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After the struggle of initiation the hero returns triumphantly to his home, transformed by his experiences. Often, the hero is crowned king or given an important position. His victory may have revitalised the world, having vanquished the forces that threatened it. Just as the opening scene of the quest symbolises an initial psychological situation, the end scene represents the new healed or transformed inner situation; the new order in the hero's land symbolising the new order in the psyche.

Individuation and the Hidden Process

Although the heroic quest appears most explicitly in RPG and action games, the process that it symbolises, the individuation process, seems to exist at a low level in many other games. In my previous article, The Yin and Yang of Games: Code and Content, I described a "hidden" process found in many games:

"A game can be described at its most fundamental level as a total system; a system of changing variables, the limits and functions of which are set by the designer who can by the nature of logic, predict every outcome of every change in any variable. [Note: By variable, I do not mean the constructional elements of a programming language i.e. DWORD's, CHAR's etc., but the discrete, changing elements of a game as they are perceived by the player; the game's objects, options and playing pieces] Here, the designer has the total perspective of a god. At this perspective, there is no conflict, no excitement, just a system running perfectly. (Well, maybe with a few little bugs..)

"To create the conflict and relative unpredictability of a game we need to step inside it and take up a perspective that limits our view of the total system. This perspective is the player, or more fundamentally, the set of variables over which the user has knowledge and control. The variables over which the user has no knowledge or control are the opposition, the enemy. Often, the set of variables that comprise the player must be maintained in a certain way to retain coherence of the player perspective.

"At its most basic, the game is the process by which the player manipulates the variables at his or her disposal to create a state of completion, or of stasis in the system, by either taking control of all the opposing variables, or by eliminating them. At this point, if no further opposition is forthcoming, the player has total knowledge of the system. Now equal with the designer there is no further reason to play"(Dare, 2001).

Interestingly, this process of gradually coming to knowledge of game elements1 is very similar to the individuation process, of gradually integrating unconscious contents into the conscious mind. In other words, the individuation process is, or can be represented in a game at a very low level; in abstract, systematic terms as well as in terms of plot or imagery. One could even say that representing this process is what games do best, and that rather than being simply a platform for storytelling or simulation, games are primarily platforms for psychological and imaginative expression.



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