The Maple Tree

How I feel nowadays about my creative and personal work (including this blog) is best said by a retired nun called Corita Kent:

I moved to this place in October and the tree was in full leaf then. I watched it lose its leaves. I watched it covered with snow. Then these little green flowers came out and it didn’t look like a maple tree at all. Finally the leaves were recognizable as maple leaves and that in a way is very much how I feel about my life. It seems a great new stage for me – whether it will ever be recognizable by anyone else I don’t know, but I feel that great new things are happening very quietly inside of me. And I know these things have a way, like the maple tree, of finally bursting out in some form.”

I read this wonderful excerpt on a blog post by Austin Kleon in which he states that “creative work has seasons”. This rings very true to me.

A month ago I upgraded my workload on a part-time job and got another one at the same time. One involves writing geeky articles (which I love) and the other is in social media (which is awesome).

I’m doing my best to keep my personal projects alive, including this blog and keep on writing fiction.

May the Lords of Time be with me, eh?

Thanks for being there, whoever you are.

Advertisements

Just get out of bed

raining
Rainy Day screenshot

Back in May, I wrote about how I would love to see mental health problems realistically depicted in video games.

Today, I found out about a free text adventure game called Rainy Day. Themes like depression and anxiety are the core of the game and it has a very simple goal: get out of bed to go to work.

Sorry, did I say “simple goal”? For a depressed or an anxiety riddled person, getting out of bed can be a huge deal. Even if you get out of bed and perform all the small tasks needed to go out to the world, each step can be pain.

Pain in the form of an inner voice telling how fat that looks on you and ten thousand different negative comments about everything in you. Pain underneath the long sighs and fighting back tears coming out of nowhere. Pain as procrastination that begins the daily cycle of self-loathing.

screenshot-thaisaitchio-2016-07-27-19-17-29_1w9u
Rainy Day screenshot

So, when I came across a well-written game that really *gets it*, I was surprised. You begin as this anonymous character, the only information you know beforehand is that you are depressed.

Your starting point is the simple “it’s raining today”. Ok, easy enough. But what are you going to choose? Stay in? Go to work? Each option leads to another set of choices for you to make and this is where it gets interesting.

The character is pretty much a blank slate and it is you who makes the decisions for them. Nothing new, sure. But in a game like this, it makes a whole difference. You project yourself onto this blank slate, your history fueling all the future actions in the story.

rainyday2
Rainy Day screenshot

Give pause and time to each scenario, allow yourself to wonder why the character is having such thoughts. More than concerning about getting to work, experience each moment to reflect.

Rainy Day was developed and written by Thais Weiller, a Brazilian game designer.

[PLAY IT!]

Kodachrome dream nation

There is something in old photographs depicting America in the 50’s that always had a deep appeal to me. I’m Portuguese and I’ve never been outside Europe but growing up with movies and tv shows has turned me into a lover of Americana.

So, when I found about this treasure trove in Flickr, I was amazed.

Meet 20th Century Nostalgia, a haven for nostalgia-stricken folk like me. It is filled with photographs and slides found in garage sales, estate sales or even in the trash, and brought back to life by someone passionate about the past. There is no limits when it comes to a scanner and Photoshop, it seems!

Looking to these lost (and now found) images, it’s impossible for me not feel curious about the people and places, subjects now frozen in time. Perusing through them, I wonder about their stories and why did they photographed what they did.

Take a look at some of my favourites:

 

1419912079_8194f79fdb_o
Elsie Joe’s wedding, Monument, New Mexico – 1955
1420321124_cfb1966f30_o
Good-bye Yellow Brick Road… Fort Meyers, Florida, Chamber of Commerce in 1955
2764222570_87e44ecb33_o
Yellowstone – in 1953 (from the license plate)
2853619969_24e9cb095b_o
June, 1972
2900936010_5bceeaf4c9_o
Sea Wonders Alive in 1958
2763377687_4b7d369bbe_o
Trailer Park, Buckleys Palm Springs – 1954
2656685623_5856956b46_o
Cadillac Camping – Early 1950s

“Winds of Winter” – Game of Thrones review

ep60-ss11-1920

“Winds of Winter” was an incredible ending to an incredible season. I truly think this was the finest season ever and I came severely disappointed by season 5.

But let’s get on with the review, shall we?

Sam Tarly finally arrived at Oldtown with Gilly and baby Sam where the very embodiment of bureaucracy expected them. After letting Sam in the library while denying entrance to Gilly and the baby, the wannabe meistre and the audience had a jaw-dropping moment.

The library was shown as this magnificent place which is heaven on earth for bookworms everywhere. Sam almost cried tears of joy (and so did all of us geeky types).

HBO

Everyone already pointed out the chandelier (?) in the library ceiling which the same is shown in the show’s opening scenes. The rings engraved with the history of Westeros crown the library sky in an ominous fashion which made already made me start to think about its function and possibilities…

On sunbathed King’s Landing an exploding moment was eerily gaining momentum as Cersei dressed in a badass garment. While she sipped her wine like thousands of times before, we watched in horror the death of Meistre Pycelle at the hands of the little birds. It was deeply unsettling to watch small children do such a thing and was one of those “oh god why” moments of the show.

Also, the little birds were instrumental in setting up the big wildfire explosion as we watched later on.

ep60-ss03-1920
HBO

Meanwhile, at the Grande Sept of Baelor, Loras Tyrell fully converts to the Faith Militant and forgoes his claim as a Tyrell heir. For once, we see Mace Tyrell going mad but Margaery stops her father from intervening. She tries to reason with the High Sparrow and we can see the cracks in her farce starting to show.

Back at the Red Keep, King Tommen can’t leave his room because The Mountain denies him (of course, instructed by Cersei).

In the Sept, Margaery Tyrell senses something is not right and let go of her mask, urging the High Sparrow to let everyone go. She notices Cersei’s and Tommen’s absence and knows something is about to go down – after all, the Queen Mother was having her trial that day.

The High Sparrow is too busy being arrogant and sanctimonious to listen to Margaery. She’s had enough and convinces Loras to come with her but the Sparrows block their way out. The Queen is right in her assumptions but there is nothing she can do about it when the wildfire devours everyone inside the sept.

ep60-ss02-1920
HBO

It is a difficult goodbye to such an amazing character such as Margaery Tyrell. She had been brilliant at her game but, in the end, she couldn’t do anything when Cersei sealed everyone’s fate with wildfire.

The High Sparrow is dead and so is the future of House Tyrell, like Lady Olenna puts it.

The boy king watches from afar to green explosion and there’s not left a single ounce of hope in him. His beloved Margaery is dead by his mother’s plot, he couldn’t control the High Sparrow and so, Tommen gives up. In silent, he takes off his crown and jumps of the window.

ep60-ss12-1920
HBO

For me, this was the saddest scene in the finale. His suicide was an unceremonious moment, a boy led to despair by his own mother and his inaction, manipulated by everyone. It was a tragic moment in Thrones history to see someone willingly taking his own life like that.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Daenerys dumps Daario Naharis for good (finally!) and has a heartwarming talk with Tyrion. Our beloved character talks about how he truly believes in the Mother of Dragons, which is quite surprising for a cynic like him.

This is the perfect moment for Daenerys to make him her Hand of the Queen. Tyrion is touched by this and so is the audience.

In the North, Davos Seaworth confronts Melisandre for the death of Shireen – at last! Davos asks Jon to execute the Red Woman but Jon can’t bring himself to kill the priestess who brought him back from the dead. Melisandre is banished forever from the North and one can only wonder what she will do now as a free agent…

Every Game of Thrones’ fan favorite theory – R + L = J – is officially confirmed! We saw Ned meeting Lyanna in a bed filled with blood where she was spending her final moments. Quickly after, Ned is stunned when he learns the truth about Lyanna and Rhaegar: a Stark-Targaryen baby.

HBO

I believe most of the fans still can’t believe this was confirmed. Sure, Jon Snow’s parentage was the worst kept secret in Westeros but it felt so damn satisfying to actually being true!

In Winterfell, Sansa and Jon clearly state their mutual respect for one another. In a very heartwarming moment, Jon declares Sansa as the true leader of the North and they even reminisce about Ned Stark’s famous words – Winter is coming.

But the northerners have a different ruler in mind: Jon. Flawless Lady Lyanna Mormont sets everyone on their right places when she declares her unwavering allegiance to Jon Snow. The leader of House Mormont urges the others to the same and quickly the room is filled with Jon’s acclamation as the King in the North.

A great moment only spoiled by the one man in the room not smiling: Littlefinger. He exchanges a worrying look to Sansa who was smiling until she looked at him. Her enigmatic expression seems to hold two possible explanations: either she doesn’t know what to do now with Baelish or she’s considering his offer…

You see, hours before Jon’s acclamation in the great hall, Littlefinger declared his slimy love to Sansa. Baelish stated that his dream was sitting in the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark by his side. Sansa quickly dismisses him, not letting him kiss her and walking away.

But their story is far from over and Baelish is a man determined to get what he wants. Sansa, on the other hand, had no recognition from her fellow northerners on her role as savior on the Battle of the Bastards.

We’ll have to wait for the next season to find out where her somewhat mixed feelings will led her.

ep60-ss04-1920
HBO

In the Twins, a girl delivers a scrumptious pie to Walder Frey. He gladly starts eating it but insists on getting to know the whereabouts of his two sons. The servant points out that they are in the room… actually in the pie.

Frey is already horrified when Arya reveals herself by taking the ordinary girl’s face off. She declares herself a Stark and slits the traitorous bastard throat. Finally the Red Wedding is avenged!

Back at King’s Landing, Cersei doesn’t seem fazed by Tommen’s death. The former lion mother wouldn’t react so coldly to a child’s death but, it seems Cersei Lannister is further and further down the dehumanizing hole.

Rainha Cersei

By the look on his face, it is clear Jaime thinks the same as I do. When returning to King’s Landing and finding out about what went down, he can’t believe in what he sees. His sister is a mass murderer and has turned herself into the Mad Queen.

He killed a Mad King before, remember? And he did it to protect the city from the very same thing that Cersei has now pulled out. He looks horrified as Cersei is crowned Queen. There will definitely be a falling out between the two in the next season… And I really think he is going to end up killing her.

The “Winds of Winter” ends with a sight for sore eyes: Daenerys finally embarking on her way to Westeros! With her new allies (Martell and Tyrell – thank you Varys!), thousands of ships, and her 3 dragons, Daenerys is going to take Westeros by storm.

ep60-ss10-1920

At last!

I’ll be sure to watch it next year.
Will you?

“Battle of the Bastards” – Game of Thrones review

The-Battle-of-the-Bastards-capa
HBO

Was it or was it not the best episode EVER in Game of Thrones history?

This was one of those times where I took my sweet time in writing a review because I just could imagine doing it like this: IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME *drops mic*

But when such amazing fiction happens before your eyes, you almost have an obligation to properly write it down and relive it.

So, onwards with the review!

When all of us were expecting the cold winds of the North, there comes shining Meeren being bombed by the Masters. I bet that almost everyone watching grumbled at this point.

But it turned out to be filled with great scenes and actual story development. Daenerys arrives to a very fast-talking Tyrion trying to explain how “the city is on the rise”. I deeply missed Tyrion displaying one of his best features – fast talking your way through unexpected problems. You know, I can really relate with that.

The conversation between leader and counselor shines light on the dangerous path Daenerys started to take this season. Tyrion told her about the wildfire beneath King’s Landing and how her father wanted to use it to burn the city to the ground. This served two purposes: stop her from burning enemy cities and killing innocents and possible foreshadowing for the season finale. I’ve talked about it in another review what I think Cersei is about to do…

ep59-ss06-1920
HBO

Daenerys agrees with Tyrion and proceeds to meet the Masters to state their terms of surrender. Drogon shows to his mother side in a spectacular way and Dany mounts the dragon just in time to be accompanied by her two other dragons. One word – “Dracarys” – and the army is turned to ash and oblivion.

In the North, Jon, Sansa and their allies meet with Ramsay Bolton. A very interesting exchange of words takes place where the Starks know for sure that Ramsay has Rickon. Jon Snow defies Ramsay for a one-on-on combat but Ramsay denies it, which makes Jon question how can the Bolton men follow a man who doesn’t fight for them.

When Sansa can’t stomach her husband anymore she ends it with:

You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton.
Sleep well.”

She leaves and Ramsay promptly takes this moment to tease Jon about raping his sister again. Shortly after, Jon Snow leaves the meeting and retreats to his war council where he summarizes their military plans with Tormund and Davos.

ep59-ss11-1920
HBO

After the meeting ends, Sansa is quick to point out to Jon that he did not even think of including the one person in there who actually knows Ramsay – her. Jon apologizes and they exchange heated words about the battle at hand. Everyone at home was expecting Sansa to tell Jon about Littlefinger but, alas, she did not.

She only advises him not to fall in Ramsay’s traps, meaning not to do what he wants Jon to do. Once again, foreshadow for the upcoming events.

Back in Meeren, the Dragon Queen meets the daughter and son of the Kraken. The meeting is a delight to watch, as the women get together to plan a new better future for Westeros with them in charge. Also, can we talk about all those ravenous glances?

The time for talk is over.
Now for the battle of the bastards!

One thing I know for sure: there will not be a more epic hour of television this year. The battle was a gruesome astonishing stage where death and blood danced intertwined.

But first, before the cavalry went in full force, the first blood was Rickon’s. A victim of Ramsay’s twisted game, the poor boy had no chance – like Sansa predicted earlier. Watching his little brother fall in no man’s land, Jon lost his mind and went alone to face Ramsay’s army.

Falling into Bolton’s trap, Jon falls from his horse as the first arrows descend upon the battlefield. Jon decides to get up and face the enemy alone and, for a painful long moment, everything seemed lost to our hero.

But Jon’s army rushed in to save him and face the Boltons. And then the real battle started. Soon, the audience felt right at the middle of combat, following Jon’s frantic movement for survival. There were piles and piles of dead bodies across the battlefield, just minutes after it started.

cerco
HBO

Quickly, the Boltons surrounded the outnumbered Starks. On their backs the huge amounts of bodies piled up, on their front and sides Bolton shields and spears closing in for the kill. It was an incredible scene to behold. The choreographed movements and the war cries from the enemy sent chills down my spine.

Wun Wun, the giant, did his best to break the Bolton’s siege as well as other men from the Free Folk. Soon after, more troops came from the back attacking everyone. The siege was getting to an impossible standstill when we watched Jon falling beneath his men.

Jon-Snow-sufocando
HBO

Snow was being buried alive beneath the dead bodies and the men who were fighting and running. As he was losing his breath and clinging to life, I too felt without breath. It was maddening to watch it. When Jon finally came through, there was a sigh of relief loud enough to wake the neighborhood.

On another point of the battle, it was a joy to watch Tormund bite the traitorous Smalljon Umber. This mirrored Brienne’s biting while fighting The Hound. Do you see a connection here? #Tarthbaneforever

ep59-ss08-1920
HBO

When everything seemed lost, there came the Knights of the Vale! Littlefinger and Sansa saving the day! Ramsay quickly retreated to Winterfell, closely followed by Jon, Wun Wun and their army.

The lovable giant gave his all to open the gates and it was thanks to him that Jon’s army entered Winterfell. Inside, Jon gave Ramsay the beating of his god forsaken life. How fucking satisfying it was to watch Jon snow turning that monster into a pulp! I could watch this all day, see:

But the most heartfelt moment came when the Bolton banners fell and the Stark banners were put right where they belong. It was a tearful moment that made the audience realized how much the Stark had endured and much we wanted them back in their home.

Bandeira Bolton caindo em Winterfell

Bandeira Stark esvoaçando novamente em Winterfell

But the best came in the final moments when Sansa watched Ramsay tied in the kennel. Her words were perfect as a final sendoff to her abuser:

Your words will disappear.
Your House will disappear.
Your name will disappear.
All memory of you will disappear.”

Fuck yeah, Queen of the North!

She does like her father taught her and all his children: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”. Ned would disapprove Sansa’s taste for revenge but Catelyn would nod in approval.

And so, Sansa Stark watched her abuser and torturer was eaten alive by his rabid dogs like the mad dog he was.
How fitting.

ramsay-cao
HBO

So I ask you again:  Was it or was it not the best episode EVER in Game of Thrones history?

My answer is a definitive YES.

Our hearts trembled at every twist and turn on the battlefield, the epic dance between death and blood taking us in like infatuated lovers. It was everything we love in Game of Thrones plus a win for our heroes – something new for the show.

I couldn’t think I could love Thrones more but I was wrong.

P.S.: Why didn’t Sansa told Jon about the Knight of the Vale? All the theories here.

P.S. 2: Next week, everything points to Davos getting his revenge on Melisandre. Shireen was the light of his life and the red witch took the girl’s life for her Lord.

“No One” – Game of Thrones review

Spoilers ahead, sweet summer child…

ep58-ss06-1920
HBO

“No One” was an episode filled with underlying tension, which is usual when episode 9 is just around the corner. It’s a Game of Thrones tradition to launch all the big guns in the 9th episode and to prepare the field for combat on the 8th.

So, it was fitting to not see anything about Jon Snow and Sansa Stark since everyone is expecting them to take all the screen time in the upcoming “Battle of the Bastards”.

Brienne-Jaime
HBO

Meanwhile in Riverrun, the best scenes of the week were delivered by Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Watching the brief reunion between Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister reminded me how much I missed seeing them together. Not because of all the possible romance but much more: she always shines the best in him. Brienne is the knight Jaime could have become if he wasn’t Cersei’s brother or a Lannister and he knows that. He respects her deeply and both of them seem to abhor the idea of having to face each other in battle.

After this conversation, Brienne meets with Blackfish, urging him to surrender Riverrun and aid his niece Sansa in battle with the Tully army. The old warrior does not abide to this and stands his ground, ready to face the Kingslayer in battle.

By nightfall, Jaime visits Edmure Tully who is still imprisoned. They exchange heated words, with Edmure’s rage and hate towards Jaime and what he stands for being the center of attention. But Jaime seems to even enjoy this rage, delighted even and shows Edmure and the public why we despised him at first.

ep58-ss08-1920
HBO

Speaking of his love for his sister and how she is the only thing it matters, Jaime utters once again the infamous “the things I do for love”. Then he goes on talking about how he doesn’t care about anyone except Cersei, showing how truly insane is this obsession he calls love. In the end he threatens to kill Edmure’s baby and wife if he doesn’t take Riverrun from Blackfish and surrenders it to the Freys.

And the audience watches as Edmure accepts this, puts his anger aside and marches into Riverrun. He’s even welcomed by his army until they understand they shouldn’t have let this traitor inside their doors. I found this to be a maddening plot hole, truth be told. He doesn’t know his son or if the child is even real and yet he just delivers his ancestral home? A guy who was incarcerated for 3 years just gives up like this with all that supposed rage inside of him?

I’m not buying it.

Anyway, after Riverrun is taken, Jaime watches from above as Brienne and Pod escape in a small boat. The Kingslayer waves a silent goodbye to her and everyone watching feels that this is painful for the both of them. I do think they won’t meet again, this felt like a final goodbye.

ep58-ss04-1920
HBO

Another goodbye was spoken in Meeren as Varys left to do Varys’ business, leaving Tyrion alone on this wonderful dynamic duo. What is the Spider really up to? Somehow I’m suspicious of this sudden departure. Maybe Varis doesn’t believe Daenerys to be the rightful person to sit on the Iron Throne?

Remember that this is the man who does everything for the realm. His allegiance is for the realm and what best serves its people. Maybe he can’t stand the new partnership with the Priestesses of the Lord of Light? He wouldn’t be crazy to assume this to be a frightening religion to sweep across Westeros. Sure, it brought Jon Snow back but they also burn the unbelievers.

On his own, Tyrion has only Grey Worm and Missandei to talk to and tell jokes. It’s all fun and games and awkward silences until Meeren is attacked by the Masters. Yes, it seems Tyrion wasn’t right on his negotiation with those slavers and everything is now in shambles.

Just in time comes Daenerys Targaryen to save (?) the day. But will she finally say “look, I’m tired of this, let’s go to the mall?”

Robin Sparkles forever ❤

But seriously, Dany promised those Dothraki they would sail to Westeros soon. I don’t think she is sticking in Meeren to fix another Masters’ mess.

ep58-ss02-1920
HBO

In King’s Landing, a big mess is about to be launched by Cersei and her faithful Qyburn. Were you paying attention to her whispers about “the rumour”? Everything points to a menu of crisped High Sparrow flambéed in wildfire. My guts (and all the internet theories) tell me that she is preparing for the sparrows mass murder in the day of her judgement.

The thing is: Jaime told Edmure he needed to be home for Cersei and he’s getting that. Will he be there for her after or before she goes in full Mad King mode? And will history repeat itself with Jaime assassinating a threat to the kingdom – this time, the love of his life?

So many stakes, so much like Game of Thrones.

ep58-ss05-1920
HBO

In “No One” I was disappointed to not see the final combat between Arya and the Waif. It was a great chasing scene but I felt robbed at the last minute when she cut the light. On the other hand, how cool was that she said:

A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home.”

Yes, very cool.

Welcome back, Arya Stark of Winterfell, our beloved daughter of the North.

 

P.S.:

Liz Lemon knows my pain

“The Broken Man”- Game of Thrones review

Spoilers ahead, sweet summer child…

ep57-ss01-1920
HBO

“The Broken Man” was another tale of revenge and survival like Game of Thrones does so well.

This week, the show asked the audience to ponder the need for violence that permeates the show’s universe. The speaker for this theme was Brother Ray (played by Ian McShane) who led a group of followers to build a church in what seemed a peaceful land.

In the beginning of the episode, it was a breath of fresh air to watch so much green in what seemed like an entire new world within Westeros. Shortly after the greenish introduction, a Broken Man waltzed in; none other than The Hound. The old rumors were true and Arya’s old companion / kidnapper is back on his feet and set on a new life.

We watch as Sandor Clegane tries to rebuild his life while building a church and discuss themes like violence and survival with Brother Ray. The pastor is, of course, an optimistic fellow and tries to imbue that same vision in the man he rescued from death. But The Hound has seen much and done too many evil deeds to simply change in so little time.

As we could watch later on the episode, Clegane was right and in Westeros you can never let your guard down. The Hound is back to his old days and set on revenge and payback.

ep57-ss05-1920
HBO

And like I wished, Margaery is also in full control of herself and the gods will have to wait another time. It was a great detail to watch as she clutched her grandmother’s hand, passing her a note with a drawn rose. Olenna Tyrell needed nothing more from her granddaughter than this to prove her loyalty to her family. Thankfully for all of us who are diehard fans of the thorny queen, she will be leaving Westeros before the High Sparrow can reach her.

The Queen of Thorns delivered one of her best quips ever, when Cersei proposed an alliance between the two:

What will you do, then? You have no support, not anymore. Your brother’s gone, the High Sparrow saw to that. The rest of our family have abandoned you. The people despise you. You’re surrounded by enemies, thousands of them. You’re going to kill them all by yourself? You’ve lost, Cersei. That’s the only joy I can find in all this misery.”

Yes, the things are not going smoothly for the Lannister twins, since Jaime was also greeted by a very disappointed Blackfish. It was an amusing scene to watch as Jaime told the Tully leader to surrender and the audience watched a fish rising up and leaving the lion so diminished.

“The Broken Man” also showed how the littlest of us can be truly giants when opening their months. Enter Lyanna Mormont, ruler of House Mormont of Bear Island and now fan favourite world wide. She made Jon, Sansa and Davos sweat like they were in hell. It was one of the best scenes in the episode to watch this little girl defend her people and her 62 soldiers. One can see when a ruler is made for their seat and Lyanna was born to rule.

ep57-ss06-1920
HBO

The Stark siblings and trusty Davos Seaworth went to more northern houses to gather support but things look troubling for them. Sansa is seen writing a letter to Littlefinger, asking for Arryn support in the battlefield, since he owes her. Since things gotten so bad for the Stark’s revolution, it seems the best choice in her part, despite Lord Baelish being, well, himself.

But it really irks me that Sansa keeps Jon in the dark, not telling him what’s she’s doing. I understand that she and Snow have very different personalities but if someone could make him see this was for the best, it would be her. I like that she’s playing with Baelish’s guilt but Jon has to have a word on this, otherwise it can cause serious trouble in the future.

Across the ocean, we meet the Greyjoy siblings having fun in a brothel. Actually it’s just Yara having fun and Theon gazing the table, not looking to anyone. It’s time for sister Yara to help him get back to his old self and leave Reek behind for good. Next time, don’t take your eunuch brother to a house full of earthly delights, Yara! That’s bound to get him some nasty memories.

Yara Greyjoy seems to succed in helping her little brother and she tells him she needs him. Also she wants to “make a pact with this dragon queen”, which seems like we will be getting great moments in the future. Will the son and daughter of the Kraken meet with the Mother of Dragons? And will they forge an alliance?

ep57-ss07-1920
HBO

A girl once knew an alliance but she broke it when she showed mercy. Now, a girl wants to leave Braavos but is getting more careless than ever. The theories about Arya this week are spreading like wildfire. Check the craziest ones here and the one I most support in here.

In any case, it hurt to see another Stark stabbed – I will never get over the Red Wedding.

What are YOUR theories?

Also, we are only 3 episodes away to end this year’s Game of Thrones! It’s never enough, you guys. *snif*

“Blood of my Blood” – Game of Thrones review

Spoilers ahead, sweet summer child…

ep56-ss02-1920
HBO

This week’s episode had a calmer tone than the previous ones but it was still packed with a lot of huge moments and important details.

The big scene in King’s Landing promised the audience a showdown between Lannisters + Tyrell and the Sparrows. We saw how Mace Tyrell is a poor leader – I almost pity him – and how Jaime Lannister wasn’t afraid to stand up to the High Sparrow.

Margaery Tyrell was really surprised to see such a demonstration of force from her family and from the Lannisters. For a second I thought it was genuine relief she was feeling for having a fighting chance to not having to make the Walk of Atonement.

But, alas! The High Sparrow always has a card up his sleeve and the elite of Westeros were shocked to learn that the Crown and the Faith became one. You know, like in the Spice Girls song.

And just in the case you couldn’t quite know what to think of it, there was Olenna Tyrell telling Mace and everyone else how they’ve lost again to the Faith Militant.

ep56-ss04-1920
HBO

So, what does this mean for Tommen and Margaery? I do believe that Tommen is now embracing the Faith due to his gullibleness and how an easy target he was for a manipulator like the High Sparrow. Now, Margaery is a tricky one to understand. Everyone knows how a master manipulator she is and her ability to survive no matter the odds are a trademark of hers.

So, is she faking it or did she actually change her ways? From what we’ve seen in her conversation with Loras, it did seem like she was still herself and willing to fight. Did that encounter showed her she had to play this in another way? I wish she is still her own woman with her own mind, and I would love that she would be the one to remove the High Sparrow from power.

A girl who is returning to her old ways is Arya and how happy I am that a girl HAS a name! She was born Arya Stark, she couldn’t live and die as a faceless assassin for some weird death cult. Did everyone got giddy with excitement seeing her getting Needle back or was it just me (such a special snowflake)?

Arya, in her disguise as Mercy, couldn’t murder the actress portraying Cersei just because a jealous colleague wanted her role. That’s not Ned Stark’s daughter and she reminded herself that. Not only she didn’t go forward with the assassination plan, but she also warned the target of who wanted to see her dead.

ep56-ss10-1920
HBO

This whole theatre plot gave us some insight into what the common people think of the elite. Also, it showed us a story we all know well being retold in a very different tone and presenting everyone this “alternate universe” Game of Thrones. Arya was the only one laughing when Joffrey died and the people were upset (she even controlled her own reactions). This showed the audience at home how the story of the Seven Kingdoms is viewed in a distorted (or official) way by their own inhabitants.

Back in the House of Black and White, we saw how the Waif couldn’t wait to kill Arya. That girl not only seems to always carry a stick with her but does have one up her ass too, I tell you.

Just like Sam’s ruthless and racist father, Randyll Tarly. But Sam and Gilly stood up to him and escaped with Heartsbane – which will probably come in handy when there’s another battle with the Night’s King.

I’m not angry at you. I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.”

ep56-ss06-1920
HBO

Speaking of disgusting fathers, Walder Frey finally made an appearance after the infamous Red Wedding. He is still very much himself and despite the rewards given to him after the bloodbath held in his home, Frey seems to be losing his power. Black Fish is back in Riverrun with other houses supporting the Tullys and even the Brotherhood Without Banners (which spiked my interested due to this character).

But the old man had a secret after all his time: Edmure Tully. Yes, the guy who got married in the bloody Red Wedding was kept prisoner this whole time. That was a quite a reveal and it’s sure to complicate the game for our heroes.

Brothers showing up when no one expected was a running theme this week. Benjen Stark is back to the story just in time to save Bran and Meera and inform his niece that he’s now the Three Eyed-Raven. You see, apparently Benjen now serves the Raven and that’s how he came rushing to his aid.

The brother of Ned Stark seems a different man now, since he was attacked by White Walkers off-screen and then saved by the Children of the Forest. In any case, he is going to be a powerful ally on Bran’s quest.

ep56-ss05-1920
HBO

Bran Stark had a staggering long vision in “Blood of my Blood” and you can read here an image by image breakdown of it. The best part was watching the Mad King yelling his famous “Kill them all!” and Jaime Lannister becoming the Kingslayer by necessity. There was also wildfire raging below King’s Landing and this seems like a future event coming to the capital.

What breathes fire and also wants to take down the capital? If you said 3 dragons and a conqueror born out of blood and fire, you’re correct! Ding, ding, ding!

Daenerys Stormborn is now in full conqueror mode and, if at first her speech seemed like the standard “Dany’s speech of the week”, then she took a strange turn. Her words mirrored Khal Drogo’s back in Season 1 but this time there was no baby in her belly to protect from Robert Baratheon. No, this week it was all about what she wants to take in Westeros and how the Dothraki will ride to their last breath for their Khaleesi.

The silver-haired queen seems to be embracing her warmongering ways and that may prove terrible for Westeros. Will she be able to control a horde of rapists and killers from taking the land to their will when she disembarks? Also, is she accepting Euron Greyjoy’s ships to her cause since she mentioned needing them?

Valar Morghulis.

Musings about video games and mental health issues

medicine-bobblehead
the cute Medicine bobblehead from Fallout 4

I read a very interesting article by Ed Smith in Vice that talks about how videogames benefit from hurting the players more.

While the author does make a statement of the video games having artistic license, it does a very good job on showing how adding realism to a game makes a battle more thrilling and therefore makes the player feel much more engaged.

For example: although I have never played Fallout in its Survival mode, there are always those moments in the initial hours of gameplay (while you’re not yet the God of the Wasteland / Commonwealth) where the player has a tough time in surviving the first encounters with enemies. Even, after that, all the players feel much an extra rush of adrenaline if we are barely hanging to life with a shot wound to the head that makes the vision all blurry.

But what Ed Smith’s article shines a special light to is how even these very visual ways to show our character’s pain are not enough when it concerns mental health issues. Showing examples of Amnesia’s “insanity” being depicted as the screen getting more and more distorted or how the line between healthy and “hopeless” may pop-up as a notification in another game, the article then introduces the problem with these mechanics:

Mental health problems, rarely, are distinguished visually – a person may appear fine, but inside be depressed, anxious or otherwise mentally ill. More commonly, mental health problems are described using words and speech. The majority of therapies, rather than simply showing a psychologist something upon one’s body, involve talking the problem through. Almost by their nature, mental health issues belie visual recognition. Yet video games, seemingly from a desire to be taken seriously and deal with serious topics, yet unwilling or unable to do justice to these topics in their entirety, treat mental illness in the same way as physical pain.”

This, for me, is the biggest issue in play here.

How can video games accurately depict mental illnesses and their treatment?

While, I imagine there must be a small handful of games portraying this and with this theme being the core of the game, I would like to see video games at large dealing with this tough topic. No, I’m not asking for a FPS dedicated to the subject or an RTS pondering the PTSD problems your army is now facing after you, the King, have made them eviscerate yet another country.

But really, in games where we, as a character experience all sorts of misfortunes and problems, shouldn’t there be thoughtful mechanics in-game to help the character acknowledge the toll that quest took on them and the aftermath recovery?

The way I see it, it could open new themes and mechanics to the video game industry and, better yet, reach out in a meaningful way to the players who faced or are facing mental health illnesses. It’s no secret to anyone who’s interested in these topics to see how much video games help people with what is going through their lives and how much a game can be an escape and a lesson for someone needing it.

Legion_Loyalty_Choice_Made
Legion from Mass Effect

From what I can tell you, the times I felt the most desperate about my unemployment situation, were also the period where I found out about Fallout and Mass Effect. Playing these games helped me with my self-esteem and I felt a sense of accomplishment in several moments in my playthrough. Yes, those were not “real” life achievements but since the human brain is a funny thing, when you feel something as real, it becomes real.

This is only a very small experience of video games as a healthy outlet and it doesn’t even take into account the myriad of mental issues in our population. More than a great outlet, I would love to see these kinds of health problems realistically depicted in this great hobby of ours that is video games.

This is not catering to the public or fan-service; this is embracing another way to experience video games.

I would love to hear from you lovely people about what games should I play that have a connection with what I’ve wrote in this article. Also, what were the video games that helped you through the worst times and what did you learn from it.

Thank you in advance for sharing 🙂