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1:25 PM on 08.23.2012

Heaven's Divide: An MGS fan's interpretation of the lyrics

When I listened to the song “Heaven’s Divide” my first reaction was sheer emotional upheaval. It made me FEEL so much. I wondered to myself, why? At first I thought it was the music. Certainly that plays a huge role but then I noticed that many of the lines in this song refer to specific events, ideas, and themes that are present throughout the MGS series. As an MGS fan, I’d like to share my interpretation of these lyrics. I’ll be doing this line by line to show how closely this song could be read in relation to the MGS games. Hopefully, this approach won’t be too contrived or arduous! Lastly, I’m under no pretense that my interpretation is the right one, this is just one fan’s look at an awesome franchise song.

Petals of white
Cover fields flowing in grieving tears
And all the hearts once new, old and shattered now
Love can kill, love will die
Give me wings to fly
Fleeing this world so cold
I just wonder why

The first two lines (Petals of white, Cover fields flowing in grieving tears) likely refer to the final boss fight in MGS3, where Snake faces off against Boss in a field of white flowers. The “grieving tears” point towards the mood that follows the boss fight, sadness, as the player themselves executes the boss with the square button.

I think that line 3 (And all the hearts once new, old and shattered now) could be referring to Snake’s journey from Naked Snake to Big Boss. In MGS3 he was “once new”, being referred to in that game as a “child” by Boss during her defection scene on the bridge and, time line wise, this is the youngest that we ever see Snake. His transformation into Big Boss was a traumatic one which is why I think that he is “old and shattered now”. Snake had to execute a figure who was master, teacher, mother, and comrade to him at the orders of the US government. This terrible choice between personal relationships and duty “shattered” Snake when he killed the Boss because he had effectively killed the person who made him into what he is and taught him everything he knew. Snake also says in Peace Walker that he was dead since the day he killed the Boss. So what was once new (Naked Snake) is now old and shattered (Big Boss).

“Love can kill, Love will die” I think refers to the bond of love that Boss had for her country, the USA. Her love for her country “can kill” as shown when she willingly takes part in her own character assassination done to her by the USA (where she is named as a traitor in order to cover up the political typhoon that started with Volgin’s launch of a mini nuke) and love “will die” as seen when she dies at the hands of Snake, all for the love of her country.

The last three lines in this section I think allude to the Boss’s trip to space. In Peace Walker, the player learns that the Boss looked out onto the earth from space (wings to fly) and was inspired to unite the world. I think that the last line is meant to put the listener into her frame of mind as she gazed down from space: she “just wonder”s, “Why is the world divided?”

Cold as the dark
Now my words are frosted with every breath
Still the heat burns wild, growing inside this heart
When the wind changes course, when the stars align
I will reach out to you and leave this all behind
When heavens divide

I think that the first three lines refer to the Boss’s failed atmospheric reentry, albeit referring to this event in a poetic manner. “Cold as the dark” might be referring to the coldness of space that she felt which frosted her breath as she spoke. The heat referred to in line 3 of this section might be the heat of atmospheric reentry or, more poetically, the heat of purpose that the Boss gained from her trip to space.

From the 3rd line to the 6th of this section, I read as coming from Big Boss’s perspective. Wind changing course and stars aligning could be referring to Big Boss’s efforts to change history with the creation of Outer Heaven. Big Boss goes to great lengths to try to fulfill what he thought was the Boss’s will, that soldiers lived free from controlling parties. To do so, he orchestrated a massive project to create a soldier run state. The logistics and planning that goes into this are enormous and I think that that is what the third line refers to, the winds of change and the cosmic level of effort that went into making Outer Heaven. The next two lines (I will reach out to you and leave this all behind, When heavens divide) reinforce my belief that the last three lines of this section are talking about Big Boss’s efforts to create Outer Heaven. Line 5 could be referring to Boss’s motivation in creating Outer Heaven: to be closer to Boss who he idolized (I will reach out to you and leave this all behind). He creates Outer Heaven in order to fulfill what he think is her will and thus “leave this all behind”, namely, to leave behind the corrupted corporately run governments that he despises. He does so “when heaven’s divide” which I read as the creation of Outer Heaven because Outer Heaven will “divide” soldiers from unfeeling masters.

When heavens divide
I will see the choices within my hands
How can we ever protect and fight with our tiny souls
Let me shine like the sun through the doubts and fear
Do you feel the storm approach as the end draws near

The first two lines might be Boss’s thoughts on the creation of Outer Heaven. “When heaven’s divide” (once Outer Heaven is created) Boss will have choices in his hand, namely, choices that will affect to whole world via freedom given to their militaries.

The third line (How can we ever protect and fight with our tiny souls) I think refers to the many times in the MGS series where the characters doubt that they can fulfill their missions. They wonder how they can “protect and fight with [their tiny souls]” like when Meryl gets shot by Sniper Wolf, when Naked Snake gets tortured, or when Solid Snake gets put through the microwave hallway. I think that those are the times that this line refers to, times when the characters feel their own weakness and wonder if they can make it (How can we ever protect and fight with our tiny souls?). The next line could be the resolution of those trials. Meryl survives her shooting and escapes with Snake, Naked Snake lives through the torture and goes on to become the legendary Big Boss and Solid Snake makes it through the microwave hallway in order to defeat Liquid Ocelot. These are the times that this line (Let me shine like the sun through the doubts and fear) is referring to, when the character’s shine through their doubts with their sheer effort and determination.

The last line here I think is a clever nod to The End in MGS3 (Do you feel the storm approach as the end draws near?) Every time The End appears or is suggested to be near, there is a storm on screen. Thus, “Do you feel the storm approach as the end draws near” might be referring to those times. Less cheekily read, I think this line refers to the pacing of the game when the player first hears this music in Peace Walker. The game is drawing near its end and so the song asks the player if they feel the oncoming storm of the ending.

When heavens divide
Time will come to softly lay me down
Then I can see a face that I long to see
And for you, only you I would give anything
Leaving a trace for love to find a way
When heavens divide

This section I think refers to Big Boss’s mind set when he creates Outer Heaven. Big Boss might be thinking that with the creation of Outer Heaven (When heavens divide), he will finally be able to be laid to rest at the hands of Solid Snake (Time will come to softly lay me down) who he helps infiltrate Outer Heaven. At that point, Big Boss will be able to finally see Boss on the other side (Then I can see a face that I long to see). The next two lines (And for you, only you I would give anything, Leaving a trace for love to find a way) I think refer to the Boss’s undying love for Snake. She gives up everything she has (her life and her identity) in order to keep Snake alive and remember her as she truly is, not as a war criminal but as a patriotic hero. The “Trace of love” could be referring to the Boss’s will that many characters in the MGS series have attempted to decipher in order to find their way (find a way).

I will dive into the fire
Spilling the blood of my desire
The very last time
My name scorched into the sky

The last section I will be talking about could be referring to the Boss’s mindset going into her cover-up mission in MGS3. It is an intensely emotional scene when Snake and the player learns that Boss wasn’t a traitor at all, she was the complete opposite. She gives up not only her life but the memory she leaves behind as the US government uses her as a scapegoat to avoid nuclear war. Personally, I saluted to screen when Snake salutes the Boss, so emotional was I at the time. The lines “I will dive into the fire, Spilling the blood of my desire” might be referring to the Boss’s feelings as she heads into her final mission. She dives into the fire of the mission and the blood of her desire (her desire to save the USA) is spilled as she is killed by Snake. The last two lines might be referring to how her name will be remembered and the enormous consequences the different memories of her identity create (The very last time, My name scorched into the sky). Her name being “scorched into the sky” is probably referring to how she is remembered as different figures to different characters in the series. Snake remembers her as his master and comrade, Ocelot remembers her as the greatest patriot of all time, the people of the world remember her as a war criminal. The immense consequences that these memories create (Snake creates Outer Heaven, Ocelot defeats the Patriots, the people of the world are left in ignorance) might be what is expressed by the words “My name scorched into the sky”.

Well, that’s all of it! I hope that this wasn’t too confusing as I constantly referred to events in the MGS series. What I wrote is definitely from an MGS fan to MGS fan’s, sorry to those who have not played the games and slogged through this post. Hopefully, this brought a tiny speck of new light into this awesome song and the franchise it comes from.[/url][url]   read

4:17 PM on 08.05.2011

Being a hypocrite: My hate of rogues

I used to absolutely hate rogues. Not just in the fantasy RPG sense, either, although those ones I despised the most. No, my hate for any type of class that is sneaky, stealthy, or otherwise below notice infuriated me to no end.

I think that my hate for rogues started when I was playing CoD at a friends house around when Modern Warfare had just come out. I was trying to get a handle on the game. "Ok, this button does this... now I'm crouching... this button does that... ok that's iron sights... and this is OH SHIT I THREW A GRENADE AT MY FEET... ok, ok, ok, I'm alive... let's head out." As I was moving across the map, I decided to take shelter behind walls. The house that I was using for cover came to and end so, naturally, I had to come out of cover to continue. The SECOND I came out of cover, I died. The kill cam showed a sniper who had picked my off from half way across the goddam map. I felt unbelievably betrayed. Betrayed might seem like an odd word to use here but it's the best way to describe that feeling. I wasn't angry at the player, no, I was angry at the spirit of the type of archetypical class he was playing: the rogue. To use stealth and overwhelming offensive ability to not give the enemy even a second to react and defend themselves. I was pissed off that the game mechanics allowed someone to be able to pick off an enemy from so far a distance and from complete safety and not allowing the recipient of that lead enema any chance to defend himself. That's what pissed me off the most. Not being able to defend myself. Another gameplay example: World of Warcraft.

I don't play WoW. The only time that I've been able to play WoW for real was at a friends house. I was a playing on the Alliance. I think I was a warrior. Just walking around, admiring the scenery in Goldshire... I think his character was around level 50+ so getting respectably powerful. As I took a gander into the woods, I noticed a faint shadow come up behind me. And by noticed, I mean, the shadow barely registered in my mind before BAM. Crits on crits on crits on stuns on crits on crits!!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!! I was just fucking walking around, minding my own business, and then SKADOOSH, I was dead in fucking five seconds! And then, and fucking then, the rogue taunted me by laughing and dancing and crying! WTF!!! This experience solidified my then annoyance at rogues into a full blown prejudiced powered persecution of them. From then on, every game I played, I played the antithesis of the rogue. Warriors and paladins, full armor, sword and shield or two handed. Hit hard, hit loud, be fair, never use poison, always be of good alignment. Even in shooting games, I'd play the guy with the big gun, at the front of the pack, spraying down bullets at anything and everything. I reveled in taking the fight to the enemy in every game I played and it made my heart soar whenever I was able to kill an opponent, be it npc or player, who was using rogue tactics by hitting them with my biggest weapon and laughing at their small health pools. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that noticed that I was being a hypocrite.

Solid Snake and Big Boss are my two favorite characters, in anything. The way they overcome their obstacles through a combination of raw determination, strength, and cunning make them balanced characters that don't lean too far towards either end of the "I am strength incarnate... How I open locked door?" and "I am the shadow behind you... watch as I angst!" ends of your typical archetypes. That said, the Snakes are pretty much the ultimate form of rogue. They are masters of tactical espionage action using stealth and skill to defeat enemies much more powerful than they. For some reason, I don't hate them for being rogues. In fact, I admire them for using stealth since it shows that they are not supermen that can run into battle and hack enemies apart. No, they need stay out of sight and, preferably, not have to fight anyone at all. I thought about why I didn't hate the Snakes even though they epitomized the rogue concepts of not being seen and using skill and cunning over brute strength. I came to the conclusion that I didn't hate rogues at all; I hated the characters that are often associated with them.

I don't like Nathan Drake. He's not the kind of character that I enjoy watching or playing as. I don't like it when the character I'm controlling is always the absolute center of attention, so much so, that the story gives him some kind of "main character shield" that makes him bullet proof even though he's just a regular guy in terms of his abilities. Nathan is not super human nor is he specially trained like a green beret, yet, because he's the main character he is able to take out literally armies of trained killers in any situation. Now, I know that the main character being to defeat large groups of goons is not a new thing. What gets me is the ease at which Nathan is able to do what he does. It's like the universe is spoiling him and bending the laws of reality so that he's able to have just enough luck to get through his problems without much difficulty. That's the thing that I find unlikable about Nathan. Everything is easy for him and he looks too good doing it. On the other hand, we have the Snakes. They get messed up, HARD. Torture, defeat, broken bones, broken pride, shot out eyeballs, humiliation, strangulation, you name a type of pain and punishment and the Snakes have probably been through it. And the thing I absolutely love is that they're not pretty when these things happen to them. They don't have the perfect comeback line. They don't give a wry smile. They piss themselves. That's right, when Big Boss was getting tortured in MGS3, he lost control of his bowels and soiled his pants. I like how the Snakes are not perfect. I like how they get put through all kinds of abuse while weathering it by screaming and gritting their teeth, not by shooting back a charming remark right after taking the beating of their lives. It makes them appeal to me because the Snakes are so much more human than Drake. I'm pretty sure that if someone strapped me onto a torture table and electrified the shit outta me, I'd probably scream my lungs out and then fall unconscious just like Solid Snake did instead of tossing my hair back and making a joke about Ocelot being handy.

Hardships can make an alright character into a great one. Not because they are able to easily confront and diffuse any situation, but because those hardships that a character faces brings to light what kind of a person a character really is. Now, this is just my opinion, but I think that Drake is an idealized person. He handles everything thrown at him with ease and is able to give a smartly worded remark while head shoting people who have been in the business of murder far longer than he has. That makes him a pretty cool guy but it doesn't make him appeal to me. The Snakes get put through so much physical pain and mental anguish but they are still able to overcome all challenges. The difference between characters like the Snakes and Drake is how they overcome those challenges. The Snakes react like how you would expect them to: screaming when they feel enough pain, and often times second guessing themselves and the ethics of what they are doing. You don't see Nathan batting an eye at murdering man after man after man, but the lives that the Snakes take haunt them until they can make peace with what they've done. And this is the source of my rogue hate; I did not hate rogues because of their use of tactics. I hated them for what they embodied; the kind of cool, suave character who get's things done without messing up his hair.

I made a rogue in the DnD online character builder. He's a Half-Orc. As expected, he deals a lot of damage. He uses stealth a lot to get the better of his enemies and in fact his whole play style relies on the usage of stealth. Hide, get in, do burst damage, hide, get out. And I'm ok with that. That's because he's never going to act like a typical dashing rogue. He's not a cool guy at all. He's an ugly mofo who's never had a lady friend, and that's what I like: characters who've got it tough and don't act like they've got a spot light on them all the time. This Half-Orc which I haven't named yet will get scared if he's alone in a dungeon, he'll want to run away when things aren't looking good and he's not exactly a nice guy to be around. That's just the way I like my characters. Give me blood in their mouths over perfect hair on their heads any day; the Snakes don't play with invincibility on anyway.   read

7:16 PM on 08.03.2011

Vlog: Valkyria Chronicles Design Archive

I just got this in the mail and was amazed at how detailed this book is. I thought that the best way to show this would be through video.

........ Gosh dang it, I can't embed the video at this time. The embedding tool is not where it usually is! For now, I'll post a link like the computer illiterate pleb that I am and embed once I can find/ the tool comes back.   read

12:54 PM on 08.02.2011

So it turns out that not everyone thinks of games as being valuable

About 2 weeks ago, I had a very pleasant reality check. I was reminded that video games are not a constant and important thing in everyone's lives. In fact, not everyone regards games as being something worth money. I know, doesn't really sound all that much like a reality check, right? There are billions of people out there who have bigger problems than angsting over the release of the next game they wanna buy. Problems like: "How will I eat today?" and "Will get killed by a stray bullet on my way to school?". Still, it's easy for me to forget about the world and it's people when I am tunnel visioned into the world of gaming. A bump into an old classmate helped to wake me up a bit, though.

I was waiting in the lobby of my school's academic advisory area. Wanted to get an idea of courses I should take next term. Sitting around, I didn't really have anything to do other than stare at the wall. Just to get rid of a bit of anxiety (I find not knowing what an adviser looks like prior to talking to them very intimidating. Not logical in the least, but hey, it is what it is), I decided to get up and walk around a bit. Just as I got up, I saw an acquaintance of mine from highschool. She looked like she always did. Dressed very nicely, usually every piece of clothing matched to a particular theme or colour. Today, it was white and she pulled off the tasseled boot's and white sweater really well, just like I remembered she did. (huh, I hope I don't get any hate for objectifying woman. Sorry if I sound like that, but she's a pretty lady!).

Anyway, I'll cut right to the important bits. For some reason, once we got into our conversation, she asked me if I spend a lot of time and money on video games. This was probably the third time this question or permutations of this question was asked to me upon meeting someone in the span of a month. Any of you guys had this happen to you, too? You'll be talking to someone new and then that person can somehow tell from the way you stand, the way you hold yourself, that you are a gamer and then asks you about the subject. It's not an unpleasant thing, to be sure. It feels nice to know that gamers have this kind of feel about them that makes them recognizable in society, like we've got enough of an identity that we don't have to actively show it, people can just subconsciously tell that you're a gamer.

But anyway, she asked me if I spend a lot f time and money on games. I responded that I do but that she must also spend a lot of time and money on the things that she likes, like her clothes. Now, this is where I got my reality check. She responded by saying:

"Well, yeah, but I can keep my clothes".

I said to her "Yeah, you're right, when I finish playing a game, I usually have to break it in half".

She gave a chuckle and said "No! That's not what I meant. I mean games are so virtual, it's not real".

I was surprised at what she said. All of my friends are gamers in some form or another. Some of them are gamers in the sense of enjoying games and being competent in them. Others will think about gaming and it's effects on culture and society. When all your friends share an interest in games, it's really easy to forget that not everyone treats games as this next generation platform of expression. For some, games are just a waste of time. I thought of how I should best counter her argument without seeming confrontational. I came up with this:

"Well, what about books and movies and stuff like that? Those are not real. The characters are not real and what is happening to them is also not real. But why do people still take so much interest in them? I think it's because of the feelings that these virtual and fictional worlds can create in us. True, the events and peoples in books, movies, and game are not real (not counting biographies and the like) but what are real are the feelings that are created in us, the viewer. I think that that is the measure of if something is real or not. Even though the people and stories in the games I play are not real in that they did not actually happen, the feelings that they induce in me are quite certainly real and, in the end, that's what really matters. I've cried while playing games. And it was both enjoyable and heart wrenching when I did. Enjoyable in that it took my gaming experience to an all new high and heart wrenching in that watching a beloved character die was horrible and shocking."

I was glad to see that she was giving this thought a serious ponder. After a bit she said "Yeah, I think I've got your point".

I came away from this conversation feeling pretty good about myself. Look at me, mister gaming know it all. A long drive back was enough for me to get off my high horse. I began to think of how much time and energy I spend on games, thinking that they are the most important thing in life. Well, maybe not THE most important thing, but it sure feels that way 2 weeks before Mass Effect 2 comes out and you're on the bioware forums, hitting F5 to get at the latest news. It made me realize that I was being a bit of a hypocrite since I was justifying spending lots of time and money in gaming yet, sometimes, I'll throw down that investment and then get totally sucked into the gaming world and not come up for air.

I'm really glad that I was able to talk to someone outside my group of gaming friends. While it's nice to share a common interest with the people you hang out with, I think that it is also refreshing and important that I was able to talk to someone who did not share my interest in gaming and, in fact, had a much different view on the subject than my regular crowd. It was a good wake up call that reminded me to enjoy what I like the most about games, the feelings that they create in me, but to not forget that while it's an important part of my life, it is definitely not the case for everyone and to not get so caught up with gaming that I forget about other people and their problems.   read

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