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June 20, 2017

The Journal (Entry 3) Leadership and Godly Principles


Leadership is a sensitive subject for someone like myself. I've always been the kind of person who asserts himself and likes to take charge in a situation, yet in the same vein wants to include others in his decision-making process.

As young as I am, I disqualified myself from having any kind of leadership skills due to how others mocked me for my age and inexperience in many fields. Insecurity abounds, so I believed what they said in order to be a people-pleaser.

I thought any disagreement with what people said of me and my lack of skill was true, and I should just accept that I wouldn't ever be mature enough to be a leader until I was older, had a place of my own, wife, kids, mortgage, zzzzzzzz.

Clearly I didn't realise what leadership actually was. Leadership is not about being a manager, boss of a company, or expert in any given field. Leadership is not about age, marital status, gender, or race. Leadership is not even about whether you're an elder at a church or physical leader in ministry.

Leadership is about taking up your responsibility as a Christian and living a Godly life, setting an example for the world and the people around you. In this regard, ANY person can be a leader. In fact, all of us are called to be leaders in our respective paths, all having a plan and a purpose ordained by our Creator through His son Jesus.

It's comfortable to live under the mantle of "I'm not old enough" or "I'm not qualified", or "I don't lead at a church" as excuses not to live out spiritual leadership, but none of them yield. It's all about glorifying God; not one of us is actually qualified to do that, as we are all inherently sinful. Rather it's a responsibility given to us Christians, washed clean by the blood of Jesus, to carry out daily.

1. Submit to God. 
2. Repent daily. 
3. Exercise your faith. 
4. Lead others to Christ. 
5. Rinse and repeat. 

Those who've been doing this longer than I have will point how difficult this really is. Nevertheless, it's a lifestyle all of us Christians need to pursue. I trust that this message finds you well, and inspires you to do the same in your life, as God has been pressing on my heart as of recent.

It's not easy, but necessary. Yet through Christ, all things are possible.

June 12, 2017

The Journal (Entry 2) - THE NEW COLOSSUS!

"Count to four, inhale...count to four, exhale..."
"I've been struggling with quite a bit of burnout in recent months, mostly due to my desire to post every week, yet there's not really good material to actually post. Most of the games these days don't really interest me and don't really seem all that exciting. Maybe it's just me."
I wrote this two days ago. As I didn't know what to say further, I left this post in draft mode, and then went on with my life. Next thing you know, E3 rolls around and...the sequel to one of my favourite games is announced! Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a thing! Woot! :D

Blog readers will know that I gave high marks to The New Order back in 2014, praising it's story and meaningful characters. The trailer for The New Colossus seems to indicate that the characters will be even deeper (and more comical) this time around, with a lot of funny little setpieces.

I won't link to the trailer here, as it contains a bit of strong language, but check it out. If you were a fan of the original back in 2014, there's no reason why this one will disappoint you. I know, it has happened, but I'm pretty sure it will satisfy us just as much as the original did.

And with that, I have something good to review later this year. Go team!

June 07, 2017

The Journal REDUX: Entry 1


Hi everyone. I hope you all enjoyed my Civilization V review on Sunday. A little bit on the short side, but I wanted to hammer it out for you so that it could be of use to someone, somewhere down the line.

Due to burnout, I've made the preemptive decision not to follow through with the schedule I set for myself. It's not realistic due to possible work expectations from the technology career I'm currently pursuing. Instead, I'm going to be taking this site back to what it was: A blog. While the reviews are useful from an objective standpoint, ultimately the entire site is about my viewpoints on select games.

As my opinions are formed by taking a whole subject, breaking it into chunks, and reassembling it to form a specific verdict, the formula of the Content Guide took shape. I lost this outlook in recent years, due to the demand of having to make a living taking over, and as such, I tried to reshape the blog to appeal to search engines and generate revenue through ads.

At the time, Google refused to monetise my site due to supposed content issues. However, as you can probably tell, they've lifted this refusal and I now have ads on the site. With that said, I want to emphatically say the money was never the focus of the blog, nor was popularity. The focus of the site was always to have a place to express my personal views on a subject, and at the time of the site's inception, video games were the absolute centre of my world.

Having become an adult in recent years, my focus has shifted. While I previously played video games to emulate the experience of having an adventure beyond the familiar, becoming a member of the working class has fulfilled that need in unexpected ways. Sure, work has it's definite downsides, not the least of which was waking up 05:30 each morning in the freezing cold to prepare for the day ahead, but the experience of being in a team of people working for a cause was exhilarating.

Does this mean games are not my thing anymore? Absolutely not. I still very much love pop culture, albeit for different reasons. Instead of using them to have adventures I thought wouldn't be possible for me, I now play them to stimulate my need to solve problems. I want to play games in order to analyse things, whether real or fictional, be they frustrating problems one has to overcome in order to advance, or the dilemmas facing the characters as they traverse the narrative laid before them.

It is also for this reason, starting end of July, that my site will have another URL change, and a wider focus. Instead of just video games, we will look at whatever else piques my interest. Be it moral discussions about the content of pop culture, views on the internet and security (a field I've recently delved into), the censorship of free speech, or my deep views on Christianity, there's plenty one can talk about once the site goes through another cycle of it's "guided evolution".

One of these things, is a daily Journal post. It's a necessity for someone like me, who has an overactive mind always pondering things. Whereas I previously used Facebook for some of my thoughts, I'll instead use this site. What will I talk about? I don't know. Video games perhaps. Or maybe the events of the day, a discovery I made about life, the universe, and everything. Heck, even turkeys are now a viable topic. I mean, what's with them?

Part of the fun of running this site is that it's equally as unpredictable for me as it is for you. While this would be a recipe for disaster if I was actually trying to run a major tabloid site like IGN, a blog is much more open for experimentation. Hopefully this experimentation will evolve into something concrete for a big site, but even if it doesn't, it's not the biggest deal. At least it will be fun, and that's something it hasn't been in quite some time.

So enough blabbering, let's get to it!

June 04, 2017

Civilization V Christian Review


Not Pictured: Gandhi firing his nukes at you. Because "world peace"! :)


Violence: Soldiers are depicted akin to chess pieces; by moving into the space occupied by an enemy to capture (kill) them: Combat is shown, with swords and spears slashing and jabbing at enemies, who fall over and die bloodlessly. Arrows kill enemies at a distance, and much later in the game, rifles. Said rifles are depicted firing weapons with bangs and muzzle fire, with enemies merely collapsing upon being shot.

Sex/Nudity: One of the leaders in the game, Catherine the Great, has a dress showing cleavage.

Language: According to the ESRB, a few instances of mild language. During my time with this game, I did not encounter such content.

Spiritual Content: When researching new technologies, excerpts and from religious texts and quotes of religious leaders are read, often referring to God, philosophy, or morality. Quotes from the Bible are common, with references to the Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism, and more. These quotes are objective and don’t place one religion ahead of another, only serving to add to the game’s sense of cultural awareness.

Drug Content: Reference to an opium drug trade.

Morality: Depends purely on the player. One can either massacre every single civilization in existence, or attempt to live in harmony with everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to play the game; only the way you choose to play.

Review: 8.0

Conquer the World, Go to Space, Bring About World Peace, or Fade into History…

A brilliant game in many respects, Civilization V falters a tad bit compared the previous instalment in the simple regard of keeping your attention through to the end.

Gameplay: Taking the 4X style of gameplay (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) and putting a new yet rather simplistic twist on it, Civ V nevertheless manages to be highly addictive in its fast-paced style of gameplay. The late game falters a little, especially due to the fact that it can get repetitive. Upgrade this, research that, avoid getting annihilated by Gandhi again, etc, etc, oh the game's done. Wow, third place. Good thing there's only three Civilizations.

It should be noted that the expansion Brave New World, which I haven't played, addresses this late game's dullness. As we are reviewing the base game, however, this is a definite negative point.

Audiovisual: Civ V has an interesting visual style a la Atlas Shrugged. The game’s voiceovers are adequate and non-invasive, adding flavour to the culture-based gameplay. Graphically, the game is still quite stunning, even if it is questionably demanding on your hardware once world leaders are introduced.

Replay Value: This is why you buy the game in the first place. Highly addictive, chaotic, intense, and sometimes hilarious, Civ V will have you coming back for more in no time.

Conclusion: Having only a few areas of concern for parents, Civ V is educational and family friendly for the most part. The violence is not graphic, and while some of the game’s historical references might be unsettling for younger gamers, it is not done in an overtly graphic way.

Verdict:

For Violence and Thematic Elements

May 24, 2017

New Reviews: A Quick Overview




I've mentioned wanting to branch out to other mediums than gaming, such TV series, music, films, and the like. I do want to note that video games are still going to be the top priority, and Content Guides for said games are compulsory for my posts. Reviews of other mediums don't necessarily need content guides, as they are widely covered by other sites in detail.

Reviews of film and music are going to be purely reviews. That doesn't mean that I won't go into detail about my beliefs and how they relate to a particular song or movie. It's what sets my site apart from being just an average media site, due to us trying to go much deeper than normal entertainment pages. We want to be able to look at these pieces of entertainment in a much deeper lens than what is normal, even if that means we have to unfortunately put reviews up much later than corporate sites.

I'll have a review schedule up once I've calculated the logistics of running such a site. Expect more frequent posts in the near future. :)

May 23, 2017

Is Pop Music Becoming More Generic?

I've recently expressed my desire to branch out my reviews to other mediums, such as film and music, so I'll briefly elaborate on a problem I've seen with modern music: It's so generic. 

Pop music, while not exactly being the top deck of lyrical craftmanship, has it's standouts. I was a huge fan of Coldplay a few years back, even going as far to link to their songs from my posts. I enjoyed their earlier work, especially their sophomore outing A Rush of Blood to the Head, an excellent alternative album in many respects.

Their album-ending song, Amsterdam, begins with the song's protagonist at a suicidally low level, lamenting on his fate, before telling of an unknown saviour who "came along and cut him loose". The first song on the album, Politik, was written on the day the twin towers collapsed, holding a certain bitter rawness to it, yet the ending is quite hopeful in spite of it. This contrasting dynamic helps build the songs to make them feel deeper, and more meaningful, while also still being catchy tunes to chart the billboard. 

Their more recent stuff lacks substance, and focuses more on sappy choruses and catchy hooks, which sound pleasing to the ear at times, but doesn't really go deeper than that. It does seem that the pop hits of yesteryear had significantly more depth than the trite of today. Much of the music I see fails to connect to one's heart in any way, instead focusing on having a "nice beat" and some "cool" bass drops. I know that there's genuinely good music to be found somewhere in the ocean of mediocrity, but said massive pool of garbage is growing larger by the minute.

Here's to better years for music to come, hopefully in the near future. Not all years are going to be the best for pop culture, after all.

May 21, 2017

Max Payne 2 (Christian Review) - Dangerous Liaisons


Reviewed by Kyle van Rensburg, editor-in-chief of KVR Gaming (soon to be KVRx).

While writing my Max Payne 3 review many moons ago, I had a thought: As a Christian, if you met Max Payne in real life, what would you say to him? Said review was during my more fire-and-brimstone (and less grammatically endowed) years, so I ended up giving the game a verdict of Not Recommended to be on the safe side with my more conservative contacts, and discarded the troubling thought in the same manner in which I discarded the challenging, and otherwise quite superb, video game.

Be it a desire for self-improvement, or disenchantment with the almost fascistic supervision of one's entertainment which I thought to be tantamount to "holiness", I've become more questioning and slower to pass judgment in the following years. Some questions are easily answered, others not so much. 

Join me as we on embark on a journey attempting to answer the questions this game bids, with a romance straight out of a cautionary tale and a tale cut from the cloth of a hard-boiled detective novel...

Content Verdict: Great (8.7)


+Engaging Gameplay 

Max Payne 2 is fun, make no mistake about it. Offering a good challenge and an overdose of slow-motion gunplay, it's hard not to enjoy the pulse-pounding action the game presents.

Taking place across three chapters, Max Payne 2 shakes things up just enough to keep players hooked, never being too hard nor too easy.

+Film Noir Story

It may not be the most original story. Femme fatales are a staple of film noir, but here it's given a fresh spin. Mona Sax, the other half of the game's dangerous duo, is inherently likeable due to her confident yet reclusive nature. The hypersexuality of her appearance later in the game may be a detractor for more conservative Christians (like myself), even if her role in the story is highly impactful and otherwise entertaining.

Max himself, while definitely on the corny side, gives the game a rich flavour with his purple prose and deep internal monologuing. Examining all of the game's otherwise stock crime story happenings with a unique perspective, Max proves himself to be one of gaming's most engaging protagonists. You may not always sympathise with him, but it sure is hard not to like the guy.

-Short Length and Lack of Replay Value

It's hard to say that the game was rushed, as it certainly doesn't feel that way, but the game comes to a grinding halt at the end of the Part III. It seems like there was a lot more story to be explored and a whole lot more ground to cover, but then it simply ends. Said ending isn't bad, by any means, delivering an expected ending to the film noir love story, even if the game feels a little stunted by its early placement.

Gamers who thoroughly enjoyed the game will be back for an annual replay, while completionists will have fun trying the game on higher difficulties, but that's about as much as you're going to get out of Max Payne 2. It's not a bad game at all, far from it, it's just a tad too short.

Areas of Concern:


Violence: (7)

--General Violence: Gunplay is a core aspect of gameplay. Many people are shot, with blood spraying, splattering, and staining the environment. Cries of pain are heard. Slow motion (known as “bullet time”) is a feature of the game, with the camera depicting bullets thudding into bodies in detail, blood spraying out.

Cinematic sequences depict environments being blown apart by explosions, with wreckage and destruction shown.

A couple of environments are stained with large amounts of blood, with dead bodies scattered throughout. (7)

Storyline Violence: A man is placed in a cartoon character suit, a bomb armed to go off if the head is detached or otherwise tampered with. He is blown up off-screen in one sequence; we see parts of the suit scattered around a crater, with blood around the neck area of the suit's torso and head, but little detail is shown otherwise. (7)

Gross Stuff:

A man graphically vomits on the floor, which is shown in detail. A man comes in to clean up the fluids, protesting loudly as he does so. (3)

Sexual Content: (6)

--Two characters engage in a brief sexual encounter; we see still images of the man picking the woman up against the wall and hear her making suggestive noises. One of the still images shows a partial view of the woman's breast as her shirt is lifted up. This entire scene lasts 10-15 seconds. Later on, in a dream sequence, a woman is heard moaning at certain points throughout said sequence. (7)

A man walks in on a woman while she’s showering, leering at her. Her entire bare back is shown, and bare legs and shoulders as she walks out wearing a towel. Her midriff is shown in the next scene as she’s putting on a shirt. We later see this sequence again in a dream sequence, with the woman visibly nude behind the shower door. Once he approaches her, rear nudity is briefly shown. (The entire sequence is dimly lit.) (6)

--Two men have a conversation about a woman, one of them expresses his sexual desire for her using the F-word. A prostitute tells a cop that if he does his job, then “maybe afterwards I’ll do mine”. Suggestive noises are heard in hotel environments, clearly suggesting liaisons in the rooms. Some of the fictional serials in the game present characters telling suggestive jokes. As my time with this game was limited, I can't list examples here. The serials are in the background, and the player can choose to ignore them. (6)

--We hear a recording of Max calling a phone sex line: (For non-sexual purposes; he just needs someone to talk to) He talks to one of the woman, who speaks seductively and makes a reference to phone sex, but rebuffs him once she realises he doesn’t want to pay for their services. (5)


Language: (7)

Strong language used throughout. Uses of F**k, S**t, D**k, P**sy, and other profanities.
God and Jesus’ names are used in vain.

Spiritual Content: (4)

Illuminati-esque symbolism is shown in certain environments (the one-eyed pyramid), and references to esoteric secret societies are made.

Drug Content: (6)

(Contains Drug Usage.) Your character uses painkillers to patch himself up after taking damage. The actual pill-popping isn’t shown, save for cinematic sequences. It should be noted, however, that drug usage is required in the game.

Several characters are shown having drinks. Alcoholic beverages are scattered throughout various environments.

References to drug dealing, drug use and the like are scattered throughout the game.

Morality:

As is immediately apparent from the title, the game is about the moral decay of the main character, even if he wasn’t in a very heroic place to begin with. With that said, Max doesn’t kill any innocent people and limits his (rather extensive) vigilante justice to guns-for-hire and professional criminals.


Conclusion:
Max Payne 2 contains Bloody Violence, Strong Language, and Sexual Content. Suggestive themes are prevalent throughout the game, with multiple fictional serials in the game universe containing sexual jokes and lewd situations. Strong language is also used frequently, with F-words and S-bombs dropped throughout the game's narrative. The violence, while strong, isn't excessive, but it is quite bloody throughout.

My Thoughts: Those who've been following my blog for some time now will know how much I despise suggestive content in games solely inserted for the purpose of titillating the player. Max Payne 2's brief sex scene actually has plot relevance and makes sense in context, and also manages not to be incredibly explicit. What pushed the rating over to MA was the numerous other moments throughout the game, such as Max's lustful obsession with Mona being visualised in the dream sequences, which contain far more sexual content than the actual romantic interlude between them.

As the game is focused on an unhealthy obsession, and makes no effort to call it anything but, the suggestive themes make sense, be they the dream sequences or numerous serials present in the game. What I don't like is that it's done for the pleasure of the player, rather than to illustrate a point. 

It's up to the discerning Christian to decide if this dark story is worth their time. There's merit to be had in playing this game, as it indirectly warns about the dangers of obsession while still making the characters relatable in a Bonnie and Clyde fashion. Eat the meat and spit out the bones; if the bones are too much for you, spit it out. Otherwise, for those looking for a fun action game with depth and deciding to skip through the brief content issues, go right ahead.

Outro: Thanks for tuning in, I hope you enjoyed my Max Payne 2 review. Keep tuning on the blog for more assorted posts, including a featured article on Wednesdays. I'll see you next Sunday with another review, possibly an all new review of a music album or film, as this is a direction I've been wanting to take with the blog for some time now.

I'll see you again soon, right here, on KVR Gaming!