The Hero’s Journey

Yesterday I posted about the importance of heroes and how actions define who we are. The post was more philosophical than anything else, but Gamasutra had an article that fits into the theme quite well: Into the Woods: A Practical Guide to the Hero’s Journey.

It talks about how to make great stories, and obviously it is geared towards game development. Still, it demonstrates how important heroes and mythology are to the development of a person.

In The Cry For Myth, Rollo May points out four areas where myths are still active in modern life

  • Myths give us our sense of personal identity, answering the question, “Who am I?”
  • Myths make possible our sense of community. We are thinking mythically when we show loyalty to our town our nation or our team. Loyalties to our friends or community are the result of strong myths that reinforce social bonding.
  • Myths are what lie underneath our moral values.
  • Mythology is our way of dealing with the inscrutable mystery of creation and death.

In college, I took a class about mythologies of the world. It was one of the more interesting classes I took. I already knew that most cultures had a Flood story, but I actually got to read about the individual myths in this class. I read about the different creation stories. There are some major differences but also some incredible similarities between seemingly different cultures.

I once read somewhere that there are many stories that are going untapped in game development. There are plenty of worlds based on Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings or Medieval knights, but what about African or South American stories? Why aren’t there more games about The Tortoise and the Eagle or ambitious buffalo demons named Mahisha?

And even if we don’t try to make a story directly based on an existing, real-world myths, can’t we do a better job of borrowing ideas from them?

1 comment to The Hero’s Journey

  • Curiously enough, my current project is actually borrowing directly from a source of myth that’s not traditionally addressed in games. It’s a long-term project – I’m still more than a year out. I’m very curious as to how well it will be received. I’m HOPING that the commonality between myth and legend and modern story-telling and even our common cultural heritage will make things seem FAMILIAR even if players don’t immediately recognize the source.