Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Ordinary

I just wanted to amplify a throwaway statement from yesterday's entry. A Hero's Journey, according to Campbell, involves crossing a threshold. That threshold is the barrier between the ordinary, home, the village, the safe and understood; and the unknown, the realm of the gods or of the dead, where rules are not understood. This is an important tautology. If the rules were understood, it would be home and there wouldn't be a threshold. The Journey involves spending time in that realm, facing the ultimate tests and thus achieving understanding. And with that understanding -- the "boon" -- the hero is now capable of returning to the home realm, but now as a warrior, capable of doing whatever it takes to save the village or impart his new wisdom.

Now in a game like Everquest, the go-forth-and-kill is your day job. What could be more quotidian? It is hardly a departure from the ordinary into a non-understood realm. The danger here is not that it gets boring, clearly people find it amusing enough, but that by definition it is incapable of capturing an important aspect of the hero's journey. And as such, it will lack an important mythic and emotional resonance.

This is a problem easier to diagnose than fix. Can you only go on a Hero's Journey once? Once a year? Once a week? Is the use of the hero's journey as construction principle an oxymoron?