A Phoenix Factory Review – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

September 24, 2015 Leave a comment

There are some fictional works I consume where there is a striking moment early on where my attitude towards it goes from “this seems interesting and I should finish it” to “this is awesome and I must finish it”. If not for the fact that I have already been fond of the Metal Gear Solid franchise since the first game came out, that moment for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain probably occurred as the main character, Venom Snake, is riding a helicopter on a story mission to destroy the enemy regional communications base rather early in the game. I had previously spent hours freely roaming the enemy-occupied countryside, understanding the lay of the land, warming up to the game by raiding enemy bases and outposts, but I figured it was time to move the story along. As my helicopter flew inexorably towards my landing zone, Kazuhira “Kaz” Miller, my mission coordinator, is explaining my mission to me through the radio and telling me how I have to sabotage the base’s communications infrastructure. Suddenly, Revolver Ocelot, my intelligence officer, interrupts and informs Miller the enemy communications infrastructure has already been destroyed. As it turned out, while wandering around the map, I had already taken out the antennas and satellite dishes in the base without understanding its significance. But the game knew I did this already, so this was reflected in how the mission was already over before it started; I never even got the chance to jump off my helicopter before Miller, as perplexed as I am, utters, “Mission complete. I guess it all worked out in the end.”

And that was how I completed a mission in less than thirty seconds.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a stealth-based third-person shooter sandbox game, the last entry into the twenty-eight-year-old franchise developed by Hideo Kojima, arguably the pioneer in stealth-based video games, and functionally a farewell letter to the franchise as his contract with the intellectual property expires. In many ways, it is a game that’s very different from its predecessors, both in terms of gameplay and narrative style. It also comes burdened with twenty-eight years of backstory and lore, making it intimidating – if not outright confusing – for newcomers to get into as Kojima ties up the last loose ends that connects the Cold War lore to its 20th century storyline. But as a game, The Phantom Pain proves that Kojima still has his chops as the man who revolutionized the stealth genre in gaming, and who can keep up with the times as technologies and gaming changes with the times. Read more…

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Categories: Gaming

The Most Unexpectedly Advanced Technology in Hokkaido

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve just returned from my trip to Hokkaido, Japan, and I must remark that I had a great time. The scenery was beautiful (I have a new wallpaper for my cell phone), the food was terrific (I’m going to need to burn off a lot of calories), and the overall experience was great. This being said, I still regret a little incident in a shopping mall over the JR station in Sapporo: Two cute high school girls in front of us got onto an escalator and instantly realized they were traveling in the wrong direction. So, giggling, they held hands, scrambled back up the escalator, and skipped off.

And the only thing I could think of was: WHY DID I NOT HAVE MY CAMERA READY

…Ahem.

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting very much technology-wise when I came to Hokkaido. This is by no means a put-down towards Hokkaido – again, I maintain this is a great part of Japan – but it’s just that when you are surrounded by kilometers and kilometers of farmland and mountains, and when there are several segments along the highway where you can’t get a mobile signal, then one also must acknowledge that one is in a very rural place that can be jokingly described as “in the middle of nowhere”. Still, Hokkaido was rather well developed, and I took a bit of effort to look for the latest in Japanese gizmo wizardry. And nowhere did I find a piece of technology so surprisingly advanced than in the corner of the restroom of my lodgings in Niseko.

Read more…

Categories: Slice of Life, Yuri

I Needed This

March 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Categories: Slice of Life

Shepard and the Geth VI in Mass Effect 3 (And Why Shpard Was Maybe Kind of a Jerk)

March 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Spoiler alert from chatlogs.

 ysionris
It just sort of occurred to me that – despite being an entirely different consciousness, with a different quantum bluebox, and a fundamentally different set of memory data since Eden Prime (when Legion was first deployed to seek out Shepard) – Shepard still utterly insists on attributing someone else’s name on the VI, despite the VI insisting repeatedly that “we are not Legion”.

 gaz
Yeah.

 ysionris
S/He is assigning a name to a potentially sapient entity using human-centric values, despite insistence from said entity that they are not Legion.
Which, in hindsight, is kind of “meh”-ish.

 gaz
It makes Shepard look kind of desperate due this entity to be their dead friend

 gaz
For this

 ysionris
I suppose. Or it makes him/her look kind of like a jerk. XD

 gaz
To the point that they kind of ignore Legion VIs wishes.

 ysionris
Especially given Legion’s spiel on anthropomorphization in ME2.
Well, it’s likely that the geth VI doesn’t even care. But. =P

 gaz
There is that one part, though. The last conversation that you have with Legion VI before the big decision

 ysionris
Heh.

 gaz
“[…] you were my friend.”
*nod* “And then we died.”

 gaz
But, put this into context with the anxiety Shepard expresses when you storm the Cerberus base at the end

 ysionris
Heh, fair enough.

 gaz
Where she is reflecting on whether or not she really is Shepard.
You could enterpret her as needing this person to be Legion on some level, because it’s my about them, it’s about her
Not about

 ysionris
/me nods.

 gazetteerwastaken _ 1:21 am
I wish Liara didn’t just offer up “don’t worry ur totes Shepard.”
Categories: Gaming

Why I’m Not Against Fanservice and Sexual Objectification in the Media (And Why the Focus Should Be Different)

March 21, 2014 4 comments

In retrospect, now that I haven’t posted here in about five months, I realize that I’ve really been talking a lot about social issues on this blog. In fact, I haven’t talked much about kitties, despite the subtitle of this blog. At some point, this needs to change.

I’ve sort of addressed this before, but let’s try this more comprehensively.

In anime and manga spheres, the term most are familiar with is probably “fanservice”; in Western spheres, “sexual objectification” is probably more often seen. In either case, however, it comes down to using sex appeal to cater to audiences. Almost universally, said “audience” are straight, cisgendered males (it would be interesting to add a racial component, but it’s important to remember that this is not a phenomenon that is strictly isolated to “white spheres”, so we’ll just use those two labels for now), meaning that “fanservice” often involves using scantily-clad, attractive girls in sexually-suggestive predicaments.

A large number of feminists argue that fanservice is wrong, as it sexually objectifies women as merely objects to be desired after, that it strips them down of their humanity and only down to characteristics of sexual appeal. Media traditionalists – most of them heterosexual, cisgendered men – insist that authors and media producers are free to do what they want, that freedom of speech and expression is paramount, and usually throw in a line or two about how “women are ruining movies/comics/video games/etc.”.

The feminist argument is entirely valid, and is certainly reasonable. However, I do take a differing stance for different reasons, and I postulate that these feminists are perhaps focusing on the wrong issue. Read more…

A Primer to Political Realism

October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Considering that this is the internet, most of my friends tend to lean left in terms of their politics. So, perhaps somewhat understandably but also kind of frustratingly, they react badly towards the terms “political realism” and “realpolitik”, partly because they seem to be such a relic of the Cold War, where there was a very us-or-them mentality of paranoia, but also because it gets a lot of bad press on the media. And why wouldn’t it? After all, films and television series generally prefer to have unambiguously good heroes who do the “right thing” at the very end. Of course, what the “right thing” is is something that’s a little debatable, but I digress; this is a primer to political realism. Time to set the record straight. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society

A Primer to Moral Relativism

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This is really just a writing exercise, although I suspect it will come in handy sometime in the future, when I actually have to use this explanation for someone else. In the meantime, here’s a simple primer to moral relativism~

What Is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is an umbrella philosophy consisting of several schools of thought relating to the moral sciences. As its name implies, moral relativism compares moral systems against each other, using the differences in moral systems to ascertain the true nature of morality itself. It is not exclusively an atheistic concept (and, indeed, moral relativism has been debated in ancient Greece and India, both of which were religious hotbeds), but as most modern religious belief systems tie morality closely to their deities, moral relativism today does not mesh very well with religious beliefs.

There are three main schools to moral relativism:

  • Descriptive: Descriptive moral relativism is the least extensive school of moral relativism, and simply states that people disagree on what constitutes as moral behavior. It is the “safest” stance to take, and is generally an accepted idea in anthropology, suggesting that different societies have developed moral systems in different ways.
  • Meta-ethical: Meta-ethical moral relativism posits the idea that morality itself is a subjective human construct based on our own collective biases, experiences, and preferences, and that as morality is simply a subjective and untestable observation of a social system, no moral system is inherently “better” or “worse” by nature than another moral system. Needless to say, all meta-ethical moral relativists are descriptive moral relativists, although not all descriptive moral relativists are meta-ethical moral relativists.
  • Normative: Normative moral relativism is the most extreme main school of moral relativism. Taking the viewpoint of meta-ethical moral relativism, it also subscribes to the belief that all moral systems are equally valid, and that it is necessary for everyone to tolerate each others’ moral systems.

As I am a meta-ethical moral relativist, we will be exploring this school of thought more extensively than the others.

What Is Meta-Ethical Relativism?

Allow me to pose a scenario, which I understand will be difficult for some to grasp, but please bear with me for a moment.

Imagine, if you will, that the atheists are right, that there is no god or gods or afterlife, and we simply cease to exist after we die. Imagine, if you will, that tomorrow, all of us – every single human to exist – dies. The “how” is irrelevant; what matters is that there are no longer any sapient lifeforms on the planet. (We are, of course, currently excluding the possibility of sapient alien life.) In other words, tomorrow, there will be a complete lack of intelligence capable of understanding morality, and therefore morality will cease to exist.

Meta-ethical relativism basically states that all morality is an anthropic subjective social concept that fails to qualify as a “universal truth”; morality only exists because we are capable of considering it, and that if we are gone, then morality itself will also not exist. The laws of reality are considered universal truths, things like the laws of gravity, mass, light. They follow very specific rules, and will not change no matter how we wish it so. However, meta-ethical relativism suggests that morality can easily change, that we basically invent morality for our own purposes, and that insinuating that one moral system is inherently better than another is no more sensible a statement than “vanilla ice cream is inherently better than chocolate ice cream”.

As an example, let us take a look at natural rights, otherwise known as “inalienable rights”. Wikipedia defines them as “not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable”. But, of course, natural rights are not actually universal. After all, for thousands of years in human history, slavery and the oppression of women existed globally, violating the natural right of equality. (If anything, legal equality is a relatively recent phenomenon in the mainstream, seeing how the United States did not actually outlaw slavery until 1865, ten thousand years after the first prehistoric evidence of slavery.) Inalienable rights are only applicable if society considers them inalienable and wishes to enforce them; when society fails to achieve either of these conditions, or if society itself does not exist, then natural rights are only so many meaningless words.

Therefore, it is generally understood amongst meta-ethical moral relativists that morality is an ever-changing barometer of mankind’s current ethical biases and considerations. It is not a universal truth, simply a reflection of what society considers proper right at any given time. As William Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” As the very idea of “right” or “wrong” is subjective and varies from person-to-person with no objective standard by which to measure them by, different systems of morality are not inherently better or worse than another, but simply in the eye of the beholder.

What Are Some Misconceptions About Meta-Ethical Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism – like most ideologies – is an umbrella ideology, meaning it consists of many belief systems loosely related to each other. Meta-ethical moral relativism agrees with its sister ideologies that people disagree on what constitutes as moral behavior, but that is largely where similarities end.

Moral relativists are not immoral (as immorality would imply moral absolutism) or even amoral. The vast majority of moral relativists have their own moral systems that they follow, their own belief of right or wrong. However, meta-ethical moral relativists are very aware that their moral beliefs are subjective, based upon their own biases and experiences, and that their moral systems are not moral truths, merely items that they have accepted as valid for them. The concept is not dissimilar to preferences for flavors of ice cream; there is no objective standard that says vanilla ice cream is inherently better than chocolate ice cream, but I prefer the former over the latter.

Moral relativists are as different as they come. Their beliefs range from utilitarian ethics to deontological ethics, and they occupy the entirety of the political spectrum (although in recent history, moral relativists have generally tended to be more left-wing than right-wing, especially due to the right-wings close association with religious fundamentalism, which is generally a moral absolutist institute).

Meta-ethical moral relativists are also not normative moral relativists, in that the former does not prescribe that all behavior must be tolerated. That all moral systems fail to qualify as moral truths does not mean everyone – including moral relativists themselves – have their individual moral systems, and may act in a way in which they believe they are “righting wrongs”. Although Shakespeare notes that only the capacity to think gives any credence to the idea of “right” or “wrong”, it does not change that intelligent life believes in the “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain things, and they may act in accordance to their moral systems. For example, I am a meta-ethical moral relativist, but although I recognize that equality is not a universal truth and not inherently “right”, I personally believe that it is desirable and moral, and will therefore oppose inequality.

Meta-ethical moral relativists do not inherently belittle morality, they simply do not subscribe to moral absolutism. They do not insinuate that morality is useless to them; rather, most meta-ethical moral relativists see morality as a useful tool to advance civilization and society. They simply recognize that everyone has a different opinion on what is right or wrong, and that an objective standard by which to measure them against each other does not exist.

Conclusion

Moral relativism is a particularly useful mindset in understanding differing moral systems across different civilizations and cultures. It is, in its way, a humbling experience, a recognition that what you consider to be right may not be a universal truth, but simply a biased perception of how you believe humans ought to behave. It counters the belief that your belief system has the exclusive monopoly on truth, and allows for people to be open-minded in the acceptance of new ideas. It doesn’t mean moral relativists are incapable of being “moral” (of course, this insinuates there is any one definition for “moral”), it simply means we do not automatically assume everyone else is inherently “wrong”.