Literary Case Study: Halo

There are many things that I don’t like about Microsoft, but gameplay for Halo is a sort of bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s an exceptionally fun game to play, but the opposite half of the case is that the plot is incomprehensible.

Note that the plot is there, though. It’s just that for some odd reason, be it writing talent or (more synically) an attempt to get people to buy the books and other memorabilia, the events in the plot are very difficult to pinpoint.

I can’t exactly fault them for this, my greatest weakness as a writing is having trouble expressing important points, after all. However, that just means that there is plenty of room to learn what NOT to do.

The rule for avoiding unclear plots is more of a guide-line again; dedicate at least a paragraph to explaining each concept and plot-point to your reader. This sounds simple, but it easier said than done if vagueness is one of your writing vices, but it at least gets you to start thinking in the right direction for making yourself be understood. Conciously trying to explain every facet of what’s going on helps keep you from assuming that everyone else knows what you know. However, know that 50% of the work is going to be done in the editing phase.

When editing, always keep the five ‘w’s plus ‘how’ in mind. Why is the sword talking? Where is the pedestal again? Is this a flash-back, or happening right now? etc. Be sure to replace every generic word with a specific one wherever possible. Bring in proof readers, too, and ask them to put a high emphasis on the clarity. Practise these, and you’ll be on the way to crystal clear scenes and plots.

Be Glad I’m not Evil

One day, I was walking through Walmart when I came across a peculiar advertisement. It was for gum, so naturally, the model was holding a stick (yes, of gum) in her hand. However, I couldn’t help but notice that she was also carrying a yoga mat in the other arm.

That led me to wonder what message the advertisers were trying to convey. That’s when a devilish voice bubble from the bowels of my heart.

And I said, “No, I shall never do such wicked a thing!”

The voice bubbled back, “Don’t be so idealistic, join me on the dark side. People aren’t to swallow the gum anyways.”

“Begone!” I cried to the foul side of my heart while making the sign of the cross. The personal demon then bellowed loudly before finally desintegrating into the form of a sulphorous burp. For reasons I have yet to understand, I was kindly asked to leave the store. I chose not to fight and left. After all, I’d just done by good deed for the day and saved everyone from an evil me.

Xbox Battle

Like many a person who got their first Xbox over the season, two of my family members got some controllers so they could join in with me in Halo multiplayer games. Before I go any further, understand that my dad is a sysadmin, so the trio of me, my brother, and father wasn’t an entire drove of lobotomized cavemen.

The first step we took was to turn on the controllers and add them as guests, natural right? Nope, we entered co-op play with only one controller working. Turns out that joining the game involves a very particular and coordinated button mashing that ends with the “A” button. We do this, but only two people are in. So we back out, try again and wind up having two people in, but a different two. The third try yielded similar results, but instead with me, the owner of the account kicked out.

Later, my brother looked up online how to do multiplayer, which could only be done with two people, despite the ability to add multiple guests. In order to get any more people on involved a ritual of selling one’s soul to the devil and paying a 40% tax to the government. None of us wanted to pay a nickel to Uncle Sam, so we settled for two people playing.

Christmas: A Season NOT About Giving

It is of note that modern culture has made the Christmas season a dichotomy of giving and receiving, thus embodying its selfish materialism. Every show on nigh every channel churns out at least one Christmas special that tries to convince the audience that the true meaning of the season is to be nice to family and friends. A nice sentiment, but it’s nothing more than lip-service. Stop to consider how the commercials, the decorations, and the actions of secular society scream ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’

The ultimate cause of this failure in the Xmas season is, like in everything, the removal of Christ. In years past, we celebrated Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus and to show gratitude for his saving mankind. In other words, Christmas is not about the family OR the gifts, but rather the ultimate gift. Of course, without that vital nucleus, the orbiting virtues of compassion, charity, and joy have gone into chaos, leaving not but a frightening echo of Christmas past.

So let’s leave this with a positive note, and return to the way Christmas is supposed to be. As C.S. Lewis said, “If everyone is heading down the wrong path, the most progressive man among them is the one who turns back first.”

And THAT’S how you prophet

Our general opinion of devout servants of God is of a really dour and serious person. However, the bible does have one particular example of a prophet who just about reverses this presentation: the prophet Elijah. Allow me to use 1 Kings 18:27 to prove it. First, the context of this verse is that Elijah challenged the priests of the false god Baal to a contest of sorts wherein they would call upon their respective gods to provide the fire for their sacrifice. This was Elijah’s response when the Baal priests failed to call on their god:

[QUOTE]27 At noon Elijah began to tease them. “Shout louder!” he said. “I’m sure Baal is a god! Perhaps he has too much to think about. Or maybe he has gone to the toilet. Or perhaps he’s away on a trip. Maybe he’s sleeping. You might have to wake him up.”[/QUOTE]

The emphasis was mine because that’s what really sold it. No, what actually sold would have to be when the Baal priests promptly took Elijah seriously. Do note that the toilet joke is only able to be read in certain translations. In most translations it is replaced with the far less amusing ‘in deep thought.’

Dalon: The Choosing Grounds

Dalon is on its most basic level the name for the moon. More specifically, it’s the name of the realm that lies upon the moon. Dalon, meaning the Choosing Grounds, is the home of the goddess Geila and the realm of the dead.

In the early days of the world, Geila departed from the earthly realms out of contempt for her neighbors. She took up with her a turtle, which she turned into the realm of Dalon. The turtle now swims over the world, constantly rolling about with Geila residing inside of it. The new moon is the turle’s underbelly while the full moon is the polished surface of its shell.

Dalon is known as the realm of the dead, but it is not the final resting place of the dead, nor do the dead immediately awaken upon it. The dead are conscious exactly when they leave their bodies, and they in turn wander until they are found by a mountain lion. Mountain Lions, being the favored animal of Geila and thus her chosen psychopomps (ferriers of the dead), lead the dead to mountain tops where they then are taken up to the moon. On the moon, Geila then judges the dead and informs them of what they might be reincarnated as. The spirit is then given a full month to decide from the options it is given and then allowed to depart into its new life.

This cycle lines up very specifically with the lunar month. The new moon, Dalon’s underbelly, is the entrance to the realm and thus spirits are allowed to ascend to the realm of Dalon when the dark side of the moon is visible. In turn, the light side of the moon, Dalon’s shell, is when spirits may descend to their next life in the cycle. As a result, the full moon is both loved and feared for bringing life into the world while simultaneously trapping ghosts upon the earth.

Needless to say, Dalon did not originate as the realm of the dead. It took on this role in the aftermath of Reho tearing a hole in the dome of the world. After the Wasp Mother and Iwau crawled out of the rift, water and otherworldly energy also was pouring through. Reho was naturally charged with plugging up the hole, which he did remarkably well. However, there did come a time shortly afterward that the gods realized an issue with this plan. There was now far more water and energy in the world than before, too much for it to support. Therefore, Geila took it upon herself to carry the rift around with her in the turtle of the moon. She would open the rift at times to either force the water on the earth to return to the realms beyond or to allow more water to return as rain when she took too much.

This cycle of water eventually drew ghosts to her realm, who’s vaporous bodies often got taken along for the ride. After going through the ordeal for enough time, Geila decided to just become the goddess of death and take care of all these things formally.

Finally, it is of note that, though Geila does pass judgement and dole out new lives to spirits accordingly, there are no forms of reincarnation that are thought to be intrinsically bad. The manner in which Geila judges the deeds of a person’s life is by cataloguing them as being of one of the five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. A human spirit who is particularly strong in one element risks imbalance and harm to the world around it, so Geila selects option for the soul that would encourage taking on qualities of another element. I.e. someone who is highly excitable and frivolous  (both seen as belonging to the wood element) might be reincarnated into a family of merchants or banker (both professions of the metal element) in order to teach discipline and self-control.

Aegir: A Commentary

In the story of Across the Kolgan Sea, Aegir, the god of the sea, went through many stages of evolution. In the very beginning of writing AKS, I didn’t give very much thought to the god beyond the simple need for a sea god. AKS’s original idea was to be a Norse version of the Oddessy, which naturally meant that I needed a Viking equivalent to the god Poseidon.

As for his motive, I must admit that there was a degree of misrepresentation. He was designed for AKS in my early years of studying Norse Mythology, so he consequently was simplified to his role as the final destination of people who drown, which naturally lead to the sea dwelling folk of Shaloor fearing him. However, this was later supplemented with his more detailed role as a host. His presentation in the source mythos goes to show that he was on mostly friendly terms with the gods, and often even held feasts in their honor.

Such a stark contrast went to contradict his original depiction, so I decided that that would be a good way to add further differences between the Shaloor and Agrians by giving them two very different perspectives of the sea giant. Shaloor considering him a force of evil and the Agrians honoring him as a god of hospitality.

For those of you who have not heard any of what I’m talking about, you can read about it now by going and purchasing Across the Kolgan Sea.

Could be that, OR…

I stumbled across this one video done by Gametheory that seems rather interesting. To summarize the point that Mat Pat is making, super high end games are showing steep declines in popularity while indie games are on the rise. He then goes on to point out the parallels between the gaming industry and art trends in general, and thus concludes that the change is due to the natural desire for creativity.

Mat Pat’s video is very well thought out, and I tend to agree with him save for an extra point that he seems to have overlooked. Allow me to explain this by continuing the art analogies made in the source video. Suppose, for a moment, that the Mona Lisa were drawn in a burqua, or that The Last Supper represented the disciples with a large swath of blacks, women, and transgenders in their ranks. Now imagine how the common audience would have reacted to these converged-copies. The people of that time would have outright rejected these, even if the works maintained the same level of detail and skill as their real-world counterparts.

The same basic thing is occurring in the gaming industry. All of the major gaming corporations, while they certainly possess superior graphics, also are forcing an agenda that the consumers do not predominantly want. Compare these giants again to indie gamers, who by definition can’t be a converged industry, and you find that the trend in ultimately brought upon by the content of major games not being appealing. In short, any form of art must do more than appeal to the eye in order to be praised, it must, if nothing else, appeal to the MINDS and sensibilities of its audience.