Well it seems like a bold statement doesn’t it? They’re games. They tell pretty stories. Who comes off with this bizarre conclusion? Well I draw a lot of this from a lovely book by Joseph Campbell called The Power of Myth, and this particular quote:
“We can’t have a mythology for a long, long time to come. Things are
changing too fast to become mythologized.”
Sounds simple enough – even if you don’t accept it. Now, where does faith come in?
So, for starters, let’s just take another definition from the book on what myth is for us to see how that leads to Sonic.
that what human beings have in common is revealed in myths. Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to life and then to death. We need for life to signify, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are.
So what is myth then? It’s just stories; but, it’s still even more than that. It’s this humbleness in storytelling that admits that you don’t have it all. You tell these stories because they connect to this core of you, but even in telling, you acknowledge: ‘I can’t give you a good sentence or two to make sense of my life, but rather, this story connects to me and explains me. It’s me. Whatever that should mean’ Drawing further from the book:
“It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you.”
Now what exactly has that to do with Video Games? Well think about it. Sometimes we get video games that literally bring back these lost myths to our faces. God of War, Dante’s Inferno, Titan Quest, and even Age of Mythology
These stories, these archetypes, every bit of it becomes part of your experience. We dress up like them at conventions, we excitedly tell friends of all the crazy stuff that happens in the story line. We gleefully tell how we went back in time to retrieve the pieces of Eden and thwart the efforts of the Templars. All of these creating a sea of mythology and symbols in our mind that become launching pads for those who dare to use them.
Gamers now have their own cultural traditions, and I use that phrase quite literally. You can go and read the Hero with a Thousand Faces, another Campbell book, and realize you’ve met most of these archetypes already.
- Mentor – Deckard Cain “Stay Awhile and Listen.”
- Threshold Guardian – *cough* Boss *cough* Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Gohma
- Herald – Bugenhagen: Final Fantasy VII
- Trickster – Knuckles: Sonic 3 (It changes, of course)
- Hero – Sonic, Guybrush Threepwood, 007, etc etc etc
What we have now is simply a new pantheon. We can tell timeless stories with new faces, stories, and music; and, all of this becomes part of our collective identity. We even have an anthem – what commoner doesn’t recognize the Mario theme even if they don’t know where to plug in a controller?
Instead of trying to bring religion into games, mainstream ones anyway – unless you count El Shaddai: Ascension of Metatron or Okami, but anywho… – we bring mythology back in a million sparkling facets from every studio in the world, and we get new ways to look at our world through the eyes of a post-apocalyptic survivor with a Colt .45, a Hedgehog, and even just a plain man running around a fog-filled town trying to find his daughter.
But sure, you can brush this off. You can tell me that it’s all a load of crap. That these stories do nothing to you, and that you’re just playing for the multi-player. But I don’t believe that when you played FFIX that something inside you didn’t reach out to Vivi as he ran around trying to find out if really wasn’t going to live long, and that there may not have been a thing he could do to cling to life for a day longer. And ultimately, why someone would even bother to make him that way. What horrible purpose could that be?
When times are good, we find triumphant stories of high scores and epic boss battles to tell to others. When times are bad, we look to fallen heroes. Why do people get so hooked into Gears of War? It’s a tragic story. Where’s the glory? It’s the identification. They’re fighting a losing battle, and aren’t we too? Cheery outlook, right? But can you disagree? We all want Aeris’ prayer to be successful, we want/we need that Angel to save the planet.
But just like the ending cinematic doesn’t tell us, who knows what happens?
Well, it reminds me of this game I played….