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Which October Game Are You Looking Forward To The Most?

Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Alien: Isolation
Sunset Overdrive
WWE 2K15
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel


Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Microsoft
DEVELOPER:
Bungie
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-4
RELEASE DATE:
November 15, 2001
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

Halo 3: ODST

Halo Wars

More in this Series
RELATED GAMES
Halo: Combat Evolved
Max Payne
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
 Written by Nick Doukas  on February 26, 2003

Special: We can be heroes ? just for one day?


Hero: n 1.) In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.

Why do we love gaming? I mean, at the core, what is it that entices us, on a regular basis, to spend hours upon hours immersed in a new adventure? I'm sure that's not a simple question to answer, and although I believe that our love of gaming comes from a myriad of factors, lately I've been focused on the hero's journey, and how it relates to being a gamer.

I took a Folklore and Mythology class my sophomore year in college, and the professor based much of the course material on Joseph Campbell's book, ?The Hero With a Thousand Faces?. Originally published in 1949, it examines the mythic ?hero's journey? or ?monomyth?. Campbell hypothesized that myths from all cultures seemed to contain the same basic themes and ideas, and that everything from ancient Hindu fables, to Star Wars and The Matrix, followed a blueprint that was virtually identical. An archetypical hero if you will. Recurring motifs include the call to adventure (such as ?follow the white rabbit?, or Luke undertaking the rescue of Princess Leia), a mentor (Obi-Wan or Morpheus), the road of trials (Luke's calling as a Jedi), temptation away from the true path (?Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father.?), atonement with the father (Anakin's redemption at the hands of his son) and finally, the apotheosis and the ultimate boon (becoming god-like, and performing an impossible feat). There are other common mythic elements, such as an oracle (Yoda) and a prophecy (Anakin and Neo are referred to as ?the chosen one? and ?the one? respectively, beings who will literally shape the fate of everyone in the universe). It is this characteristic that finds a commonality in videogames, and every gamer gets to take the hero's journey when we engross ourselves in Sam Fisher, the Master Chief, or Kyle Katarn's adventures. Each hero's respective odyssey involves us past the point of books or films, as we take on the persona of each character, and actually have a hand in their fate.

Take Halo for example: a classic hero's journey. The Master Chief is certainly endowed with great courage and strength (he is, after all, a cyborg?.genetically enhanced to a point far beyond that of a normal marine) and he's well celebrated for his bold exploits (witness fellow marines marveling at your power: ?I didn't think he was that tall!??, ?Mira!! A Mark V!!? or ?We were worried until you showed up sir.?). The Chief is tasked with one serious ultimate boon: against all odds, destroy The Covenant and save Earth, as well as the entire human race. He has mentors (Captain Keyes, and to a lesser extent, Cortana), temptation away from the true path (Guilty Spark's deception almost causes the Chief to activate the ring) and finally his ultimate boon (for this chapter of the story at least): the destruction of Halo, and the deaths of all the Covenant and Flood inhabiting it at the time. Halo 2 (and most likely Halo 3) will continue the Master Chief's journey to its ultimate conclusion: the total and utter destruction of The Covenant, and the liberation of the human race. It's pretty evident that Halo contains all of the elements required for a prototypical ?hero's journey?.

Other Xbox heroes include Max Payne and Sam Fisher. In Max's case, the journey plays out as a tragedy. As the game begins, Max faces a heartbreaking loss: the murders of his wife and child. His journey is simple: he's a man with nothing to live for. His only motivation is to exact revenge on those responsible. He's heroically equipped with power (superhuman reflexes in the guise of ?bullet time?), and a singular purpose that he will move Heaven and Earth to achieve. Once again we see that many of the principle characteristics of the monomyth are present here as well. Splinter Cell's main character is a prototypical hero as well. A ?super-commando? whose abilities exceed even the best of the best. Sam Fisher's journey involves sacrifice and the road of trials, as his ultimate goal is to protect the free world, and his ultimate boon tasks him with the incomparable: preventing Armageddon, and categorically saving the planet.

I believe this common trait, the desire to embark upon the hero's journey, is present in every gamer. As a child, I had endless hours of fun playing with action figures, and their respective playsets. Whether it was Star Wars or Micronauts, superheroes or soldiers, I never ceased to be amazed by the sheer vastness of the worlds of heroes and villains that were at my command. Isn't that where we're at now, albeit in a slightly different medium? After all, aren't the character models of Sam, Max and other videogame protagonists' simply high-tech action figures? Their playsets represented by the vast architecture of the electronic worlds they interact with. As games, and the technology that exhibits them evolve, realism becomes more evident with each generation. The depth of interactive media is quickly approaching that of Hollywood's biggest features, and the proliferation of film based licenses like the upcoming Indiana Jones game and Enter The Matrix prove that gamers crave state-of-the-art entertainment that truly envelops them in the hero's quest. Conversely, games like Halo and Max Payne exhibit their film-based influences proudly, and offer players a cinematic experience on par with a major tinsel-town blockbuster. With games like Knights Of The Old Republic, Fable, and Deus Ex II on the horizon, the ability to definitively live the ?legend of you? is on the cusp of reality. For digital adventurers everywhere, it doesn't get much better than that.

Closing Thoughts
"It will always be the one, shapeshifting yet marvelously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told" ? Joseph Campbell

The psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that we are all born with a standard subconscious idea of the heroic template. Our myths, both ancient (cave paintings, primitive storytelling) and modern (film, interactive gaming) spring from a desire to be more than we are. The aspiration to understand ourselves, and our place in the universe, as well as the eternal struggle of good vs. evil, will continue to birth the stuff of legends for a long time to come. Since gaming is a medium where heroes are created everyday, and players control the destiny of entire worlds, it's not difficult to see why it appeals to so many. For gamers, the hero's journey is well within reach.



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