My first attempt at a game review. Enjoy!
Anyone who enjoys being sick, raise your hands!
Everybody hates being sick. For me, the worst part about being sick is not the runny nose or the incessant coughing, but that moment where I first feel the tickle in the back of my throat and think to myself, “There goes the next week.” Basically, on the long list of life’s inconveniences, sickness is near the top.
In addition to being a massive inconvenience, sickness is time-consuming. So time-consuming, in fact, that the economic cost of lost productivity due to the common cold is estimated to be about $25 billion when accounting for workplace absenteeism and other factors (Bramley et al., 2002). Also, what is considered the “common cold” is actually no different from the hundreds of respiratory viruses that cause similar symptoms, so we may never see a comprehensive cure in our lifetimes (Friedman, 2016). Therefore, I am writing this article to propose an effective remedy to the common cold, and hopefully reduce those billions of dollars in lost productivity.
The remedy I am proposing is the heavy consumption of vitamin C. The brand I buy is Emergen-C, which you can find at your local grocery store. While marketed as a dietary supplement that contains essential nutrients for growth and repair, Emergen-C is also an efficient cold remedy because it boosts immune system functioning. The trick is to dump 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C into a glass of water, rapidly drink it all, and then wait about a day or two for symptoms to lessen in their intensity.
Before jumping to any conclusions, it’s important to note that remedying the common cold by consuming large quantities of vitamin C is not supported by research. The idea was initially conceived by the work of Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his book about cold prevention. Since then, there has been little, if any, conclusive evidence that supports his thesis… or has there?
No, vitamin C definitely does not cure the common cold. It’s not open to debate anymore. Saying that you can kill a cold by drinking a few vitamins would be the same thing as saying that vaccinations cause autism, a myth that has been consistently disproven. However, vitamin C can buffer your immune system to where your cold doesn’t last quite as long.
A quick and successful recovery from a cold via vitamin C consumption is contingent on three factors: the relative strength of your immune system, your age, and the complex interactions vitamin C has with other nutrients that may affect how your immune system responds to the virus.
The first reason that vitamin C has never been elucidated as an acceptable cold remedy is because everyone’s immune system is different. It could be that participants in the studies had weak or poorly functioning immune systems, so the vitamin C had no statistically significant effects on them. Age is an important factor to consider as well because people’s immune systems become weaker as they grow older. Middle-aged or elderly people may not benefit from the effects of vitamin C in the same way that children or adolescents do. Lastly, evidence is inconclusive because until now, researchers have only examined the effects of vitamin C on the immune system and nothing else. It might be the interactions that vitamin C has with other nutrients, and not the vitamin C itself, that are most effective in combating the common cold. Keeping these factors in mind, Emergen-C is perhaps your best bet for a quick recovery in the event that you’re coming down with something.
Because vitamin C hasn’t yet been endorsed by researchers as a cold remedy, I can’t guarantee that it will work for you. If anything, a good night’s sleep goes a much longer way in getting you to recover the fastest. However, I can at least say that, anecdotally, Emergen-C works wonders when you consume it soon after you start feeling sick, and this is again dependent on the strength of your immune system, your age, and your body’s response to the vitamins.
As far as influenza goes, a virus that is about 100 times worse than the common cold, get your annual flu shot. The flu is constantly evolving, and there are countless different strains of Influenzas A, B, and C, so it’s always good to plan for it accordingly. If you are unlucky enough to become infected by the flu anyway, take your recommended dosage of Tamiflu for a chance of cutting the duration of the sickness in half.
So, feeling that tickle in your throat right about now? Then go out, buy Emergen-C, drink up, and be amazed.
Friedman, L. F. (2016, January 26). No cure for the common cold exists – but scientists have a hunch about what might work. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/cure-for-the-cold-2016-1
TJ, B., D, L., & M, S. (2002, September). Productivity losses related to the common cold. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12227674
“With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”
– Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Sometimes you see a movie that profoundly impacts your life, changing the way you view the world and teaching you a little something about yourself. The Rocky films taught me that even the underdog can triumph in the face of adversity, while The Lord of the Rings trilogy taught me about the necessity of social support in the long and perilous journeys we take to reach our goals.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) taught me a truth that I’d overlooked this whole time.
Until now, I figured the filmmaking medium had nothing else to offer in terms of substance, much less in terms of violence. I thought I had seen it all, from arms and limbs getting blown off to intestines getting ripped out. Of course, violence isn’t a rare commodity in films these days, but it almost never means anything. On the other hand, Mel Gibson’s latest war drama displays its violent imagery in such a way that leaves you particularly on-edge, obscuring the distinction between what’s real and what’s fictional.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hacksaw Ridge, this biographical World War II film follows the story of Desmond Doss, a man who became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his awe-inspiring courage in the line of battle. The beautiful thing about Hacksaw Ridge is that it is more the exception than it is the rule: Desmond Doss never picked up a weapon once, and saved 75 men. It’s an important story to be told, but even more importantly it’s a movie that everyone should see at least once in their lifetimes.
What set Hacksaw Ridge apart so drastically from every other war film I’ve seen is that it disturbed in a way that not even Saving Private Ryan could pull off, and Saving Private Ryan is known for triggering PTSD episodes in actual war veterans who fought on Omaha Beach. It didn’t help that the theater I was in had the sound jacked up to what seemed like 100 decibels.
In the film Black Hawk Down, another fantastic war film by Ridley Scott that I urge everyone to see, the character named “Hoot” (played by Eric Bana), says “Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that shit just goes right out the window.” And he’s right. Whatever political quarrels that are responsible for the battle you find yourself a part of seize to matter once it starts raining gunfire, and Hacksaw Ridge illustrates this unsettling maxim quite well. The first 75 minutes of the film could best be described as a standard PG-13 tearjerker, taking time to establish Desmond as a man who stands by his principles without question. However, the second half hits you like a truck: men are alarmingly incinerated alive, stabbed, blown up, ripped to shreds, and torn apart. The shock of it all is so immobilizing that you’d almost forget what’s happening.
If the phrase “Hell on Earth” were taken literally, then Hacksaw Ridge is about as close as you could get to it, and in that respect Gibson conveys his overall message effectively. This message, which no other director (not even Spielberg) has been able to articulate enough, is that war is a circumstance that you never want to find yourself in. It’s a brutal, bloody, disgusting, disorienting, confusing, and chaotic mess of events in which your closest friends can indiscriminately and quite frustratingly, die in the blink of an eye. As much of a knack for violence that Gibson has, Hacksaw Ridge makes it perfectly clear that you should be averted, and not attracted, to war.
Ultimately, it’s Desmond’s altruism and refusal to take a life that counterbalances Gibson’s horrifying depiction of the chaos on the Pacific Theatre. I walked away from the film with a deeper appreciation for the heroes that have fought for our country, and the sacrifices they have made to bestow the freedoms and liberties that I benefit from every day. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel selfish, pondering why it had to take a movie for me to really appreciate the people who’ve put their lives on the line. Now, every time I see an American flag, I always commemorate their fortitude and most of all, their bravery.
Hacksaw Ridge also made me rethink my current religious stance. Before, I always considered myself close-minded to the prospect of faith, but then I saw what faith can do for people: it can save their lives. I figured, “Well, if it was Desmond’s belief system that saved these 75 men, then obviously religion can’t be all that bad.” Therefore, I no longer treat religion as a glorified, money-making institution, but rather as a force for good in the world. In addition, while I was deeply agitated by the film’s abominable spin on violence, I at least took solace in knowing that there is an intrinsic decency in man that transcends even the worst atrocities that he is capable of committing.
I want to say that Hacksaw Ridge is a 100% accurate portrayal of war, but really, it isn’t. Indeed, the film does a stellar job at giving the audience a clear picture of war, but at the end of the day it is still “just a film.” Real war is much worse than what is depicted in movies, and we can all say that we know what it’s like, but we don’t—we can’t. We would need to have fought on the front lines ourselves to authentically empathize with the trauma our heroes have suffered through.
Again, I encourage you to see Hacksaw Ridge if you haven’t already. I can understand why the film isn’t for everyone, as the war sequences were too much for even me to stomach, yet it exemplifies a kind of richness that’s hard to find in media. And that, in itself, is the mark of a fantastic film.
“Let me guess. Someone stole your sweetroll!”
– Guard, Skyrim
No other game has been able to live up to the same heights as Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011), with its deep immersion, customization, and exploration elements that even today’s open world RPGs have trouble emulating with complete accuracy. To be clear, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) comes close—very close. I commended Witcher 3 for its cutting edge approach to storytelling, impressive graphical fidelity, multifaceted characters, dynamic world, and overall wealth of content. Hearts of Stone (2015) and Blood and Wine (2016), the two expansions to Witcher 3, actually added new meaning to the term “videogame expansion,” setting the bar high for story-based DLC and adding on to what was already a gigantic game. And yet, even 5 years later, Skyrim still outcompetes CD Projekt Red’s masterpiece.
It’s no secret that I have strong feelings for Skyrim (that makes it sound like I’m romantically attracted to the game). I invested about 300 hours into the Xbox 360 version, which might not seem like a lot in the context of how massive the game truly is, and purchased Skyrim Special Edition on a Black Friday sale. Essentially, Skyrim is so special to me because I keep crawling back to it after all these years. It possesses an intrinsic charm that the Witcher series, GTA V, and Fallout 4 ostensibly cannot recreate. The all-important question is, what does it get right?
The first and perhaps most important thing that Skyrim gets right is its novelty factor. Part of the reason that I was disappointed by Fallout 4 so much is that I was always pitted against the other factions when I didn’t want to be. If you sided with the Minute Men, then you couldn’t play through the Brotherhood of Steel quests, and you would miss out on all of that content. In Skyrim, on the other hand, you are able to play through all faction questlines at your discretion, and you don’t have to worry about making enemies. Furthermore, there is an insane amount of caves and dungeons to explore, as well as quests that you just accidentally stumble upon while straying off the beaten path. There are even quests that, to this day, I haven’t played.
The second thing that Skyrim gets right is its level of customization and personalization.
Customization wise, the game gives me the freedom to play whoever and whatever I want, a trademark of Bethesda’s approach to immersion. I typically enjoy playing as an anti-hero in Skyrim; I can murder an entire town of innocent NPCs yet at the same time not have to feel guilty about it since I’ve just saved the world from total annihilation. I am also free to traverse the map as a vampire-werewolf hybrid, and later return home to my dog and two kids after a long day of questing, looting, and exploring.
Personalization wise, many experiences in the game feel non-scripted, as though they were designed for me and no one else. For instance, I can slaughter all the guards in Whiterun, and if I’m feeling regretful afterwards, I can reload the save and pretend like it never happened. I can drag around battered corpses and toss them into the nearby river to watch them drift away. I can pickpocket lords and jarls and hope they won’t notice. I can defy the laws of gravity by riding my horse down an incredibly steep mountain. I can assassinate the High King of Skyrim and then parade around with his clothes in public. I can stick a bucket onto the Riverwood Trader’s head and steal everything in his shop. Then, if I become over-encumbered, I can drop dozens of pounds of useless junk in the middle of the road. I can do all of those things because the game simply lets me, and it always ends up feeling like an experience that was handcrafted for my personal enjoyment.
The third thing that Skyrim gets right is its MUSIC. Skyrim simply wouldn’t be the game that it is without Jeremy Soule’s epic, emotionally charged score. Every piece not only complements the game’s atmosphere, it enhances the atmosphere altogether, making you feel like this is your story that you are writing as you go along. The music also tells a story in itself. For instance, The Streets of Whiterun communicates the quiescence of the town of Whiterun, while the heart-pounding Watch the Skies communicates the fast-paced nature of a dragon attack. My favorite pieces are The Jerall Mountains, Distant Horizons, Dawn, and Aurora. Soule really knows how to compose an unforgettable soundtrack.
I could go on forever about how amazing The Elder Scrolls V is, continuing with its superb leveling system, well-written quests (sometimes), and satisfying combat mechanics. However, I’d have to admit to a bias with respect to the game’s actual quality. It is not without its faults; some quests, at least back in the day, were bugged and thus could not be turned in. Also, companions annoyingly block your path, the same six or seven voice actors are used for virtually every NPC on the map, and the game can generally become repetitive after enough playthroughs. Nonetheless, Skyrim remains at the top of my list, and it may be awhile before it loses its spot. You could argue that my fondness for the game is a function of my nostalgia, since a lot of media always seems better than at the time I first consumed it.
What it all comes down to is the view. Even though Skyrim is a virtual world with no physical basis in reality, it brings out the nature lover in me. Sometimes, the best parts of the game are emerging from a cave that I’ve been stuck in for hours, and taking in the awe-inspiring view of the vast, snowy landscape (and then getting attacked by a dragon to ruin the moment). It truly makes me glad to be alive to experience such profound beauty, even if it is, at the end of the day, just a video game.
Sadly, Skyrim will never be as special as when I first played it—I know that. However, it will always have a special place in my heart for opening me up to a world with so many things to discover and memories to make.