Category Archives: video games

River City Ransom

I’ve done another cover of a classic (to me, anyway) video game from the late 80s. This time, the boss battle music from River City Ransom. I even recorded some video of me playing the game along to my cover so that it’s not just 6 minutes of a still pic while the music plays.

For this arrangement, I added a flair of old school Iced Earth mixed with some real old school Fear Factory playing under a solo somewhat influenced by Bal-Sagoth. I’m not much of a lead guitarist, so instead of playing difficult solos, I play difficult rhythm guitar. Triples at 230 bpm is music to my ears.

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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in video games


A Spirit of Justice


For a while I’ve wondered if women being more religious than men has to do with something inherent to religion or more to do with religion being the dominant social signal for supporting your “in-group”; in the latter case it might also be responsible for the different moral intuitions men and women have. Though both morality and religion seem to have equal parts genetic and social basis.

With that said, here are a few of the both social and biological reasons why women are more religious than men:



This last point brings us to the latest hoopla in the atheistosphere. Recently, Sam Harris was called a sexist for suggesting that the reason that there are less women than men involved at atheist/skeptic events was due to biological reasons; an “estrogen vibe”. The problem, of course, and as I’ve just posted a multitude of links about, is that Harris was both right and wrong. Mostly wrong, but not entirely wrong. And this brings me back to the question I pondered at the beginning of this post.

Take a look at this data from the Pew survey of religion in the USA:

Notice anything weird? Yes, as usual, women are more religious than men. But not across all religions. Mainstream religions have more women than men, but minority religions (including “unaffiliated”, which would include atheists/skeptics) have more men than women. This is evidence that supports my idea of religion being used as a popular social signal of prosociality.

Another thing to note is at the intersection of biological and social — meaning, where the two effects compound — there is the largest disparity between men and women in regards to religiosity. Can you spot it?

Of course, there can be any number of other hypotheses that explain this data as well so I’m not resting any sort of firm conclusions on this (e.g., the Pew survey also notes that “Nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall.“. Education level is negatively correlated with religiosity). I would need to see religiosity data parsed by gender in countries where those minority religions are the majority.

But what prompted me to even consider that hypothesis was an anecdote that I’ve notice almost everywhere: In both secular and religious gatherings, women seem to volunteer much more than men do. Some research confirms this, and further implies that women volunteer more in these groups due to implicit romantic primes. In other words, just like men show off by taking risks when they think there are attractive women around, women “show off” by volunteering when they think there are attractive men around (or more accurately, when they are primed to think of mate selection). So my guess about women’s relationship with religion might not have anything to do with religion per se, but with support groups or being prosocial. And I guess that if there were some country where atheism had better and more ostentatious support structures than the religious, we would see that more women would be less religious than men. For the both biological and social reasons I listed above.

But no country like this exists.

Back to Harris’ mostly wrong guess. It seems like it’s not estrogen that makes women more religious than men, but instead — if we are only looking at biological reasons — it’s testosterone that makes men less religious than women. The female template is the default of humanity, the male is a derivative (nipple check!). Of course, women have testosterone as well, but not nearly at the levels that men have. It should go without saying that hormones have a noticeable effect on human behavior. I also wonder if the sociological reasons above actually prompt underlying hormonal changes and it’s those underlying hormonal changes that are changing a person’s level of religiosity/prosociality. E.g., there’s evidence that stress increases, among other hormones, oxytocin levels, and of course, men being shown pictures of sexy women — as well as other behavior — increases their levels of testosterone. The social can affect the biological and vice versa.

So is Sam Harris a sexist? Well… this question actually beggars another question, one related to my previous post on truth vs. morality. What Sam Harris said is somewhat true: There are biological reasons why women are more religious (read: more prosocial) than men. But what he said is also immoral. Thus the eternal battle between truth and morality. Harris suggesting an “immoral” hypothesis completely depends on the time and place he says it. It would be equally “immoral” to suggest as a hypothesis 1,000 years ago that god didn’t exist. The ontological status of god’s existence 1,000 years ago or hormonal effects on behavior in the 21st century are orthogonal to the ethical status of questioning god’s existence 1,000 years ago or suggesting hormonal effects on behavior in the 21st century.

Truth vs. Morality.

A little backstory about the image I chose for this post. In the video game Dragon Age II, a mage named Anders has fused with a spirit that personifies the concept of justice. In the world of Dragon Age, mages are subjugated due to their potential to become what in the game is referred to as Abominations. In this world, there are various spirits that personify different human vices and virtues like rage, sloth, greed, justice, etc. but it is usually the vice-related spirits that are drawn to mages and try to fuse and take over their magic-gifted bodies becoming much more powerful than a normal mage. After the fusion they then begin carrying out their vice (sloth, greed, etc.). The virtue related spirits don’t seem to care about humans at all. Due to this subjugation, Anders — being born a mage — harbors a lot of resentment towards the current world order where mages are second-class citizens without their own freedom or autonomy, held in check by Templars.

Anders encounters the spirit of Justice and they agree to merge; they are technically an “Abomination” but with a “good” spirit instead of the vastly more common “bad” spirit. Usually the benevolent spirits have no concern over human affairs, but circumstances trapped Justice outside of the spirit world and in the normal world. The spirit of Justice, after fusing with Anders, recognizes the injustice that mages are subject to and they both work together in a sort of underground railroad sort of situation helping other mages escape. However, in time, Anders’ rage against his lifetime of injustice corrupts Justice and the spirit then becomes a spirit of Vengeance, taking over Anders at inopportune times and wreaking havoc almost indiscriminately among both the guilty and the innocent.

Internet social justice warriors remind me of Anders/Justice. The smallest whiff of perceived blasphemy (and yes, I’m using the word “blasphemy” on purpose) is met with unbridled aggression. What’s true doesn’t matter, lies are moral as long as they’re in the name of justice (or being done by Justice). Besides Harris, Richard Dawkins has also recently been put through the fires of Justice. As I wrote in a prior post:

Reading about how and why religion comes about, you inevitably stumble onto the conclusion that religion isn’t just some aberration of humanity. The only thing that separates tried and true “religion” from other types of groups — or to put it in its real meaning, tribes — that people identify with is belief in the supernatural. Even if you take away belief in the supernatural, there’s nothing stopping a secular grouping (say, feminism or Objectivism) from tapping into the same family of negative behavior that religious people engage in.

The problem isn’t the supernatural. The problem is in-group vs. out-group. And this in-group/out-group animosity becomes more pronounced when you have a group that has an either implicit or explicit charge of guarding the [moral] truth… Remember my little maxim that I made up: The more a group promotes prosociality, the less it cares about accurately modeling reality

Indeed, identifying strongly with any group, tribe, or movement is a surefire way to bias yourself. Whether it’s your gender, religion, or even favorite football team. Try not to do it!

Spoiler alert: At the end of Dragon Age II, the tension between mages and templars is coming to a head. Anders shows up and blows up an entire (in game version of) a church because any compromise between mages and templars is, to Anders/Justice, no justice. Cooler, more rational heads do not prevail. Anders/Justice’s act creates an all out war between mages and templars, and sets the stage for the next iteration of the Dragon Age saga, which comes out in November.

I almost always execute Anders due to his crime.

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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in cognitive science, economics/sociology, morality, religion, video games


Grandmaster Meio (Strider)

I’ve been busy with work and grad school so I haven’t been reading much about religion. At least, not enough to blog about. However, I’ve still been playing guitar. I’ve covered another slice of the old school video game music catalog; this time from the 1989 arcade game Strider.

I’ve always loved the theme for the final boss, Grandmaster Meio. Its original instance is a bit like a slightly creepy/spacey Bach composition (listen here). I of course metalized it adding a bit of a doom-metal break in between. The title “deathless king” is an homage to a doom band called My Dying Bride (who also influenced my other song I posted).

The character Grandmaster Meio does consider himself a god, so I guess it is somewhat related to my blog!

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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in video games


Why Final Fantasy Is Anti-Religion

Also, see my post on Jesus as an Emanation of God.

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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in video games


Final Fantasy Prologue

So I’ve recorded another cover of video game music. This time, I’m playing a metal version of the Final Fantasy theme song (sometimes called “Final Fantasy Prologue”). This song is pretty straightforward, though I did try to throw in some jazz. The solo’s chord progression that starts at 2:24 I model off of Miles Davis’s “So What”, which modulates between D dorian and Eb dorian. My version modulates between C dorian and Db dorian. Yay metalized jazz! Though the solo itself isn’t jazz.

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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in video games


The Dremora Lord

Again, another post that is slightly off topic from my usual themes of religion and cognitive science.

The Dremora Lord is a character in the video game series The Elder Scrolls. The most recent installation is called Skyrim. While playing Skyrim, I thought that the Dremora Lord was a pretty metal character. He is my favorite character, and I would love to just unleash him in any battle just to hear his quotes while killing people/monsters (really, who would say “I smell weakness” when fighting a dragon? That is metal!). So I thought to myself “If he’s so metal, he should have a metal song about him!” so I wrote one.

Granted, this is just an instrumental with a bunch of quotes from the Dremora Lord in Skyrim.

This song isn’t so much of an original song but more of a Frankenstein’s monster sort of song. I got the riffs from a variety of different bands. The intro riff is a mix of a My Dying Bride riff and an Iced Earth riff. The second riff is influenced by another Iced Earth song. The bridge to the chorus riff was influenced by Nevermore. The chorus riff is again influenced by My Dying Bride and Anthrax. The bridge riff between the chorus riff and returning to the verse riff is influenced by, of all things, Gypsy Jazz. Then, the riff leading up to the solo and the solo itself are influenced by Metallica.

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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in video games


Now For Something A Bit Off Topic

So in the many other blogs that I read, the bloggers always have some personal anecdote or have an entire post dedicated to one of their hobbies. I’ve left that sort of stuff out of my own blog because I want to keep it on focus.

But people like that sort of stuff so I thought I’d post something a little different. Here is a heavy metal version of the Final Fantasy Prelude that I played and recorded:

The original version is in C major but I transposed it to A major so that mine is a bit more recognizable. Meaning that to the trained (or intuitive) ear as soon as you hear it you’ll think there’s something a bit different about it. Besides, it also makes it a bit bass-ier.

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in video games

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