That Aha! Moment

Coding and Mathematics

Logic all falls into place,

A fulfilling end.

For my last Writing assignment this week, I chose this assignment to write a Haiku about myself or something I’m passionate about for 2 and a half stars.

This assignment appealed to me because, even if I’ve always struggled at writing it, I’ve always enjoyed poetry. Haikus in particular can be such entertaining little poems, which seem less daunting to write. Yet, fighting with the amount of syllables to get them to work out is always more daunting than I imagine it to be. For the Haiku about me I chose to write about my main passion, which is my studies on Mathematics and Computer Science. For as long as I can remember, Math has been my happy place, and when I discovered Computer Science at the end of high school, I was hooked on that too. Particularly, I love the logic and problem-solving involved in both disciplines, which I realize is generally the same: figuring out the last step needed for a proof in Abstract Algebra and having an epiphany of what’s been wrong in your code the whole time provokes the same sense of satisfaction. That’s what I hoped to capture in my Haiku. I think it’s important to celebrate those moments when it might be 3 AM in bed, when you’re driving to work in the morning, or when you’re in the shower that everything clicks into place in your head. It’s always such a wonderful feeling.

Ironically, I thought of this Haiku while I was in the shower, and then promptly forgot it when I sat down to write it, so I had to create it again. I think a good strategy for writing a Haiku about yourself is to think of something meaningful you’re passionate about and take it from there. Then, it takes a lot of fiddling with words and syllables to get the 5-7-5 syllable pattern, but you’ll get there in the end!

God of War Review: A Tale of Norse Mythology

Released on April 20, 2018 on the PlayStation 4, God of War is a sequel to one of the most famous PlayStation exclusive franchises, a game aiming to reboot the former trilogy for the new generation of consoles. In my opinion, any good sequel draws from the success of its previous entries, utilizing the good ideas it developed from those and satisfying long-time fans, while at the same time daring to do something new to improve on the formula, as well as welcoming new fans. Does this game achieve that balance? Let’s find out, by examining it with the following categories.

  • Plot: 10/10

The game revolves around Kratos and his young boy, Atreus, who are on a personal quest to deliver Kratos’ wife’s ashes to the top of the highest mountain peak to let them go. The game is set in Norse mythology, taking the player through multiple realms such as Midguard, Alfheim, and Helheim.

Unlike previous games in the series, which told grand tales of Kratos taking on the gods of Greek mythology in his search for revenge, this story is a much more personal journey. Both Kratos and his son develop as characters through their quest, strengthening their relationship with each other. It’s an emotional story, one that tugged at my heartstrings on many occasions, more than I thought it ever could in a video game; the game really gets you to care about the characters and their relationship, especially the bond between Kratos and his son.

The game is revolutionary in its storytelling, especially since it isn’t something that’s always spoon-fed to the player. There are little details and symbolism, such as the bindings around Kratos’ wrists that represent the ties to his dark past. Little nods like these reference the previous games in the series, and for new players, they give a sense that Kratos is someone who doesn’t quite belong in this world, as a man who previously was a Spartan god who had killed all of the gods in Greek mythology. Throughout the game you see him wrestle with this past, as he desperately attempts to ensure his son won’t fall into the same mistakes as he did. It really gives the impression of a much wiser and more mature Kratos, as well as a more meaningful and mature message for the storyline.

The story is also told so well through little details in the world that give the story behind the realms of Norse Mythology. From the jotnar shrines you can discover through the beautifully crafted world, which tell the story of the history of the giants in the past, to the breathtaking view of seeing the World Serpent up close for the fist time, all these little details bring the story of the world around you to life. After playing this game, I can say that I’ve become extremely interested in both Norse Mythology and marvel by how storytelling has evolved in video games.

  • Gameplay: 9/10

The gameplay of God of War can generally be divided into a few major categories. First, is the combat system, in which Kratos will mostly be using his trusty Leviathan Axe to dispose a variety of foes. The combat system here is robust, extremely fun and satisfying to use. Every punch or blow seems to have tangible impact and throughout the game, as you level up both your axe and your character, you gain new moves and combinations that make the combat feel new and exciting. It’s a system that will take time to master, as the game isn’t always easy, especially when you’re facing enemies much higher level than yourself, giving a nice challenge and feeling of accomplishment to the player. The most exciting addition to gameplay here is the ability to throw your Leviathan Axe and call it back to you in any situation, making it much like Thor’s hammer in that regard. Calling the axe back to Kratos is something that, even when you’re doing it for the 100th time, never quite gets old.

Thought the game, along with the common enemies you’ll face, you’ll encounter many boss battles, including Trolls, Ancients, Valkyries, a dragon, and other smaller human-sized enemies, such as the Stranger. Bosses like these provide challlenging and enjoyable, often epic fights (especially that of the dragon). Some of these are reminiscent of the older games in the series, which were so well-known for extravagant boss battles. The only negative to this is that many of these boss battles are reskinned versions of a boss you’ve already completed and mastered before; for example, fighting an ice troll and a fire troll are relatively the same thing, requiring the same strategies you’ve used before. It would’ve been nicer to see more variations on some of the smaller bosses, for example more standout battles like the one with the dragon, but these encounters are still fun nonetheless.

When you’re not engaging in combat in the game, you’ll be exploring the world around you, collecting gear to upgrade your character and finding jontar shrines and other lore that enriches the world around you. You’ll be solving small puzzles involving the use of your trusty axe. The incentive for the player to go out and explore the world beyond the main storyline is extremely high, since you’ll want to discover better armor and upgrades to face the challenges ahead, and, most importantly, because the game world is simply so extremely beautiful and intriguing in itself. The main hub of the game, the Lake of the Nines, features a semi-open world with optional side quests, a world much more expansive than you could’ve expected for a narrative-driven game such as this. It even features additional optional realms that you can travel to outside of the main story, expanding the game even further, which lends itself well to the beginnings of RPG elements that bring replayability and depth to a game series previously focused on action. The sense of adventure and the feeling that you belong to an epic quest in the lovingly crated world around you is something the game delivers uniquely, and some of the best moments to be had in the game are had while simply exploring.

  • Music: 10/10

The music in the game is composed by Bear McCreary, who is most known for his work on titles such as Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Outlander and Da Vinci’s Demons. The tracks in the game are extremely high quality, raning from somber and quiet melodies that enhance the atmosphere, to epic scores that frame the tension of a boss fight. Truly, the soundtrack in the game could’ve come from a high-budget movie instead of a video games, evoking emotion and excitement at the appropriate times.

  • Graphics: 10/10

I’m quite certain that I’ve never seen a game that looks as good as this one does. The level of detail alone is something to marvel at, as you can see the greying stripes in Kratos’ beard, the puffs of smoke he exhales in the cold, and the minute facial expressions which give the characters emotional depth. Grander views like that of the view from the top of a snow covered mountain are simply jaw-dropping to behold. Colors are vibrant and atmospheric, ranging from the cold icy depths of Helheim, to the bright jungles of Alfheim. It’s clear that no shortcuts were taken in this game with any small detail or structure, making it one of the objectively best looking games on the Playstation 4.

Along with the sheer graphical prowess, and remarkable attention to detail, it’s clear that so much of the world’s design has been lovingly crafted from the lore that it’s based on. A lot of research must have been done in Norse legend, and a lot of creativity harnessed to create the unique version of it that we see in the game world. It’s a world that’s not only beautiful in terms of resolution, but in design, and that alone is something that makes you want to keep playing, just to see what’s through the next door or what’s on that island halfway across the map you haven’t visited yet.

  • Overall: 9.75/10

Overall, God of War is a game that deviates significantly from its previous entries, in a bold way, delivering a more mature and emotionally-driven story-line with the backdrop of a captivating world that’s open to explore. In a market that’s now so often saturated with similar-looking competitive multiplayer games, it’s wonderful to see a single player game like this, focused in telling a story and doing so expertly. With the game time clocking in at around 30 hours or so, it’s definitely one that’s worth the money, and worth replaying again.

The third writing assignment for the week I’ve completed is this one, in which I had to write a video game review, rating it thoroughly through a variety of categories. This assignment is worth 3 stars.

I was immediately intrigued by this assignment since I’m a big fan of video games and, when I had more time on my hands, used to be a fan of reading and watching game reviews. So, I knew it was something I had to try out for myself! I chose God of War since it’s a game I’ve recently played and absolutely loved, and I thought that it’s perfect for our theme of legends and folklore, as a tale of Norse Mythology. In terms of storytelling, I think, we often forget to include video games, but in modern times, they’re growing to become quite a unique genre of storytelling. A game can tell a story in a way that a movie or TV series cannot, in that it tells an interactive one that places the player in control of that story, making it a more personal journey in many ways. I think that God of War is such an excellent example of the unique storytelling that can be done in a video game, which I hope to see continue to develop in the industry!

This was also a fun way for me to review a piece of media that I enjoy, and separating the review into categories as mentioned on the assignment post made it much easier to collect my thoughts. I had to do some research on the composer, and otherwise, the struggle I faced was not to ramble on in each of the sections and instead provide an overview of how I felt about each of the topics. I’d recommend this assignment to anyone else who loves video games!


Supernatural: A Road Well-Travelled

The man that steps into the bar on a Friday night seems an ordinary one as any, as he takes his place at the barstool, ordering a quick drink from the bartender as he catches him walk by. Though, he’s anything but ordinary, in fact, he’s an angel; or perhaps, that’s all wrong, and the former is closer to the truth now. His shoulders slouch in a tired posture as he scans a few of the patrons talking animatedly nearby, his clothing disheveled, a plaid button-down wrinkled from the long drive, worn boots on his feet. He rubs his shoulder idly where he feels the dull ache of a pain from an encounter with a vamp a few states back, when he’d dislocated it in a nasty tussle. It won’t be fully healed anytime soon, he knows, the pain will linger for a few weeks. He’d even caught a grey hair in the corner of his eye through the rearview mirror on his way in.

Castiel feels human, evidenced by the fact that he feels so thoroughly in the first place. It’s always been his problem, caring too much, as he’s been told once or twice by his brethren and yet, nothing compared to this. His grace, having long since been damaged and broken, feels almost absent entirely now.

There’s only a small spark left in the way that his bright eyes scan the room as if they saw something others couldn’t, had seen more than anyone else here could ever imagine, that might suggest anything remarkably un-ordinary about him.

After a few moments sitting there with his own thoughts, he abandons his seat to sit a few stools over, where a truck driver’s spinning a tale of suspicious disappearances a few miles south of here. Castiel’s money is on a Wendigo, or with his luck, another nest of vamps. In any case, he knows his destination, now, and after bidding the strangers a good night, he steps back out into the parking lot. He spots angry looking clouds overhead and he counts himself lucky that he’s only going a few miles further, at least until he can find a cheap motel nearby.

In the cover of the night, Castiel goes relatively unnoticed as he slips into the seat of a black 1967 Chevy Impala, starting the car in a smooth motion.

“That’s it, girl,” he soothes, smiling to himself as the car engine roars to life, gently patting the center console. Considering life on the road, and the fact that he’s no natural born mechanic, Castiel’s managed to keep the car in excellent shape, smoothing over any scuff he’d find in the paint with loving attention. He’s the only one left to care for it, and so he does. Dean loved this car, his ‘Baby’, and now Castiel realizes it’s become the most important thing to him.

It seems quite ridiculous, for Castiel, who’s lived for so many millennia, who’s walked on Earth when the fish first grew legs and journeyed on land for the first time, to place such an importance on an old car. His brothers would laugh at him for it, no doubt, but those times, too, were long past. Castiel was an angel. The amount of time he’s spent in this car, the company he’s shared here, is negligible in terms of the big picture; only, it was the most important time of Castiel’s life, no less than everything, when counting what mattered.

He wonders, if now that he is human, he’ll have a soul, and when he reaches the end of this road, if he’ll join Sam and Dean Winchester in heaven. At the thought, his smile softens; somehow, for some reason, Castiel doesn’t doubt he’ll find his way there in the end.

For now, there is the road ahead: saving people, hunting things, a legacy that was his to continue. It’s what Sam and Dean would’ve wanted, and it’s what Castiel wants, what he needs. It matters, and so, with his foot on the gas petal, he drives out onto the open road.

The second writing assignment I chose, for 3 and a half stars, is this one, which asks you to write an alternate ending to a book, movie, show, etc. I took this opportunity to write for my favorite TV show, Supernatural, which ironically fits the theme of our class, as it follows two hunters who travel across the country hunting monsters, if you’re not familiar with it. I took a creative liberty with the assignment prompt as Supernatural doesn’t currently have an ending since it’s an ongoing show. That is also why I was compelled to write an ending for it, since I don’t see one coming out in the show in the near future, so I thought I’d try my hand at it myself.

For this short coda, I chose to write from the perspective of Castiel, my favorite character from the show, an angel who rebelled from heaven to help the Winchester brother’s save humanity. In writing this story, I tried to make it accessible to those who weren’t entirely familiar with the show. As it’s an ending of sorts, it did take on a somber tone, with the setting sometime long after the two man characters, Sam and Dean Winchester have long since passed away, with Castiel taking over as a hunter. The story was admittedly a chance for me to write a lot of introspection on Castiel’s character. Whether you’re familiar with the show or not, I hope you were able to enjoy the story!

Personally, my strategy for writing a story like this is to write down the story I’m picturing in my mind; if I have inspiration to write it and an idea in mind, I’m able to get into it and just see where those thoughts take me. When I saw the image of Castiel sitting at the wheel of the Impala in the end, I knew what I wanted to write for this prompt and just went for it. I know many people have a more structured approach to writing (which I should probably take up at some point), but that’s how I manage to write something, if I’m passionate about it!

Harry Potter and how old were those kids??

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Young boy nearly murdered by a man with no nose, is rescued from his abusive foster parents by a giant, only to be taken to a dangerous boarding school, where he and his friends seek to bypass the school’s deadly booby traps and murder a man, in order to obtain a special rock.

I chose this writing assignment for 2 and a half stars, which is:

“Take an existing movie or television show and change the writing of the synopsis in a way where it’s still factual correct, yet the storyline feels drastically different.”

This was a particularly fun one, that I knew I wanted to do, since I’ve seen TV guide parodies like this, which I always find hilarious; and, let’s face it, we’ve all seen a terrible TV guide summary and laughed at it before. I knew immediately once reading it that I wanted to do it on the first Harry Potter movie, because as a kid, those were my favorite movies. I’ve watched them so many times I’ve lost count of how many, that’s how integral Harry Potter was to my childhood. Then, the other day, I was watching the first movie again when my mom had turned it on, and I couldn’t believe how young those kids were. Literally, they’re out going on crazy adventures getting almost killed by three headed dogs and animated trees and they’re like… 11? It’s something you overlook when you’re younger watching the movies since you relate to them, and it’s funny to think now that they’re just children! So, after reading this prompt, that was my immediate inspiration. s an added bonus, I thought Harry Potter could be a good example of a work that can fit into the theme, since I know, as a kid, it was something I desperately wanted to believe in.

I think prompts like this are really interesting, because they really show the power of words in telling a story; simply by changing the description, you can change the tone of a story or movie. I would definitely recommend this assignment to everyone else! It’s as simple as finding inspiration from one of your favorite movies and having some fun with it!