Tales of Symphonia: A game that isn’t afraid to explore discrimination AT ALL.
So way back in 2003 Namco released “Tales of Symphonia” the latest installment in their ‘Tales of’ series which dealt with an adventure : “In a dying world, legend has it that a Chosen One will one day rise from amongst the people and the land will be reborn.” – this is taken directly from the back of the box. Typical premise right? Well, Namco apparently decided to take that premise, deconstruct and turn expectations head over heels. The result was a fantastic game with a really engaging storyline and running theme of challenging racism.
The game starts with a basic introduction: Colette Brunel, The Chosen of Regeneration, is to receive an Oracle from the Goddess Martel which will allow her to begin her Journey of Regeneration, which is taught as a way to restore mana to the world and to seal away the Desians. (The Desians being the assumed primary antagonists and consist almost entirely of Half-Elves.). As mana is the life force of the world, the Desians are blamed for draining it with their ‘magi-technology’ in their human ranches. And yes, you read that correctly: Human Ranches. Here’s a picture:
The person you should be looking at is right there in the middle.
Now I’ve blown this up to full size, just so you can see every detail. The lady in the middle is Marble, who becomes a plot-point later on in the game. Marble has been captured and imprisoned by the Desians, because she’s human, to create Exspheres (an in-game item that allows you to power up your character.) This actually becomes a major concern once you learn that Exspheres are literally made by human lives, causing a moral dilemma for the protagonist Lloyd Irving (the chap in the red up-top). Is it right to be using/consuming these products that have been made at the cost of so much human suffering? What should strike you though is how similar these human ranches are to Nazi concentration camps. Like those camps, the ranches run on an industry of Death. That’s a challenging topic for a video game.
Sheena Fujibayashi: [sighs] If there really is a goddess, why did she make a world like this?
Lloyd Irving: Yeah, no kidding. I wanna kick her for doing this.
Sheena Fujibayashi: [laughs] Seriously, I wish I could do that myself.
But that’s not all! In a shocking twist it turns out the religious organization running the world and promoting blatant prejudice left, right and center is not so benevolent after all! The Angel Remiel (pictured Below) only wants Colette’s body to revive Martel, who has actually been dead for the last 4000 years. Also, Angels are Half-Elves who’ve evolved with help of Exspheres and the Desians are actually low-level minions of the Church. Gah, brain freeze.
Seriously? You’ve been lying this whole time? (Colette’s the one with the pink wings)
Eventually, it’s revealed that the Church of Martel is run by the Cruxis Angels and led by the 3 heroes of the Ancient War which happened 4000 years ago between the two countries of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla, destroying the Great Tree which produced evidently limited amounts of life-giving mana. Mithos the Hero (who is always referred to like this, which I blame on Harry Potter syndrome) ended up splitting the worlds into two to separate them and to keep them from dying until they found a solution to the mana problem. And promptly went crazy. That’s what happens when you give a grieving thirteen year old the power to control time and space. Martel, as it turns out, was Mithos’ sister, who he’s deified and preserved in the seed of the Giant Tree and spent 4000 years attempting to resurrect.
Mithos: Is it a sin to be weak hearted? Not everyone’s strong. Not everyone can stand being despised.
And some concept art of Martel, given that we never get a clear picture of her sprite.
And the kicker is this: Both Mithos and Martel were HALF-ELVES. Something even their own scripture-propaganda fails to address.
Apparently the whole half-elf prejudice tradition goes WAY back. Martel was apparently quite the Dalai Lama in her day and strove to create a world where “human, elves and all those caught in between” could live peacefully. (and yes, I’ve played this game so many times I can quote the dialogue accurately). When she was killed, Mithos went bonkers and decided the blatant destruction of all life was the way to go. Or the way he puts it “Age of Lifeless Beings.” Apparently the only way to rid the world of discrimination is to take away people’s personalities, free-will and soul. I’m not kidding. All the Angels (except Mithos and a few rare exceptions) have had their souls absorbed by Exspheres (told you that point was important.)
So what does all that have to do with my topic. Well, now that you have some background I can talk about the hypocrisy of the Cruxis Organization. Having based their entire religion on a benevolent goddess, Mithos proceeds to hire all the half-elves he can find and gives them the option of getting back at their tormentors. So is born the idea of human ranches. If nothing else, the writers thought this one through. The worlds of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla function like an hourglass, one is always flourishing and one is always waning. By giving the people an antagonist to blame their troubles on, the Chosen’s journey and eventual sacrifice is legitimized. So while the Half-elves are hated in Sylvarant, they hold all the power. When you travel to Tethe’alla, it’s revealed that half-elves are still hated and have no power. So when the Chosen succeeds, the Desians simply shift worlds and recruit all the dissatisfied half-elves, while the flourishing world now starts to oppress its oppressors. It’s a very vicious cycle that doesn’t solve anything. Mithos talks a good game, but at the end of the day he isn’t solving the racism problem, he’s aiding it, abetting it and actively USING it to justify his own goals.
This is works as a foil to your main protagonist: Lloyd Irving. Lloyd is an orphaned human, living with a Dwarf and is an outsider himself. He’s naive, sometimes a bit dumb, and loyal to a fault at the beginning, but thankfully changes with the storyline and he achieves character growth. This allows him to grow into an “Idealist” (actual in-game title). Lloyd is probably the least racist person in the entire game (which includes so much racism, anti-racism and counter-racism, we’d be here all year if I tried to break it all down) and believes that everyone is equal, and that you should not be judged by race. Which is nice, if not viable and the game frequently proves that. But if nothing else, Lloyd is willing to work toward that end goal of a peaceful world and the entire latter half of the game revolves around taking down Mithos and his Desians/Cruxis Angels/Church Officials etc.
From start to finish this game embodies and challenges the ideas and value of humanity. The game ends with a final confrontation between Lloyd’s party and Mithos. So of course it contains a debate about ideologies before you actually fight. But I feel the measure of humanity in this game is summed up quite with this quote from the eventual anime adaptation:
-imported from “What is the Measure of Non-Human’
Shows that all families are different and that’s not a bad thing.
Awesome Cosplay video! For anyone who loves the scene.
How race has been dealt with in previous games: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess.
Right, it occurs to me now that I’m thinking about it, that I may not have been entirely fair in my last post about the portrayal of race in The Legend of Zelda. After all the franchise has a 25 year-long history for a reason, so therefore it only makes sense to take a closer look at other games in the series. That said, given that there are 31 game sand associated spinoffs, I’m going to focus on the games I’ve actually PLAYED. Otherwise my entire blog would be about this series and to be honest, there are other games I’d like to talk about.
Let’s start with the first game I played:
That’s a bit of a lie actually, what I should state is: this is the first game my Mom played. That’s right, my mother is a gamer. Partially out of parental responsibility but mostly out of enjoyment, my mom purchased this game after running up our Rogers Video bill so high she decided it was probably cheaper to buy. Thus began a family bonding experience that lives in my memory to this very day. The lack of voice acting and on-screen text forced my brother and I not only to learn to read, but read at a higher level and the puzzles involved were a fun way for us to bond. Whoever says video games don’t promote family bonding, I can prove you wrong. Take that statistics!
But we’re discussing race in this game, not fond childhood memories so without further ado let me introduce you to the sentient races of Hyrule: In order of Appearance
These six races, including Hylians which are the stand in for human in this game, make up the sentient people of Hyrule. And for the most part, I feel Nintendo respects that. All six races have their own cultures and history reflected in their unique visual style. There doesn’t seem to be much racial clashing until the villain Ganondorf invades Hyrule and starts a war. Ganondorf is one of the Gerudo people, and is interesting because the Gerudo are an all female tribe of thieves that live out in the desert with their own hierarchy and civilization which is reminiscent of the mythological Amazons. The difference is, once every 100 years a male Gerudo is born and is immediately crowned king, therefore gaining ultimate power over Gerudo society. This is more of a class issue than a case of race issue. What is a race issue is while all races are welcome in Hyrule and co-exist rather peacefully the Gerudo were banished to the desert for vaguely defined reasons and are therefore treated as pariahs in Hyrule.
Secondly the major plot twist for this game, and I’m not calling it a spoiler because the game’s been out for more than a decade now and just saw a re-release on the 3DS, is that lInk is actually a Hylian and not one of the Immortal Kokiri children of the Forest. In a curious case of reverse racism, your character is initially treated as an outcast in his own home because you lack a fairy companion which marks you as different from the other Kokiri. Thus Link is the devalued one for being human rather than the other way around. You eventually get a fairy, but it’s later revealed that Kokiri never grow up (and since you clearly have) Link must leave his forest home forever and try to join Hylian society.
The direct sequel that depicts this (for the failure it is):
So, this is an odd one. I like to say it tries to undo all the assumptions the previous game gives the player but that’s only true to a point. That point is this: It turns out several monster races are actually sentient in the paralell world of Termina that Link travels too. Go figure. Leading this semi-horrific realization that the monsters you’ve been slaughtering without thought have minds are the Deku Scrubs: it turns out not only are they sentient, they have a monarchy. I wish I was kidding.
Also included in this lineup are Stalchildren, undead skeleton monsters who try to slaughter you without remorse if you are in an open area a night, but pick up the right mask and suddenly you can talk to them! Brings into question who the monster really is. Also included in this game is the option of turning into other races.
This is really neat actually. By calming dead spirits Link can turn them into masks and take on the forms they had in life. This means you can literally put yourself in another persons shoes and experience life through their eyes. Not only that, but each form has it’s own unique powers, abilities and weaknesses, proving that some races actually are better suited for certain tasks than others. This game mechanic highlights the other denizens of Termina in a positive format.
Finally lets take a look at this one:
So, here’s another game with another viewpoint on the race issue. This game introduces into the racial canon the Twili:
Their back story: The Twili are the descendants of a race of people who lived in Hyrule but were banished to a different plane of existence for the practice of vaguely defined black magic. Very vaguely defined. This seems to be a story trope of the Zelda series, not actually explaining the evil any given Link is battling. After Ganondorf (or his spirit anyway) breaks into the twilight realm the story’s villain Zant decides his people have been repressed long enough for a mistake made hundreds of years ago,crowns himself King and declares war on Hyrule having conveniently developed the power to travel between dimensions.
The problem is this: the Twili like the Twilight realm. Thus Link is actually drawn into a civil war he really has no business in all while trying to keep the races segregated from each other. Yes. Twilight Princess actually promotes segregation. Now, the game does explain that the Twili have acclimatised to the Twilight realm and therefore can’t survive in Hyrule anymore but still. At the end of the game their ruling Princess decides that the two races can never have contact with each other and destroys the only connection between the worlds.
Enforced racial segregation is going a bit far guys, narrative driven or not.
The interesting thing about these three games is they all treat racial difference in entirely different ways. Ocarina of Time states that everyone basically gets along, Majora’s Mask explores that pysches of previously devalued races and even highlights them and Twilight Princess endorses enforced racial segragation. The only connecting fact between all these games is Link and Zelda are Hylians.
Hmmm, it’s something to think about for this one:
Check out our facebook page for regular updates! https://www.facebook.com/harrypotterg…
And be sure to check out the website http://www.thegreatergoodfilm.com
Full movie releases online December 2nd
Based on a story told in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, it is the tragedy of the Dumbledore family. Young Albus Dumbledore maintained a close friendship with a dangerous wizard called Grindelwald. When their plans for world domination came apart in the name of family, a duel sparked that would change the course of all their lives forever.
Starring Josh Brodis, Chistopher Cramer, Colin Goodridge, and Kari Christopher.
This film is a not-for-profit fan film only. All materials are property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros films.
-taken from video description
The Supernatural marketing team has apparently noticed that all our fan created merchandise is way cooler than the official stuff.
Their solution: Design Contest. Fan submissions and Fan voted.
PR working at it’s finest.
Whether or not the Mishapocalypse was annoying to some people on Tumblr, it actually is way better for him with the network than things like sending letters to the CW. The network honestly doesn’t care if a particular actor has the cult clout to get a few hundred impassioned fans to write a letter or send a tweet. Frankly, just about anyone can do that. But when that actor without even asking can make something go viral – the golden buzzphrase of the decade for money people in suits – to the point where it gets coverage from non-fandom traditional media outlets and completely inundates a social media platform? Now we’re cooking with kale.
Who may not be a PR practitioner, but can certainly think like one.
Link original post: http://andythanfiction.tumblr.com/post/79997008808/whether-or-not-the-mishapocalypse-was-annoying-to
What is the measure of a Human
So, while surfing the net for material to talk about in today’s post I ran across this little gem that I think serves well as an introduction to the topic of this Blog:
Now I’m a long time fan of Mr. Chipman and I think this video makes quite a few good points. I’m also taking Ancient History this year so it makes sense to me that racism has existed in human civilization for thousands of years. That in mind, I’d like to take a look at how it exists in our newest art form: Videogames.
If you are an avid gamer, or at least live with or know an avid gamer, you may already be aware that this particular topic really only begins once games started having coherent narratives. After all Pong wasn’t exactly a game that dealt with racial issues. It’s really only since the technology has evolved to the point where the artist can start playing with it that games have started to explore this concept. Of course, the civil rights movement and others connected to it makes it difficult to explore this idea outright, unless your game is based in the historical genre, which few people will want to play. That said as most video games deal with the removal of some threat to humanity, developers will typically go the non-human route (in all the games I play anyway), which is to say: monsters, aliens, robots and other assorted fantasy creatures. This has led to the creation of the trope “What is the Measure of Non-Human”, which is the inspiration for the title of this blog. See in more detail here:
Now, there are quite a few games that refuse to deal with this in game explicitly I will only be exploring the Legend of Zelda for this type of game. I will more often than not be exploring the games that actually deal with this question in their story in this blog.
For today though let’s look at The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This game was actually the game that made me start thinking about this topic, as it is the first Zelda game that literally states the superiority of humanity. Behold the opening cinematic:
Here’s what bugged me about this: Why was it just the humans the goddess decided to save? She literally puts them above the other land-dwellers by raising their kingdom into the clouds. And the game states she joined forces with the other land dwellers to seal away the evil that was killing them all in the first place! So what was the point of singling the humans out for preferential treatment? The other land dwellers I’ve met in the game thus far (and I should state I’m not even halfway through it yet) are really nice people, so why place humanity above them? Answer: Humans are just valued more. The game also states that Link and Zelda are the Chosen Hero and the Spirit Maiden who will seal away the great evil. Other than tradition (this franchise has been around for 25 years now) there is no real reason for the saviour of Hyrule to be human.
Are you guys seeing the problem? The developers made a choice to portray humanity as the best thing you could possibly be. There is even a side quest dedicated to finding ‘Gratitude Crystals” for Batreaux (a pleasant, sentient demon living below Skyloft), in order for him to become human.
He’s a nice guy, and yeah he looks a bit scary but is there anything wrong with him as he is? Not really. He’s nicer than several of the human characters you meet in the game, but in order to be accepted by Skyloft society he must conform to their aesthetic sense. He is quite literally the outsider. His home is even made below Skyloft. He is physically placed to show how he is devalued.
See what I mean? This idea of what makes a human is worth looking into.
-imported from Ethics blog