The Philosophy of Atelier Firis

Atelier Firis is the sequel to Atelier Sophie, and the second of the Mysterious Trilogy. I started playing the game found that the very start of the game was directly influenced by an early and well-known part of the history of philosophy.

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This game begins with our protagonist, Firis, who lives in an isolationist village, cloistered in a cave and locked behind a massive stone door. Only a chosen few are allowed to ravel outside the village to hunt and trade, such as Firis’s older sister Liane. Firis, on the other hand, despite wanting to leave, is forced t stay in the mining village and use her uncanny ability to hear the location of minable ore to help the village’s main source of income in this mercantile world.

Until one day the door that locks this cage is blown open by Sophie and Plachta, the protagonists from the previous game.

This introduction appear to be purely reminiscent of Plato’s allegory of the cave. The allegory of the cave asks you to imagine that for all of your conscious life the only thing you can remember is sitting, chained and staring at a dancing shadow on a stone wall. If your whole experience is just dancing shadows, how would you know anything else? The shadow would be your reality, and you would lose the ability to think of anything else.

Then, one day, you hear the clang of metal ont eh ground and weight lifted from your wrists and ankles. You stand up, turn around, and see the rest of the cave. The first in the middle of the room that cast the light, and the others chained and facing the wall. Now you truly realize the misery of your previous condition, and the source of all the different shadows. You wander towards the front of the cave, and you see the large, blue sky and the vast, open field. Excitement wells up in your chest as your desire to run out to the world consumes you!

But you are given sudden pause. You realize that you are alone, and leaving all the people stuck where you were before. Now you have a choice. Do you leave the cave alone? Or do you try to take people with you?

This allegory is meant to represent the experience of being exposed to a new way of thinking, anew discipline, to new philosophy. It represents that knowledge means nothing without bringing people along and sharing it with others. In Atelier Firis, Sophie and Plachta are the mysterious stranger that frees you from the bonds of the cave with the science and philosophy of alchemy. Sophie recognizes Firis’s innate talent of hearing the voices of materials, a metaphor for understanding Aristotle’s four casus which I explored in my work on the first game in this series.

Together, Firis, Plachta, and Sophie teach the villagers the wonders of chemical science, the value it can create, and prove that Firis, through alchemy, can be as capable and independent as anyone else. Together with Liane, they leave the cave to brace the outside world.

Unfortunately for the purpose of finding philosophy in games, this game marked an experiment in drastically changing the scale and openness of the Atelier games’ formula. A focus on a limited-time mechanic to push the story forward for half the game made the main story much more limited in scale, and thus unable to explore a more detailed conflict. Yet the side stories, which focus on helping characters, develop their individual passions made for a satisfying narrative. Two particular highlights were a historian learning the value of preserving his own culture and not just the cultures of others, and characters that represent the villain of Atelier Sophie, Luard, having reformed to pursue the values of love and charity.

If you are looking for a charming and cute experience that rewards exploration and preparation, Atelier Firis is a wonderful game.

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Noblesse Oblige in Final Fantasy XV

When I set out to evaluate the philosophy of FFXV, I originally thought the message was so straightforward that there was no need to analyze it. XV is a story about a magic prince reclaiming his birthright from an evil usurper, while evil ghosts, gods, and demon-science act as story dressing. They did not add much commentary on the ideas of monarchy, or what that would mean in a modern, Americana setting. The role of the summons, the demons, and the demon-robots were just cool for the sake of being cool, and there is nothing wrong with that. But then I realized something on my second playthrough.

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Final Fantasy XB is mired in dualities. Originally it was meant to be a dark counter part to Final Fantasy XIII, as Thirteen-versus. It later changed to what we know now as this Square Enix love-letter to fans, which embraced its roots with a feudal style fantasy in a modern technological setting. Even its gameplay was oddly divided in this open-world RPG tat makes up the most enjoyable gameplay, and the lion’s share of the playtime, an the hyper-linear main quest narrative, which is more to the form of other Final Fantasies.

Final Fantasy XV’s main story is remarkably linear and short, to the point that your average player, depending on skill, level, and focus, can beat the game in about 6 hours. To compare, a story run of XIII takes about 50 hours My personal lot-time in XV is 125 hours. On my second playthrough I only did the main quest in order to reexperience the story of the game. I realized that, more than just being two distinct aspects of the game, the open-world game and the linear main quest have two distinct narratives. Both of which tackle and criticize the social-ethical philosophy of Noblesse Oblige.

Noblesse Oblige, literally meaning, “The obligations of nobles,” is the idea that wealth, privilege, and power are inherited by a small number of people at birth as a matter of luck. Nobility is created as a result of human social dynamics creating these hierarchies naturally. In order to actually earn their status as a privileged noble such people must dedicate a large portion of their lives and wealth supporting the poor and disenfranchised. To us common folk, this idea sounds pretty good. We see how rich people are usually rich only because they came from money. The old adage, “you need money to make money” rings true. Thus, we expect those people to realize their basic equality with the rest of humanity as an obligation the way most of us must do in order to survive. The problem with this philosophy is what it becomes when nobility actually puts it into practice.

When put into practice, the philosophy ends up putting the cart before the horse. Rather than fulfilling those moral obligations freely, they only meet their ethical burdens if they are guaranteed their wealth, power, and privilege. This frequently results in suppressing common people as soon as their improved quality of life begins to threaten the Noble’s own specific dominance. In Final Fantasy XV, the open-world road trip is Noblesse Oblige from the common perspective, and the main story is Noblesse Oblige from the noble’s perspective.

While our boy-band main cast are exploring the world, looking for the various royal arms to help Noctus reclaim the throne, they also earn money as monster hunters and complete little tasks for a bunch of people. Each of these highlights the struggles of common people outside the capitol city of Insomnia. The destruction of this city represents Noctis’s fall from the thrown and thus his inability to see from the perspective of nobility, despite inheriting the powers of the ruling family.

The first side quest with a hunter, Dave Auburnbrie, occurs through different regions, leading to various hunter missions and collecting dog tags of fallen hunters. These hunts symbolize Noctis using his nobility to provide for people in a way that they cannot easily provide for themselves. As you go through Cindy’s side quest for finding upgrades and feature for your car you eventually find powerful headlights that allow you to travel at night while keeping the demons at bay. Cindy talks about how, despite the safety these lights could bring to the countryside, the capital never made them widely available and thus the people must still cower at night. Noctis and friends promise to right that wrong once he ascends the throne. These light also are reintroduced in the final act of the game by their lighting affect being silently implemented into the streetlights of the roads surrounding the first gas station.

Dino Ghiranze is a non-player character that sends the crew on expeditions to find rare gems that would allow him to start a jewelry business, but it is gradually revealed that these stones have the ability to strengthen people against demons after it is forged into an accessory. Dino ultimately wants to make accessories widely available to help improve the people’s lives and protect them from demons.

Each of these quests are about spending what you have to alleviate the suffering of society. Noctis’s obligation to sacrifice in order to contribute to this social drive is established by the common man contributing to each other as a matter of course. A rising tide raises all ships. Even Lady Lunafreya, as the “Oracle” of world, fulfills this same purpose of nobility. In her few cutscenes and radio broadcasts, she is seen as a travelling healer that stops people from dying to a mysterious illness, which turns out to be teleporting and transforming humans in to demons.

For the main quests, however, it is all about Noctis taking power back from the Emperor of Niflheim, as well as the main villain, Ardyn Lucis Caelum. The main quest is constantly filled with characters like Cor, Gladiolus, and Luna saying that Noctis must claim his right and rule his subjects. Without the open-world gameplay and the sidequests, however, Noctis does nothing to earn the title. He makes no real promises to help the people.

Ardyn Lucis Caelum was once a King of Lucis, same as Noctis, who absorbed these demon-bacteria into his own body to heal his subjects. He was rejected by the Gods to be the “True King,” and thus chose to become a source of the demon-creating disease in order to oppress the world until it was in a state of total darkness, allowing Ardyn to reclaim his nobility. Without those side quests, Noctis’s actions perfectly mirror Ardyn’s. Exiled and unable to return to Insomnia as King, Noctis seeks power to crush those who took that from him. The only difference between Ardyn and Noctis is that Noctis want to destroy other Nobles, and Ardyn wants to destroy everyone. Included in everyone is the Gods themselves, and Ardyn can only do this if Noctis gains each God’s power and becomes the True King. Ardyn kills Noctis, all the people who rejected him are gone, revenge complete.

It is one interpretation of the story that exposure to the demons is why the gods rejected Ardyn. I do not think this is the case. Bahamut, one of the Gods, describes Ardyn as impure in both body and soul. When Noctis meets Bahamut, he receives, “The Revelation of Bahamut” that, “the king will gain the power to fulfill his calling.” At the end of the fight with Ardyn, that calling is to sacrifice his soul, and the souls of his ancestors, to destroy Ardyn’s soul completely. This act ends the line of Lucis, destroys the demonic influence, and ends any presence of Nobility in the world.

From this I conclude that Ardyn must have been rejected by Bahamut because he saw Noblesse Oblige as a tool to guarantee his rule, and thus could not fulfill the true purpose of Noblesse Oblige: to sacrifice that nobility for the benefit of others.

              “Many sacrificed all for the king, so must the king sacrifice himself for all.”

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

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The Philosophy of God of War

Take a moment and reflect upon what role anger plays in your life. How often do you yell for something other than joyous excitement? Maybe not as much in your adult life, but throughout my formative years anger was the defining emotion of my day to experience. Daily harassment by my peers in school, councilors and therapist telling me to have self-control and to overcome harassment by simply not reacting to it. It was a time when the schools did not really understand the psychological effects of bullying, and they wanted to make me stronger, more resilient, to it. Ultimately it was not resilience that made the harassment stop.

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My daily experience was about proving my self-control and avoiding the consequences when they was not possible. Different periods of my life have come to be defined by different emotions, but despite how obstructive it was, I did not want to deny my anger. To do so would mean to make the reasons for my feeling lack legitimacy. It would mean to legitimize my harassers, It would mean I would have lost to them. Anger was how my young mind demanded recognition. Anger was useful.

For Kratos, this was also true. Agner was his standard mode of being, the tool by which he sought his revenge against the gods of Olympus. Yet eventually he saw the all-encompassing nature of anger. He became calm and stoic, icy in his countenance, until those moments when he needed to release the rage meter to solve a particular problem, to ignite the fires of chaos within.

As a result, the lessons that Kratos passed along to his son, Atreus, were reminiscent of my own upbringing. Kratos tells Atreus early on to harden his heart to his enemies, to focus on the goal, and to only use anger as a tool, not be use by it. The only thing that mattered, the only thing they had to do, was to bring his mother, Faye’s, ashes to the highest peak in all the realms. Whatever deviated from that goal was of no consequence.

In this way, Kratos’s own philosophy is inherently about pragmatism. Pragmatism I a unique philosophical position both historically and meta-ethically. It is the only philosophical school considered to be a unique invention of the United States, and it neither denies the existence of ethical or moral values, nor gives those values any weight or importance when it comes to making decisions or taking actions. Pragmatism is the belief tha you need not and ought not consider higher order principles or rational values when making decisions. Instead it suggests you only do whatsoever is most practical right now, what best accomplishes he goal.

Kratos, say what you will about him, is a very creative character, very thoughtful, though he admittedly only exercises these traits when solving puzzles or killing monsters. Yet he has always been goal oriented. First in his revenge, and now in spreading his wife’s ashes. As Kratos and Atreus find themselves moving through the worlds of Norse mythology, Kratos maintains this pragmatic view of the conflicts of others as well. When in Alfheim, land of the Elves, Kratos frequently reminds Atreus that he is only seeing one side of the conflict. Yet Kratos also emphasized tha tit did not matter. That they would fight through anything if it got in their way. Even though Kratos acknowledged that the Dark Elves could have a reason for fighting that war, he did not care. He had a goal, and, like a good Spartan, would soldier on.

That same ethos of “you only know one side” cam eup often when Mimir told stories of the gods, or when dealing with the Valkyries. Each time that ethos was also dismissed to instead focus on gathering resources. This single-minded focus was, however, cut short when Atreus came down with a sickness, caused by a conflict of the mind. Believing himself to be mortal when, in fact, he was a god, just like his father.

Kratos finally revealed the truth to his son, and what resulted was a massive shift in Atreus’s character. All the lessons of “harden your heart” and “the only thing that matters is the goal” finally sunk in. A God can do whatever they wanted, the power to pursue any goal, so why no do as you please? There is no reason to care for the lives of lowly humans or the whims of the gods. The plight of others means nothing in the face of your own goals. Nothing that Atreus had been taught by Kratos contravened that belief. This is precisely the problem into which pragmatism always runs.

If al you are meant to consider is what is practically important in front of you, how then do you determine what is practically important? You must turn to those higher order principles to deduce what is important. How do you determine your goal? You must deduce them from higher order principles. You must use those principles which you claim to have pragmatically rejected.

For Kratos, that principle is his wife, Faye.

Hearing Atreus ridicule his mother’s wishes while asking to carry her ashes. Hearing Atreus completely devalue his mother, because she was a mere human. Kratos finally realized both that his goal was actually motivated by the higher order principle of love and respect for his wife, and that he had taught his son exactly how to behave as the horrible, selfish, and murderous gods of Olympus and Asgard act. Taught him to feel no remorse for the many lives they disrupt nor the many people they kill.

So Kratos, moving beyond his own shame and his protective, fatherly instincts, set to teaching Atreus to value something. To be better than the gods who came before. That value became clear in Jotunheim, where Kratos and Atreus learned that Faye was no mortal, but in fact a giant of Jotunheim. Making Atreus part God, part Giant, and part Mortal. It is this unification of these different factions that gives the value of hope to this land predestined for Armageddon. In this land of double-cross and deception, a god of hope and connection could get up to a lot of mischief, and play a lot of tricks. In this world, Hope is the greatest power to befit the name Loki.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

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Authentic Relationships in Kiznaiver – PhilosAnime

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When I started watching Kiznaiver, it was a passing interest that resulted from listening to the Weebcast on the Mother’s Basement YouTube channel. What trapped me into this show ended up being the remarkably stupid and perfectly crafted triple-pun that is this title. In Japanese, “Kizu” means “wound,” “Kizuna” means a bond or connection, and within the title’s English spelling is the word, “Naïve.” Each of the words encompasses a narrative device and theme in the show, which outline the interactions of the characters and their inability to form mature relationships. That this message is delivered in the form of  a pun perfectly highlights how this story simultaneously has a serious message, but does not take itself too seriously. Beyond the melodrama of the interpersonal relationships Kiznaiver is asking bigger question.

The Kizna Committee that runs the Kiznaiver experiment, working under the assumption that humans are chaotic and destructive toward each other, asks, “Can that problem be solved by making people feel each other’s pain and emotions?” In other words, will people stop causing harm if they are also harmed? It is a question that deals in the implications of a person’s subjective experience as individuals verses the  nature of the human species as a social, collectivist animal. It extrapolates that gap between war and peace to be the result of that failure of groups or individuals to connection to over collectives. It is a debate that goes back to Glaucon’s Ring in the Plato’s Dialogues. Kiznaiver leads us through multiple iterations of the answer to this question as the wound on their arms develops through sharing physical pain, emotional pain, and further into subconscious thoughts and other emotions.

The first hint that we get to Kiznaiver’s answer to this question comes in the form of the show’s comedy. After having their perception of pain linked together, the whole cast routinely forgets hat hitting each other will cause themselves pain while slap-sticking each other at any given opportunity. Now these moments are never the friendly jabs you and I may deliver to our frienders, so the comedy comes out of our understanding of how irrational it all is. Afterall, the very first rule I was taught as a child was not to hit people, and we would think the first change for characters in this situation would be that they do not punch each other anymore. So why would they keep hurting each together when they can feel the same pain?

The second clue comes with the second evolution of the Kizuna mark. The team of extreme teenagers grows from not just sharing initial pain response, but also emotional pain. We are told that this is the first time the experiment has produced those results. We get information on how the first experiment was performed on orangutans, and human children, and to no one’s surprise the main characters, Ka-chan and Sonozaki, are part of that first group of children. This new growth will, and does, lead to being able to read each other’s minds when they have emotional desires they are not verbalizing. This causes a new course of action, as the characters begin to emotionally harm themselves for reach other. The prime example is when Ka-chan and Sonozaki get romantic in full view, while Chidori, the childhood friend of Ka-chan, watched in jealously and have an emotional breakdown at the realization that her unrequired love has no chance. However, Nico, the excentric girl, yells out the most mature line in the whole story, “I am going to get properly hurt.”

For my personal experience, watching this scene came the day after I confessed my romantic feelings to my best friend. I knew I was going to be rejected, but it was important to speak honestly and let myself be rejected. Without doing so, my desires would inevitably color my thoughts and speech, and ultimately cause me emotional anxiety while stunting my ability to seek romance elsewhere. A difference between immature and mature romance is handling rejection. The immature responds with emotional breakdowns, resentment, embarrassment, and lost friendships. The mature response with respecting that person’s right to say no, not letting it mean anything more or less, and choosing to separate amicably. Rejection can be relief rather than sorrow.

Nico runs off to the scene, because she can project her feelings and get hurt for Chidori’s sake, so that Chidori may move on. She is able to do this because Nico has a crush on Tenga, another character in the romance-polygon, but Tenga has a crush on Chidori. Thus Chidori, being rejected by Ka-chan, means Tenga will continue Chidori, meaning Nico has no chance. This results in an emotional feedback loop where everyone connected with the wounds experience seven times more stress than the regular person, making everyone collapse in a state of unconsciousness. The trick of this narrative which seems to come to a head at this moment is that this emotional self-harm behavior began before the wounds evolved to connect everyone’s emotions.

This is exemplified when Tenga, before his crush on Chidori was revealed, offers to help get Chidori and Ka-chan together. This decision creates the condition for the other teenagers to do similar emotional self-harm. But Tenga’s choice at this time shows that this change in behavior is not connected to the wounds, even though it gets attributed to the mark by the characters running the experiment.

In episode 10, after the previously described “all is lost” scene, we resume after the end of summer break when the wounds have all disappeared. None of our main cast are on speaking terms, having emotionally retreated after experiencing a massive trauma, and being freed from the wounds. A totally normal and expected reaction. Of course Nico comes in as the mature one, who recognizes everyone can still be friends. They can still be connected. The rest of the show is spent addressing the fallout for the original Kiznaiver experiment and the traumatic effects of essentially creating large, artificial sensations in some children while removing all sensation from others. Despite the emotional stuntedness, however, Sonozaki and Ka-chan still sought out connections with each other.

All of those inconsistencies I have pointed out are 100% purposeful. This is because the original question of the experiment was flawed. There was no need to attempt to connect people’s pain or other emotions, because we are already connected in that way. The gap between an individual and a collective are presented as a somewhat false dichotomy. This is demonstrated in the show in episode 11, when Ka-chan calls everyone to the roof and emotionally asks for everyone to become true friends, connected without systems. However, this is not just dramatic prose. There is real-world evidence of this as well.

We have certain cells called Mirror Neurons. Mirror neurons trigger our brains to not merely express sympathy, but to recreate sensation when we perceive them in others. When you watch a cringe video on the internet, you are not just imagining feeling embarrassed. You are actually feeling the embarrassment yourself. When you see someone making a sad or happy face, we inevitably feel the same. We may not literally feel what others, but we do actually feel those things for ourselves. Their feelings become our own. I think the final episode explains why these things feed into authentic relationships very well. Thus, I will leave you to re-watch the show for that explanation.

The Greek philosophers discussed these questions of what connects people and form friendship, and how ethics plays a role in friendship. Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics describes different kinds of friendship. Friends of pleasure are connected because the connection makes you feel joy. Friends of utility are connected because they are useful to each other. True friends are connected simply for the recognition of each other’s virtue for its own sake. In the reliably sexist way, Aristotle criticizes the bonds of effeminate men and women created by sharing pain and suffering as being false friendship. Nowadays, we tend to believe that an authentic friendship will have a mix of all these factors at once. While the focus of the show is on artificially sharing suffering, it tackles each of these categories with each character over the course of 12 episodes.

The philosophy of Kiznaiver is not just about emotional experience, social maturity, and authentic friendships, but also makes a clear statement on the nature of the human animal. It argues that humans exist in a nature that is simultaneously an individual and a collective. That the space between, the gap of uncertainty, the lack, enables humanity to form authentic connections with one another.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE! If you would like to help this channel continue and grow, you can also contribute to the our Patreon page:

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The Philosophy of BloodBorne – PhiloSoGaming


With the highly technical prodigy of the original Souls games called Bloodborne, the rabid lore community that built around Dark Souls had a field day with the mid-game reveal of Eldritch, Lovcraftian horrors plaguing this world of werewolves and witches. But, as it always the case for the Souls-Formula for narrative structure, fascination is high but actual knowledge and meaning is difficult to grasp. I believe that I have uncovered the true meaning behind the story of Bloodborne: The Solution to the Mind-Body Paradox.

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We have all heard the statement, “The Mind is what the brain does.” Despite our social and scientific consensus on this statement, humanity still ponders the distance between our bodies and the experience of mind. The Mind-Body Paradox is the conclusion that the human being is just the body that it has, and yet most of us have the subjective experience of being a mind that is in some way separate or in control of the body. The experience of mind is that of having a body while being a consciousness. For centuries we have, as a species, tried to solve this discrepancy. But we have yet to find an answer that satisfactorily bridges this gap. We do not yet know the truth of Mind and Body. In Bloodborne, the path to truth comes with an impossible discovery, the blood of a God, and a symbol of birth: an umbilical cord. Hold on, my friends, we have a lot to learn and a lot to remember.

The College of Byrgenworth discovered the Chalice Dungeons while conducting research, and within they found the Old Blood, and the Umbilical Cord of an ascended God. Provost Willem focused the study of the college toward the Umbilical Cord of the Great Ones and had an epiphany, the need for eyes on the inside of his brain. As described on the Caryll Rune inscribed with he word “Eye,” Willem thought that doing so would elevate the mind beyond the limits of human thought, and allow him to think on the higher planes of the Old Ones and the Celestials.

To understand the full extent of the narrative of this game, it is important to take notice of the player’s character information to get an idea of the meaning behind the mechanics. The first that comes to mind is of course the Insight stat, which represents how much our character has had their mind exposed to the incomprehensible (in the form of any of the Beasts, Old Ones, or Celestials that make for the bosses in the game). Your level of Insight correlates to how susceptible you are to the Frenzy status affect, which is widely accepted as being the result of the player being forced to think about the incomprehensible too quickly.

The Arcane stat measures the player’s strength in wielding the power that comes from knowledge of the gods. The ‘Empty Phantasm Shell,’ said to be a familiar of the Great One, as slime that harbors arcane power. This power can be spread onto weapons to give it a blue, celestial glow. It is interesting to note that pretty much everything that is involved with Great Ones r Celestials shares this blue-hued scheme: the aliens, the magic from the lesser Amygdalas, and the more mysterious connection to the lightning abilities of the Dark Beasts. Raising the Arcane stat also increases Item Discovery, a nod to being able to find items, to discover new things, more easily.

In looking to grow eyes on the inside, to see an understand the mind, the college took to blinding their own eyes to focus on introspection and study of the Arcane.

Byrgenworth also discovered the Old Blood in the Chalice Dungeons. In studying the Blood under Provost Willem, it is discovered that imbibing the blood can cure the body of any injury or disease. Yet Provost Willem warned caution through his famous adage, “We are born from the blood. Made men by the blood. Undone by the blood. Our eyes have yet to open. Fear the Old Blood.” His student, Lawrence, thought this to be the wrong path, and left to found the Healing Church. The Healing Church instead focused on the blood, and used the practice of Blood Healing to gain favor with the public while furthering their research.

The ‘White Church Garb’ armor set states, “They believe that medicine is not a means of treatment, but rather a method of research, and that some knowledge can only be obtained by exposing oneself to sickness.” From the ‘Metamorphosis’ and the ‘Beast’ runes we know that, “The discovery of blood made their dream of evolution a reality,” and, “with the discovery of blood entailed the discovery of undesirable beasts.”

The Healing Church developed under Lawrence not to minister blood healing as the church claimed, but to use it as research to see the affects of greater intake of Old Blood and for the evolution at which the church aimed. And it did work, albeit with mixed success, and a few failures along the way. First, the Beat Scourge brought on by spreading the Ashen Blood Plague through the very blood healing that could heal anything else. Second, the Vileblood stolen from and condemned by the Healing Church. Drinking of this blood transformed people into sanguine, vampire-like creatures. Both Beasts and Vilebloods craved blood into madness, because, as we know, blood is even more intoxicating that the strongest alcohol.

It is also humorous that one failure resulted in the created of werewolves while the other made Vampires. A unique take on the influences of Bram Stoker’s horror fiction. But do not be mistaken. It is not the case that only bad blood like the Ashen Blood or Vileblood creates beastly transformations.

The ‘Sword Hunter Badge’ reads, “Clerics turned into the most hideous of beasts.” This is proven true multiple times by Ludwig the Cleric Beast, Gascoigne the Hunter, and Vicor Amelia’s transformations. The greater beastly transformations result from the members of the church having greater access to the Old Blood. They imbibe more blood, and the great the evolution.

In the end Lawrence regretted his decision to split from Provost Willem’s teachings. He leaves a note that reads, “Evolution without courage will be the ruin of our race.” Now the interpretation of the word “courage” here has made a bit of confusion over the years. Most likely it was translated from the Japanese word “Yuuki” which can also be translated as “nerve” or the connotation of mental fortitude and not simply bravery.

Once again turning to the player information, the game’s Heads-Up-Display, and what that can tell us, the most obvious connection to the imbibing of blood are the Blood Vials we use to heal ourselves. The description hints that this is the same blood used in Blood Healing. Just like the citizens of Yharnam, the main setting of the game, we are heavy users of this blood. The Blood Echoes continue this theme. While most of the stats focus on the body, Blood-Tinge directly relates to how powerfully our blood affects others. To parallel the Frenzy stat is Beasthood, the only resistance that we increase for the sake of stronger effects from the status, which we activate by consuming the concentrated Beast Blood Pellet. The Beast status, poetically, makes you stronger, but more susceptible to damage.

So the history of the college seems straight forward enough. The College of Byrgenworth focused on evolution of the mind through Arcane, and through eyes on the inside of the mind. The Healing Church pursued evolution of the body through blood ministration. Both went to excess in these pursuits. Byrgenworth students become grotesque fly creatures, became trapped in nightmares like the School of Mensis, or grew celestial growths and die such as was the fate of Provost Willem himself. Each completely losing connection to their bodies. Healing Church followers became hideous, blood-thirsty beasts, and lost their minds entirely. So the two represent complete opposites, yes?

No, this is not entirely the case. I had a revelation of my own when I took notice of two items in particular, the Sedatives and the Blue Elixir. At first glance you would assume the sedatives, with their very apparent connection to blood, was a tool of the Healing Church. Same with the Blue Elixir, with its Arcane glow we would assume that it was connected to the College of Byrgenworth. But, to my surprise, the exact opposite was true. The Sedatives are a liquid concocted at Byrgenworth out of thick, human blood, to calm the nerves and avoid falling into madness, and thus relied on blood ministration. Blood ministration being the specialty of the Healing Church.

The Blue Elixir is first described as dubious liquid used in experiments of the Healing Church. It is an anesthetic that numbs the brain and reduces a hunter’s presence when consumed. Very little is actually give to us in terms of information about the Blue Elixir. It becomes purchasable after obtaining the ‘Cosmic Eye Watcher Badge.’ We receive some from killing the Non-Player Character in Byrgenworth manor, but this hunter is wearing the robes of a faction of the Healing Church called The Choir. We receive the Blue Elixir as a reward from the Celestial that poses as Iosefka. The Blue Elixir is, therefore, likely produced directly from Celestials (one of which is hidden beneath the foundations of the Healing Church’s main halls). Though I am willing to bet that the researchers at Byrgenworth originally developed the Blue Elixir from the slime of the Empty Phantasm Shell.

So Byrgenworth wanted evolution of the mind, but in doing so saw the body go into a frenzy when the mind learned too much Arcane knowledge too quickly. So they used an antidote made from the Old Blood to suppress the body. The Healing Church used Old Blood to cause rapid evolution of the body, but in doing so saw people’s brains go wild and beastlike. So they used Arcane Blue Elixir to suppress the mind’s reaction and thus enable pushing the body further. Each took the tactic of needing the poison to make the cure.

As one final piece of evidence, there is one line in the game that fully summarizes the juxtaposition of the mind and the body as a paradox. When we first enter the boss fight with Micolash, The Host of the Nightmare, he utters a line that sums up the entire game’s metaphorical meaning, “Some say Kos, others Kosm… As you did for the Vacuous Rom, grant us eyes. Grant us eyes.” Kos and Kosm are not just empty words but clues to be followed.

Kos references the hometown of Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, and famed for the Hippocratic Oath. While he was not the originator of the theory, Hippocrates is largely credited with the spread of the Four Humors Theory of medicine. Those humors being bile, phlegm, black bile, and of course blood. Kos thus refers to the four humors and therefore also the aspects of blood and body being driven fourth in Bloodborne. Then there is Kosm. Kosm refers to the etymology of the word ‘Cosmic,’ with the Greek ‘kosmikos.’ With this reference, the juxtaposition between Kos and Kosm is between Kos (the body and blood) and Kosm (the mind, the arcane, the cosmic). This line by Micolash so perfectly represents the meaning of Bloodborne because it represents the struggles of the pursuit to understand this juxtaposition. It is further emphasized when we finally kill Micolash. His dying words are not cursing you, but cursing that he will forget everything that he has learned.

We have one main faction trying to obtain the mind of a God, and the other main faction trying to obtain the body of a God, but neither of them succeeded. Both of them tried to suppress the aspect of the other’s method. Our hunter, however, is different. We start as a foreigner, unhindered by the social walls and biases that plagued the people of this land. We spend the game imbibing hundreds of vials of blood, as well as the blood of non-player characters. We strengthen our blood with their echoes through the bloodtinge stat. We gain more and more insight as we encounter bosses, but also consume Madman’s Knowledge and Great One’s Wisdom. We strengthen our mind with the Arcane stat. And, most importantly, we consume an entire umbilical cord of a Great One, the key that originally opened Provost Willem’s mind.

The Three endings of Bloodborne test if you have grasped the meaning being shown by all of these hints. With ending one, you leave the Hunter’s Dream to be a normal person again. In ending two, you take Gehrman’s place in the Hunter’s Dream and, like Gehrman, your body becomes useless, becoming bound into the mind. And, with the True Ending, if you have gained the Body of a Great One through blood, and the Mind of a Great One through insight, you usurp being from the Moon Presence and become an infant Great One. You have fully grasped the aspects of Body and Mind as a single entity, and achieved metamorphosis where Byrgenwerth and the Healing Church failed.

They wanted to become Gods. So this raises the hardest question of the whole game. What is a God? Much like the Lesser Amygdalas, the answer to this question has been hidden from us, but plainly in sight from the beginning. The first Great One you may have encountered Is Amygdala, found and killed in The Nightmare Frontier. Next is Rom the Vacuous Spider, found and killed in The Moonside Lake. And, while there are others, I want to skip to The Moon Presence, found and killed in the Hunter’s Dream. What these three have in common is that they all exist within their own realms, both separate from yet connected to the setting of Bloodborne. Other than Amygdala, as an entirely optional boss, killing Rom resulted in the Blood-Moon, a massive change to the world-state. Even when killing bosses that are not Great Ones, whether it be just bodies like Vicor Amelia or just minds like Micolash Host of the Nightmare, the world-state changes as well. If an ascended mind like Micolash can exist as a world within a mind, and an ascended body has a physical effect on the world, then fully ascended Great Ones are both.

A God is a being where thought and embodied reality are one and the same. Not just a mind that thinks or a body that lives, but where Mind is Body and Body is Mind.

Bloodborne posits that the Mind-Body Paradox is only a problem because of the kind of thing we are. Because of the limits of the human being. To solve the paradox, we must ascend to greater heights. We must become a being where Thought and Being are One.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

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Bartle’s Taxonomy in Sword Art Online – PhilosAnime


Remember when Sword art online was good? No really, it was. I can hear you laughing and spitting in anger at the thought, but hear me out. Like a lot of you, my current opinion is that Sword Art Online is a steaming pile of a middle school kid’s power fantasy. Its attempt to reach some philosophically deep conclusion of how MMOs are just as real as real life were shallow, post-traumatic rationalizations that only work because everyone has to agree with how smart and awesome and brave and cool the light-novel protagonist is, but like many of you I was genuinely intrigued by this light-hearted world with surprisingly high stakes.

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The slice-of-life episodes before the plot moved forward were enjoyable enough to keep me hopeful and watching, all the way through its multi-season downward spiral. So what made us stick around even though we knew we were on a sinking ship? The answer is because, despite where the series went, those early episodes delivered on creating a world that successfully engaged all four of Richard Bartle’s MMO player archetypes, as well as the kinds of player interactions that arise form these archetypes.

Bartle’s Taxonomy of player types was an early contribution to video game design theory, and while his research method was rough, it provided an accurate basis for the evolution of multiplayer game design. The four archetypes: Explorers, who enjoy discovering all the little secretes a game has to offer, Achievers, who strive to master game systems and top leader boards, Socializers, who just want a place to hang out and meet new and interesting people, Killers, who want to dominate and defeat other players whenever possible. Depending on the type of games, these player types will blend and interact differently. Usually in an MMO the Achievers like Explorers, because explorers find information that help achievers succeed. Socializers like other socializers, because of a “More the Merrier” attitude. Killers like Achievers, because they offer a challenge that proves their dominance over other players, but can often be disrupted by the Explorers who find tricks and exploits that killers often overlook. Sword Art Online, as a setting, capitalizes on each of these dynamics.

With the immediate introduction of the death game situation, most Sword Art Online players, not willing to die for a video game, hold up in the starter city and become Socializers. Because everyone is trapped, the Socializer population never decreases, and so the thing that keeps Socializers interested never fades and is immediately available. The skill system in Sword Art Online improves gradually, but as we see in episode 7 of season 1 where Kirito and Lisbeth go find a rare material for blacksmithing, the economic aspects of the setting hugely benefit from Explorers. Given that only a certain number of players are brave enough to start leveling and leave the starter city, the group of top achievers are quickly distinguished and get the recognition that Achievers crave. The Killers, who are probably the most logical group for not buying into this anime’s ridiculous, “You die in the game, you die for real” premise, get the highest form of their engagement, because the higher stakes of the death game resulted in bigger, more frustrated, more frightened player reactions. Those reactions let killers feel dominant.

Kirito, being a blank personality, nice guy, super fighter, with a secret technique, and power-tantrums, fulfills each of the archetypes of the viewers whenever he is thrust into the role.

The premise of the show as an MMO-based “other-world” naturally attracted people who have a natural understanding of these archetypes and were attracted to these dynamics as they played out through episode 9 of season 1. As the show continued, unfortunately, it lost all the nuances of the interactions and any consideration of how an actual game would affect them in context. I thoroughly preferred Log Horizon, simply because it delivered on the evolution of these dynamics of Bartle’s Taxonomy throughout the course of its story, and made it a central focus rather than focusing on a single character and every person who obsessively admires that character.

Let me be clear, I think Sword Art Online is a piece of trash, but I recognize that it was good for a little while, and naively I will continue to watch in hopes that it can find some of this quality.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

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The Philosophy of The Witcher Geralt by CD Projekt Red – PhiloSoGaming


The Witcher is a game series that I have spent a luxurious amount of time with over the years. I was first introduced to The Witcher by watching a YouTubber and Mod-Author called ‘Gopher’ play through the first two games on his channel. I finished watching these Let’s Plays in time for the release of The Witcher 3, and with a few hundred hours logged into that game I have played it as much as I played The Elder Scrolls Skyrim. I also went back and watched all of Gopher’s let’s plays as well. But throughout my entire experience as a fan of The Witcher games, one philosophical question has plagued me: Is Geralt a Cynic or a Stoic?

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Let me explain. Formally the thought of these two schools are easily discernable, but share some similarities. Both schools are concerned with achieving a sage-like state of virtue called “Freedom from Disturbance” and “Imperturbability”. In Greek they are Ataraxia and Apothea. The Ancient Greek Cycnics took a radical approach to Socrates’s idea of virtue and how it relates to nature. For cynics, all forms of disturbance and suffering came from human society and from the unnatural. Diogenes, the Cynic, is the founder and mascot for this school of thought. Stories of Diogenes tell of how he defaced his city’s coins, masturbated in public, screamed at a pastry for being a tyrant, and told Alexander the Great to get out of Diogenes’s way so that he could enjoy the sunlight. Cynics found no value, and even active hatred, for pleasure and other things valued by society. Diogenes was seen as wise for not wanting any more than what was required by nature, but his poor behavior earned him the title “Diogenes the dog.”

Modern Cynicism, unfortunately, is not nearly as refined. Whereas the ancient Cynics rejected the value of anything involved in society, modern cynics tend to claim that nothing is knowable, and therefore nothing could have true value. Or, even if something did have true value, we would be unable to know if this is the case. You can kind of think of modern Cynics as an extreme version of the skeptics. Whereas skeptics criticized dogmatism by demonstrating that anything can be doubted, the skeptic also held themselves to a strong standard of not dogmatically attaching themselves to doubting ideas either. Modern Cynics, rather than exercising healthy doubt, actively and dogmatically assert that things are unknowable and valueless.

And there are quite a few good reasons to see Geralt in this Cynical role. With his tough, surly attitude, Geralt constantly criticizes and chastises people for not looking at problems practically and objectively. He is distrustful of sorceresses and their magic and their meddling in politics. While at the same time Geralt chastises the political powers for discriminating against magical creatures and arbitrarily treating non-humans as monsters. Geralt also frequently breaks the Witcher’s rule of always demanding payment, frequently living off what he can find on the path in the wilds.

A major theme in The Withcer games is the question of, “What makes something a monster?” Geralt’s answer is frequently that your choices, what you do, determines whether you are a monster or not. Geralt’s actions often argue that the best course of action is to be objective and detached from a world that all too frequently fails to grasp that simple truth. This causes Geralt to doubt the value of the world he protects, and whether his ideas of so-called “monsters” are actually true. Geralt is some ways can embody both an ancient and modern understanding of what constitutes a Cynic.

However, Geralt’s particular love for drinking, gambling, card games, and increasingly exotic, sexual exploits might immediately disqualify him for true Cynicism, which is meant to reject pleasure.

The Stoics too found no value in pleasure or inherent value in social conventions, and took from Socrates not a focus on nature, but a focus on wisdom and knowledge as the only truly valuable thing (through Plato’s legacy). But the stoics are a much more traditional school of philosophy than the Cynics. They are what is called a Complete Philosophy, meaning they attempted at creating a system that address all the major philosophical topics which they found important: Ethics, politics, ontology, epistemology, and the like. However the stoics are most famous for their ideas on emtions and how they saw the emotions relating to that virtue of Ataraxia and Apothea.

The Stoic’s main claim to fame is that, as rational animals, we humans may not be able to influence anything around us but we may yet control how we let these things affect us. Mainly asserting that we can control our reactions, emotions, and suffering through wisdom and practice. We become the sage with the virtues freedom from disturbance by becoming purely rational.

In the games, Geralt has a major, narrative reason to be able to claim the mantle of Stoicism. The Witcher Mutagens, which give Geralt and other witcher’s some of their super-human abilities, have a side affect of suppressing and eliminating emotions. I say supposed, because despite his muted and reserved demeanor, with all the time we have spent with Geralt we can easily see Geralt’s passions leak out even as he claims to be without them. Afterall, most of the Witchers in the school of the world are highly emotive. Perhaps Geralt lies to keep his mind on the path of controlling his impressions and his rationality.

The stoics of course have one main opponent in the world of philosophy: The Skeptics. As I stated earlier, the modern Cynics are very much like extreme skeptics. A Stoic view of the world as well as the Stoic path to virtue requires an ability to have certain knowledge about the world, and therefore certain knowledge about yourself and your ability to master your own rationality.

The profession of Withcers demands that certain knowledge can exist and is obtainable. Mutagens will affect the body in exactly the way intended; potions will provide exactly the benefit at exactly so much toxicity; the Draconid monster will respond predictably to the grapeshot bomb. The materialism side of Stoicism makes certain knowledge a much easier task. Determining the value of a society, or of politics, or even your loved ones is a lot more difficult. It is harder to value such things without releasing your emotions and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, letting go of harsh rationality.

If I had to pick one, I would say that Geralt usually leans more to the side of the Stoics, but his Cynical side keeps him at an emotionally safe distance away from the things that he wants to care about yet has no ability to change. I think that Geralt’s story over all three of these games is a struggle to overcome his Cynicism, to grow beyond his version of Stoicism, and eventually help Geralt into finding a realistic form of optimism. One that allows Geralt a means of embracing what he fears will disturb him. A way to find value in the friends he finds on the path.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

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CrunchyRoll’s History and a Case for Anime Piracy – PhilosAnime


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. This is an opinion piece. Stealing intellectual property in any degree is illegal and unwise. That said,

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This is a controversial essay. Among creators and artistic lovers of anime on youtube and around the internet, it has become important to not only express love for our favorite shows, but to denounce piracy of anime as well. Thanks to online, on-demand subscription services, fans no longer have to deal with just highly overpriced DVDs for only the most popular titles, or extremely overpriced imports. Fort he longest time, the best way for a Western fan of anime to support their favorite shows was not through consuming the shows themselves, but through art books, posters, models, and any number of collectibles that supported the official brands. The shows themselves were mostly unavailable through legal channels. Now, however, the growth of streaming, simul-cast services like CrunchyRoll, Funimation, and Bandai-Namco give us less excuse to not support tour entertainment directly. Yet years of a growing piracy industry cannot simply be undone. I think there is still a case to be made for the role of piracy in this still emerging industry.

It is still important t support the legal means of production whenever possible. Only by actually funding the studios and license holders can we hope to encourage the production of new and better shows in the future. It is quickly becoming apparent that the anime industry will need money from non-Japanese markets to stay profitable in the future. Animators themselves are already living below the minimum wage and their average quality of life is dropping.

All of this is to say that this is a very serious topic, and that I take it seriously. But with a situation as complex as this, the solution cannot be as simple as, “all X are good, all Y is bad, only support X.” In order to understand the issue, we need to look at who the power houses of the anime licensing industry are now, where they came from, and some basic economic theory to understand the role that piracy is playing currently.

First, who are the industry powerhouses right now? Bandai-Namco, Funimation, and CrunchRoll. I want to include Netflix and Amazon in this list, not because they are a powerhouse of anime streaming yet, but the companies are powerful enough that, now they have entered the anime race, they could get a free pass simply by deciding to invest more over time.

Funimation is well known for being the licensee and dubber of most of our Saturday morning anime from childhood. Bandai-Namco, having started as a legitimate Japanese business, and a company that specializes in anime, video games, and toys, found an easier entry into the United States market than their average Japanese competitor, thank to the United States’ cartoon industry coming out of a period where animation was defined as being a medium for children, where the average show’s explicit purpose was to act as long-form commercials designed to get children to beg their parents to buy the show’s official toys.

The anime industry was not just small in the United States. It basically did not exist. It was an interesting side note to television bundles and toy sales. Anime did not just happen. Nearly the entire anime fandom relied on the most hardcore fans to share this esoteric entertainment with the country: Fan-subbers. Their work was hosted almost exclusively without official licenses, illegally, on torrent and streaming websites. It is through these sites that most of the community that exists now first found the ability to expand their hobby.

CrunchyRoll, unlike Funimation and Bandai-Namco, got its start as an illegal hosting service in 2006, in an already saturated piracy industry. Now, CrunchyRoll is the biggest name in anime licensing industry. So how did it get there? Well that leads into my second point.

A pirate with a market is better for business than an old-pro without an audience. CrunchyRol, like many illegal streaming services, did one thing, and they did it well. They provided for the desires of anime fans. This means more than just giving the anime way from free. It means providing means to evaluate which shows to watch, tacking progress through the shows, and providing a place for community and discussion. CrunchyRoll and other pirate streaming sites provided that which the legitimate businesses did not. They provided not just the product, but the service. They understood the audience, rather than just capitalizing on the audience’s voracity and desperate consumerism. Why did CrunchyRoll succeed at this where the larger companies failed? Because they only answered to one master, the fans. They had no other interests to worry about, and thus could build a specialized and marketable skillset.

CrunchyRoll, like others, operated semi-legally. While the content they hosted was unlicensed, stolen shows, they would leave it untouched until the owners of the legitimate licensor or licensee directly requested that they remove and blaock their properties from the site. CrunchyRoll would do so quickly and with good graces.

In 2008, only two years after their inception, CrunchyRoll received a $4 million investment from Venrock, the venture capitol firm. They began to expand and obtain licenses legally, and in 2009, at 3 years old, CrunchyRoll announced that it was going fully legal. To my knowledge, CrunchyRoll is the only illegal streaming service that was able to accomplish this. Back in 2008, however, the $4 million investment was met with outrage. Funimation stated publicly that the illegal activites of sites like CrunchyRoll would, “[Make] the expensive and time consuming work of producing anime content for the U.S. market impossible,” and went on to say, “we will continue to act in the best interests few our Japanese licencors – and that includes that our industry as a whole has a commercial future.”

Bandai-Namco came in to describe CrunchyRoll and sites like it, “an epidemic that will undermine the future of the anime business in Japan and the United States,” going on to say that they will continue to “fight against” the “negative impact on the U.S. anime industry.”

Fast-forward to today, and everyone hails CrunchyRoll for creating legal means to watch hundreds of shows cheaply and with a wide array of services to make doing so faster and easier. CruncyRoll waves the flag of anti-piracy louder than any other actor in the industry. Funimation and CrunchyRoll even partnered for a time to encourage their audiences to also sue the other services, and established VRV in order to combine their respective subscriber bases, as well as establish a platform for other licensors to join. For years, despite their roots, CrunchyRoll has also denounced anime piracy, offering the justification of protecting the industry’s future.

CrunchyRoll’s success is positive evidence that Funimation and Bandai-Namco’s past claims were false. So why would that be the case? Surely not paying the creators would mean the industry does not get paid, correct? Wrong.

Back then, the legal side of the industry was almost exclusively Bandai, Funimation, and a few others. They accounted for only a miniscule percent of the shows in Japan. The markets they were protecting were their own, but the U.S. market, which covered everything else, was still a pirate market. So why did competitors, CrunchyRoll and Funimation, join forces? Do they not regard each other as competitors? No, because their true competitor is still the pirate market that started the U.S. anime fandom in the first place. A market that grants a low barrier to entry and promotes tangential consumerism. This brings me to my last point.

Monopolies, Free Markets, and Competition. Legal streaming service companies that originate in the states had what I would call a pseudo-monopoly. At least until the older, slower methods of buying DVD imports becomes available, these streaming service companies are the only legal channels to consume the medium. By the time the other methods become available, the social-event of a community enjoying a show together has already passed. The popularity has already moved on to something else, and the fan who chooses this method must perpetually feel left out. When physical media were the main, and only, way for anime to travel fan communities in the United States, the event of a show would last significantly longer. Majorly popular shows would be classics in a very short list of must-see series which everyone at a convention would have known. Conventions were a main force in finding new shows to watch and trading the physical media that enabled it. While the streaming services are growing, the amount of anime that the United States may obtain through these means does not encompass the whole of anime that is produced.

Japanese companies do not want to take on the risk of simultaneously trying to jump into a foreign market and a highly specific consumer economy that they have no experience with on their own dime. There is enough risk in trying to be profitable anime in Japan on its own. Japanese companies do not try to follow in Bandai-Namco’s footsteps. By insisting that the market only use the limited legal channels, CrunchyRoll and Funimation can help to ensure that licencors and customers only look to them based on ethical commitments rather than personal economic advantage. They almost nearly are the whole industry.

So what are monopolies good for? They are extremely profitable for the monopolies themselves, and that is about it. Quality of services do not need to expand while prices can be set without fear of more competitive pricing emerging for essentially the same service. Free markets and competition, on the other hand, are good primarily for consumers. By consumers, I do not just mean the anime fandom, but the Japanese licensors as well. Imagine for a moment that, in 2008, not just CrunchyRoll, but four other illegal streaming sties got massive investors and headed on the path to turning into legal business models, like CrunchyRoll, that provide simul-cast anime as a subscription service, an expanding back-log library of older shows, and worked directly with Japanese licencors to agree on compensation.

This would mean that creators of anime would be more empowered to shop around and look for better compensation for their creation. They would be more equipped to encourage different sites to bid for their creations. The streaming sites themselves would have to compete to have larger, exclusive libraries of shows, provide more value to fans, and do so at the lower, justifiable cost. The result is that the streaming industry as a whole is a larger market, more money goes to supporting the anime industry, more shows are provided to anime fans through legal channels, and lower prices for the services that reflect the market.

With more CrunchyRoll type services, the industry as a whole will be stronger. More anime comes in, more money changes hands, more competitive services, and more growth overall. All of which would be operating legally.

But some may say that we do not need pirates anymore. Companies can just start up legally now and do everything the right way. My answer to that is twofold. First, show me a company who has never done anything illegal and I will show you a liar. Second, look at Anime Strike, Amazon Prime’s premium anime services, which had to be purchased above the buy-in cost of Amazon Prime. It has terrible organizational and subscriber tools, and the pricing model itself is egregious. That is what happens when parties who already have the finances to hop into an industry as newborns, without the experience of the pirate market to guide them, try to compete with the old-guard companies and the pirate-turned-entrepreneur. It may catch the passing interest of Amazon customers, but the vanguard of the fandom will retreat to the services that they know can provide something more worthwhile. The risk in this is that companies like Amazon and Netflix have significantly greater resources due to significantly more profit from other media industries. If they desired, they could probably obtain a complete monopoly by buying out the highest grossing licenses en masse, despite not providing the service and tools that are specific to anime fan expectations.

From this we can see that there is a legitimate reason to stop the wholesale demonization of anime piracy. We ought to embrace the pirate-market history of otaku culture which shepherded the current age of anime awareness in common vernacular. We need to encourage big name companies looking to enter the anime streaming service market to invest in smaller, experienced streaming websites to be the flag-bearers for their operations. Empower them to grow toward their audience, and then acquire or partner with the company fully.

Do not, however, misunderstand this conclusion either. The kind of pirates we support must be running a model that at least has the potential to legalize. That means torrent downloading is off the table. They drain the market without putting money anywhere into a legalizable service. IF you do use a streaming site, make sure that they are complying with removing any show that does get licensed, and do not use any website that sues predatory ads for their ad-revenue.

You should be looking for websites that seem to be following a similar path to CrunchyRoll from 2006 to 2009.

I am going to reiterate. You should still support the legal channels of watching anime. I am going to make it clear that I have nothing against any of the legal means, streaming services, nor their business practices. I am calling for the industry as a whole to embrace more competition, its own history, and to seek more emerging business. Do not earn your customers based on a fabricated, moral high-ground. Do so with superior service, promotion of the arts, and earning the good will of your clientele.

“Video Site with Unauthorized Anime Gets US$4M Capital,” Sevakis, Justin (2008). https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-03-11/video-site-with-unauthorized-anime-gets-us%244m-venture
“Funimation, Bandai Entertainment Respond on Crunchyroll (Updated),” Loo, Egan (2008). https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-03-12/funimation-responds-to-crunchyroll-us%244m-funding

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE! If you would like to help this channel continue and grow, you can also contribute to the our Patreon page:

https://www.patreon.com/SocraTetris

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https://twitter.com/SocraTetres

Don’t know what to watch next? Check out our playlists!

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The Philosophy of Axiom Verge – PhiloSoGaming

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Before we get into this, let me just say that this game was amazing, and if you have not played it is well worth the investment. The mysterious, cyber-horror aesthetic, the sudden feeling of depth when looking at some of the backgrounds, and the exponential feeling of escalation you get as you obtain new weapons and upgrade tools are thrilling and at times overwhelming. Above all is its elegant delivery of three different schools of thought related to the philosophy of science in the order of a deep and complex narrative world. The Many-Worlds theory, PanPsychism, and Solipsism.

“All data are filtered, observation is necessarily theory-laden.” ~ Norwood Russel Hanson

Let us begin with a quick look at the title, “Axiom Verge.” An Axiom, meaning that which is turned around, is an idea that cannot itself be proven, but lays the foundation for a functional evaluation of other information and drawing further conclusions to be considered true within a system of thought. 

The most famous example of this is Euclid’s “The Elements.” Euclid established five postulates, five axioms, extrapolating them one by one, and in doing so laid the foundation for all geometry and physics until the 20th century when new, conflicting observations lead to the creation of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Quantum Physics, which required new axioms to be created to work. New Math.

And the word “Verge,” meaning the edge or bending toward.

The title suggests a reality in which we are moving towards the fundamental principle by which by which we understand things, by which we understand the world. This story begins the way any good science fiction story does, with an unexpected lab explosion that thrusts us, a character named Trace, into a dark and bloody world like no one has ever seen. The world of Sudra.

As we explored this world, we encounter beings called Rusalki, God-like technological entities left by a now deceased race called Sudrans. They have been broken down by a being called Athetos, an invader from another world. As we explore this infected planet we learn more about its history, somewhat from Elsenova and the other Rusalki, but mostly from little notes and messages we find around the world. Elsenova, in a proper Hero’s Journey-esque set up, informs us that we possess what is called a Patter-Mind, a special and nearly inexplicable gift. The closest explanation we get is that a Pattern-Mind is someone with the ability to manipulate matter. This trait will be necessary to defeat the wicked Athetos, who also possesses this Pattern-Mind characteristic.

The second clue we get to understanding how we came to this alien world comes after we reactivate the Rusalki’s power filter and repair drones, and Elsenova becomes conscious enough to speak in complete sentences, she tells us of a duality of existence in this setting: the “world stream” in which the planet Sudra lies, and the “Breach.”

The Breach is hinted to be some dangerous, external space that used to be adjacent to the planet, but now surrounds the planet due to Athetos’s “Breach-Attractor” machine. We also learnt hat another Rusalki named Opheliea had entered the breach to pull Trace into their world. This simplifies the goal of defeating Athetos into two steps: find and repair Ophelia, and destroy Athetos’s Breach-Attractor.

Our third clue comes from the Rusaki named Veruska, who once repaired speaks cryptically about being a “carnivore” to us. Ophelia politely dismisses this weirdo among weirdos, and explains that Veruska’s function as a machine was to create “Mind Worlds.” To which Veruska retorts, “We all make min worlds.” Trace basically ignores this in favor of shooting more monsters and finding more cool upgrades.

Out fourth clue comes from the world and notes explaining the fall of this planet. They detail a world that advanced in science and technology to such a rapid extent that the pendulum of progress swung violently in the other direction. First the Sudrans feared and abandoned their creations, then forgot that they were the creators, and eventually came to worship the Rusalki as their gods. The only Sudrans to survive were the followers of Athetos, who are now mutant monstrosities that ramble like madmen about loving Athetos, distrusting Athetos, becoming Athetos, and, most confusing of all, accusing us of being Athetos.

So let us review: first, we and Athetos possess a Pattern-Mind, the ability to manipulate matter; second, the Rusalki fished us from the Breach and Athetos is entrapping the world of Sudra by attracting the breach; third, Veruska tells us that everyone is creating Mind-Worlds; fourth, the planet of Sudra culturally abandoned technology and experienced biological devastation and mass extinction after Athetos arrived.

Yet none of these pieces connect until we stumble across the most important note in the game, “Axiom 1.” It reads as such:

(A)    All algorithms are universal and valid regardless of whether they are executed

(B)    Cognition is a sub algorithm whose behavior is to perceive properties of the parent algorithm describing it

(C)    Any algorithm giving rise to cognitive entities will be perceived as reality by the entities described.

In this note, the word “algorithm” essentially acts as a catch-all term for a fundamental physical law presented from a mathematical lens. This presents physical laws not as absolutes, but as mere functions among many others. With the first axiom stating that all algorithms, all physical laws, are true, only distinguished by if they happen to be operational, firmly establishes a unique take on the Many-Worlds theory of Ontology.

The Many-Worlds theory came about in the early days of Quantum theory before it firmed up as a true science, and basically stated that any possibility does in face become actuality, and all those infinitely-other universes exist separately ad in parallel to the one we experience. The second axiom states that observation and abstract thought are also an algorithm, a fundamental physical law, the function of which is to identify whatever physical laws are in place. By asserting that cognition is a “sub-algorithm,” the axiom is stating that cognition is not guaranteed, while also asserting that consciousness is omnipresent in the physical world. Such an axiom would firmly establish a take on Panpsychism, the idea that consciousness is present in all matter and that self-awareness would thus be emergent in any sufficiently complex system, as true.

Furthermore, this part of the axiom asserts that, because the universe is panpsychic and self-perceiving, the cognitive theory of Douglas Hofstadter’s “I Am A Strange Loop” is not merely true of individuals but of the universe as a whole.

Moving on tot the third part of the axiom, initially it seems harmless, like a logical conclusion fo the second part of the axiom. But it reveals a radical extrapolation. By adding here the concept of “reality” as cognition confirming the algorithm, the physical laws that gave rise to it, the axiom must admit that should a cognitive entity somehow perceive some other, non-executed physical law, that physical law becomes real. It becomes executed. This asserts a specific version of Sollipsism, the idea that there is no reality outside a person’s cognitive experience acting as creator of that reality, but centering the observer of Sollipsism as a relationship between an individual cognitive entity, a person, and the self-aware (panpsychic) universe. In other words, the universe comes into existence by perceiving itself, and individual perceivers are an entire universe themselves.

But what sort of person could actually accomplish such a perceptive feat? The answer is a scientist. Afterall what is a scientist if not someone who can manipulate matter, a Pattern-Mind, Athetos, who perceived the change in algorithms just enough to reach Sudra, a world just on the edge of the boundary between worlds.

Thanks just to the information we gained about the world, combined with the assertions of the axioms, what follows in the story is less of a surprise and more of a foregone conclusion. That is the attitude that Trace adopts when Ophelia reveals to us that we are Athetos. Just a younger version, before the struggle of facing a world that refused to change made Athetos bitter, jaded, and resentful.

But why would Athetos have been rejected so vehemently? Well that comes down to the nature of Axioms, and why we accept the ones that we do.

As we discussed at the start, axioms are not able to be proven. They are necessary to ground any rational system so that ideas within the system can be evaluated, but are never themselves provable even if it was empirical evidence that causes us to create a new system. See Kurt Godel’s “Incompleteness Theorum” for more on why that is the case. So I must repeat the question, why do we accept the axioms that we do?

Because the axioms are useful. And by useful I do not mean convenient, self-confirming, or ethically more comfortable. I mean that doing so allows humanity to realize some kind of progress, to solve problems, and then create new questions. It empowers us to do more with what is as hand. There is a problem in this too. How then do we determine usefulness? That progress was made? That is gets us closer to understanding the truth of reality?

Well the answer is not going to be satisfying, but the progress is determined by its own fundamental axiom. That axiom is this: an axiom can only be useful if it is an accurate depiction of reality. New axioms can only be more useful if they more accurately reflect the universe. It is this fundamental postulate of human thinking that shows why these ideas of the Many-Worlds Theory, Panpsychism, and Sollipsism are so ridiculed and rejected. Yes, they are interesting as thought experiments. Their conclusions are sometimes very convenient as explanations to our current questions. However their axioms are not useful; they do not solve problems or enable action in our reality, because the axioms only serve to establish belief in things inherently external from our ability to see it. External to our ability to evaluate it.

So imagine Athetos’s frustration, his anger, when after an entire career of ridicule despite public notoriety, he finally achieves a functional way to demonstrate the usefulness of his axioms. The world of Sudra, existing in a state of liminality that enables one to breach into these other worlds. What he finds instead is a society that has abandoned this potential out of fear, precisely because it was dangerous is was too useful. Nothing could have been more slighting.

Still, committing total, biological genocide by weaponizing your won cells into a mutating virus just so he can say, “I told you so” to the nerds who bullied him is a little heavy handed. The person message to take away from this story: pursue your goals without being consumed by ego.

If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE! If you would like to help this channel continue and grow, you can also contribute to the our Patreon page:

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Don’t know what to watch next? Check out our playlists!

Philosophy of Video Games:

Philosophy of Anime:

My Personal Philosophy Explorations: Philos “Iffy”

Martial Arts Philosophy: Philos-Fighter

How To Make a Good English Dub – PhilosAnime

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I recently watched the English dubbed version of an anime I had never seen before, which is quite the rare occurrence. Even more rare than that, I enjoyed it. Or should I say that I enjoyed the voice acting more than the show. The show was called Unbreakable Machine-Doll, and it had me thinking on how a show’s voice actors can have a tremendous impact on its quality. As the quality of voice acting in the English market has been growing exponentially, I have developed a great interest in it. Yet something that should not come as a surprise to anyone is that the rule of thumb has been that the English dubs of Anime and Japanese video games are worse, often even sub-par, compared to the Japanese editions.

This is understandable given that the United States and English voice-acting industries had a slower start, and did not grow at the amazing rate that Japan’s did. It also did not develop alongside the trends and culture of Japanese animation. It takes time for strong voice actors to develop, as well as to develop that specific skillset different from voice-over work, acting, and other related industries.

Many of us in the fandom have developed some key, favorite voice actors, but, now that the anime industry is developing far more shows than ever before, a small number of well-known actors is not viable. The demand is there. I have talked to artists and crafters at conventions and other fan events who watch anime like listening to radio, keeping their eyes and hands on a different task. They are busy giving their primary attention to their practice, making their art, but you only get so much free time in a day. They learn to multitask.

What then is the first principle that fosters a good English dub. The obvious answer is skilled voice actors, but on the flipside is strong directing for the actors. My go to example is the actor Ali Hillis, who playing Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII, Karin in Naruto, and Meg Griffin in Family Guy. In my opinion, Ali Hillis is an amazing voice actor, and her skill even showed through relatively flat and stoic characters like Lightning. The amount of skill necessary to play the character “not funny” character in a comedy like Family Guy, and to do so in a way that grows the character into the most complex person on the show. In regards to Final Fantasy XIII, the game creators had a very specific vision for Lightning. One of those Japanese character archetype that are well received in Japan, but do not translate to English on a one to one basis very well. With Lightning there was not enough flexibility given. This leads me to my next point.

Let the voice actor help craft the characters. 

This will help the voice actor to embody the character and let the unique personalities be established naturally. Just like in acting, character is established by a melding of the actor and the written character. This can be seen in great anime like Cowboy Bebop and Eureka 7.

The show the sparked this writing, Unbreakable Machine-Doll, was not an amazing show, but an interesting enough concept. A standard light-novel affair with magic themed robots. The setting was a Japanese student studying abroad in a renowned school in the United Kingdom. In the Japanese version, the characters each fit into the standard set of archetypes one would expect to find in a play-by-numbers romantic comedy in the shows of the time. No real unique characters, and all the different ethnic backgrounds speak in the standard Tokyo-ben dialect. The Japanese dubbed version of the show was a run of the mill, single season affair.

In the English dub, however, there was a plethora of accents, including the different cultures of the region: British, Irish, Scottish, and others. The voice actors were able to use this to help make the characters unique and establish differences in personalities through cultural perspective. It was done well enough to grab my attention back to a show that I had dismissed previously. This brings my to my second principle.

Prefer loose translation over strict translation. Not only do certain languages use similarly defined words in different ways, but grammar and syntax simply makes translation between certain languages a much greater challenge than others. Japanese and English is one of those language pairs. There is a website called Perpetual Pizza which translates back and forth from English and another language until there is some crazy result. Playing with gadgets like these exemplify how subtle differences in language create compounding confusions, and expose the nature of translation and language as a true art.

What they have done with Unbreakable Machine-Doll is to take the intended meanings behind the lines and rewrite them using the grammar and syntax of English, as well as pulling from a more intimate understanding of the given ethnicity of the characters, to influence the word choice and everything else in the script. Essentially the English dub script was simply superior to the original Japanese script. It had less tropes, more variety, and as a whole was more entertaining than the Japanese edition of the show because of it.

 If you found something interesting, be sure to let me know in the comments! All are welcome!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE! If you would like to help this channel continue and grow, you can also contribute to the our Patreon page: 

https://www.patreon.com/SocraTetris

You can also stay up-to-date and talk with others by following on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SocraTetres

Don’t know what to watch next? Check out our playlists!

Philosophy of Video Games:

Philosophy of Anime:

My Personal Philosophy Explorations: Philos “Iffy”

Martial Arts Philosophy: Philos-Fighter

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