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?


In the Titan movie series they focused on Zeus, Poseiden, and Hades, the gods that are supposed to have created all of us mortals. If you are interested in learning more about them, watch the movies, or there is a lot of other sources to find out more. But let’s take a look at some Greek myths that maybe you haven’t heard about.

THANATOS AND HYPNOS

You have likely heard many myths or stories of Death,  but the Greek twist creates some unique game mechanic opportunities. Thanatos is Death, one of two twin sons born of the Greek gods Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness).  The name itself has led to words you do know; euthanasia, thanatophobia, thanatology… Ok maybe not all the words are familiar.

Two brothers brought variations of their powers to those they encountered; Thanatos was the god of non-violent death, and Hypnos was the god of sleep. Both of them used a gentle touch to overcome their victims, unlike their sisters the Keres, who were gods of disease and slaughter, their touches were violent in nature.

It seems to me that this mix of characters could create an interesting multi-player game like Gauntlet or even Battletoads (I think I just showed my age). What game experience could you create?  Lets look at a story based myth and see what that may trigger.

THE MYTH OF THESEUS

As a young boy Theseus didn’t know who his father was, when he was a grown man his mother showed him a gift of sandals and a sword left by his father under a large stone, and told him to go to Athens. Against his mothers advice he didn’t take the safer Sea route and chose to travel by the dangerous land route. His journey resulted in many challenges that required a mix of brain and brawn.

His first encounter was against a club wielding man name Periphetes who threatened to bash his head in. Using flattery, Theseus convinced Periphetes to let him see the club and then used it against him. He now had a new club.

Further down the road Theseus came across a giant man named Sciron who threatened him with a battle axe. Theseus could not pass unless he washed Sciron’s feet. His club was no match against the axe, so Theseus began to wash his feet. While washing he noticed a man eating giant turtle at the bottom of the cliff and realized his fate, when Sciron went to kick him over the cliff, he jumped aside and pushed his enemy over the edge into the turtles mouth below.

Walking further along the road he encountered what appeared to be Sciron’s twin. Much more polite, the giant asked Theseus to hold down a pine tree, this was Sinis the pine-bender. When Theseus grabbed the tree, Sinis let go expecting him to be flung into the air. To his surprise Theseus held it down, and when Sinis bent down and looked to see if the tree was broken, Theseus let the tree go and knocked him out.

As it was getting dark Theseus found an Inn, but discovered the man offering him a magic bed was Proscutes. Proscutes’ claim was a bed that fit anyone, trouble was if you were too short it would chain you and stretch you, if you were too tall it would cut off your legs until you were the right length. When Proscutes took Theseus to show him the bed, Theseus pushed the Innkeeper into the bed where his legs were chopped off.

After a good nights sleep Theseus reached Athens the next day, at the center of the city was the castle of Aegeus and his wife Medea the sorceress. Medea knew who Theseus was, and feared he would exile her. She lied to Aegeus saying Theseus was sent to kill him, and he agreed to let her poison him at a feast.

Just as Theseus was about to drink the poisoned wine Aegeus recognized the sword he had left for his son and knocked the drink out of his hand. Re-united, father and son rejoiced and Medea was chased out of the city in a chariot pulled by dragons.

THE END

Theseus would later go on to battle the Minotaur in future adventures.

With a combination of brawn and brains Theseus overcame a variety of obstacles in a story that has video game written all over it. How many stories are just waiting for an interactive journey to bring them to life? If these lesser known Greek gods and one lesser known Greek myth have triggered a game idea, then maybe this series is doing what I intended, encouraging you, the reader, to look deeper into Mythology for other characters and creatures that might be the foundation for a story based game.

Tune in next time as we look into other cultures and their Mythologies.


Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS

- Mythology 101: Episode 1 (Roman)