Extra Credits: The Hero’s Journey (Part 1)

This week, we begin a two-part series on the Hero's Journey as applied to games.

Show Notes:

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  • But isn't the fact that so many people work on it at once just further dilution from the original authorial message, unless we're following an auteur game designer?

    But that assumes that any one person on the team is the true 'author' of the piece. That depends more on the design and development process than anything else. Often a design document will specify things such as the intention of the piece, its mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics, etc. Also, whilst the team will all have their input and such, they will usually all be on the same page in terms of the intent of the piece. If they're not, it often shows in the finished product.

    In the case of Journey, it was developed by a small team led by a designer known for trying to convey messages and evoke feelings through gameplay.

  • Well maybe the invisible walls in Elder Scrolls are just the character refusing to leave the land until they 've completed a quest that's important to them, things of this nature can be debated in circles for years by looking as deeply into things as possible, that doesn't make them true, it just makes them unexplained.

    Welcome to what I spent the last chunk of my academic life writing about.

    At no point did I say anything was 'true', I merely presented an interpretation of the intended aspects of a single game - you then tried, and failed, to apply similar interpretations to other games, which is to be expected, as I said, not every game tries to tie these things into a narrative, nor does it need to.

    It's a similar case to how the inevitability of defeat present in all arcade games of the time can be argued to be a core aspect of Missile Command's narrative, or in another medium the scene changes that allow us to skip the boring bits irrelevant to the story being told are explicitly used in the Doctor Who episode Forest of the Dead as part of the plot (To name just one time Moffat has done something like that).

    Using a common part of the structure of the medium in such a way that it carries meaning within the specific work.

  • I kind of wish they clarified at the start the degree of spoilers for Journey. I quit the video at the first point because I'm deathly afraid of having that game spoiled before I get to play it. I guess this series has to wait.

  • Sorry for digging this up, but I started reading The Hero with a Tousand Faces because of this episode, or more like these two episodes. Now I've read through the steps Call to Adventure and Refusal of the Call, so here I go:

    The Refusal of the Call is not a necessary step in a hero's journey. It is more like a possible way to deal with the call. Joseph Campbell points out that those "boring" heroes, by refusing, turn into victims who have to be saved by future heroes. With the given example of Minos, who refuses dealing with the Minotaur once and for all and rather just locks him away, I'd say that's the way "villains" can be born. The interesting ones, of course.
    "True" heroes will always at some point accept the call. Otherwise they wouldn't be heroes.

    So that was the problem I had with your (otherwise great) explanation of the topic.

    The other thing bugging me is how you seem to think you can apply the Hero's Journey to stories in an interactive medium the same (or a similar) way you would in a non-interactive medium.
    Joseph Campbell is talking about heroes in non-interactive myths.

    Okay, let me explain this.

    Let's return to the Call to Adventure:
    You seem to look for that in the Intro. And given what you said about the first 5 minutes in games, I get it's kind of important to get to the point of the game pretty early. But.
    If you want to really apply the Hero's Journey to games, you have to look at the way the character is part of the known world. It's a journey from the known to the unknown (and back). But as the player, you do not know the world your character is living in. You have to be introduced to his everyday routines, not by telling or showing, but by doing. That takes really much time. In terms of proper game design, too much. The tutorial should be introducing everything "on the way" and the first five minutes must not consist of the boring everyday life the hero will leave behind... There is not much room for bonding with your character's home.
    But that would be neccessary to properly experience the "Call to Adventure", and not just observing someone hearing the Call. Isn't it strange that even in a game like Journey, the Call has to take place in a non-interactive sequence? I mean, what did that hooded thing do in the desert in the first place? Sitting there? Waiting for a star to come by?
    The point of the kind of initial Refusal that gives depth to the character is that he has a home he doesn't want to leave. He already has a life. He has a place he knows, but the adventure calls him to the unknown. The player knows neither the "home" world nor the "adventure" world, so it's all the same to him and he doesn't care. He can not care, if pretty much the first thing he sees of the game is the Call.
    Only when he has been in the desert long enough to feel at home, you could say they hear the Call to exploring the unknown parts of the desert. The Refusal of the Call for the character, however, would be not getting the scarf, or not getting up at all. Just keep sitting there. Not going further into the desert in the first place. The desert wind would be more like some sort of guiding force, I think. The wind is showing the way to the star, if you want to interprete that smoothly implemented invisible wall. The player never denies the Call to look for the star, he simply wants to explore more adventures on the way. I don't see a refusal in that. But as I said, as the character is in fact a "true" hero, he does not refuse the Call.

    So my point is:
    If you want the player to properly experience the Hero's Journey, you cannot start out with the Call to Adventure. You, as the player, have to get used to the known realm first. In non-interactive stories it's not necessary to do boring stuff like that, as you can simply show or tell the observer how the character feels about being ripped out of their comfort zone. But in an interactive story, you have to make the player feel like heading out to the unknown, leaving his home behind.

    If that home means nothing to the player, there is nothing heroic in that step.

  • I found this video that talked about the Hero's Journey and thought it'd be cool to share with you guys.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdXR9vHR ... ure=relmfu

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