Is Western/European Fantasy Worn Out?
Some of you may have seen this article, About fantasy: Please let there be a dragon extinction, by Ryan Perez posted last week on Destructoid. It’s worth a read but I’ll summarize: Mr. Perez laments that the majority of western produced fantasy games tend to feature the same base mythology and creatures. Dragons, elves, goblins, trolls, wizards, etc all tend to be cut and pasted from game to game. By and large, I agree with him. Mainstream western fantasy games tend not to stray far from the Tolkein-esque fare we have all grown accustomed to (Skyrim and Dragon’s Dogma are two recent examples) and it would be a breath of fresh air if more western developers explored some other mythologies/cultures. However, there are a couple of points I want to comment on.
First, Mr. Perez attributes the stereotypical western fantasy tropes largely to Scandanavian mythology. While it is true that dragons, elves, trolls, etc are all featured in Scandanavian folklore, they are not exclusive to it. Variations of these creatures are common throughout many European mythologies. So rather than doing away with the current archetype for European fantasy, I say game devs should dig deeper. Despite many similarities, European mythologies are more diverse and interesting than has been presented in many games. Let’s have a game explore a more pure version of Norse mythology, Slavic mythology, or delve into the older Germanic mythos. So, to answer the title question, yes, but only the generic version that is becoming overused. European mythology still has more depth to offer.
Mr. Perez points out that Japanese games tend to have more variety in the fantasy genre than do western developers and highlights Jade Empire as an exception. While Jade Empire is certainly a fine example, there are other examples as well, and I wanted to list some of my favorites, both from western and eastern developers.
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem—a very unique mythos, definitely worth playing
- Shin Megami Tensei series (especially the Persona games)—the personas and demons featured in any of the MegaTen games are pulled from mythologies all around the world; the Persona games also immerse the player in the daily life of a Japanese high school student, complete with rigorous exams, shrine visits, and Golden Week, as examples
- Catherine—though made by the Persona team, I consider it separate, just the inclusion of a succubus made for an original monster
- NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits—a fun downloadable title based on Greek mythology
- God of War series—while I have only played the first game, they are a notable example due to the immersion in Greco-Roman mythology and the series success
- Folklore—early action-RPG on the PS3 that draws heavily from Germanic mythology (I think…..I’m a biologist, not an anthropologist)
So what do you all think? What are some of your favorite mythologies presented in video games? What mythologies do you want to see adapted into a game?
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