he was the one who directly caused this tragedy. He condemned all of these innocent souls to death and all because of a mysterious artifact the Assassins prize. This is the true point of Shay’s dissent toward the beliefs of the Brotherhood.

Shay, fuelled by red hot rage and guilt returns to the American Frontier when he rifles through his Mentor’s private documents to retrieve a map chronicling other Eden relics in the dead of night. If one Piece could level an entire city, what would happen if the Assassins disturbed all of these Pieces? The Assassins clearly knew they were dealing with something completely beyond their understanding yet they still chose to meddle. Shay takes the map before being confronted by Davenport and makes a run for it, with most of the Assassins on site in pursuit. Finally Shay is cornered on a cliff where Shay’s best friend Liam attempts to reason with Shay one final time before another Assassin shoots the distraught Cormac (until the end, Shay believes it was LIAM who fired the shot which adds additional emotional weight to the predicament). Cormac tumbles over the cliff and into the cold waters of the harbor far below.


Okay, so this is a difficult nut to crack in literary form, so I implore you to bear with me because this marble statue ain’t gonna carve itself.

Again I must stress I didn’t cause some great catastrophe, at least not while I was awake, but Shay’s eye-opening moment comes in the form of seeing the world from another angle, one he hadn’t fully entertained the notion of due to being in league with the Brotherhood. Although we are all aware there are multiple points of view in the world, we don’t either don’t look fully into them or we make a choice to ignore them. While hopefully when we reach a revelation we hope it is done in a generally agreeable way, it can also take the form of a scarring life event, a trauma.

There wasn’t one explicit moment when I reached this definitive point, but it was more of a culmination, but to give an example and one that relates a little closely to the correlating item, I was an idiot because I followed my former best friend to high school. To begin with, it was awesome, we hung out, talked a lot. It was as if we never truly left primary school. Eventually, an ugly series of developments occurred, she befriended some other girls in school, which I was cool with, but then she became more and more distant, she would walk by me and not give me a smile or a ‘hello’. Gradually it got to the point of which she completely ignored me and to make matters worse, she befriended the school bully who was more than content to make my life hell and then SHE got in on the act for no other reason than to fit in with her new clique.

I felt betrayed.

Every night I would basically cry myself to sleep if I could sleep at all due to stress-related insomnia. My grades flipped, I became a miserable, nervous wreck.

Finally, my parents got me out of that school and put me into a new one and while I was never popular there, I managed to make friends with the ones who have come to count and who I still keep contact with. Oh and my grades improved enough that I managed to graduate Year 12 and was admitted into university, which was cool too. But on a serious note, what happened at that other school wounded me significantly and it took some drastic measures to bring me back to a level which I didn’t dread going to school every day. I was thankful to my parents for the fact they were always looking out for me, it’s just a shame it took some crud-soaked coal to make what would become a far better-looking diamond.


When Shay is found by a kindly Irish-American couple, he is nursed back to health in New York where he quickly takes stock of the situation. A multitude of gangs have taken root in the community, troubling the already struggling populace. Pairing his desire for justice and mercy with his lethal abilities, Shay begins to liberate New York from the influence of these gangs, who work for the Assassins. Yes, you read that true.

It is not until quite later Shay finds out his former comrades in arms are connected to these people, he nevertheless does what he does to atone for his self-perceived sins and his brash nature is gradually refined into one of determination under the tutelage of several new friends and allies, who are, as you have already may have guess as well, Templars, the very people he hunted. As it transpires, the man who dragged him out of the ocean, his savior, is the high-ranking Templar Colonel George Munro who was well aware of Shay’s allegiance. Despite of, or rather because of Shays’ past, he divined greatness in the young man and decided to gradually induct him into the Templar Order, not through force, but through respect, empathy and compassion.

When Shay finds himself shaking hands with the very people he previously hunted down with extreme prejudice, he smirks at the irony, but after getting to know his new bedfellows, he realises they are not so different from him. Not only is he being recognized, he is also finally perceiving them as complex entities of grey when in the past he saw their kind in black and white. When Shay finally earns the trust of his colleges and dons the Cross, it is due to his hard work as well as his tempering of his formally impulsive nature. Shay is concerned about how the people respond, not just about an idea alone and a lot of what he does is in the interest of helping others as opposed to pressing an ideology.

Prior to earning my nursing degree, I previously studied and completed two other courses, Theatre (acting strand) and Archaeology with a dual minor in Sociology and Anthropology. I want to make it known I don’t regret one moment of either, their ups, their downs, everything I learned I did so of my own free will because I was fascinated about how to convince others I was somebody else (legitimately) and the world with people of a past I had only imagined until then. However, neither were entirely practical to what I wanted in life as a whole. The city of which I live in doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity to actors or fledgling archaeologists, it’s certainly a case of “Right time, right place, right connection”, so I buckled down and threw myself in a far more practical pursuit- health sciences.

Nursing school was a grueling, soul-changing gauntlet, and by no means easy. Learning to care for my fellow humans for a living is hard work and it should be- you aren’t simply dealing with written words or computers, you are also dealing with the human machine at all stages in it’s life and often times when it is not operating to it’s full capacity. Late nights, early starts, assignments making like food in a bird’s digestive system (straight in, straight out), tears, looking for the most right answer, these and more contributed to the experience. However, I quickly realised the best way to combat them all was to become hungry, and to accept what happened and move on, forewarned and forearmed, and remember you have a network of people who want to help you succeed.

I will now take this opportunity to provide an example; during first year of clinical placement, my preceptor, a seasoned and pleasant lady for the record, asked me how I was feeling. I figured it was best to be honest because I felt that was the best policy and she was my teacher so I could confide in her, so I confessed I was feeling a little nervous. She then put a hand on my shoulder and said “Are you sure you want a profession in nursing dear?” I don’t know if this was a calculated means of providing motivation or a genuine assumption on my character in one moment of private weakness she of all people would have empathized with, but I was astounded she said such a thing. That day on, I resolved to 1) work harder, give more and 2) NEVER share my feelings with her again because hot damn, lady, where do you get off further shaking the confidence of a First Year student who had never been in a professional medical environment? Sheesh.

For the next two and a half years left of my degree, I embraced what I had once tried so hard to deny and finally, on the day of which I was handed that piece of paper while wearing that ridiculous graduation cap. Although before this in my darkest moments I still asked why I was there, I pushed forward, I earned what everything I set out to achieve. Adversity may knock you down, but you also don’t need to let it knock you out. In addition to learning all of these new skills and enhancing my own innate ones, I also managed to moderate my blindly passionate nature, not by extinguishing it, but shifting its focus from blindly passionate without direction into being intent on the tangible. Make no mistake, I’m not Mary Sunshine 24–7, nevertheless, I legitimately ENJOY being happy, and maintaining a positive attitude, because at least for me, it yields the sweetest fruits. Change happens, and even when you don’t know everything you will still know more now than you did back when you started.


For the remainder of the game, Shay one by one takes down the Assassins, hoping to avoid another Lisbon incident, and while his actions are cold, his heart still remains warm. Despite the fact he opposes the Assassin aim, he still harbors feelings for those he once considered comrades, not so much feeling hatred for them, but pity. Out of all of the fascinating personality traits Shay has, this is perhaps his most crucial- he feels remorse even when he knows logically he shouldn’t because he is still human. Even though he steels himself to do the deed when he is standing over the defeated body of his adversary, he doesn’t take glee in what he does, it’s a somber means to an end. Several times throughout Rogue, Shay consults his quartermaster and friend Christopher Gist, an up-beat, roguish Templar as to whether or not the crosses he has chosen to bear are the colour of right. While Gist insists they are and remains a steadfast friend and ally to Shay, Cormac still asks himself the same question even when he goes through with his deeds.

In the final sequence of the game, Shay is leaning on the stern of his ship, the Morrigan, contemplating his actions when Grandmaster Haytham Kenway charges him with the responsibility of finding the remaining Pieces of Eden and barring the Assassins from finding them. While Shay pledges his commitment to the long, arduous quest ahead, you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is still deciding as to whether or not the path he has taken is right. It’s a brilliant scene which simultaneously showcases Shay’s resolve as well as doubts he retains AND Haytham’s mastery of manipulation and his precision when it came to his administration of the Colonial Templar Rite.

Oh, and before you ask, I intend on doing a piece on THAT ruthless fucker down the track, stay tuned.

“It may take you a lifetime… are you up to the challenge?” God, that quote killed me.

I feel all of us can relate to the feeling of questioning the actions we take when we take stock of their consequences. While we may commit an act we tell ourselves is right, is it? Is it really? There is always that voice in the depths of our synapses, the ones which whisper delicately in your ear, invisible hands which clutch at your arm, holding you back. Life is a constant, flowing tide of elemental change, even when it feels certain, there is only so much we can know. Feeling something is a good or a bad idea is different compared to knowing it is. I can freely admit I have had these thoughts about everything I have done- against what I feel in my heart of hearts, I still scold myself for not having taken up nursing sooner, for ‘wasting’ my time on pursuits which delivered little to no practical, secure avenues. I am happy for all I have been given, all of the people I have been blessed to know and learn from, but as human beings, we will always find ourselves wanting more, whether we may consciously know it or not.

Remaining steadfast and completely consistent in one’s convictions is no easy task, and while it can be incredibly frustrating and draining, particularly when results don’t present themselves when you want. However, you should not suffer eternally for them. You will get knocked down, you will feel doubt, you will wonder if all of what you have done has been for naught, but ultimately, you are still here, you have people who care for you and you still have the capacity to make a change, even if it seems insignificant. All of these steps, all of these moments of triumph and adversity, are part of a bigger picture, even though we can’t exactly take a step back and appreciate it at our leisure, there is no denying the triumph of overcoming the obstacles of which we face every day, no matter how long it may take.


Thus concludes this little therapist couch of an article.

In any event, I felt inclined to exorcise these words from my mind to blog because the trials and tribulations of Shay Patrick Cormac were not only the high-stakes storytelling I love, but also one of the finest character studies, one which caused me reflect upon myself and it is because of this game, because of these particular character, it made me feel seen, vindicated… accepted.

It also inspired me to have a keen fashion sense because HOT DAMN does the man have stellar style.

(Silly note; This is Shays’ theme song. You know it’s true.)

Quickie: The Triumvirate of Terror

Ever since the dawn of our existence, we humans fear what we don’t understand or in some cases prefer not to understand. The power of giving something or somebody a name comforts us and helps us deal with what that is beyond our control as it at least helps us comprehend it. Nowadays, the broad collective of us know thanks to science, evidence and overall common sense that earthquakes are not punishments caused by enraged deities, mental illness is not a sign of demonic possession and homosexuality is not the product of evil.

When it comes to placing that fear of the incomprehensible into movie form, we can be as creative as we please so long as we please, but I have noticed that pop culture tends to recognize the human monsters the most. Boogeycreatures in films are a reflection on not just human fears, uncertainties and base emotions given face, but also an example of social awareness; they are what we have made them because we’ve made ourselves. When it comes to giving terror and uncertainty a face, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers are at the forefront because not only do they frighten but they can also astound. Each of these fellows are mirrors of what our culture and by extension ourselves have become and that is why they still continue to be the frontrunners of cinematic scares. While at heart these films were made with a view to entertain and draw reaction from audiences (as well as their sweet dough, let’s be honest), I believe they represent three aspects of society and the human condition which shapes it.

Bearing this in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter and hopefully even enlighten you if you are open. Please keep in mind I am not critiquing the films of each franchise, I will be looking at the characters themselves in terms of who they are and what they represent.

Strap yourselves in because this is gonna be a psych talk, milquetoast-horror-fan-without-a single-credential-to- her-name-style.

Jason Voorhees
Judgement

I am not the biggest fan of the Friday the 13th as a whole (Jason Lives and Jason X rocked, though!) but over time, I have grown to appreciate Jase himself because he has such an endearing and inspirational blue collar quality about him I simply adore. Retroactively however, the more I ruminate about who he kills, I have the conception that Jason is a metaphor for extreme cosmic judgement.

For the most part, he slays foolish, irresponsible and selfish victims, possibly because they remind him of the negligent camp counselors who didn’t come to his aid when he was drowning in Crystal Lake. Judgement is something we cast over each other every day of our lives even though we may not always consciously know it.

We look at somebody who is overweight and we simply assume they sit on their gluteus maximus everyday and eat nothing but junk food. What we don’t take into consideration is if they suffer an eating disorder, or a genetic abnormality that doesn’t allow their digestive systems to function the way they should. Nobody LIKES being at a disadvantage when it comes to daily living, but does the pack mentality care? Jason is an extremely fundamental version of the judgement regarding the worth of others because of the fact he was wronged by the people who were supposed to be looking out for his well-being. Of course anybody with a balanced mind may briefly think about entertaining the methods Jason employs, but we all know better. Jason is like the Justice from Hell as he punishes the ignorant of their trespasses even though he doesn’t know them.

To him, any show of fecklessness must be atoned for through blood all. No matter how fast his victims ran, Jason always caught up because that’s what Judgement does. Well, unless you count Derek Mears who was actually a very physical Jason in the otherwise uninspired remake who actually is the most interesting part of the movie. As for why he chooses to wear a mask, well, he obviously feels very self-conscious about how he looks, but Judgement can be a frightening thing because of how severe it can be and also, a mask is impersonal, which in turn symbolizes the machine-like efficiency of the warped version of justice that Jason serves.

Despite being a serial killer which is frightening to us mostly normal-minded types, I don’t find Jason himself scary- he just needs his mum. But in terms of how he presents an image of a social structure we have created, he is one of the most effective and serves as a contemporary fable that people must take accountability for their actions rather than leave them to fester into deadly repercussions.

Michael Myers
Death

Compared to Jason, John Carpenter’s existential spawn of Pure Evil really couldn’t care less about delivering retribution, all he does is go around and claim lives indiscriminately, just like Death itself.

We could certainly argue that when Michael murdered his sister Judith he was suffering from some type of incestuous jealousy, but after sating his desire, what possible personal motivation did Michael have to kill? He didn’t just try to kill members of his own family in the original canon, but basically anybody that got in his way even though he had absolutely no otherwise interest in them, simply because they were there.

All of us know that Death will come for us all in the end, it’s a matter of when, how and why. We modify ourselves with surgery, take on radical fad diets, overdose ourselves with make up, regardless of our expenses because our desperation to stay attractive, or specifically relevant spans from our survival instinct. When our ancestors resorted to cannibalism and ruthless means of maintaining status quo in collectives when necessary, these days us Homo sapiens utilize vanity to delay the decay of our physical body but in the end, we all know it’s useless. Myers is a horrific meditation of the unpredictability that death can deliver- he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t express humanity and he doesn’t care who is on the receiving end when he comes to call with his knife being a substitute for a scythe. He doesn’t feel the need to run because he knows he will claim his due.

Save for Judith and later, his other sister Laurie Strode, none of his murders were particularly personal; he hunted his quarries down and killed them but he gained no visible satisfaction from them. Like death, Michael doesn’t have any of the constraints of ethics and no attachment to the lives he takes. As with Voorhees, Michael chooses to wear a mask because it means anonymity, no means of identity, just a staring, white, expressionless canvas void as well as his iconic nondescript boiler suit.

While the subsequent films have arguably lost their impact, Michael himself has not. He is not even a facsimile of a human being, he’s a force beyond our imaginations given humanoid form, but nothing else. And you know what they say about death?

It can never die.

Freddy Kruger
Evil

If I honestly had to choose which of the three I prefer in terms of this classic trifecta, Freddy is it. He is a pop culture icon now, which is disturbing in itself considering Freddy used to be a child molester/murderer, but he is the figurehead of how malevolent exploitation truly is. Sex is meant to be something intimate, consensual and dare I say fun for both parties, however, sexually abusing a child, or anybody for that matter is perhaps one of the most cruel and reprehensible crimes a person can inflict upon another. It’s about disempowering and humiliating your target whilst taking perverse, secretly self-loathing pleasure out of it.

The severity of Freddy’s vengeance came from the fact that he was at his most powerful in the realm of dreams, in sleep, where humans are at their most vulnerable. Rather than enact direct retribution on those who killed him, Freddy turned his sights on those his killers held dear- their own children. And it didn’t just stop there. He mercilessly hunted and killed subsequent generations of Elm Street children simply because he could.

It’s not the deaths that Freddy took pleasure in though; it was all about the thrill of the chase. In the dreamscape, he is the epitome of the apex predator and when he sets his sights on a young and vulnerable target, he’s going to make sure they are frightened, ripe and palpable before he devours them.

I also believe Freddy is an observation about the eerie notion of real life villain worship, the grossly idealistic “Stickin’ it to the man” mentality we are all guilty of harboring. What we wouldn’t give to do what we want, when we want, how we want and nobody would be able to touch us no matter how dire the crime He’s profitable, recognizable but unrelatable and yet society adores him because of this vicarious and vicious fantasy we hold. He’s practically the de rigueur of pop culture that has not been matched to this day. He whispers to our forbidden but oh-so-delicious sensitive points, daring them to indulge in his acts.

I will state that despite the fact the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street was extremely pedestrian at best, Jackie Earle Haley is in a un-poppable bubble because he really made Freddy a nasty creature again. Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare was a revelation before it’s time but it brought Freddy back to his roots again and it rocked like nobody’s business. Celebrity and pop reverence aside, Freddy still remains the pepperoni pizza face of pure human evils and he remains relevant today.

Collectively, one major thing all three of these monsters have in common is that they are all representative of the anxieties and fears of sex in the form of the id as well as the concept of habituation.

Psychologist Marvin Zuckerman states that the reason why people enjoy horror is because we all want to live vicariously, when it comes to horror, we as a species are looking for things that appeal to us constantly, the concept of danger that comes from the need for the individual to be cerebrally aroused otherwise we will lose interest, much like the concept of sexuality. Everybody is subject to the process of habituation- we want something new, something more than us, something that will shock us. With these three characters we have given birth to, they are a result of habituation. Jason and Michael more or less fall into the camp of how sex can mean neglection and the abandonment of the senses, meanwhile Freddy utilizes sexuality as a weapon, something that can be used to break his victims by appealing to their embedded repulsions, those thoughts that we have that we know we really shouldn’t. I guess when it comes to fear, humans are quite afraid of it, despite the fact we all do it- sex in a nutshell is life AND death and it’s no wonder that both experiences are always comparable to each other in terms of power and significance.

All three of these characters, despite their are paragons for what we as humans in contemporary society dread because try as we dismiss our baser desires as uncivilised and not permit them to dictate our lives, we know we can never be rid of these sensations. It is my strongly held belief that Jason, Freddy and Michael were created as a result of this.

There is absolutely no doubt there is a litany of other horror characters who are far more potent symbols of a tainted version of baser human natures, values and illness, in fact, now more than ever there are a slew of icons waiting in the wings to entertain, educate and caution us with regards to the dangers of the world and the minds we share it with in addition to our own. That being said, it is safe to say this new guard owes something to each of these three stalwarts and cinema is all the better for it.

Digital Damsels of Distress: Aya Brea (Parasite Eve)

(Disclaimer: I will be regaling this opinion piece to Aya in the first game because, well, that’s when she had character and I will not be going into the deeper particulars of this game because I really want you to experience it if you haven’t already. It’s a heck of a game and best enjoyed without knowing the full story beforehand.)

Body horror, in my mind, is one of the finest sub-genres to exist due to it’s uncomfortably intimate source of terror and the endless realm of possibilities which arise from it. Some of the finest horror films of all time play a lot with the agonising and revolting mutilation of the human body; John Carpenters’ The Thing, David Cronenbergs’ The Fly and most recently, Richard Stanleys’ awe-inspiring adaptation of Colour Out Of Space. Naturally, some of the best horror videogames consist of this same breed of inflicting maximum terror and squirming discomfort upon those behind the controller, one of them being Squaresoft’s 1998 title, Parasite Eve which came out exclusively on Playstation.

However, as we well know, most top-tier horror requires worthwhile central characters at the heart of it in order to truly makes us care.

Meet rookie NYPD detective Aya Brea.

Well, hi there.

When we first meet Detective Brea, she is garbed in a simple, black but stunningly beautiful evening dress on a snowy Christmas Eve attending an opera at Carnegie Hall with a stuff-shirted date in tow who can’t seem to stop complaining. Despite the company, Aya is quietly excited to attend this occasion as she sits down and the stage lights up. The diva strides on stage, regal, resplendent and begins to deliver her ariso with her soaring voice. Aya watches, listens, utterly ensorcelled by the performance as the divas’ eyes meet hers. A transcendental and liminal connection between the two women transpires.

And then… THIS happens.

The first time I saw that cut scene at a tender age of fifteen, still a fledgling in the darker circles of horror, I was gob-smacked.

Aya springs into action, firearm (I dunno where she kept that, but let’s just go with it) in hand, her cop instincts taking the fore. She doesn’t know what she has just witnessed, but what she does know is that a very real and very catastrophic threat has presented itself to the citizens of New York City and it is her responsibility to protect the people and eliminate this new horror before the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight.

Parasite Eve was one of those games which took many risks and for the most part executed them well, but underperformed, not through any glaring fault of its own, but due to the reality that marketing circles didn’t quite know how to sell it and the fact in terms of replayability, it wasn’t as compulsive as say visiting the Spencer Mansion on a dark and stormy night. A survival horror game with essential elements of turn-based, real-time combat classic J-RPG yet with very Western aesthetics?

It was seen as a Frankenstein’s Creature of a property to put it lightly.

That being said, one could hardly call it a failure due to it’s intelligent story, concept and execution, ALL of which is based on a very real facet of biological science. You see, the story is a loose adaptation of the work of pharmacologist and microbiologist turned author, Hideaki Sena who specifically studied the nature of mitochondria In microbiology circles, the purpose of mitochondria is to produce ATP, the molecule that the cell uses for energy when carrying out essential functions in the bodies of living organisms. Sena’s idea was based on a ‘What If’ scenario asking what would happen if the mitochondria went rogue, in this case, the answer is the genesis and evolution of life of the mutated, hostile and existentially terrifying variety.

In the face of these inconceivable odds, Aya steps up to the plate, ready to bat for Team Homo sapien.

Aya is a badass, but like our previously covered Damsel Fiona Belli, her genuine strength draws from her internal reservoirs as opposed to physical force and posturing. While Brea is a trained in the book of the law, pleasantly snarky at opportune moments and a capable fighter, her abilities are proportionate to her sense of morality, compassion and the extent of her limits. Thoughtful, observational and intuitive yet proactive rather than merely reactionary, Ayas’ values have a heavy basis in empathy, that is to say, she believes in the right of humanity to prevail in the face of this adversity and takes active measures to ensure it while at the same time having an interest in the true nature and motives of the threat she is fighting against. She knows the best way to defeat her adversary is to know it, almost be one with it. As one may expect from a detective, Aya finds it prudent to not only procedurally obtain intelligence in order to defeat the peril, but also use the information as a means of psychologically understanding it.

Throughout the game, Aya partakes in a battle of wits with the diva who has assumed the name of Eve, a direct nod to the theory of the Mitochondrial Eve, the matrilineal ancestor of all of the human species to whom we can all trace our DNA, or so the scientific hypothesis goes. In short, your mother is also your sister, your father is also your brother and… uhhh…

You know what?

I’m just gonna leave that and not venture any further down that rabbit hole.

As the situation escalates, Aya finds herself struggling to keep pace with the movements of her adversary, and it is this internal battle which reveals the true virtue of Brea. Aya is not perfect, she is human and therein lies her brilliance. In fact, her journey is eerily similar to Clarice Starlings’ investigation and pursuit of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs; sometimes she is right, sometimes she is wrong, and the paths she takes yield their own set of consequences. Just like Starling too, Brea is mindful of her defeats and rather than wallow in her misery, she takes accountability, increases her resolve, and thus, like the very organism Eve has fashioned herself after, she adapts.

Short aside here, Ayas’ very name has interesting connotations that can be directly linked to her actions and personality. In Japanese, the name ‘Aya’ means ‘design’, ‘colour’ and/or ‘beautiful’. All of these terms in this case could refer to the design and aesthetic appearance of cells which can be seen as visually pleasing in addition to their practical function and how they influence the life form they make up. In Hebrew, it means ‘to fly swiftly‘, or in abbreviation, ‘bird’. Aya is literally caught up in a race against time in order to save the human species from a terrible fate, so she must move quickly, decisively, precisely like a bird on the wing. In Arabic, the translation is mainly associated with the term ‘wonderful’, ‘amazing’ and ‘miracle’. It goes without saying that when Aya manages to prevent Eve from achieving her global evolutionary homicide, that in itself is indeed a miracle and something that could definitely be described as amazing. In Africa, there is an Adinkra emblem commonly known as ‘Aya’, a fern which is seen as a symbol of endurance and resourcefulness, which clearly refers to Ayas’ skill set. However, one translation which captures my interest is how Aya in the Proto-Tibeto-Burman language means ‘mother’. A mother is held up by many cultures around the world to be protective, nurturing and fierce in the face of those who threaten the lives of her children. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality, but speaking in terms of our subject, I feel the aspect is extremely relevant to the character and one of the primary aspects of the game, that being motherhood.

Aya, though not a biological parent, nevertheless exhibits devotion to the protection of her friends, the people of New York and by extension, the world. She deals with its goodness, its trespasses and everything else in between using nurture, balance, and temperance the way an ideal mother does. Eve is the opposing, archaic and monstrous mother figure who threatens Ayas’ adopted brood with her own monstrous children of her own blood and presents Aya with an extremely dark look into a possible future Aya finds repulsive but also extremely compelling the more she and Eve find themselves at odds with each other. Lastly, as previously mentioned, the Mitochondrial Eve geneology that Eve possesses, the overarching mother of all human life is a clear allusion to the role of the mother in human society and how she shapes the world she inhabits. The very definition of motherhood is virtually limitless as there are so many factors which contribute to it and therefore it is impossible to give one fully realised opinion on what being a mother truly is.

Aya Brea may not be a literal mother and she identifies as many other things as a woman, but her caring nature, moral compass and how she is a figure of authority who must lead by example strongly implies that one does not need to have a child to harbor the same amount of compassion, love and desire to do right by others. In this story, Aya is the mother the human species needs to survive and she takes her responsibility, her duty, with utmost commitment.

That being said however, Aya Brea is not an island. In addition to the nameless masses of the Big Apple that Aya has sworn to protect, she keeps company with a circle of friends and colleagues she isn’t afraid to seek guidance from when she requires assistance. Isn’t it refreshing when a character who works in law enforcement DOESN’T have the done-over ‘Loose Cannon Cop On The Edge/Lone Wolf’ personality trope and make use of the valuable resources of insight and emotional support in the shape of friends and family? Aya regularly discusses her findings with her fellow police officers at the precinct through the game as the situation develops while also entrusting them with her deepest feelings, however troubled they may be. Given Ayas’ decidedly introverted personality type, one would be correct in assuming that Aya’s implicit trust is extremely challenging to achieve but once a strong connection is formed and maintained, she is loyal, loving and ferociously protective to a fault. In her mind, these faces, these lives who are a part of hers are what is at stake and that is one of her primary motivations to uncover more of this mysterious crisis. I personally love it when a character realises that the events unfolding are not just about them, but about others which further cements their appreciation and love for those they hold dear rather than push them away. Of course Aya knows the inherent danger of associating with those she cares about as it would mean a display of vulnerability and an avenue of exploitation, but without these people, she also knows she cannot hope to win the war being waged.

Okay, so now it’s time to address the mutated elephant in the room; Aya’s physical appearance.

In the numerous quantities of official commercial material, Aya is shown experiencing many unfortunate cases of wardrobe malfunctions which aggressively pushes her of having a sexy waifish waifu quality that naturally sells to certain demographics. While there is no denying Ayas’ beauty, the game actually does not draw attention to her physical appearance in any lascivious or seamy manner. As a matter of fact, apart from her slinky black number in the opening of the game which is fairly modest by the way, Aya spends the rest of the story fully clothed in a black leather jacket, white t-shirt, blue denim jeans and comfortable boots with her hair sensibly kept out of her face. No cleavage, no midriff, not a hint of luscious thigh or flowing mermaid locks to be scoped. Although there is definitely a time and a place for conscious sexuality and cheeky (heh, ‘cheeky’) fanservice in gameplay (Helloooooo jiggle physics in Dead Or Alive! How YOU doin’ Silent Hill nurses?), Parasite Eve wisely elects not to portray Aya as the cheesecake who just happens to know how to use a gun. Aya dresses for the job she has been employed to do and none of if has to do with being deliberately visually appealing to the eyes of others. Despite the more bombastic elements of the plot and the lore which contributes to it, this story and its characters play more towards the realistic edge of the spectrum, which in turn contributes to the investment the player has. To be distracted solely by Ayas’ physical assets would undermine the gravity of not only the circumstances, but the character of Aya herself.

So yeah, I am of the firm opinion that Aya Brea is pretty swell, yet I feel she still doesn’t get nearly enough recognition that she deserves. Hard-working, intelligent, capable, vulnerable, persistent and takes absolutely no guff, she embodies a lot of what I love about my heroic women in gaming, especially those who face ridiculous odds. Speaking of which, in the next installment of DoDD, we are going to be looking at a Damsel who, just like Detective Brea, takes crap from nobody, even nobodies with no… bodies. One could say she is a… superS.T.A.R.

Quickie: The Insidious Nightmare of RE3make

So yeah, I really dug the necrotic Hell out of Capcom’s latest boarding of the Remake Express with it’s head-lining survival horror series. As a massive fan of the final of the original trilogy (that felt a bit weird to write), when the developers announced they would be having a contemporary bash Jill Valentine’s Last Escape, I was hooked. After the unexpectedly and mostly solid revival thanks to RE7 and the predictable hit that was RE2make, my faith in Capcom had been reasonably restored for me to follow RE3makes’ progress.

For all of its’ flaws (and don’t get me wrong, there were quite a few, some understandable, others baffling and some plain frustrating), RE3make is easily one of the most entertaining and replayable titles I have had the pleasure of feeding my console. After all, I made it my personal mission to push myself to get the Plat and none of it felt like wasted time.

Alrighty, to brassy blood-stained tacks.

The following article will be brief, but it will contain slight spoilers, although it doesn’t so much affect the rest of the game. However, the reason I wanted to bring attention to this particular aspect of the game is how truly clever it is.

***** S P O I L E R / A L E R T / A H E A D *****

After the first cut scene concludes (a very timely one considering our current crisis, yikes), we are placed into the eyes and body of former S.TA.R.S. Alpha Team member and Empress of the Fucking Universe Jill Valentine, awakening from a troubled sleep in her modest apartment. The small bedroom is dark, dismal and void of colour.

A droning downpour buckets down outside and a small television set in the corner is displaying naught but soundless white noise. As we cross to an open window, Jill’s delicate hands reach out to grab the window pane to slam it shut, the rain almost mute, though a crack of thunder still manages to infiltrate Jills’ sanctuary. As she moves around her apartment, we see her shadow dance upon the walls as lightening flashes, startling her with a slight gasp. Tentatively, she makes her way into her bathroom where she notices the faucet is on. She leans down and looks up at her reflection in the bathroom mirror… before she sees her greatest terror realised; she is infected with the abomination that is the T-Virus.

She stumbles away in terror as her body succumbs to the lethal pathogen, veins haemorrhaging at the surface of her flesh, her vision blurring at an alarming rate as she violently coughs up viscous black blood. Her rapidly deteriorating heartbeat beats like the dirge of doomsday in her ears as she summons up the last bastion of strength to grab the rim of the basin so she may set eyes on her undead visage again. Crying, she clumsily grabs her Beretta resting to the side of the sink, hands shaking, the transformation almost complete before she raises the muzzle to her temple, closes her eyes and grimaces… and then awakens. For a few moments, she is safe… but not for long.

I feel the beauty of nightmares comes from how they sometimes are not entirely obvious to begin with and can operate quite perniciously if you are not lucid dreaming. You may start with a benign sense of discomfort, but nothing is outright warning you of the terrible events to follow. In this first playable section, however brief, you get a solid picture of the trauma Jill continues to endure after the horrific events of the Spencer Mansion Incident several months prior. As she groggily says, this fancy gets worse every night, which leads one to question if this slice of unpleasant psychological torture in Jills’ definition was worse, what were they previously like? In fact, this reminds me of Sarah Connor recounting her recurring nightmare of the nuclear apocalypse in Terminator 2, whilst being interviewed by the asylum’s doctors, each one escalating her inescapable mental torment.

Here, I want to give a few nice visual cues the nightmare presents. While one could not accuse any Resident Evil game of being extremely masterful of exploring the concept of dream logic, it was nevertheless refreshing to see this sort of detail being paid to an aspect of Jill Valentine’s mindset during this game.

An unremarkable bedside table with a lamp illuminating a Spartan bed… or perhaps it is a slab in a morgue or maybe in a mausoleum?

Same area, only this time, you see that the curtain which separates her sleeping/lounge area from her kitchen has been closed, a notion of claustrophobia can be felt here, though not obvious.

A formidable, deafening torrential rain outside where nothing else can be heard and a broken television set casting a deathly glare. To me, it feels like a combination of the tomb motif as well as the coming of the Nemesis which Jill may be able to subconsciously feel.

Perhaps a manifestation of wanting to defy the inevitable conclusion of tonight’s re-enactment? That window is the only point that was open before she moves to close it for good. Notice there aren’t too many visible details outside other than the building across the street. Another aspect to note is how other than shutting the window, entering the bathroom and turning the tap off, Jill does not manipulate anything else in this room until her awakening.

This one is my favourite; the T-Virus is known to reduce one’s appetite for regular food as the craving for human flesh begins to dominate the decaying brain. Here, it appears as if Jill’s mind is beginning to warn her something isn’t right, but it will not grant her the opportunity to escape by using this single slice of toast as a hint… or maybe even a venomous taunt.

In reality, when we generally aren’t feeling well, our nutritional intake tends to minimize but when we must eat, we tend to favor simple food such as plain toast to help ease our digestive systems back to normal function. Compare this with the below images below after the nightmare ends and we see quite a different story:

Not only is the world considerably vibrant, personable and warm, but our lady is carb-loading like nobody’s business! That pizza actually looks pretty delicious if I do say so myself.

Simple, unremarkable yet vulnerable clothing which does not really give Jill a visible sense of identity. Anonymous, one may even say, just like the shambling masses of the undead she is in moments going to become. The colour grading causes her to have a pale, drained appearance which is only compounded by her already slight and petite stature.

Final, terrifying moments of mortality. It makes you wonder if later incarnations of the nightmare would eliminate Jill’s last autonomous human act of picking up the gun to commit suicide. Quite a terrifying notion indeed.

Again, I freely give the developers their due for displaying this nice little piece of character insight and psychology. Precise, to the point and brilliant without insulting the nature of PTSD or the character of Jill Valentine. My only wish is if we had seen two more versions of this, both of which would display terrible revelations as the Rule of Three is a popular fictional trope for good reason.

That being said, however, nothing on this Earth could prepare me for the true horror of this game. The absolute and final atrocity to ever be witnessed by human eyes. A perversity, a transgression no being should ever have the misfortune of witnessing in their lives. The EPITOME of terror none can possibly fathom…

RACCOON MILK