Gears of War-a saga which depicts the cruelty of war rather than glorifies it

[NOTE BEFORE, HEAVY SPOILERS IN THE ARTICLE BELOW]

The Gears of War series has had many charges hurled against it in the past ranging from its damaging effect upon the gaming medium in creating a proliferation of ‘cover shooters’ of ‘chest high walls’ to its corrosive effects upon the morality of society itself, especially considering the fact it apparently glorifies war and depicts its bulky warriors as the height of virility. However, during the course of this article, I’d like to show a different side, a side which might not necessarily emerge through naturally through dialogue, but one which is being portrayed in the setting of the game as well as the overarching plot’s events.

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Gears of War represents not merely a battle against the Locust but humanity’s struggle with its own self-destructive nature

Gears of War depicts the ongoing war between the subterraean Locust Hordes and the struggling survivors of ‘E-Day’, the humans themselves. What is interesting to note before is that in the prologue to Gears of War 2, the near apocalyptic events of ‘E-Day’, that si whent he Locust staged an ambush from underground to flood the cities with Locust and exterminate much of the population, they were weakened by their own wars and obsession with violence as shown through the ‘Pendulum Wars’ before the events of Gears of War, fought over the major fuel source of Sera, imulsion. In this sense, we can see a symbolic connection between the E-Day and the actual idea of Judgement Day in more than just the fact that humans are being exterminated, the humans are being exterminated because they have become so immoral and vicious that they are judged as unfit to survive. Myrrah herself claims that the extermination of the human race was something they brought upon themselves. It was not referencing some kind of injury which the humans had dealt to the Locust, but rather the idea that the destruction of humanity was the logical conclusion of the battles which preceded E-Day, and that the Locust are merely there to spur on humanity’s self-engineered demise. This leads on to an even more intriguing aspect of the Gears of War narrative, that of the metaphorical signficance of the Locust themselves.

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Humanity is not literally being crushed only by the Locust but by their obsession with war itself.

The Locust are portrayed as utterly cruel and depraved. They have no qualms about slaughtering men, women and children and serve a singular purpose of engaging in a never-ending war with humanity until it is entirely crushed. At first, one might infer that the Locust are merely generic cannon fodder who exist to satisfy the trope of ‘utterly evil enemy which has to be killed’…however, further scrutiny reveals a more tragic and potentially horrific element to their existence. Many of the Locust are humanoid in character, and their leader, Myrrah is especially humanoid. The only thing that has truly deformed them and alienated them from humanity itself isn’t merely their grotesque appearance, it is their unerring love for murder and destruction, which has led them to the mission of expunging Sera of all human life. This is because in actuality, the Locust represent the mindset of any soldier who is committed to war. War transforms a reasonable man into one whose sole purpose is to murder and kill others, and this means that inevitably, they will surrender those parts of themselves which defines them as humans, which is why if the Locust were a peaceful band of traders who still resembled deformed men,the metaphor would be lost. It is war that deforms them so, and as any soldier’s true purpose in battle, their love of war means that they relish the opportunity to kill any man in their way. Although one might argue that some wars are noble in purpose and thus, the idea of the genocidal  Locust representing all soldiers is flawed, one needs only look further into the motivations behind the Locust to realise that their same motivations are similar to that of any other nation out there which attempts to seize the semblance of virtue. Whilst most Locust are incapable of articulating their own reasons for destroying the human race, Myrrah serves as the eloquent messenger of death, describing the necessity of the destruction of the humans, framing their extinction in a scientific way as though nature itself demands their destruction to allow the physically superior Locust to occupy Nature’s position of lords of Sera. Ultimately, most players will see this ‘noble mission’ for what it is, a land grab by Myrrah to try and placate her restless Locust hordes and an attempt to justify the systematic slaughter of countless men, women and children…but are these not the same motivations that spurs on any soldier? Have these promises of glory not been fed during WWII, and WWI, and the Great Napoleonic Wars, and during the colonization of Australia and the Americas? The series demonstrates that every war has its ‘justification’ but challenges the player to analyse whether it can every truly justify the deaths of other men.

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Myrrah tries to justify the genocide of humans with rousing speeches and is portrayed as an elegant figure in the same way that many wars have been depicted as…but this cannot disguise the underlying brutality of war or the cruelty of her own martial doctrines

This ‘addiction’ to war is also widely reflected in the ‘addiction’ to imulsion, that is essentially the fuel for most of modern day civilization’s machinery and infrastructure. imulsion is so precious as to be equated to our own world’s oil, and in fact it was this reliance that spawned so much inter-necine conflict between the humans in the first place and left the humans vulnerable to attack fromt he otuset. In this sense, imulsion portrays two things, not only that the over-reliance and addiction to certain things can be damaging and harmful, but that the very nature of this addiction fuels another more devastating addiction, that of war. Moreover, it is a subtle social commentary on the way in which fuel might often be a seductive commodity to wage wars for, as the Iraq war and Gulf Wars both illustrate this, here fuel is not only a reason to wage war but also the way in which war itself is fuelled. It is this destructive cycle that plagues Sera and has culminated in the near extinction of humanity.

However, there is an even more interesting analysis to be gained here. The theory that the Locust are merely humans deformed b a lust for war goes further, it could be that the Locust were actually humans at one point in the lore of the story but were changed when they were exposed to imulsion, something which is explored in Gears of War 3. It is by being exposed to this ‘addiction’ for war and fuel for so long that literally changes men from normal beings to the savage killers that comprise the Locust race. This is heavily suggested by the fact that the more imulsion creatures in Gears of War 3 are exposed to, the more powerful and deranged they become. This is why the final weapon in the Gears of War trilogy is so effective, since it targets all the emulsion in all infected Locust and humans, it is literally destroying the ‘addiction’ man has to war, an addiction which once destroyed will finally secure a path to peace for the world at last. This solution does not come without a price though, Marcus realises that his father has infected himself with imulsion to study the effects just as the weapon is about to fire. It is a point of tragedy when Marcus beholds his father transformed into ashes before his very eyes as the imulsion dooms his father to death. This could merely be an opportunity by the writers to reinforce the concept of sacrifice into the nature of war, but the actual meaning is more sophisticated than that. As Myrrah later recalls, Marcus’ father was not only a scientist who helps end the war, he was the architect of some of the most powerful and terrible weapons of the war, especially the Hammer of Dawn. In a sense, whilst the soldiers are both actors and victims in the war, he has merely contributed to the deaths of many, not only of Locust kind but in the most desperate stages of the war, even civilian populations in an effort to deny the Locust any ground. His death affirms the fact that all wh participate in war have to be held accountable at some time, just as humanity itself was judged by the Locust for their own addiction to war.

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Every war has its cost, and those who fuel it are often the ones consumed by it.

Though Gears of War might not retain the sophisticated dialogue of a Bioware game and often appears to indulge more in gratuitous violence than it does criticise it, there exist many subtle elements of satire and criticism built into the structure of the world itself. It might be excessive to say that a game which regularly encourages its players to sever foes into pieces with a chainsaw built into a gun is a sophisticated critique of war, it definitely acknowledges the brutality of war, something which is demonstrated by the end of the series when all the soldiers rejoice the end of the war. They are too scarred by the lives sacrificed and the violence of the war to usher it back, and with the destruction of imulsion, perhaps not only their means to war but also their addiction to war have finally been destroyed once and for all and love and compassion can enter back into the lives not only of the Cog soldiers, but humanity itself.

MasterMachiavel

A Majora’s Mask Opera

This looks (and sounds) brilliant!

Majora

Hello internet,

The current look of the blog is a temporary solution for a better presentation, but given the sudden boom around my first uploaded demo, I feel I should clarify what this is all about.

On the 28th of November 2011, after a long period of planning, and with the 25th anniversary of Zelda in mind, I started composing and writing an opera of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

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Now as I’ve said in the first forums I posted about this, I have avoided reducing this to medley form. I develop on every relevant theme, taking them as bases to be grown on and to make a complete and organic work, instead of a patched-up musical track.

I have my original work as examples of what I can do, and I am usually not one to make these kinds of adapted projects, but Zelda is…

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Faith, personality and culture

This is just a rudimentary link I’ve thought of recently…isn’t it strange how Eastern philosophies and Western philosophies differ? Eastern philosophy tends to emphasise the nature of humans as being part of something larger, and something greater. We aren’t just one human, we are components of different aspects of the Universe(cells, atoms) and we make up components of larger systems(humans are part of nature and life, and nature is part of the Earth and so on and so forth). What is interesting is how this spiritual doctrine translates into society, especially in Eastern societies where the sense of ‘one’s self being a part of something larger’ translates into society, where every person has to be aware of how their actions affects others, not because it is bad, but because it causes some form of spiritual imbalance. What is interesting here is that spirituality has a sense of some form of scientific method, doing bad things to other people isn’t bad because of freedom or arguments of liberty(which emphasise the self) but the sense that it is actually disturbing the natural gears of the Universe, as though our actions are as relevant to the Universe as the laws of physics themselves. I think nothing encapsulates this more effectively than the idea of karma. Karma is given based on whether you do something good or bad, but it isn’t humans outlining for other people what is good or bad Perhaps this is why despite the different politics of every Asian country(India is capitalist, China is communist, Singapore is capitalist), there is the overwhelming presumption by people that everyone is a part of society, and not merely that they are ‘obliged’ to contribute as individual people with individual responsibilities, but that we simply will contribute because it is a much as part of our nature, as we are a part of nature itself. Some might even claim that a lot of Asian countries  tend towards communist thinking, not in how economic production is arranged, but more so in everyday social processes and rituals.

Contrast that with the West, where there is a much greater emphasis on people, not as a mass, but as individual units, endowed with their own individual rights from other people interfering with them. These faiths might encourage us to engage with other people, and to form the foundations of a society, either through charity, through doing good things onto our neighbours, or even through judging people harshly if they do something immoral like adultery or murder, but ultimately, these are duties which presuppose we are individual units endowed with our own autonomy and our own free will. By doing something good or evil, we make our own judgment as our own selves to do something, doing something isn’t part of some natural process where everything is working in harmony and you are doing something which you should naturally do, you are doing something because it has been highlighted by other individuals of much greater wisdom that this is the right thing or wrong thing to do. The Universe doesn’t really care what we do because the Universe is almost a separate entity to ourselves. Certainly, these Western faiths might highlight entities as having created the Universe and then created us humans within the Universe, but even here, we get the impression that the entity creates the Universe from outside the Universe, then creates us within the Universe, unlike an Eastern faith which might suppose that divine entities both help create the world, but are also begotten out of that same world, and that humans are not a part of the divine order by the fact that an individual high being grants them love, but rather, that a respect exists due to the fact that the human is a part of the divine essence of the higher being itself, not only physically but also in their shared aspects and characteristics.

The interesting thing to note though, is that whilst the outcome of Eastern and Western philosophies tend to diverge, the actual inception is fairly similar, and I think faith is the natural conscience of a large group of people, which manifests into something more concrete and communicable to others, but also which is heavily moulded by the personalities and ideologies of certain individuals. In a strange sense, we can almost argue that both Western and Eastern faiths synthesize the process of ‘individual thought’ and ‘communal inclination’ in order to produce polarised ideologies. The ‘individual thought’ is pioneered by either ‘saints’ in the West, or ‘gurus’ and ‘wise men’ in the East, whilst the ‘communal inclination’ is just the universal trait of culture. The saints/gurus act to magnify latent, undefined ideas and beliefs found in cultures, and refine them for the culture to analyse, deconstruct, reform and finally assimilate back into that culture in a more sophisticated form, which perhaps translates the idea from a general understanding of the Universe into some specific analysis of the Universe or rules to be followed. Some people might say that faith is being effaced from the cultural narrative quite rapidly as science, arguably one of the most effective explanatory models of our Universe, increasingly encroaches upon areas which faith and philosophy once held dear. In a sense, technology comprises the ‘relics’ of the new faith of science, every time we send a rocket to the moon and back again, that attests to the power of science, every time a nuclear warhead obliterates vast swathes of land, that is a tribute to science. In the end though, to deny the overwhelming accuracy and predictive potential of science I think is a futile feat, but so to is writing off the relationship between faith and our cultures.

 

Faith still revels in its relevance to social affairs, perhaps because social affairs have the advantage of having no true ‘right’ model as to how a society should be structured, which can be objectively deduced, so faith, maintaining the guise of a scientific method seems as applicable to some societies as economics does to our financial systems. In my opinion though, this misses the point that faith is both a product of culture and individuals, it is an expression of what we hold in common with other people, and the convincing arguments which certain prominent personalities can frame these beliefs and ideas within, which either help our society function, or explain certain elements of human existence.

 

Initiation rites

Isn’t it strange how we live in a world where what was once a private and personal journey of thought, ideas and opinions has suddenly been cast out into the winds of the internet and scattered to all four corners of the globe, for all who are willing to listen in? To cite it as a revolution misses the point entirely that the process of destruction and reformation that defines a revolution has already come and gone, what we live in is the aftermath of the whirlwind, the new world where we are privy to the secrets of others which were once held close to one’s chest, can respond and have ‘conversations’ with men we have never seen, whose voice we have never heard and ultimately communicate with an entire world.

 

 Truly though, whilst I marvel at this, I am not so much a settler in this domain as I am a nomad, a traveller who is wandering here to commit a few words about a few things I love very much…and perhaps even at times, things that I despise so much as to move me as well to take up the almighty weapon of the 21st century, the keyboard(that was a joke, a gun is always infinitely more effective as a weapon than a keyboard).

Yours sincerely, MasterMachiavel