[Review] Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

 

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No matter how long you avert your eyes, the darkness inside you will always be there.

Minor Spoilers

So this title dropped around a week ago and although it wasn’t a particularly long game, it is a very good one. The game focuses on mental illness and the effects of mental illness and how stigma could worsen it. It shows you the beautiful side of supportive loved ones and the ugly nightmarish side when it is neglected and rejected. The developers for this game put a lot of effort into researching and depicting mental illness as accurately as possible which is very respectable. Overall, although this wouldn’t count among the best of games for graphics or game mechanics or the novelty of the story, it is something more than that: it shows the everyday reality of hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are and in the future, will suffer from mental illness.

The main character, Senua, is a young warrior from a Celtic tribe amidst the Viking invasions into what is modern-day England and the British Isles. You experience the game through her perspective, hearing the same voices she hears in her head, seeing the same visions she sees and gets scared when she gets scared. It struck a deep chord in me as someone who totters on the edge of darkness albeit I have a milder condition than her. The premise of the game is to retrieve the soul of her lover who had died. She arrives at the entrance to Helheim in hopes of bargaining with the Norse goddess of death, Hela. As she goes on her quest, she is plagued by flashbacks and spectres from her past. Her memories hold her back and the runes of the gods block her way. Through it all, she perseveres, believing that any sacrifice is worth it to get her lover’s soul back.

Without getting too much into the details of the story, we basically see her despair and her desperate hope while we play throughout. She has psychosis which is a mental condition characterised by a disconnect from reality. Symptoms include hallucinations (both visual and auditory), paranoid delusions and the general inability to perceive what objectively is true. She also shows signs of paranoid schizophrenia which has many symptoms that overlap with psychosis.

 

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The grasping of Death’s fingers

 

The game shows you visions of nightmarish landscapes and situations that some people with psychosis see. In the documentary film for the game, they said that many of the scenes and motifs in the game were derived from the real-life experiences of people who have psychosis and other similar conditions. There are multiple levels with hanging corpses which came from the experiences of a little girl where they were so real that she tried to actually pull them down to lay them at rest. There are levels where you’re fending off literal darkness in an attempt to remain sane. This is especially prevalent to me because I relate to it a lot. In the game, the word darkness is often used to describe Senua’s psychosis and often this is represented as literal darkness in the game.

There are puzzle levels in the game where you can get the feeling of frustration and in the last puzzle level for Valravn, this frustration was readily apparent. The feeling of frustration is constantly something that Senua has. She doesn’t know how to “fix” her darkness and she has things she wants to do but can’t because Zynbel, her father, isn’t letting her. During the game, her frustration is directed at her own powerlessness and the trials that the gods put before her to test her. This frustration was a strong identifying point for me too.

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The darkness that will eat the Sun

 

The combat system wasn’t particularly engaging and I already knew most of the lore that Druth was narrating so those are minus points for me. Personally, my favorite part of the game was the fight with the Beast who guarded the sanctum to where Hela was. The fight was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The visions that you can’t control, a monster that spews darkness and melts into shadows. It is horrifying to see your nightmares as a child of monsters in the dark become actualized and at the same time, it is exhilarating to see something that was only previously in your head on a screen and be able to fight it and defeat it.

The last part I want to address is the portrayal of stigma in the game and the sequence at the end where Senua confronts her father about his abuse and intentional neglect as well as the murder of her mother. This is very important. Mental illness is a taboo subject and many people feel uncomfortable talking about it and think of those with more severe forms of mental illnesses as being less than human (or at least treat them as so). So the moment where Senua saw through the rationalisations that her father used to manipulate her and justify his actions and rejected them, it was very moving to me and meant a lot in the context of my own life. All of this only added to the realism of the game even though it was technically set in a fantasy setting.

The ending, I know, is a bit controversial and a lot of people are salty over the fact that the threat at the beginning of the game of your save file being erased if you die too many times was false (I actually saw an article about it even before I played the game myself) but I was satisfied with the ending and although I was bummed that the game won’t actually erase your save file, I really liked this game for the fact that it was pretty accurate in the portrayal of Senua’s psychosis and her mental processes as she struggled to clear the darkness in her mind. The graphics were also pretty good and overall, I give the game:

8.5/10

What do you think about the game? What rating would you have given it? Be careful about spoilers though.

This is Lieutenant and I’ll talk to you later.

 

Western Media and the Terrorist Agenda

Good morning, afternoon, evening, and night to whomever may be reading. I go by many names but the name I will be using here is nemoulysseus. I am honored to be the second writer of this blog. I may only be a student studying foreign relations but all teachers are only students who can explain what they understand. For now, I will be covering international politics and the underlying related topics but the scope of my participation in this blog may expand and shift with time.

This topic was decided before Trump’s rather unbecoming denouncement of the media’s non-existent failure to report terrorist attacks. Trump is currently pushing his own agenda of sensationalism, despite the fact that statistics report and reflect quite plainly that it is rare for American citizens to be killed by terrorists. Trump hopes that by further antagonizing the media, he can say “I dare you all to do this much.” This action is  to trick the media into working for him despite his attacks against them during his campaign. If Mr. Trump would be so kind as to entertain the reality of the Islamic State and what they have done to establish their “caliphate,” then perhaps he can finally say that he is doing the right thing. Of course, this works against his argument as the Islamic State actually kills more Muslims because the area has, of course, a high density of Muslims as opposed to Christians. I can respect being afraid that waiting too long will mean that there will be missed opportunities but one must be educated to a respectable degree before acting on things that will have long-term effects. If Trump craves to be like Reagan, he should take note of Reagan’s meticulous planning.

Trump did point out to the shock of many patriotic Americans in a Super Bowl-timed interview that he acknowledged that the United States was by no means innocent and compared us morally to Russia. As we are all quite aware, Trump has a dubious relationship with the Russians. The post-Cold War US is not as fickle as Russia but it’s getting there from our various reneged promises about NATO, unilateralism, and American exceptionalism. That is all well and good and perhaps Trump decided that politicians tiptoe around the important issues without quite acknowledging the elephant in the room that only seems to grow bigger every year. Trump himself does the same thing by attempting to draw attention away from the important issues by slamming his hand on the podium and insisting that he knows everything, to give off the appearance of a disgruntled man with whom the world is against. That is not the case.

Moving beyond a commentary of the Trump administration, a critical eye must be turned upon the history of the Middle East. A history I myself did not learn until I arrived at college. It is important to understand how your enemy thinks and what enables them to act. That is how you can either reach a compromise or decide a course of action. The Middle East has been subjected to many of the proxy wars and limited warfare during the Cold War. This is after a generation saw the decline and the dissolution of what they knew to be a once great empire. No one teaches this to us in school. Does the history not matter anymore? I learn American history as far as to understand why things are the way they are in this country.  Why do we not stress this before college? Do we believe that children cannot understand?  Or are we desperately trying to hold onto the prized Superman position in the minds of those who are too willing to accept the familiar perspective? The BBC has covered possible radicalization in France following the Charlie Hebdo attacks and instead of striking a conciliatory note, the French instead condemned the religion ten-fold. We hadn’t thought it possible. It was covered by the British media, a part of the “all over Europe” to which Mr. Trump referred to.

The BBC does cover news in other regions such as Africa, Asia, and Australia. The CNN also has a similar setup but it is more concerned with national news and high-profile international news. We can blame the fact that CNN only covers the “big news” for why their watchers never seem to know about the “little things” despite excessive airtime. We should all understand that there are some things that we may repeat simply because we believe that people should hear about it (just as was done with Mr. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign). Trump’s campaign was the epitome of sensationalism by the media. CNN does cover ISIS destroying World Heritage sites and artifacts like the Arc of Triumph in the Palmyra ruins. Yet what we often discuss in class are things that people may not realize or be aware of because it does not directly affect them. ISIS has killed countless Middle Eastern peoples. They kill the Muslims who do not believe what they believe. ISIS considers them infidels. Trump wanted to give preference to the Christians in the area, but facts show that more Muslims are dying than Christians. This could be in part due to there being simply more Muslims living in the Middle East but for Trump to ban them when they are not safe from ISIS shows that this fact not covered enough in the media, least of all by Fox- the right-wing echo chamber that condemns America as the world’s policeman. Trump has made clear that he only appreciates applause, he is the insecure king who overestimates his power and only wants encouragement from his “subjects.”

The media cannot fixate on the attacks that happen in European countries without properly covering the background. The BBC effectively does this in their articles, however I can say nothing for the program as I do not watch the news so much as I read it. CNN, for which I can speak, does not typically give background information unless it is in the form of their famous multi-volume documentaries. As for their articles, they do not redirect to pages that offer further information but instead are linked to more current events, which can be very distracting at times and is useless for those who want to learn more. They offer highlights of stories. This may be more time effective but it can also discourage actual research and only places an emphasis on threadbare facts. This is what gives fake news outlets a better chance of exploiting what should be common knowledge and making their lies so elaborate that it cannot be false. Most times, it is simply conspiracy theories.  I suppose that the header function (highlights) may be necessary in some cases but this is a major disadvantage. More people should know of Al-Shabab’s own terror attacks. I understand that perhaps the media doesn’t want to do the recruitment for these terrorist groups by giving them air time. Yet it is only when they attack– when it was obvious that it would happen– that we become shocked and ask ourselves, “How could this have possibly happened to us?”

Forget not that the one moment that you relive forever is something that people in other countries live on a daily basis because of their proximity to the actual conflicts. We have but a taste of it. When we only document the attacks, the shock value is real and that’s the whole point of the attack in the first place. We cannot champion compassion if we do not explain how this incident is different and connected to a previous. We should be highlighting movements more. Some try to liken this to Vietnam and it truly is like that at this point in time. We do not want another Tet Offensive yet how are we discussing the ethics and the actual target of these terrorist groups? That is how the Tet Offensive happened. We only sold what would encourage morale or at least convince the public why the war is necessary. We were weary from the constant fighting, we wanted out. When we saw how grisly and unforgiving we were when the Vietcong invaded the base, we were disgusted. The US government fought back the invaders but we then sought to understand what other evils occurred there in that faraway land in our name by our government. They were fighting for their country. What were we fighting for? An abstract threat. We were fighting an idea. Something that you cannot tell by looking at someone but rather by their actions. Even more damaging was that we had made international politics bipolar at this point. To them, it was a matter of reclaiming their land from the foreigners (the French). ISIS is trying to turn back time like the Khmer Rouge tried in Cambodia. Should we not explain what effects this would have or how much harder the Middle Eastern peoples would have to work if they ever escape the nightmare in order to get back to where they were before the war began? We still maintain the ideology that we do not have to understand what is different from us. Neo-conservatives actually say that the US cannot work with non-democracies. Immigration is intermestic policy, that is to say it is an intersection of domestic and international policy. How we approach it speaks volumes for our values as we have demonstrated time and time again (especially in the argument for the Civil Rights Movement).

You want to know why ISIS is so successful in recruitment? They are able to incite sympathy. We embrace humanism, dear media. The US needs to know how these innocent people are being driven from their homes and then come unwelcomed here. The fact that those who make it to relative safety often live in the projects and that increasing discrimination may make it difficult to support themselves on a poor economy. Take our jobs? There are many manual jobs that do not pay well but immigrants, especially illegal, cannot benefit from unions or receive protection. If we’d only focused more on education, we would have more specialized workers of our own. How can one curse an immigrant who came to get an education when we know that they’ll eventually either return to their own country or contribute to ours? What about the fact that immigrants sympathize because they don’t understand how US citizens can live so happily and unaware and give their government the freedom to terrorize their people. How often do we report civilian casualties that are not our own but are caused by us?

It is that sense of entitlement that is difficult to address because people do not want to be told that their feelings are invalid. I sympathize better because I am a woman who is disadvantaged by the system, so I can distance myself from privilege. That is not to say that just because I am a woman but that it is one of the reasons. If we are really going to leave it up to people to decide what they think for themselves, then we should report everything. Journalism holds the principle that they report the truth whether it be pleasant or revolting. It is not as if we are uncovering operations by the CIA although it is understood that one cannot report if there is not solid evidence. The media may not have the statistics at any given moment because it is breaking news. A practice would like to be the first to report it but having the first scoop is not the same as having the right scoop. I can ask you for chocolate and just because you get me vanilla before the store stocks up on chocolate doesn’t leave me any more satisfied than if you’d simply forgot. I would settle.

The public has settled. This is why it is so easy to fight more emotionally as opposed to the facts. It is the sense of familiarity we now cling to. As long as it does not seem wrong to us, anyone who rejects it is themselves an anomaly to our system. We need to remind the public that this is an ongoing problem, not a Whack-a-Mole event that it’s advertised as. In this tumultuous time, we should promote solidarity and diversity.

As always, leave a comment or drop us a line at whentheskyisovercast@gmail.com and I’ll talk to you again soon.

 

Some Reference Sites

A Short Disclaimer: Syria

thenation.com has quite a few good articles, but you need to sign in to read them

The Wiki Rundown of Recent Conflicts in the Middle East

The Other Side of the Story

 

 

Lisbeth Salander is a little Devil

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Something that gave even Lisbeth Salander trouble.

No Spoilers Ahead

I finished reading The Girl Who Played With Fire a couple of weeks ago. I really liked the book, but the big ham about women being underrated in their careers was focused on way too much (the same happened in The Fountainhead where the big ham was about how communism and conformity are the worst things ever and God help you if you support socialist ideas). In any case, after finishing the book, there was one thing that remained on the back of my mind. It was Fermat’s Theorem that was introduced early on in the book. I haven’t read the third book yet so I haven’t been given an answer by Lisbeth herself (if she gives an answer in the third book).

I was actually trying to figure it out. Since she said that Fermat’s Theorem was less about math and more about philosophy, then that means the answer isn’t supposed to be a supposed proof of the theorem but rather what it means in relation to the theme of the book. So I tried searching up the actual proof of the theorem and along the way found that there was a proof to the theorem (Wile’s proof) and that it was of no help to me. That was a dead end for me. So what did Lisbeth mean by it being philosophical?

Of course, Lisbeth would know very well what philosophical meaning there is behind something that people try to categorise and classify, but whatever name or condition they come up with to describe it, they just aren’t true and they don’t fit. Like Wile’s initial proof, people’s assumptions and expectations of her are often based on mistaken premises and false facts. Furthermore, since the theorem states that the formula Fermat came up with has no solutions, people trying to come up with a proof has to prove that there are, in fact, no solutions which means that they have to exhaust every means of finding a solution that solves the equation. Lisbeth, in all her peculiarity, has nothing of the conditions that her foster parents and her psychologists attribute to her, but they keep trying to cure her of the things that she doesn’t have. And like the theorem, Lisbeth is hard to understand and her behaviour is hard to prove and disprove and that means that once rumours establish themselves, her peculiar behaviour is hard to explain if one doesn’t know the context and that leads to much of her bad publicity in the book.

And that’s it. That’s why Stieg Larsson decided to include the Theorem in his books. To the people who published his story of Lisbeth Salander after his death, thank you for not including the answer to the question in the second book. I’ve had a bit of fun with this, but I did get frustrated when I didn’t know what Lisbeth meant while I was still reading the book (hence the title of this post). Only when I’ve had time to think things through weeks later did the answer come to me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my hands on the third book sometime this year and finish the series.

That’s all for this time. Read on!

To read more about Fermat’s Last Theorem, here is the Wiki page: Fermat’s Last Theorem

To read more about Wile’s proof, here is the Wiki page for that: Wile’s proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem