Think of your favorite book. And now, recall your favorite movie. Last, what is your favorite game? Compare each of them: Are they similar genres or different? How about setting, same or different? Now, think of the basic story structure – the pattern of events, not the actual events themselves. Are those similar or different? I’d be willing to bet that while the answers to the first two questions will be rather varied among a given group of people, the answer to the last question will be, overwhelmingly, “Same.”
Humans seem to tell the same story, over and over. Whatever the specifics may be, whatever the setting, from whatever culture the stories hail, we find similarities running through most myths. These similarities were distilled by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, (on which the title of this issue plays) though they have been in use for millennia by orators and scribes the world over.
The “Hero’s Journey,” as Campbell terms it, is the timeless tale of the reluctant hero, plucked from his or her everyday existence to save a people/relic/lover from the clutches of a shadowy evil. Our hero is helped along his way by some ancient talisman, or perhaps an older figure, often male; he is also often spurred along his way by the thought of his ever-changing beloved. He sets out, battles foes, solves puzzles, and finally ends up in a battle with the Evil, and comes out the other side a changed man, seeming older, wiser and reunited with saved people/relic/lover.
Familiar, yes? Pretty much the story behind every RPG ever created, and certainly many books and films, isn’t it? We don’t really know why this is so. Perhaps it’s echoes of our day to day lives, from hunter gatherer times when we go on our first hunt, to now, when we land our first job. Perhaps the sequence of events happens to trigger just the right series of chemicals in our brains to keep us enthralled, time and time again. Perhaps it is some manner of collective consciousness showing through (Campbell was a student of Carl Jung).
Whatever the reason is, this persevering Myth is fascinating. It is one tie that truly binds, not just current day cultures to each other, but to those of the distant past. And this is why we turn our eyes to the myth in games in this week’s issue of The Escapist. Join us on our journey, and enjoy!