Two seasons, two villains, two different sets of questions

psycho pass banner featuring Akane, Kogami, Ginoza, Makishima, Ginoza, Kagari, Kunizuka, and Karanomori
psycho pass banner featuring Akane, Kogami, Ginoza, Makishima, Ginoza, Kagari, Kunizuka, and Karanomori

Psycho-Pass is 2012’s thrilling cyberpunk crime thriller anime, and has been one of the most interesting modern (if just shy of a decade old still counts as “modern”) entries into the cyberpunk genre space since its release. Set in the year 2112, in a technologically advanced Japan, the story’s two seasons revolve around two competing, yet intertwined axes: the human experiences of our core cast; and the cold, calculating Sibyl System that controls and organizes society. This story asks questions of both the viewer and the characters — and demands answers. …

Exploring Mass Effect 2’s respectful and varied approach to spirituality

mass effect 2 squad garrus, thane, grunt, legion, miranda, kasumi, jack
mass effect 2 squad garrus, thane, grunt, legion, miranda, kasumi, jack
(Source: BelowInfinity on DeviantArt)

The much-beloved Mass Effect Trilogy was remastered and released in its Legendary Edition this year, sparking a wave of fresh playthroughs, discourse, and fan content from the thousands of us with a deep love for the franchise’s story and characters. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (and hopefully, soon, its aftermath), certain aspects of the franchise seem more salient than they’ve ever been: fractured societies talking past each other, corporate greed and apathy exploiting the common person and leaving them to rot, and a not-so-distant cataclysm looming in the future. As fans replaying this game for the first time…

Flashy fight scenes and intricate duels are worthless on their own

rey vs kyo ren star wars rise of skywalker duel
rey vs kyo ren star wars rise of skywalker duel

As a young man in the modern world, I’ve consumed a wide variety of entertainment media: video games, television shows, documentaries, video games, music, anime, and many, many novels. While I’ve explored many genres (some shallowly, I must admit), I always come back to fantasy, fiction, and tragedy — often in combination. Regardless of the type of driving conflict, there always seems to be room for at least one fight scene.

Every good story has a dragon needing to be slain, and a knight to slay it. Right?

That statement, metaphorical or literal, is as reductive as it is true…

Why are video game remakes so popular right now?

final fantasy 7 remake cloud and sephiroth
final fantasy 7 remake cloud and sephiroth
Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Part 1) revamps the story of Cloud in Midgar, with the addition of everyone’s favorite white-haired psychosexual swordsman

Video game remakes are popular, desirable, and often pull a lot of journalistic eyes. We’ve seen a significant uptick in major franchise remakes/reboots/remasters in the past 2–4 years, almost always accompanied by media scrutiny, fan anticipation, and cautious industry eyes. Since 2017, there have been over 40 noteworthy remakes, remasters, and reboots in beloved old-school video game franchises — and dozens more that come from more niche or indie titles. …

Gaming Mission Studies: Star Wars Empire at War: Forces of Corruption

Video games provide dozens of primary concepts to talk about: narrative, characters, art design, musical composition, map design, the development cycle, and so on. As someone that spends far too much of their time looking at games as an art form, all of these things are wonderful — but I wanted to write a few articles that go back to basics.

This article will be the first of a series I will be calling Gaming Mission Studies, where I discuss one specific level, mission, or chapter of a game…

A (hopefully novel) discussion

gaming philosophy and power
gaming philosophy and power
The Talos Principle: A game I haven’t played, but heard amazing things about.

Video games are becoming a more widely accepted artistic medium in modern culture — and that’s good. To write these games off as a childish or intellectually invalid medium is to blind oneself to a range of stories, perspectives, and questions that might not exist elsewhere. But most discussions about philosophy in gaming revolve around “design philosophy”: what makes a game “well-designed”? What mechanics and structures create the best gameplay experience? What limitations do we put on the player, or what tools do we give them?

Those questions are fine, but these aren’t the kinds of philosophical questions I want…

The 6th of my short story vignettes. I write these in one-go, no revisions, no rewrites. I hope you enjoy.

The autumn leaves crinkled and crunched underfoot as the young man made his way down the trail. The blending yellows, browns, and reds all around him caught the golden afternoon light, casting everything around him in a warm and pleasant glow. The faint musk of the earthy trail and the heady scent of the trees filled his nose. The wind playfully tousled his hair as it passed him by. The heat of the sun was only just beginning to wane, and the air danced on the edge of comfortable warmth — his body was unsure whether to shiver or relax…

The fifth of my short story vignettes. I write these in one-go, no revisions, no rewrites. I hope you enjoy.


The heavy door swings open, the inlaid crystal windows scattering the bright light bursting from inside as it turns. My breath catches and my chest tightens as the ballroom is laid before me, bursting at the seams with majesty and opulence. The dance floor was composed of beautifully stained and lacquered wood, with an even pattern of miniscule glass mirrors laid within. The dance floor itself seemed to glimmer and flash with the movement of the many nobles sweeping across it. It was like stumbling upon a fae ground in the forest. Enchanting, beautiful, exotic…


A servant approaches me…

The “childish” genre we should all take more seriously.

Landscape by Michael Kelly:

There’s a very solid chance that if you clicked on this article, to read what I have to write, you’re already like me: you enjoy reading and/or writing, and perhaps you love Fantasy in particular more than any other genre. This article isn’t for you — you already understand what I will soon discuss.

(That doesn’t mean I don’t want you here though.)

If you are a person who clicked on this article in curiosity or in disagreement, then you are the kind of person I want to talk to. While you in particular may not have done so, many…

The fourth of my short story vignettes. These are single-shot, one-take, no-rewrite stories.


“Mister Wolf?”

My eyes snap open, my head rears up, and my ears — no, my entire body strains for that voice. Something warm and bright flickers through me for a brief instant. My breath quickens, sending spiraling mist dancing through the air. I feel my lips pull back, and I don’t know why. But there is only rain and distant thunder. There is only ever rain and thunder. I never even see the lightning. My taut muscles relax, and I know that my body is sagging. My lips fall forward into place once more, hiding my teeth. My eyelids…

Calen Bender

Aspiring fantasy author and professional content writer. I like to read, play games, play with my dogs, and pretend I know what I’m talking about.

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