Posted by: seanmalstrom | September 3, 2016

The lack of mythos in gaming

Without knowing Alice in Wonderland, there would be no Super Mario Brothers. Without knowing Alien, there would be no Metroid. Without knowing medieval history, there would be no RPGs. Without knowing military history, there would be no strategy games.

One of my first articles I ever wrote offered a paradigm shift that instead of viewing video games as a fountain of culture, that video games are better seen as users of culture. It is extremely difficult to make a video game. It is a majestic technical feat. Anyone who says otherwise has never tried to make a video game. Those who are able to do the undertaking of making a video game are not generators of the mythos inside these games. Video game developers being very intelligent and curious have been connoisseurs of culture from books, movies, TV shows, and music. Much of what they ‘find cool’ goes into the game. The beautiful gamer is often very young and is exposed to this ‘culture’ for the first time. While innovative and addicting gameplay using current technology is necessary, the magic of gaming requires that cultural transmission.

There are certain trends in gaming I do not like. One of them is that with larger and larger crews, there is less possibility for the eccentricity of the individualistic cultural tastes. The game’s mythos seems like a chewing on a bland sock (which is what it feels like when you try many types of pieces of gum at once). The other, more scary trend is that game developers today lack culture. The culture they know is from older video games.

I can complain about this all day long, but I wish to offer an example of how different things can be.

Take a look at this book. The High Crusade is already over fifty years old. The book is about medieval knights going against aliens. What a clash of cultures there! It is a premise that is far more interesting and entertaining than the super serious and overdone ones we see today.

“But Malstrom,” you say, “This is stupid. Knights cannot against aliens with their super technology.” The point is to not underestimate such primitive people such as these knights. Is this premise any different than your typical RPG game or Zelda game? Is not every RPG just a ‘small town boy’ who learns ‘the ways of a knight’ to against Ancient EEEEEVIL with Super-Duper Technology?

Above: Knight against Futuristic Technology

As readers know, I frame Science Fiction Versus Mythology as thus:

Science Fiction is that further in the future, the more technology civilization becomes.

Mythology is that further back in time, the more technology civilization used to be.

One of the great things about the movie Idiocracy is that it reveals how our default mindset is science fiction. In an Idiocracy world, ancient civilization would seen as ‘higher tech’ or, at least, the people would be seen as having higher IQs.

I like the idea of a video game that instead of knights against a mythological power, it is knights against a science fiction power. It would work very well as a video game premise. It has freshness.

Nintendo seems obsessed with IP and IP marketing lately. Let me throw it inside out. When Zelda 2 came out, the reviewers and mainstream public had an ‘IP recognition’ of it as ‘Nintendo’s take on Sleeping Beauty’. With Mario, it was Nintendo’s take on Alice in Wonderland. Metroid was Nintendo’s take on Alien. The way how Nintendo and the video game industry thinks about IP (oh that legal word!) is infantile and doesn’t even begin to get to the magic of things.


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