Mythology 101

As a Game Designer interested in how stories can be told as part of a game experience,  I have researched a lot into the foundations of stories and how they have influenced games and movies over the years. One of the foundations of that, is those that believe there are only so many stories to tell. 1

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descension

I found the idea that there is only 20 plots, to be interesting and it makes for a fun game when watching a movie or reading a book to see which plot they have chosen. When it comes to Interactive adventures and fantasy though, the bigger influence is not the story that is told, but the source of the story. With TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time we are seeing a great resurgence in the classic Fairy Tales and Fables from days gone by. The area that most fascinates me is Mythology, those stories that reach way back to the roots of storytelling, those stories that were passed down generation to generation.

We have all heard stories of Sasquatch and Unicorns, however once you start digging, you start to realize that many of the characters and creatures of today’s games and movies go back centuries. Over the coming episodes of this series, I am going to take a look at some of the common and uncommon mythological beings and creatures that harken back to cultures based all around the world.

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.

Let’s start with a couple commonly known ones from Roman Mythology…

Cupid

Cupid, aka Eros, is described as being the Roman god of love, in latin, the name Cupid translates to Desire. The Mythology of Cupid has him being the son of the goddess Venus, he rarely left her side and used bow and arrows to shoot desire into the hearts of men. He had two types of arrows, the golden arrow which signified true love, and the lead arrow which signified lust and sensual passion. His mother was told that he never grew bigger than a child because he was alone, once she had another child named Anteros, he grew quickly to become a full grown man.

Today Cupid is most portrayed as the small cherub firing arrows at lovers, as a symbolical representation of Valentines Day. No longer is Cupid sent out by his mother Venus to find unsuspecting couples and bring them together with one shot of his arrow… that role has been taken over by E-Harmony and Match.com.

Mars

Mars, the original God of War, was born when Jupiter and Juno hooked up, and is part of the twelve Olympian gods; Apollo, Ceres, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Venus, Vesta, and Vulcan. (Anything sound familiar about those names?) Apparently the dozen gained their “supreme being” status after Jupiter and his brothers defeated the Titans in a massive war. The Titans were a  mix of the Chaos clan backed up by 100 Giants including the one eyed Cyclops.

Mars is always shown with a spear in hand, and is called upon whenever Roman armies were about to engage in battle. The Romans kept his spear, and when it was seen to vibrate or shake, it meant that a war was coming or something violent would happen… this was supposed to have been the case prior to the assassination of Julius Caesar. Some say that Mars lost his warring ways when Cupid used his archery skills to make Mars fall in love with his mother, Venus.

 

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.


120 Master Plots By Ronald Tobias, 1993

Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS