Episode 75: Mythic Structure in Game Design
What do rollercoasters, songs, fancy meals, and summer blockbusters all have in common? They are designed to take us for a ride. Whether emotionally or physically, each moment is engineered to be just what the audience needs at just the right time. The creators in these mediums are able to pull off such feats time and time again because certain narrative structures resonate with human beings, and, in fact, have done so since the beginning of recorded history. Joseph Campbell, the respected comparative mythologist, pioneered research in this field with his seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. His thesis being that the myths of both ancient and modern societies all follow a similar pattern and structure. The reason for theses parallels, he argues, is that human beings en masse experience the same journey from cradle to grave and this “Hero’s Journey”, as he coined it, serves as a symbolic map to the important milestones in our lives. The “Hero’s Journey” gained pop culture awareness after George Lucas embedded the theory and ideas into an obscure little space movie he was making in the late Seventies. The rest is history.
This week, we explore how these common mythic structures can help us to make our games more engrossing. From Nicole Lazzaro’s “4 Keys 2 Fun” to Jesse Schell’s “Interest Curves”, we explore how different game designers have tackled this idea. Whether your game is narrative based or not, these principles are just as valid and worth discussing. Luckily, on today’s episode, we do just that.
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