Area of Effect, Issue #6

Page 1


September 2016 • Issue 6

EFFECT Blowing up geek culture FEATURE

I TRIED, SHEPARD The Illusive Man is a manipulative villain, and yet, I owed him. p. 20



Obsession with one-hit KOs (and other things) can turn you into a different person. p. 16

VIDEO GAMES TO PLAY AFTER MASS EFFECT We’ve got you covered. p. 8


One-Punch Man • Kubo and the Two Strings • Avatar: The Last Airbender • Portal • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood • Ori and the Blind Forest • The Legend of Zelda • Pokémon Go


SEPTEMBER 2016, ISSUE 6 Publisher | GEEKDOM HOUSE Founder | KYLE RUDGE Executive Editor | ALLISON BARRON Designer | ABDESIGNS Staff Writers | Dustin Asham, Michael Boyce, Casey Covel, Kevin Cummings, Sheela Cox, Victoria Grace Howell, Robert Martin, Kyla Neufeld, Charles Sadnick, Dustin Schellenberg, Jennifer Schlamaeuss-Perry Contributing Artists | Jake Probelski (OchreJelly) Joe Hogan (Joe Hogan Art), Justin Currie (Chasing Artwork), Blue-Ten, and 1oshuart Cover art | “Go for the Optics” by Jake Probelski Back Cover art | “Emergency Induction Ports” by Jake Probelski ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: Area of Effect magazine is published four times a year in September, December, March, and June, by Geekdom House, Winnipeg, Manitoba. To read more articles online, visit www. WEBSITE Read our articles online at FACEBOOK Like our page at TWITTER Follow or tweet at us @GeekdomHouse INSTAGRAM Follow our posts @GeekdomHouse ABOUT GEEKDOM HOUSE: Geekdom House is a non-profit organization based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The mission of Geekdom House is to be a faith-filled community with fanatics of sci-fi, fantasy, comics, games, and more. Geekdom House is an organization under EQUIP CANADA (BN: 889540738RR0001).


Small Worlds, Big Stories It’s a good time to be a Zelda fan. Is the open world nature of Breath of the Wild sacrificing depth of story for breadth of world? Will it make us feel like we are the hero? 2 • AOE MAGAZINE

contents ANIME

Bunny Dropped into Love by Charles Sadnick

One-Punch Man and Knockout Obsession by Casey Covel


by Dustin Schellenberg



Kubo and a Life Defined by Story Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire by Allison Barron

Call Me Treebeard

by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Playing God Till You Run Out of Cake SCI-FI

by Allison Barron

The Morality of Robots and Self-Driving Cars by Dennis Maione

Atomic Robo and Choosing Joy by Kevin Cummings


Light Like Ori’s VIDEO GAMES

by Victoria Grace Howell

Small Worlds, Big Stories by Nick Wasiuta

Pokémon Go and Outrage Culture by AoE Staff

I Tried, Shepard


by Kevin Cummings


by AoE Staff

3 Video Games to Play After Mass Effect by AoE Staff




3 Space Operas to Watch After Firefly

Play Dungeons & Dragons with Mass Effect Characters Jack Samara Garrus Vakarian Thane Krios Urdnot Wrex Mordin Solus
















5 14 19 10 10 21

race, the gumons, to deadly frost, he became despaired and angry. At first he was an enemy to Ori, trapping her and stealing the key into the Ginso Tree. But when he witnessed her good deeds, hope was revived within him. In the end, even Kuro is inspired by Naru and Ori’s beautiful example of the bond between a mother and child to sacrifice herself for the restoration of the entire hen I first came across the video Forest of Nibel. game Ori and the Blind Forest, I When my parents decided to divorce and I had wondered, “Why did the creators to move away from my old home, my light and hope call it ‘The Blind Forest’? Why ‘blind’?” disappeared, and I became blind. I didn’t know where Thus I began my journey as a young forest sprite my life was going anymore, and I sank into a deep denamed Ori. When Ori was born, a terrible storm sepa- pression. Instead of emanating good, I leaked venom rated her from her father, the Spirit Tree. The benign and negativity. beast Naru found and raised her to be intelligent and I felt like circumstances were twisting me into kind. After Ori had grown to a young adult, the Spirit something I didn’t want to be, and I let them. Grief, Tree called back his child. However, when she arrived, stress, anger, and bitterness are easy to get wrapped Kuro, a gigantic she-owl, attacked the Spirit Tree and up in. I’m pretty sure I hurt some other people because stole his lighted core, blinding the of my focus on my own suffering, Forest of Nibel. As the ecosystem I’M PRETTY SURE I HURT just like Gumo and Kuro hurt Ori decayed, so did Naru and Ori’s out of their grief due to lost loved food supply until eventually there SOME OTHER PEOPLE ones. was nothing left to eat. In one last BECAUSE OF MY FOCUS ON Ori goes through similar sufact of sacrifice, Naru gave her adfering, but she doesn’t let the grief opted daughter the last peach she MY OWN SUFFERING. drag her down. She uses the loss could find, then died of starvation. of her mother to motivate herself Weak from hunger, Ori traveled through the to help others. I try to use my own suffering in the mangled and twisted forest. Eventually, she too, died same way now; my experience from my parents’ of hunger. divorce helps me understand others who are going It would be awful if the story ended there. through similar pain. Since the game was only beginning, I knew there It was hope that eventually lead me out of that would be more. But I’m reminded of how, sometimes, darkness. Hope: that little light in us that motivates us to smile every day, that makes us want to pursue our caught in a hopeless place, I feel like there will be dreams. It’s said that we can survive three weeks withnothing more. Hard times have blinded me and left out food, three days without water, but we can’t survive me hollow. I have lost my light many times, my little a moment without hope. spark, the piece of me that keeps me hopeful. “This Edith Wharton comments, “There are two ways is it!” I’ve cried. “There’s nothing left. I’m done.” But I wasn’t actually done. There was light up ahead; I just of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” When we have light in us, we need to use couldn’t see it. it to spark a flame in others. Setting good examples, In Ori’s case, the Spirit Tree used its meager being there for someone, even a mere compliment can strength to grant her new life, and tasked her with restore the light in another person. I can’t tell you how restoring the light in the three great monuments of much I am uplifted when someone says they’ve been the forest: The Ginso Tree, The Forlorn Ruins, and encouraged by my writing, or when a friend tells me Mount Horu. Because of their lack of light, because they appreciate me. Sometimes I don’t even notice that of their blindness, instead of producing water, wind, and warmth, they spewed toxic liquids, fatal frost, and I’m feeling down until someone encourages me and I realize how much I needed it. deadly lava. Yes, it can take courage to inspire others; someOri was given hope, though it was a future that times we have to be vulnerable, sometimes it’s a long required deep commitment from her. road, sometimes it only takes a sentence. But if I can Not only did the sweet creature, Ori, restore help one person see hope in the future, it’s worth it, for the light in these behemoths, but also in the hearts I know what it feels like to be blind. w of others, including Gumo. When Gumo lost his






by Dennis Maione


f Isaac Asimov is known for anything within popular culture, it is his three laws of robotics, made famous in the book I, Robot and its movie adaptation. The laws were conceived because of the invention of self-directed robots. They answered the question of how created objects were allowed to act with respect to the safety of the people who created them. Asimov envisioned a robot morality controlled by inviolable laws which began with the first law: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” That seems straight-forward: when a robot can direct its own actions, it must not be allowed to cause human beings to come to harm. Of course, there are situations where it is not simply a choice between harming a human or not. Sometimes the question concerns reducing the total harm when some injury cannot be avoided. In that case, at least according to the movie-version of the story, there is a complex heuristic by which a robot must make a decision between the value of one or more humans: the result of that calculation directs the action. For example, in the movie, the protagonist Del Spooner is saved by a robot because he was deemed to be more likely to survive after being pulled out of the water. Extrapolating from the presumed algorithm, I expect that quantity of humans would also factor in, that is, saving two humans would take

“We’ll fly kites tomorrow, honest” by Chasing Artwork

“The children are innocent and precedent over saving one. unable to protect themselves, run This question of the value of the car into a post and hope for the human life based on an algorithm best” or “five kids take precedent is now coming to the fore in the over one adult in each car, choose a realm of self-driving cars. While head-on collision.” many will welcome the additional According to a poll conductsafety that comes with cars that ed in 2015 by researchers at the make decisions for us, have the Massachusetts Institute of Technolability to take us home when we ogy (MIT) when given the choice have had too much to drink, and between the occupant of a car prevents drivers from doing danand ten pedestrians, a majority of gerous things on the road, there people chose to save the kids and are some ethical questions that not the driver. But that is a future need to be answered before such hypothetical situation those folks cars can really be given the reigns were being asked about. to take us autonomously to our An interesting twist in this destinations. question arose when the people One of those questions is, “If an accident is unavoidable, what choice is the car directed to take Continued on page 21 regarding the preservation of human life?” JACK According to Asimov’s first Wild Magic Sorcerer, Criminal law, the choice Medium Human, Chaotic Neutral should be to reduce the total Level 10 amount of harm. Armour Class 12 (15 with mage armour) But this is where the conundrum Hit Points 70 asserts itself. Speed 30 ft. What about the choice between STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA killing or serious9 (-1) 15 (+2) 17 (+3) 11 (+0) 9 (-1) 19 (+4) ly injuring the passenger(s) in the car and killSkill Proficiences Deception, Intimidation, Stealth, ing or seriously Arcana injuring a group Equipment Boots of Haste, Ring of Spell Storing of pre-schoolers walking down Notable Spells Known mage hand, thunderwave, the sidewalk? crown of madness, shield, hold person, levitate, Logically, we counterspell, fear, dominate person, telekinesis, might look at this hold monster situation and say something like, AOE MAGAZINE • 5


cientific advancement is the entire backstory of the video games Portal and Portal 2. You play as Chell, a woman awakened from her Relaxation Vault in Aperture Science’s enrichment center, forced to go through a series of tests by the direction of an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS. Portal takes humanity’s tendency toward advancement beyond all logic (and that’s what makes it hilarious). Not only is the entire lab run by a robot determined to put Chell through her paces and then destroy her, but the tests themselves don’t serve much purpose. Aperture’s founder, Cave Johnson, doesn’t seem to have any morals when it comes to science. In one of his speeches to the test subjects, Cave says flat-out that they have no idea what they’re doing and they’re “throwing science at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Aperture’s motto, “We do what we must because we can,” seems completely ridiculous in light of the Portal universe (because there’s just something ridiculous about a robot chucking heart-labeled companion cubes at you and degrading you for not solving the puzzle faster). However, I find the game an ironic insight into the human mind. God created us with minds that have this tendency to dream, adapt, and create (we just keep on trying till we run out of cake, as GLaDOS would say). We’re constantly pushing for new discoveries and knowledge. In fact, on average, the sum total of human knowledge doubles every year. I understand the draw of wanting to know how something works and, even more, the desire to create and manipulate (hence my obsession with writing and video games). My concern is when that desire for power goes so far that more important things are sacrificed in the name of human advancement. GLaDOS is something like a god in the Enrichment Center (until Chell challenges her reign, of course). She has control over the entire place and has a complete disregard for human lives unless they can help with the testing process. “While safety is one of many Enrichment Center goals, the Aperture Science High-Energy Pellet, seen to the left of the chamber, can and has caused permanent disabilities, such as vaporization.” — GLaDOS Though she is a robot (albeit with part of Caroline, a human, in her), GLaDOS represents a human tendency to want control and power, to obsess over an end goal to the point that the reason it’s important is forgotten. w Science also plays a huge part in the animated series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, as alchemy is portrayed as a scientific process. In episode four, we meet a state alchemist named Shou Tucker (those of us who have seen the show generally cringe at the sound of his name). Tucker is known as the Sewing-Life Alchemist for having created a talking chimera two years previous. (For those of you unfamiliar with chimeras, these are creatures made by fusing, grafting, or mutating multiple organisms with a mix of genetically different tissues. Think of a centaur



CAKE by Allison Barron

or Medusa.) This is a mysterious and much applauded feat because no alchemist has been able to make something that showed signs of human intelligence before. If the state was suspicious about how he did it, they didn’t ask questions. Tucker is under a lot of pressure because his assessment day with the state is coming soon, and he hasn’t been able to produce any remarkable research since his first breakthrough; his state alchemy license is on the line. “I have to try hard, or I will be left with nothing, again,” he whispers to himself as his little daughter, Nina, gives him a huge hug of encouragement. Edward and Alphonse Elric, brothers who have lost much by misusing alchemy in a failed attempt to resurrect their beloved mother, make a stark contrast to Tucker. Edward is also a state alchemist, also devoted to science, and he’s determined to find a way to get Alphonse’s body back; its loss had been a consequence of their attempt at the resurrection, and Al’s soul is currently attached to a suit of armor. The brothers— one human, one metal—are at the Tucker estate to do research in the alchemist’s library, looking for anything that might help them in their quest. Edward’s overseer sends them there because he knows Tucker is a specialist who might assist their research on the philosopher’s stone. But after hours of study, Edward discovers Alphonse playing with Nina and her giant dog. The little girl had peeked at him from around a corner, and her loneliness and desire to play was too difficult to say no to. Edward almost immediately gives in and the four race outside to enjoy the end of a beautiful day together—a girl and her dog, a boy and his suitof-armor brother. From this lighthearted yet bizarre scene, the story shifts to Tucker, who is sitting in the basement at a desk with his head in his hands. The pursuit and elusiveness of discovery have stolen away all joy for him. When the brothers return the next day, we see just how great the difference is between them and Tucker. Tucker reveals that the previous night, he managed to create another chimera. He has secured his place with the state. Edward can tell something is off; this new chimera, he realizes, was created by merging a live human with an animal, something that is forbidden. Two years before, Tucker had sacrificed his wife as the human component. This time, his daughter and her dog. Although both Tucker and the Elric brothers have misused alchemy, Tucker allowed his obsession for discovery to override all other values. He sacrificed the people he loved for alchemy, whereas the brothers were using alchemy in an attempt to restore someone they loved. “I don’t see what you’re so upset about,” says Tucker in response to Edward’s righteous anger. “This is how we progress. Human experimentation is a necessary step.” He then comments that Edward and he are similar. They both took an opportunity, “even though we knew it was against the rules.” Tucker really doesn’t seem to understand why anyone would be upset with what he had done. He had become so obsessed with science and progression that nothing, and I mean nothing, else mattered “Portals 2: New Friends” by Chasing Artwork

to him. Ironically, his experiment doesn’t really help science progress at all, because he is presenting false data by using a human as part of the process. In the 2003 anime (the series that predates Brotherhood, called just Fullmetal Alchemist, but with many of the same plotlines), Shou summarized his motives by saying: “That’s the funny thing, I didn’t have a reason. I fully understood, no matter what I did, my life would be ruined. I could either do it with the science, or without. And so I chose science, to see if I could.” Edward is, understandably, distraught at the end of this Brotherhood episode. He is largely upset because of an innocent girl’s murder, but also because he can’t stand the idea of a state alchemist doing something like Tucker did; he abhors the idea of being anything like him. In the wake of this dilemma, Edward’s supervisor coolly comments that more cases like this one will arise again in the future; he asks if Ed’s going to shut down like this every time. Ed’s response: “I know we’re not PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS devils. I know we’re not gods. We’re human. We’re only human!” SEEK THE POWER TO It is the very fact that Edward is so affected that makes him a hero. It’s ADVANCE AND IMPROVE the fact that he took time off studying THE WORLD; BUT HOW to play with a little girl and her dog, FAR IS TOO FAR? that he learned from his mistake in trying to be God and bring his mom back—that’s what makes him great. Just like Tucker, Edward feels like he has a purpose. But unlike Tucker, his purpose is not science for science’s sake or to gain god-like power, but to undo a horrible mistake, save his brother, and change a little bit of the awfulness in the world, if he can. There is something about technological advancement that can lead us to obsessiveness. Edward says, “I know we’re not gods,” but it took him a near-death experience to come to that conclusion. I wonder if that creative power is largely the draw. w People will always be striving to advance and improve the world, and I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with that. It’s when we decide that we can play with others’ lives, when that power becomes far too great, that there is a problem. Edward and GLaDOS were obsessed with science and power until they came to a breaking point. The slice of cake they were eating was made out of arrogance and self-righteousness. It wasn’t until they both made a horrible mistake with their power that they realized they were not the gods they thought themselves to be. Edward, at least, learned from his mistake, gained some humility, and ran out of cake. We’re not gods, as much as we might strive to be. There is only one being who can make a claim to that name. We’re human; we’re only human. w

iction cience F sy and S



ART Jake Probelski Freelance Illustrator A freelance artist who works mainly in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, Jake Probelski focuses on character art (along with the occasional penguin). He’s been drawing in some form of another for most of his life, but shifted his focus to digital art in 2004. He enjoys making both serious and silly art.

This article first appeared in Christ and Pop Culture magazine.



As recommended by AoE staff

Art Prints

FARSCAPE What happens when an American astronaut flies through a wormhole into a different galaxy filled with Jim Hensen-style aliens? Farscape does. It’s all about the crew of a bio-mechanical ship running away from a militaristic organization.

Screenshot from Bunny Drop


INTO LOVE by Charles Sadnick


n fiction, life as an orphan is often not a rosy one. Harry Potter lives as a second-class citizen with the abusive Durleys. The BFG sweeps Sophie away from a difficult life in a children’s home. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny flee their murderous custodian, Count Olaf. Although strife is always involved when children transition into adoptive homes or foster case, the end result can be extraordinarily positive. A child doesn’t need to experience the fantastic or extraordinary lives of Harry, Sophie, or the Baudelaires to find his or her place in the world. Sometimes, and more applicable to real life, simple relationships are those that make a difference. And the picture of love in adoptive bonds is profound. Bunny Drop, a 13-episode anime, revolves around one such relationship, that between Daikichi, a single adult, and Rin, the six-year-old girl he adopts. Daikichi first meets Rin at his grandfather’s funeral. There, the family is stunned to discover that the young girl was apparently fathered out of wedlock by the deceased. The family also finds out that the mother is out of the picture, and soon negativity spreads among the attendees who quickly assert that they will not take the girl into their homes. It’s almost out of spite that Daikichi finally speaks up, deciding to care for Rin. Aloof and career-focused, Daikichi looks like the last person who would consider rearing an orphan, but he’s the only one willing to speak out for a child in need. It’s not an easy road for the new family—after all, relationships are hard work. To expect two people of any kind to get along seems to be wishful thinking. Even familial relationships, joined by blood, sacrifice, and kinship, are challenging. My marriage takes so much grace on both my wife’s end and my own. Parenting, too, requires diligence and endless doses of forgiveness. So how much harder is it to bring a child, carrying brokenness and challenges, into a new home

and expect that young one’s relationship with an adoptive parent to prosper? And knowing how much pain will result, why would anyone adopt a child? The answer, of course, is love. The road is challenging for Daikichi and Rin. The new parent adjusts his lifestyle and learns through the crash course of adoptive parenting how to care for a child. Most telling, Daikichi abandons a career that was leading him toward worldly success to take a more flexible job that allows him to attend to Rin’s needs. The love that Daikichi demonstrates toward Rin is one that I wish I could demonstrate more in my own life. He gives love to her not because she deserves it and not because he must, but simply because of who Rin is. She is his daughter. As a Christian, I find it hard to fully accept the Bible’s analogy that tells me I’m an adopted son of God. I admit that, as with Daikichi’s relatives, my cold heart still differentiates between “adopted” and “blood,” “burden” and “duty.” My mind won’t let me recognize how special it is to be adopted. But Daikichi and Rin show me why there are few dynamics better than those in play during adoption. It’s not just the initial choice—it’s the sacrifice and sweat and tears that come from developing such a complex and challenging relationship. It’s the decision the parent makes in saying, “I love you, no matter what. After all, you’re family.” And even more, adoption is this: when Rin was weak and small, unwanted and unloved, she was taken in by Daikichi, rescued and cherished and lifted up from an orphan to a daughter, from ragamuffin to beloved. To think that God adopted me and made me, a throwaway, into his own, well that kind of grace changes my heart. And Dursleys be darned—my picture of adoption won’t hinge on jealous or bitter guardians but on a kind father who loves relentlessly, and how that kind of love changes everything. w



Human adventurers stuck aboard an Ancient spaceship several billion light years distant from Earth. It’s a combination of exploration and survival through an unknown unvierse with a diverse cast of characters.

Six people wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are or what they’re doing there. Every character has a unique story to discover and some interesting things that went on in their past. The best part is the Android, though. We love her.


by Area of Effect staff


ast Sunday, we spent about half an hour at a local park. As people holding their cellphones drifted past, they all stopped at the same place and started swiping furiously at their screens. Most punched the air in triumph, one or two sank to the ground in disappointment. Consulting our copies of Pokémon Go, we worked out that they were hunting a wild paras. Common, but we can understand the allure. We wanted to catch it too. The Pokémon Go app is several months old, and it’s easy to spot the players. They aren’t texting or talking on their phones, they are immersed in the intersection between the “real” world and the video game on their screen. Call us old curmudgeons (an accurate assessment for two of the three of us writing this), but it reminds us of an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Trek predicts everything. And this is no different. Commander Riker returns from shore leave with a highly addictive video game. Like a contagious disease, enthusiasm for the game spreads among the crew until the everyone is playing rather than attending to their duties. It falls to Wesley Crusher to uncover the underlying alien plot, rescue the crew, and save the ship. It’s been years since we saw the episode, but the image that sticks with us is the crew wandering around the ship, completely absorbed in the game. Watching our fellow Pokémon Go players, we experienced a feeling of déjà vu. While we doubt aliens are using the new game to take over the world, a simple google search reveals that the conspiracy theories of

Pokémon Go are already piling up. When it comes to Pokémon Go, everyone seems to have an opinion. It’s the best thing ever! It’s the spawn of Satan and will consume your soul! And perhaps that is a downfall of the social media outrage culture we now find ourselves in. Everyone has an opinion and, for your opinion to be heard, you need to hit the extremes. It’s grown tiresome lately. We see articles from a Christian perspective ranging from “8 Ways the Church can capitalize on Pokémon Go” to “Is Pokémon Go Evil, Dangerous, or Demonic?” While these topics might be valuable to discuss, we grow weary of seeing outrage after outrage and—the following week—outraged responses to the outrages. Week after week, we lather, rinse, and repeat. It gets even worse when we encounter something that hurts us. FOUL! We want to cry. HOW DARE YOU!? We want to proclaim. YOU SHALL NOT PASS! We scream defiantly as we draw our line in the sand. Lately, it’s the jokes about all these comments about “nerds and geeks finally getting out of the basement and getting some sun” that are getting to us. If we said the same thing about Asians, African Americans, or another race or people group it would be deemed offensive. But for some reason geek culture remains a convenient punching bag. Continued on page 13



Level 10 Armour Class 16 (studded leather) Hit Points 50 Speed 30 ft.

Level 10 Armour Class 17 (unarmoured defense) Hit Points 100 Speed 40 ft.

DEX CON STR 8 (-1) 18 (+4) 8 (-1)

DEX CON INT STR 25 (+7) 15 (+2) 18 (+4) 8 (-1)

Assassin Rogue, Acolyte High Elf, Lawful Neutral

INT WIS CHA 11 (+0) 14 (+2) 16 (+3)

Skill Proficiences Perception, Insight, Religion, Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, Sleight of Hand Equipment longbow, hand crossbow, dagger, Boots of Elvenkind, Bracers of Archery Battle Techniques Sharpshooter, Sneak Attack, Assassinate, Infiltration Expertise


Berserker Barbarian, Pirate Medium Half-Orc, Chaotic Neutral

WIS CHA 8 (-1) 10 (+0)

Skill Proficiences Athletics, Perception, Intimidation, Survival, Animal Handling Equipment greataxe, handaxes, Belt of Fire Giant Strength, Bracers of Defense Battle Techniques Rage, Frenzy, Relentless Attack, Brutal Critical



arkness! No Parents!” Batman sings after rescuing the hero of The Lego Movie. “Batman’s a true artist,” his girlfriend adds. “Dark and brooding.” I love that moment because it skewers the mopey, self-absorbed, grim stories we’ve been dealing with since the dark age of comics in the 80s. Atomic Robo is a comic series created intentionally to reject the angst of many superhero stories. Developed by the team of Brian Clevinger (writer) and Scott Wegner (artist), Atomic Robo is built on a five-point pledge which starts with “No Angst.” Through the ten collected volumes of the series so far, the story has more than lived up to its promise. The title character is an atomic-powered, self-aware robot built by Nikolai Tesla in the early 1900s. The Robot’s lifetime is presented in a non-chronological fashion, a kaleidoscope of stories that include saving the world from mobile pyramids, Nazi brains-injars, and otherworldly horrors from beyond time. Robo faces every challenge with courage and humour. In one story, he and his team of scientists are called upon to defend the city of Reno from an invasion of giant ants. While Robo is on the ground battling the ants, his team hovers overhead in a chopper debating exactly how such insects could even exist. Frustrated both by his team’s lack of focus and his inability to defeat the ants, Robo says, “Guys, can we concentrate? Guns aren’t working.” The team answers back that the only way to defeat the bugs to is understand how they came to be. While they keep arguing, Robo grabs a handy Buick and smashes the nearest ant to jelly. “Automobiles have been the best melee weapons to us against giant monsters since the 50s,” he says. “It’s a science fact.” It’s that freestyle mixture of respect for science, off-the-cuff humour and direct action that makes Robo such an appealing read, and

Cover art from Atomic Robo, “The Ring of Fire,” issue 5

reminds me of the importance of joy plishment with the same even temper and dash of humour that I in my life. find in Atomic Robo. Not that the stories don’t have In 2011, I watched my father their moments of melancholy and die from cancer. It wasn’t easy, but regret. Living as long as he has, I found moments of grace and even Robo has made and lost plenty of humour throughout the tragedy. friends. In a touching moment in Once, near the end of his life, a the first book, he writes a letter medication designed to calm Dad to the granddaughter of a pilot he spilled on the floor. I looked at the flew with in World War II. He ends orange puddle on the beige carpet by telling her, “Charlie was a good solider and a good man. I am proud for a moment and thought, Well, at least now the rug is relaxed. Am I to have called him a friend and will a horrible human being for finding miss him greatly.” For me, half the fun of reading the comedy in that moment? Maybe. (and re-reading) the series is watch- I choose to think that God granted ing how deftly the stories manage to me the grace of a slightly different perspective as a way of be emotionally engaging without resorting ANGST IS EASY— helping me choose joy even in the darkest of circumto cheap tricks. Angst JOY IS A CHOICE. stances. While happiness is easy—all you have is a feeling, joy is a choice. to do is deal your lead Choosing joy gave me access to character some emotionally cripmoments which I will cherish until pling blow and then sit back and let I see Dad again and can reminisce them brood. Add some dark, anguwith him about them. lar art, add a few heavy shadows, Bound by his strong sense of and you’re done. duty, Robo always seeks the good of Except that angst isn’ta others even when it may cost him healthy way to live—not for fictional characters and definitely not for real greatly. He balances his quest for knowledge with practical action and people. The world can be a terrible never loses his sense of humour. place and we all experience frustraLike all of the best fictional charactions and disappointments. In the ters, he is a role model for good. face of that it is so simple to just If Robo can face the dangers shut down, snipe from the sidelines, of the vampire dimension, battle and refuse to fight back. against a Lovecraftian nameless When I’m tempted to give in horror from beyond time, and join to that darkness and start moping, forces with Science Team Super I can look to Robo for encourageFive to combat kaiju in Japan, ment. As a Christian, I’m called to then I can maintain an attitude of be a person of joy. That isn’t to say calm in the face of minor trials like that every day is a picnic (or that I challenging work assignments and should treat it like one), but it does mean I should meet each challenge, major catastrophes like illness and death. w setback, opportunity, and accomAOE MAGAZINE • 11


“Link Nouveau” by Joe Hogan

by Nick Wasiuta


’m elated to finally know something real about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After years of teasing, we can finally see what a Zelda game will be like in the style of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Fallout series, and Metal Gear Solid V. I recognize that I might be tying myself to the tracks of the hype train by saying this, but I was secretly hoping Breath of the Wild wouldn’t be open-world. I’m not trying to trash the glorious reputation of open-world games. Rather, the reverse. Everyone knows how good these games are. They’re everywhere. Their quality is self-evident. Instead, I want to prove that linear games are great too. Not better, just different. Like, a better sort of different. Here’s why: I’ve found that a story is a finite thing. If you want to stretch it very wide, you must accept that it can’t go deep. drama could pierce my invincible plot armour. Breath of the Wild’s long development process That sudden sinking feeling I got when Link was and release on two consoles parallels my experience cursed by Zant in Twilight Princess—there was nothas a teenager waiting for Twilight Princess to come ing like that in Skyrim. I was hungry to go deep, but out. When that finally arrived, I cried watching Link open worlds only go wide. A story is a finite thing. ride across the sunset-washed title screen for the first Skyrim is the sort of game that makes me feel time, in spectacular 480i. (That was a big deal ten like an NPC in real life. Maybe someone like Donald years ago, wasn’t it?) Trump has the power and resources to experience Twilight Princess was massive. But outside of main-character freedom, but I copy-paste templates the vast main quest, there was not much to do. Back into emails as a day job. I’m just the guard who used to then, I was disappointed—I thought there was potential to fill the game with so much more. In retrospect, I be an adventurer. Or maybe J’Zargo, if I’m lucky (that guy was awesome). think I was missing the forest for the trees. The Legend of Zelda always made me feel The things that make me truly, truly feel like different. I felt like the strength I had playing as Link a part of the game, are when the story sinks its was my own. Link was not free to choose teeth in, when the characters burst with life, when I get blindsided by a IT’S A GOOD TIME TO which way his stories went, and he was often at their mercy. His battles were not twist that takes the world from me, BE A ZELDA FAN. won with resources, but with ingenuity and when I rise courageously from and courage. He made me believe I could defeat to save the day. Twilight Prinbe a hero, not an NPC. cess did that very well, as Zelda games regularly I know I will enjoy Breath of the Wild, and I am do. It’s not the micro-detail and open structure that so excited to play it (don’t get me wrong). I hope it will immerses me, but those moments when the narrastill display Link’s courage and his story. I hope it will tive comes unilaterally alive. For all the freedom an still make me believe that I can be a hero. open-world provides, it’s often in exchange for the We don’t always write our own stories. We can’t story. And I like to believe that stories are the things always choose what happens to us, and we rarely get we are made of. to be or do exactly what we want. Real life isn’t made 2011 was an interesting time for me. The next of open-world freedom, and that can be scary. We don’t console Zelda title, Skyward Sword, sat on my bookshelf collecting dust for three months while I gallivant- like being unable to choose, even though we rarely can. ed along in Skyrim. There was an open-world game As Link, I didn’t seem to worry about that. As where I had the freedom to do anything I wanted, in a character, I wasn’t free. What the story demands, I any order. I gallivanted around a fantasy land finding must do. This wasn’t a problem, because the story was loot, maxing skills, and devouring adventure. I didn’t great. There would be no story without characters. think I could ever go back. They are a part of it, as much as it is of them. Roughly 160 hours later, I began to feel like Sometimes it’s okay that I don’t have all the something big was missing from the biggest game I’d ever played. Skyrim’s main quest was truly epic, except choices I want in life, because my story is good. I’m a part of it, as much as it’s a part of me. it was over in a few short hours. Out of thousands of It wouldn’t be a very good story if there wasn’t characters, the only thing I can vividly recall is that conflict, if the stakes weren’t high. I’m okay with that— stupid arrow-to-the-knee quote. And the status quo! in fact, in the face of tragedy, that’s the only way I can Nothing could break it, because everything dependbe okay. It means that suffering isn’t meaningless. It’s ed on it. Never once did I feel like I was in any real part of the story, even as I am. danger. Once, perhaps, during a Nightingale quest, I If I were free to choose, I’d still choose that. w nearly felt threatened. But I was the Dragonborn. No AOE MAGAZINE • 13



f you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to what you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away even for just one second, then our hero will surely parish.” These words, repeated throughout Kubo and the Two Strings, indicate the movie is all about story. Most specifically, the way that stories shape who we are. Kubo begins each day by telling tales of warriors, monsters, and quests to the villagers with the power of animated origami. But his story is tied to his wounded mother, a fear of his grandfather in the moon, and a father who gave his life to save him. While he has heard the stories of these things, he doesn’t fully believe them until he meets the people who stole his eye.

from Hanzo, his most redeeming quality, and leaves the stuff that defines him, but is of least value. It wasn’t Hanzo’s sword or armour or skills that broke the assassin, it was his love. Hanzo reminds me that love is the greatest power I possess. Crushing my opponent is never going to be as valuable as caring about them. Respecting someone else’s views and seeing them as a valuable person can change a life. While Hanzo is punished, his love begins the chain that redeems not only the assassin, but a whole family. So if I love even my enemies, I am actually doing something to bring about peace rather than maintaining a war.

Kubo’s Mother

The Moon King’s story is the saddest of them all. He has experienced the suffering and pain of losing loved ones and the loss has driven him to purge all elements of humanity from himself and his daughters. This pain sets him on a quest to do the same to his grandson. He hates love because love makes you vulnerable, love makes you susceptible to pain, and it creates a story of past and future where all the messiness of humanity leaves an indelible impression upon you. Kubo’s mom calls her people cold, austere, and perfect. They have attempted to remove pain by removing all feeling.

Kubo’s mother has a story as well. She was an assassin sent to destroy Hanzo, the brave warrior, who was searching for three magical artifacts that would give him the power to care for the people of the world. She was cold, calculating, perfect in her hardness, and her story would have continued on that way but for four simple words spoken by Hanzo: “You are my quest.” Her story is invaded by love and through love she is forever changed. Her sisters and her father think that love has made her weak, destroying the perfection of the porcelain life her sisters still live, but her love has made her strong and gives her the power to overcome, as well as to protect and defend others. I have known love and it has changed me. My family has made sacrifices to help me become a better person. I have a wife whose love has helped me move from selfishness to self-sacrifice. Her love, and my love for her, has broken down my need to spend weekends raiding, late nights watching movies that only I like, sleeping in the middle of the bed, and spending countless thousands of dollars on my own wants. Those “sacrifices” have actually made my life fuller. Being loved and loving another has changed me for the better; even though I have given up many things, I would have it no other way. Hanzo Hanzo’s story consists of an epic quest, vanquished monsters, magic weapons and a life-changing moment with a beautiful assassin. While many believe he is dead, he has been cursed to forget his story and live his life as a wandering samurai in service to a house destroyed. Hanzo’s story has been stolen from him, the ultimate punishment, because his love changed someone. There is nothing I can think of that would be more horrible than to have the story of love, life, and family taken from me. The Moon King steals the heart 14 • AOE MAGAZINE



Oath of Vengeance Paladin, Sage Half-Elf, Lawful Neutral

Level 10 Armour Class 20 (plate armour and shield) Hit Points 80 Speed 30 ft. DEX CON INT STR WIS CHA 18 (+4) 10 (+0) 14 (+2) 10 (+0) 10 (+0) 18 (+4) Skill Proficiences Arcana, History, Intimidation, Athletics, Persuasion, Investigation Equipment Holy Avenger and shield, holy symbol, Adamantine Armour Battle Techniques Protection, Divine Smite, Oath of Vengeance, Aura of Courage, Relentless Avenger Notable Spells Known Bane, Hunter’s Mark, Hold Person, Haste, Command, Compelled Duel, Detect Evil and Good, Zone of Truth, Crusader’s Mantle

Screenshot from Kubo and the Two Strings

“Pokemon Go” continued from page 10

At the end of the film, Kubo uses less impact any one choice has on the his power to return his grandfather’s hutotal outcome). But by seeing ourselves manity, though the old man is left without as a story, we can dramatically change his memories. The townspeople decide the direction and future of our lives with ho help him write his story by filling in each choice. the blanks for him. They tell him what a Kubo faces one of these choices wonderful, kind, and generous man he is, when it comes to participating in his giving him a chance at a new beginning. grandfather’s story. He can use the Grandfather’s story is the one I Sword Unbreakable to slay his monster can relate most to grandfather, or he can because I have been retrieve his shamisen and SOME SAY WE ARE given this gift as well. use the remnants of his As a believer in Christ, THE SUM OF OUR family’s story to restore I believe His life, death his grandfather. We and resurrection gives CHOICES, BUT THAT aren’t just the sum of our me the opportunity to REDUCES WHO WE ARE choices and we aren’t just rewrite my story. I was the product of our story; like Kubo’s grandwe are part of the lives of TO A MATHEMATICAL father: cold, dark, a others and they become EQUATION. hater of emotion and part of ours. life. But when I started Each story in Kubo believing in a higher power that has forand the Two Strings speaks to me of the given me of everything I’ve done wrong, love, sacrifice, compassion and care of I experienced life in a new way and now God. I see the law lived out in Monkey, I can become loving, gentle, kind, good, seeking to spare me from pain. I see faithful and self-controlled. Christ in the sacrifice of Hanzo to save me from the darkness. I see the redeemStory as Identity ing power of God’s great plan in the restoration of sight for Grandfather, and By using story as identity, Kubo the new story of hope and love written and the Two Strings creates a system over the old story of hate and fear. Kubo that allows people to redeem who they and the Two Strings is about being are with each moment. Some say that redefined by story and that is a theme I we are the sum of our choices, but that can easy understand as I too have been feels like it reduces who we are to a redefined by the stories of those around mathematical equation (it also means me, my loved ones, and that of a cross that the more choices you make, the and an empty grave. w

But we digress (see how easy it is for us to join the outrage?). We are not exempt from this culture of indignant responses. We want to get our word in, to have our say. Because obviously our opinion matters most. We are right. They are wrong. They are unimportant, stupid, and unworthy because they are wrong. Should that really be a thought pattern we let ourselves experience on a daily basis? If our outrage draws lines that we cannot cross in order to understand one another, maybe it’s not worth expressing. While we love freedom of expression and an Internet that allows for such things, it also allows us to place ourselves as “better” than someone else. And we aren’t better. We’re human souls who get it wrong just as often as the next person. Every time we weigh the value of online outrage to that of making a new friend, the latter wins. Every time. We need to remember that. When all is said and done, the truth is that we have a few new friends to meet and a wild paras to catch. w



OBSESSION by Casey Covel


n the anime world of One-Punch Man, superheroes are selected through standardized testing, supervillains tote socio-satirical names like Vaccine Man, and city-wide destruction is just part of the daily forecast. Saitama (age: 25; status: unemployed) is fed up with society’s standards. Tossing aside his blue-collar jacket, he suits up in banana-yellow spandex and decides to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a super hero (not an uncommon career choice in the world of One-Punch Man). Saitama follows a mega-strengthening routine until his hair falls out. He bashes baddie after baddie until he can nail them in a single, anti-climactic punch. It’s all fun and games… until it isn’t. What begins as an act to spite society quickly becomes an obsessive spiral into isolation for Saitama. His appearance becomes so comically bland that even his shiny rubber boots and bald head fail to leave an impression. He lives alone in a cheap apartment he can hardly afford, watching B-movies and chasing bargains at his local supermarket. “I’ve become too strong,” he admits, with a blank expression that has inspired memes across the internet. “In exchange for power, maybe I’ve lost something that’s essential for a human being?” It’s said that self-recognition means you aren’t too far gone, but I think that only counts if you actually act on the realization. As Saitama’s obsession with becoming the world’s strongest man grows, so too does his separation from others, despite his half-hearted efforts to connect with them. Surprisingly, despite his boredom, Saitama doesn’t turn full-time supervillain in an attempt to reach new heights of power and recognition. That seems to be the M.O. of all the villains in this anime:



As recommended by AoE staff

they consume their obsessions until they become their obsessions. Exhibit A is Crabrante—a literal case of “you are what you eat”—who gorged on crab meat to the point that he metamorphosed into a crustacean himself. I think the more relatable case study, though, is Genos—a young, would-be hero who vows to exterminate a rampaging cyborg that wiped his homeland and family off the map. In order to become strong enough to defeat the cyborg, Genos becomes a cyborg. Single-mindedly set on revenge, he isolates himself within his anger. Though Genos fights with morality in mind—ensuring civilians are out of his miles-wide range of fire—his explosive tactics imply reckless destruction, and his cold stares suggest he is an anti-hero from the moment he shows up on-screen and rips the legs off of the nearest supervillain. “I find myself chasing a virtual image of that cyborg whenever I square off against my enemies,” Genos admits. Fortunately, along with Saitama, Genos is spared from his obsessions when the two misfit heroes cross paths. Impressed by Saitama’s one-hit KOs, Genos becomes one-punch man’s self-proclaimed disciple, and, amidst the comedic antics and

DRAGON AGE A fantasy role-playing video game series by Bioware (the creators of the Mass Effect series). It’s received critical acclaim due to its story, setting, characters, music, and combat system.

bro-bonding that ensues, begins to find a way to give his single-minded drive for “justice” more meaning. Through training Genos, Saitama also discovers an outlet for his purposeless power. Their friendship couldn’t have formed a moment too soon. Any time I pursue something just for the sake of it, I tend to lose sight of its original value. As a geek with Completionist Syndrome, I often feel pressure to watch/read/play/collect all the things, dedicating much of my time, money, and energy toward them. But, eventually, those books I’m reading cover-to-cover and that anime I’m binge-watching stop sinking in. I consume thing after thing, like delicious sushi at a Chinese buffet (guess I’d become Sushi Woman in the One-Punch ‘verse), until my hunger is long-past sated and I forget why I’m stuffing my face to begin with. Sometimes I excuse my obsessions by justifying them as “good things” (‘cause you can’t have too much of those, right?). For example, when I receive a work-assignment, I obsess over it, using any leftover time and brain power to get started on additional projects. Like a machine, I spit out data without ever taking the time to fully process it. Meanwhile, the more important things in my life—like growth opportunities, time with family and friends, and ever-necessary relaxation—are neglected. “I’m too busy,” becomes an easily-accessible excuse, as I make myself a victim of my own schedule. I spend so much time in my room or in my head or in fictional worlds that, like Saitama and Genos, I risk isolating myself

FALLOUT A series of post-apocalyptic role-playing video games by Bethesda Softworks. It’s set during a time where technology is making leaps and bounds but the threat of nuclear annihilation is always present.

battle is not with the supervillain from the world around me and before him, but with his own fears forgetting why I’m here in the first and weaknesses. That recognition, place. Genos realizes, is what separates The villains in One-Punch the good-guys from the bad-guys. Man are addicted to their obsesI don’t believe that heroism is sions past the point of reason. necessarily a set of actions, medals, With a victimized mindset that or qualifications, but rather a way says, “There’s nothing I can do of life that one selflessly and obsesto stop (so I might as well not),” sively lives, long before he is called they spiral further down the abyss to physically endanger himself for of apathetic addiction. Selfishly, others. It’s a daily dedication, as these villains see others (pardifficult as Saitama’s strength-trainticularly society), rather than ing regimen, that’s driven by perthemselves, as the cause of their sistence and cemented circumstances, and by conviction. every battle becomes I RISK BECOMING When I beneva temperamental olently use my paslashing out that sinks A MINDLESS sions—as much as I them even deeper into their own sense CONSUMER WHOSE consume them—for the good of others, I create of justified isolation. self-accountability for Convinced that PASSIONS WILL my obsessions. Otherhe can lose to none EVENTUALLY wise, I risk becoming but the rampaging a mindless consumer cyborg, Genos reck- SEPARATE ME whose passions will lessly pits himself FROM OTHERS. eventually separate against a towering me from others, rather supervillain he than connect me with them. That can’t beat. With his cyborg body doesn’t necessarily mean regulating torn limb-from-limb, Genos can and refocusing my time and reonly helplessly watch as a lowsources (sometimes that’s needed, rank hero, Mumen Rider, steps too), but rather finding ways to use in as the last barrier between my interests beyond just my own the supervillain and its civilian gain. victims. Mumen Rider—a civilian What begins as rebellion himself, protected only by biker against society for Saitama and gear, whose derring-do involves vengeance against a cyborg for retrieving lost balloons for crying Genos ends with their turning inchildren—epitomizes the ideal of ward, only to realize their own frusthe everyday hero. When a child tration and anger is the real enemy. calls out to cheer him on, leading In much the same way that these others in the crowd to take up superheroes stop making excuses the cry, Mumen Rider faces off and start finding new ways to use with the supervillain, even while their passionate drives of power admitting he can’t win. He only knows he can’t back down without and justice for the good of others, I find myself faced with the question: disgracing the universal hero image in front of the small child who Will I allow my obsessions to make me the superhero or supervillain of idolizes him. my story? w For Mumen Rider, the true

STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC KotOR is a 2003 role-playing game that takes place 4,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire. The player’s character is bent on stopping Darth Malak, a Dark Lord of the Sith and becomes a Jedi.

“Two Sides - Aang” by Blue-Ten



love thinking about what sort of character I would be in another universe. I’m pretty sure most geeks do, and we love talking about it—whether it’s retelling a recent exploit as a rogue in Dungeons & Dragons, choosing a lightsaber colour, or picking our backpack in Pokémon Go, we are fans of character specialization and creation. Therefore, after watching an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender at one of Geekdom House’s Bible study nights, I was immediately intrigued by the question, “What kind of bender would you be?” It didn’t seem like a very in-depth question for study, but I was immediately too busy customizing my personal avatar (see what I did there) to focus on that. I hadn’t thought about this one before, and my answer was unexpected. My first inclination was water, and it’s true I do have some waterbending traits, like a calm personality and a desire to keep the peace. But then my mind went to earthbending and I realized that had to be me. Like all other bending, earthbending comes with its pros and cons. Recognizing them, being more aware of my personality traits, tendencies, and habits, can help me be a better friend, worker, leader, and God-follower. I can be incredibly stubborn and I don’t like change. I can dig in my heels when I don’t want to do something (which can be good if it’s something that is bad for me, but less good if it’s something I need to do). I face problems head-on, not because that’s my natural response—I’m more inclined to Aang’s trying to find different paths around an issue—but because I make a conscious choice to do so. I don’t like my tendency to indirectness, to hinting at an issue, to passive-aggressiveness, and so I make it a point to fight against that and be direct, earthbender style. I don’t run away from problems, as much as I might like to. Plus, I can bend metal. Therefore, that makes me Iron Man. The next question surprised me. “What kind of bender do you want to be?” We often want what we don’t have. Why is that? It’s maddening. On reflection, I think it has to do with pride, curiosity, and an attitude of entitlement that encourages our fixation on forbidden fruit. If it was up to me, I would choose airbending. I am attracted to the idea of a peaceful, spiritual life. Having a carefree, go-with-the-flow attitude, being flexible, the ability to fly away— that’s the ideal me. Or is it? I see others who are incredibly spiritual and content, who hear God

speaking to them on a daily basis, who are willing to be friends with anyone and everyone… Those qualities are amazing, and sometimes I find myself wishing I had them. We were then asked, “What kind of bending do you need? Sometimes I forget that what I want is often not the same thing as what I need. I don’t actually need more flexibility or freedom in my life; those are just strengths I admire in other people. What I really need is fire. As a stable earthbender, sometimes I lack passion and ambition. Having a flare for life, opening up to others with hopes, dreams, angers, and frustrations, instead of just listening to theirs, is an important piece of my life that I often miss. Perhaps that is why two of my best friends are firebenders. They need my stability as much as I need their passion, and we encourage each other to take the best of both worlds. There’s a balance to be had between accepting who I am and growing, recognizing selfish desires, and acknowledging the value of different styles other than my own. What about you? What type of bender are you, what do you want to be, and what do you need to be? The answers might surprise you. w



Battlemaster Fighter, Soldier Blue Dragonborn, Neutral Good

Level 10 Armour Class 16 (studded leather) Hit Points 80 Speed 30 ft. STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA 15 (+2) 18 (+4) 15 (+2) 12 (+1) 10 (+0) 9 (-1) Skill Proficiences Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival Equipment Oathbow, hand crossbow, rapier, Quiver of Ehlonna Battle Techniques Archery, Second Wind, Action Surge, Disarming Attack, Precision Attack, Feinting Attack, Rally, Commander’s Strike, Evasive Footwork, Menacing Attack


Screenshot from Mass Effect 2



by Kevin Cummings

hen the Illusive Man shot himself near the end And yet I owed him. of Mass Effect 3, it was an oddly emotional In Mass Effect 2, he resurrected my character. moment for me. He was the dark reflection of He believed that Commander Shepard was the most Commander Shepard; dedicated, smart, and detereffective weapon humanity had developed—not only mined. Shepard was on the side of the angels, seeking in the fight for supremacy, but also in a coming war the good of all life in the galaxy. The Illusive Man want- against a life-destroying force called the Reapers. I ed to protect human kind above all and dreamed of was reluctant to be allied with a terrorist group, but I homo sapiens as preeminent in the galaxy. In the end, felt indebted. The Illusive Man had brought me back he failed and his last words were, “I tried, Shepard.” and offered me the resources I needed to fight the Then he shot himself in the head. Reapers. For a moment, I contemplated his life—his Of course, the Illusive Man manipulated and achievements, the compromises he’d made, the depths betrayed me. Nothing mattered more to him than to which he had sunk, and the heights to his own agenda. He sincerely believed which he could have ascended before I that he was the only one capable of returned to the mission at hand (the gal- HISTORY PROVES MY taking the right steps to secure huaxy needed me, after all, I couldn’t just WAY ISN’T ALWAYS manity’s future. Near the end of Mass sit there mourning his death forever). Effect 2, I had to choose between Long after the final credits rolled, THE RIGHT WAY. destroying an alien base or taking it my mind kept wandering back to the Ilover as a prize of war. I feared that lusive Man. Certainly, Martin Sheen’s voice acting gave it’s technology might give the Illusive Man near-limthe character gravitas, but my fascination went beyond itless power and I couldn’t see that ending well; I just enjoying a good performance. The Illusive Man destroyed the base. is an intriguing, complex character. It would be easy “I knew you would choke on the hard decisions,” to write him off under the category of “does evil in he sneered. the name of a greater good.” Except that his goal had I wasn’t so sure I hadn’t made the hard decision, nothing to do with the greater good. He started from a but the Illusive Man wouldn’t hear of it. wicked premise and followed his goals relentlessly. At the beginning of Mass Effect 3, his comThe Illusive Man founded a pro-human terrormitment to the cause had gone one step further. No ist organization called Cerberus. Using his personal longer content to just defeat the Reapers, he wanted to wealth and companies he created, he sent operatives harness them. “Imagine how strong humanity would on missions to advance his humans-first agenda. He be if we controlled them,” he said. was willing to sacrifice lives to achieve his ends, purHis mistaken belief in his own superiority was suing his goals without compromise. The government staggering… and tragically misplaced. condemned his group as terrorists. His followers—peoYet his final words stuck with me for reasons it ple who believed humanity had been put down by the took a long time to understand. galactic powers—loved him all the more for that. I, on “I tried, Shepard.” the other hand, loathed him and all that he stood for. From the very beginning, it had all been his 20 • AOE MAGAZINE

show. He had rejected the idea of anything that wasn’t part of his agenda. He had walled himself away from the citizens of the larger galaxy because he wanted humanity to “win.” Even that wasn’t enough and he showed himself willing to kill humans who weren’t on board with him. Everything really was about him. In the end it wasn’t enough. HE tried. HE failed. By contrast, I spent most of the third game building alliances to aid in defeating the Reapers. Without that willingness to be inclusive—to recognize and acknowledge the limits of my own resources—I would have failed as well. In the larger world outside of the game, it’s easy to fall into the Illusive Man’s trap. It is easy to believe that I can “lean unto my own understanding” and go it alone. Other people will just confuse me and slow me down. At work and at home, I’m tempted daily to say I’ll just do things “the right way”—my way. Except, of course, that’s just a lie I tell myself. History pretty much proves that my way isn’t always the right way and even when I happen to be right, it’s better to bring other people along with me than drive them away. If I give in to the temptation of being always right, I’m choosing to be the villain of my own life. It isn’t all about me. There are other people and other points of view to consider. I’d rather my last words were, “I served my community.” That, I believe, would be an epitaph to be proud of. w


Knowledge Domain Cleric, Hermit Gnome, Lawful Good

Level 10 Armour Class 16 (scale mail and shield) Hit Points 70 Speed 30 ft. DEX CON INT WIS CHA STR 10 (+0) 10 (+0) 14 (+2) 15 (+2) 18 (+4) 8 (-1) Skill Proficiences Medicine, Religion, Insight, Persuasion Equipment mace, light crossbow, holy symbol, Spellguard Shield, Wand of Magic Detection Battle Techniques Channel Divinity, Destroy Undead Notable Spells Known Spare the Dying, Resistance, Cure Wounds, Detect Poison and Disease, Inflict Wounds, Aid, Greater Restoration, Spiritual Weapon, Revivify, Flame Strike, Death Ward

“The Morality of Robots” continued from page 5

who decided to kill passengers over preschoolers were asked, “Would you buy a car that you knew was programmed to make this decision?” In essence, would you be okay with the car’s decision if you were the one in the driver’s seat? The overwhelming majority said, “No.” These people acknowledged that in some hypothetical situation which did not involve them personally, the right thing to do would be to kill the driver instead of the kids. But, when the hypothetical involved them, then the choice was quite a bit more selfish. I want to believe that I have some amount of courage. The courage that would let me instinctively sacrifice in a moment of chaos: to leap on the grenade in order to save my buddy. But I’ve never faced that situation and I really don’t know what I would do. I want to believe that I’d sacrifice myself for others. I had a conversation with

a friend recently about the right to defend yourself, your home, and family. I’m almost positive I would sacrifice myself for someone I love. But I want to have another kind of courage, the courage to sacrifice myself for my enemy. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know. If a burglar entered my house and I found myself in the position to kill him, what would I do? My friend says, “Blow him away; you have a right.” Yes, I do, especially if I am being threatened. I have the right to take the life of the guy standing in front of me. I have the right o protect my own life, the life of my family, and the stuff in my house. But do I have the courage not to? In a moment of clarity, I choose not to attack. “There are things worse than death,” I say to my friend., “Things like taking away his ability to choose a better path. Maybe today—I hope today—but maybe tomorrow or next month. I am not sure that I could do that, take

away his choice.” The dilemma that Google’s ethicists face is about choice. The power and right to choose. People get pretty hung up on choice and the removal of choice from our lives. The majority of people think that an autonomous car should choose to preserve the greatest amount of life, regardless of whether that life is in the car or on the street. But that same majority would not allow the car to make that choice, or any choice really, if it were their own lives on the line. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” And those are words I cling to when thinking about making a choice like this. I do not know for sure what I would do in the moment, but I can tell you what I’d like to do, and I am okay with allowing a car to choose my death over a pedestrian’s. After all, there are worse things than death. w


“Going to Isengard” by 1oshuart



all me Treebeard. Hrum, Hoom… If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d be an Ent. Like Treebeard, my motto is “Do not be hasty.” But, also like Treebeard, I might take you for a small orc and step on you if I don’t first hear your voice. I’m also cautious—if I’m going to develop a relationship, I won’t rush into it, and I prefer to ask the questions rather than reveal a whole lot about myself before I know who I’m dealing with. And to make matters worse, I’m a Christian—and not just any kind of Christian, but the slowest of all Christians—I’m Catholic. And nothing is slower than the Catholic Church at making decisions. The language of my faith is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking the time to say, and to listen to.” If you don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass. Or read an encyclical. Or an exhortation. Like the Ents, we take forever to make a decision—the Church will “room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum” for years and years before we change anything. I recently participated in a three-day meeting as part of a process in my diocese to re-imagine the way we “do Church” on a parish level. It was a response to declining numbers in all things Catholic because, no matter what was going on around us, we were doing the same stuff over and over, hoping for a new outcome. Many of our trees are getting sleepy and less Entish… But, getting Catholics (clergy and laypeople) to think about doing things differently—even when it’s a matter of self-preservation—is like convincing Ents to storm Isengard; even as Saruman is popping out Orcs like Pez just down the valley. Why do we take our time in Entish fashion? Partly to make sure that, lest we be hasty, a poor decision isn’t made—for any poor decision would impact millions of people with lingering consequences. Partly because nobody likes change. However, like the Ents, once we have made up our minds to do something, we’ll move an entire forest to get it done. 22 • AOE MAGAZINE

by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

The Entish qualities that my Church embody are qualities that I experience as simultaneously inhibitive and preservative. And I have them, too! We are completely frustrating—my tendency to take my time has been described as “annoying.” I don’t like to be hasty. I am responsible for many people and I take that seriously. For me, my Enty ways aid me in persevering. If I rush into things repeatedly, I risk spreading myself too thin, making grave mistakes, and becoming overwhelmed. I can’t afford (emotionally or psychologically) to get burnt out. If I know that I have carefully, prayerfully considered things before I get involved in them, I know that I can really get behind them and fully immerse myself because I know it’s the right thing to do. Then, my resolve is indestructible and whatever it is will reach its completion if I have anything to say about it. I can also become so absorbed in what I’m doing that I might just not notice that people or things in front of me should be attended to and may accidentally step on or over them. I’m not very tall—I can’t blame my lack of notice on being too high up to see you. I just have a bad habit of putting all of my brain power into the problem, event, or decision to the exclusion of other things. Have I perhaps missed one or two opportunities because I took too long making a decision? Probably. Have I potentially let situations get worse by my inaction? Maybe. But, ultimately, I believe that if I’m careful and persistent, and make choices based in my best thinking and discernment, then everything will fall into place that needs to in order for the optimum outcome to occur. I shouldn’t use my slowness as an excuse to be lazy, of course—I have to be honest about my motives for taking my time. I can’t be waiting around for Entwives to come back, or the forest to wake up. I have to own my Entish qualities—good and bad—and make sure that I don’t get too big (in my own head) to pay attention to what’s around me. w


Allison Barron

Casey Covel

Keyblade Master

Charles Sadnick

Jen Schlameuss-Perry


State Alchemist

Mad Scientist

Kyle is the founder of Geekdom House, a web developer, a programmer, and a co-host of Infinity +1. He has a strong tendency to be distracted by his children and marathon watching TV shows.

Allison is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine. Often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away, she is also a writer, graphic designer, and co-host of Infinity +1.

An INTJ and connoisseur of chocolate, tea, and sushi, Casey spends her free time in Florida cosplaying, writing, gaming, philosophizing, squinting at strange words, and watching Corgi videos.

When he’s not spending time in education, ministry, or parenting, Charles can be found feeding his nerd urges by streaming anime, reading A Song of Ice and Fire, or watching Star Wars.

Jen is an opinionated, mouthy girl from New Jersey who works for a Catholic Church. She loves to write about geeky topics in light of her faith, practice martial arts, and care for her family.

Victoria Grace Howell Waterbending Elf

Nick Wasiuta

Kevin Cummings

Dustin Schellenberg

Guest Minion

Dennis Maione

Nick is lost-in-agood-book, thinkoutside-the-box, too-honest-by-half kind of person. His favourite things are The Legend of Zelda, BBQ, a good beard, and his wife, Jessica.

Husband and father, Kevin is a geek from birth who grew up with the original Star Trek and Star Wars. He enjoys finding expressions of God’s love in the worlds of fandom.


Victoria is an award-winning writer of speculative fiction and an editor. When not typing away at novels, she enjoys drawing, blogging, Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea.

Chief Engineer

Rose of the Prophet

Dustin has a current gaming score of 77,797. He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and awful FPS player, a pastor, husband, and father from Winnipeg, MB.

Guest Minion

Dennis is a writer, teacher, pastor, and storyteller living in Winnipeg. Like many his age, he is still stuck in the geek culture of the 80s. He fondly remembers playing Space Invaders in an arcade.

Jake Probelski

Chasing Artwork

Joe Hogan Art



Cover Artist

Contributing Artist

Contributing Artist

Contributing Artist

Contributing Artist


Tali: Back on my pilgrimage, I often walked past that sushi bar [on the Citadel] and watched the fish inside that tank. I knew they would never let me in, but I always planned that if I proved myself to the galaxy, I’d go there for dinner. And you have broken their floor! Shepard: Did they have anything you could eat there? —Mass Effect 3 Tali: Not the point, Shepard.

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