Mythology 101: Episode 10

In the last episode of Mythology 101 we took a deeper look into the Norse mythology of Thor and Loki in particular. So far we have covered most of the major continents from Europe to Scandinavia, so it’s probably time to dig a little deeper into some of the mythology of Africa. This time let’s focus on the Dark Side of the Dark Continent’s mythology, the dangers and the demons, the nightmares and the stories of warning.

Before we get started, we should look at the mythology of how things got started…

According to the people of Zaire, there was a god named Bumba (aka Mbombo). One day Bumba became very ill with a very sore stomach, it kept getting worse until finally he vomited, he vomited the sun, then the moon and finally the earth. He felt a little better, then he got sick again, this time vomiting nine animals; a leopard, an eagle, a crocodile, a fish, a tortoise, another leopard (this time black), a white heron, a scarab beetle, and a goat. The newly formed animals then also got sick, and they vomited up the rest of the world’s creatures. The Heron threw-up all the flying birds, the crocodile threw-up all the snakes and iguanas, the goat threw-up all the horned animals, the fish threw-up all the other fish, and the scarab threw-up all the insects. Just when things seemed to be looking up, Bumba got sick again, and threw up mankind. Just seems really gross to me.

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Mythology 101: a quick recap

Some people believe that as the Head of Game Design, I never get to take a break, that is truly a myth. A sound mind equals a sound body, so now that the Pitch & Play event is over, I am taking a short summer break. Rather than leaving all of you wanting for more Mythology, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a recap of the different areas I have already covered… Just in case you missed something good.

We’ll start with some of the most common mythologies; Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse. In later episodes we’ll look into some of the less known areas… African, Native American, Inca, Mayan, Asian and Aboriginal. Why? Well you only have to look at games such as God of War to realize how much Mythology can influence our games, but there’s a lot more stories to be told.

 

EPISODE 1: Roman Mythology

In the first episiode we took a look at Mars and Cupid, some unique stories there, and unknown to me, there was a link between them.

After spending some time looking at different cultures, you will see that there can be a lot of crossover and similarities between their myths. This is especially noticeable between the Roman Mythology and Greek Mythology, so next time we will take a look at a couple more key figures in Greek Mythology.

With a little bit of historical research, you can find some great elements that can become foundations for a game concept, a story, or even a unique mechanic like the spear shake. So the next time you are having writers block or can’t come up with a spark for a new game concept, look back in time, somewhere between the dinosaurs and the Dragons… you never know what you might find.

- See more at: Mythology 101: Episode 1

 

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Mythology 101: Episode 8

In Episode 7 I looked at a variety of weapons and objects from Celtic mythology, what kind of powers and uses can the objects of mythology hold, and do those fit my game design, or can I use those to inspire different objects? This week I thought we would go back to Mother Nature, and look at some of the mythology of the Native American and First Nations people. There is a huge variety of tribes, each with their own unique myths, but almost all of them are focused around nature and creation.

The stories, myths, and religions of the First Nations and Native Americans are deeply entrenched in symbolism and spirits. Their stories and mythology provide insight into weather, flora, fauna, and earth & sky. Through dance, songs, and rituals passed down by their ancestors, they share these stories and provide meaning and guidance for each generation.

Before you read any further, I think it is important to state that these are the stories that I have heard, and stories that I have discovered when researching mythology. By re-telling these stories in my own way, I in no way mean to disrespect the heritage of the people who have passed these stories down, and I highly encourage you the reader, to research and discover more about their history and beliefs. It is a fascinating culture, and by learning more about it, perhaps people will treat the Native American and First Nations people with the respect that they deserve. They were here first.

Let’s take a deeper look into some of the mythology from a variety of tribes…

 

Cherokee mythology

- The Cherokee tribe was found in Oklahoma and the southeastern United States.

In Cherokee mythology the earth was simply a suspended island on a giant sea, it was formed when a little water beetle named Dâyuni’sï came from the sky and explored below the water. Having nowhere to rest, he dove down and brought up mud which quickly expanded to become the earth. Buzzard was sent down to make sure the mud was dry, but it wasn’t, as he tired, his wings and feet dragged in the mud and created valleys and mountains. When the mud finally dried the animals came down from the sky, but it was dark and they were cold. The animals took the sun and created a path for it to move east to west, but the sun was too close and many animals burned their skin. Several times they raised it higher to prevent it from being too hot, until they found the distance that was just right.

All the plants and animals were told to stay awake for 7 days to keep watch over their new land, but only the owl and panther could, so they were given night vision. Only the Fir trees, like cedar and pines, stayed awake, so the others were made to lose their leaves when it got cold.

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Mythology 101: Episode 7

In Episode 6 I talked about the inclusion of animals in Egyptian mythology, how by looking at Mother Nature we could come up with ideas for characters, their backgrounds, meaning and abilities. This week I wanted to step away from characters and start thinking about the objects and weapons that might be a core part of your game designs. What better to look at for this than the Celtic mythologies, a wide range of myths that included Irish, Scottish, and Welsh stories.

A lot of the mythology from that time period may have been lost due to the Romans destruction of  most of the Celtic writings, but there was still a lot of very interesting stories that survived in secret forms hidden from the Romans, or handed down generation to generation. When people are asked about myths and magical objects, the first things that come to mind are King Arthur’s Sword in the stone, the Stone of Scone (aka Stone of Destiny) from Scotland, and the infamous and lipstick covered Blarney stone in Ireland… but there is a lot more to Celtic mythology than a bunch of rocks.

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The Game Design Summer Intensive Experience 2013

During the week of July 8 to 12, 2013, the Game Design program at Vancouver Film School, located in Vancouver’s Chinatown district, welcomed 15 brave explorers to its Game Design Summer Intensive experience. These explorers may have come from different lands and backgrounds, but they had one thing in common – a passion for creating video games. It is thanks to this passion that they found themselves enrolled in a week-long intensive experience of All Things Video Game Design.

DAY I

The students’ initiation began with a welcome from the Head of the Game Design program Dave Warfield, after which they were off to their first class of Game Theory taught by Instructor Chris Mitchell and Senior Instructor Andrew Laing. During the course of the day students became immersed in the roles of the game designer and analyzed the basic rules and mechanics of gaming.

One of the hardest things to do is to come up with an idea… and by idea, I mean a ‘good’ idea.  There is a fine art to making a game challenging yet entertaining – the motto: if a segment of the game or level is not fun to play, then it needs to be cut, no matter how much you love it. Chris and Andrew shared useful advice, suggestions, techniques and approaches on how to keep the creative process fresh and flourishing, as well where to find inspiration.

Right off the bat, students were divided into teams and asked to brainstorm unique game ideas, keeping in mind 5 essential questions:
1. What is the game?
2. What is the core mechanic?
3. What is the core challenge?
4. Why make the game?
5. Why would you enjoy making the game?

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Mythology 101: Episode 5

Last week in Episode 4 we talked about the creatures of Chinese mythology, the focus was on the multitude of creatures that weren’t dragons. By looking at the wide variety of different beasts, we could use them to inspire better characters and enemies, or find one that fits inside of our games. This time I wanted to be very specific, let’s look at one type of creature, and see that by doing some research there is actually a ton of options of back story, abilities, and variations that you can bring to your games. The dragon… kind of limiting right?

The most common image that comes to mind when you think of Chinese Mythology is the dragon. It has influenced many cultures to a point where it is almost considered history instead of mythology. In movies such as Dragonheart, Eragon, and Reign of Fire, in TV shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf and Game of Thrones, dragons have become common place. Of course games have also had their share of dragons; from Spyro the Dragon, the Dragon Age series, Panzer Dragoon, Dragon Up and even Dragon’s Lair. Of course we can’t forget the Fantasy role playing games, starting with Dungeons & Dragons and more recently World of Warcraft which feature dragons.

If there is one thing that we can learn from this wide array of movies, games, and myths, it is that there is a lot of variation in the stories of dragons, and what those dragons are… if you are really interested in seeing how someone has used that variety effectively, just watch DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon.

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Mythology 101: Episode 4

Last week in Episode 3 we talked about the Australian Aboriginal mythology. The core of that episode was how their myths are focused around creation and how things came to be, if you think about the origins of your game world, that might help build your story. In Episode 4 I want to go in a different direction again, let’s take a look at Chinese mythology, and see how that might help your designs.

The most common image that comes to mind when you think of Chinese Mythology is the dragon. I’m going to save the dragons for next episode, and instead focus on the other creatures of Chinese Mythology.  Let’s look outside the common place and discover the types of creatures that we might be able to use to influence our characters and enemies. What craziness exists in the myths that date back to 2000 BC, and inside of those myths can I find some creatures that could make my game better or different?

An A to Z of Chinese Characters

Ao-Kuang

Ao-Kuang is the most powerful of the ocean dragon kings, I said I wouldn’t talk about dragons, but they are the only ones that start with the letter A.
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Mythology 101: Episode 3

In the second episode we talked about some of the lesser known Greek myths such as Theseus and Thanatos. The focus of episode 2 was to look for lesser know characters and stories of mythology and use them to provide a spark. In episode 3 I want to go in a different direction again, let’s take a look at Australian/Aboriginal mythology, and dig a little deeper.

In Australia there is a culture that has existed for around 50,000 years, the Aborigines are a unique people steeped in Mythology. The stories that they tell today have truly been passed down generation to generation, in their homes, or around their campfires, for thousands and thousands of years. Their stories of mythology are based on what they refer to as Dreamtime, the Dreamtime stories help to explain how things came to be, or provide guidance or morals for the children. Effectively the Mythology is created as a form of education in Aboriginal culture. As those children grow, they become responsible for telling the stories.

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Mythology 101: Episode 2

In the first episode we talked about a couple of the Roman myths, and commonly known characters such as Cupid and Mars. The focus of episode 1 was to look for common stories of mythology and use them to provide a spark or an idea for story or mechanics. In episode 2 I want to go in a different direction, let’s take a look at Greek mythology, and dig a little deeper.

Greek mythology is probably some of the most well known because of the movie industry. Movies such as 300, Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans took some of the most common stories and brought them to the silver screen. Oh, did you think Sam Worthington was the first Perseus?


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Game Design Readings: Understanding Comics

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So I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but throughout my career I’ve been asked to chime in on a great many artistic issues. It’s a collaborative process but also an intimidating one to non-artists like myself. Clearly there is a minimum standard of artistic knowledge that should be held by anyone in game design, and clearly it needs to be presented in a clear, easy to absorb form.

 

Luckily for us, one artist/author has created just such a resource, albeit for a different industry. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a phenomenal resource for any game developer. McCloud does it by the simple expedient of writing an ever evolving comic starring himself, then constantly changing the art style and presentation to match whatever artistic concept he’s talking about. It’s a brilliant concept and goes through a stunning amount of content in a short space of time.

It’s of course centered on the art of comics but it’s done with such skill that it applies to any related artistic field, including of course games. In reading this book you learn the basics of comic grammar, but also types of transitions, iconography, how time works in presentation, how line influences communication, interplay of words, images and colour, and even the artistic process that leads to artistic creation. It’s also a delight to read, the best textbook you were never given.

Part of the work even dedicates itself to the “Are comics art?” debate and nicely enough, the arguments mirror exactly the struggle we in the game industry face when our detractors ask us to explain ourselves and prove our worth. It is, as Scott McCloud himself puts it, “A really stupid question.”

In short it’s a simple but powerful book that any game developer, comic fan or not, should take time to read. It’s a detailed look at the history, purpose and art of comics but also an important resource for any non-artist seeking to educate themselves.


Chris Mitchell teaches Pre-Production, Game Theory and Project Design at VFS