In response to "Gifted Youngster" from The Escapist forums:
Despite not really being a comics geek, I've always been fascinated by the X-Men. (I learned enough about them to not be able to watch Heroes without pointing out every character's X-Men analogue...)
There's something about the "you can never go home" change of the X-gene mutations that always struck me. Sure, a lot of them could maintain real vs. secret identities, but there were plenty who couldn't ever even appear normal, and even the ones that could... well, they could pretend to be normal humans, but they couldn't ever really be normal again. Kitty Pryde can dress, talk, and act like any other young woman, but she'll never not be able to walk through walls. Mystique can look like anyone or anything she wants, but deep down she'll always be a blue-skinned, yellow-eyed mutant woman. When a mutant is changed, she's changed forever. That's both empowering, and intensely lonely.
I've always tried to investigate that sense of being set apart from others than seems so ingrained to the X-Men in particular, so much so that all the characters I've designed for tabletop superhero RPGs always seem to have that aspect to them. They can't ever really pass for human. A shapeshifter with a stable of cool forms... but none of them were her human self. A loner who got made to look like an elf... in a modern world where elves are fantasy.
When you don't feel like you yourself belong in the world you're in, it's so easy to be captivated by others who don't. And when you feel like there's no way to even pretend to fit in, you get fascinated by others who can't, either. Ask Hank McCoy.
Well done, Ms. Arendt, well done.
In response to "The Missing Pieces of Civilization" from The Escapist forums:
It would be interesting to make a version of Civilization where the goal is to do what's best for your citizens rather than meeting win conditions. I didn't like it when a happy little Amish nation declared war on me because they didn't want me to colonize Alpha Centauri first.
I still A-Bombed them, but I felt really bad about it.
I agree with the author that Civilization is a good way to get someone interested in history. I disagree that combat is less controversial - there's no way a wounded spearman could beat a tank so easily!
Very interesting, I had often wondered what a historian would think of Civ.
As to pride/lust for power being a powerful motivator, and the decisions people make in the past, I once read a very interesting article that basically stated human behavior is never irrational--it is always made within a cultural framework, and always seems rational to the person doing it at the time. There may be motivating factors-in a bad example, a king attacks out of pride, but that pride is based on having his elites/nobles respect and recognize his power (anything with a hierarchical power structure is based on the legitimation of power and authority). He will seem weak if he does nothing and so must maintain his image. I see this every time I play Civ. My actions are based on immediate need, whether its to keep people happy, keep them fed, or to keep France off my back-even if that means attacking their much larger fleet. Its fair to say others' motivations are similar.