Upcoming Events
Unite 2010
11/10 - 11/12 @ Montréal, Canada

GDC China
12/5 - 12/7 @ Shanghai, China

Asia Game Show 2010
12/24 - 12/27  

GDC 2011
2/28 - 3/4 @ San Francisco, CA

More events...
Quick Stats
67 people currently visiting GDNet.
2406 articles in the reference section.

Help us fight cancer!
Join SETI Team GDNet!
Link to us Events 4 Gamers
Intel sponsors gamedev.net search:


Here begins the journey. The opening scene of the heroic quest and the introduction of the hero often takes place in relatively mundane, safe and unthreatening surroundings, such as the hero's native town or family home. Sometimes, this place may be idyllic, sometimes, as in many modern stories such as The Matrix, the opening situation is less pleasant. It is an undifferentiated state, where the hero's identity has yet to emerge from the unconscious collectivity of the family home or society. Sometimes it symbolises a way of life gone stale, a state of being that no longer suits an individual. In Jungian terms, the opening scene of the quest is a symbol of an initial psychological situation. This could be a safe childhood home reflecting the world of a child before he separates psychologically from his parents, or a scene of a man dissatisfied with his life as it is, living below his potential in some anonymous metropolis. As an imagination space, the totality of the initial scene, its landscapes and characters, mirror a particular inner state.

But the normality and mundanity of this scene is interrupted. A messenger arrives, in the form of a strange person, an animal or a fateful event that gives the hero-to-be a glimpse of another world. This is the hero's call to adventure. Perhaps the benevolent king falls ill and needs the cure of a magical herb; perhaps the hero catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman or a compelling stranger; an enemy may arise, threatening the home of the hero; or kidnapping him or his relatives or friends The mythical world has many ways of luring people to their destiny.

This strange messenger or event in its negative form is a symbol of the shadow; in its positive form it may symbolise the anima, animus, or perhaps an early appearance of the self. It has appeared to lure the hero away from his initial, unsatisfying situation, to show him aspects of himself or of his life that he must deal with if he is to grow.

For me, Zelda, Ocarina of Time is the game that is most successful in creating this initial situation. The village in which the adventure starts is a warm, enclosed childhood paradise, the enjoyment of which is enhanced by the ominous high walls and dark exit tunnels surrounding it, giving the player a foreknowing of the dangers to come; an awareness of both the safety of home, and the shadowy world outside. This contrast between safety and fear is precisely the experience of the call to adventure.

Sometimes the messenger is ignored, the call refused. The hero becomes trapped in his fear of change, his own misguided apprehensions. His world becomes a sterile wasteland. After glimpsing the world beyond, yet refusing it in favour of the safe, limiting village, he essentially refuses to grow. The hero becomes a victim to be saved. The story of sleeping beauty has this motif, with the young Briar Rose's refusal symbolised by her being put to sleep by a hag. This motif appears in Final Fantasy VII, when the hero Cloud falls into a paralysing despair, requiring the heroine Tifa to enter his dream world to rescue him.

The first encounter for those who have not refused the call is generally with a mentor, a kindly teacher or guide. Often depicted as a wise old man or woman, sometimes as an animal, who gives the hero advice or magical items needed on the journey. Examples include Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke's mentor in Star Wars; Professor Oak in Pokemon, and in Zelda, Ocarina of Time, a wise owl who appears at appropriate times to give direction and advice, as well as Link's fairy companion, who gives constant guidance throughout the game. These characters are early symbols of the self, the totality of the psyche, giving the hero the assurance that the strange realms about to be entered can be survived and understood.

After leaving home and meeting with a mentor, the hero faces the challenge of the threshold guardian, a being who protects the gateway between the known and the unknown. Every region has its tales of the bogeymen, ogres and monsters that lurk outside the city gate, the trolls under the bridge, the wild punishment for those who dare to venture beyond conventional boundaries, both cultural and personal. This threshold represents the point of no return, the boundary between the known and the unknown, the conscious and the unconscious. Sometimes the crossing of the threshold is symbolised by a hazardous journey or by the entrance to a cave or labyrinth.



  Printable version
  Discuss this article

The Series
  The Primacy of the Imagination
  Approaching the Imagination
  The Game as Quest
  Integrating the Imagination