Class Presentation: Video Game Characters as Modern Mythology

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Video games have become an increasingly influential medium over the past 25 years.  Young people have especially taken to this new medium for numerous reasons.  Video games appeal to all types of people because there is a vast array of genres to choose from.  Some games may strictly be puzzle games and others can involve deep story lines with character development.  In rare cases, video game characters can develop into more than just active characters within a video game.  These characters capture the imaginations of gamers and become pop cultural icons; icons that can transcend their own medium and enter into other arenas to add on to the story or mythology of the character.

One character that truly has taken on his own life is Mario.  I'm sure we are all familiar with Mario and his gang of pals, including his arch nemesis Bowser.  Mario is such an icon that not only has he appeared in over 100 games, but he has had a television series and a movie about him.  If you have ever played a video game before, chances are, you know who Mario is and what to expect from his games.  In 1990, Mario was more recognizable to children than Mickey Mouse.  He is a prime example of a modern cultural icon and can be looked upon as a mythical being that many of us have all interacted with at some time or another.

Another, more modern pop culture icon that I feel is truly an example of modern mythology is from the "Halo" series named "Master Chief".  Master Chief has not only been the main character in three of the most popular games in history, but he even has his own flavor of Mountain Dew.  Furthermore, Master Chief has been the subject of an underground web show called, "Red vs. Blue".  Halo has also created a series of books to go along with the Halo game series and there have been numerous rumors on and off about the possibility of a Halo game.  Master Chief embodies all the attributes of a classic hero.  Much like the classic greek myth of Heracles, Chief is extremely strong and has a short, violent temper.  In the games, one sees the world through Chief's eyes and feels strength in acting through his mythical body.  Instead of just hearing about the stories of Heracles, one gets to experience the story of Master Chief, and help him finish his task as a super soldier. 

There are other games that illustrate the power of video games as playing an influential role in pop culture.  Mortal Kombat is a game that has inspired two movies with a possible third movie.  A similar game series, Street Fighter, also produced a movie and numerous games.  Although the movies that were inspired by the games may not totally represent the gameplay of the games, they are good examples of how video game characters become mythology.  These movies use the back story of the games to create a film with added plots and action.  This is similar to Heracles because Heracles has been used in countless other stories besides the original tales.  To become mythology, a character must show flexibility in his/her appearances.  People need to be able to add on to the character in order to bring the character to life.

One example of a game character that went on to become a pop culture icon that was in successful films is Lara Croft of the "Tomb Raider" series.  Tomb Raider itself went on to have many successful games, but once the movies were made, her status as a pop culture icon became undeniable.  The movies also added on to the story of Lara and she has since created more games and been in Pepsi commercials.

The reason that video game characters can become forms of mythology is the fact that gamers get to experience the tales for themselves through the characters.  By actually experiencing the events a player gets a sense of the character's strengths and weaknesses and even a sense of the character's personality.  This type of experience allows gamers to add on to the myth of each character because they already seem to know what the character is all about.  The argument for games being a form of modern mythology also stems from the fact that so many children are exposed to video games every day.  A majority of children in the United States play video games or are exposed to video games making more children aware to the existence of such characters.  50 years from now, people will still remember the stories of characters like Mario, Lara Croft and Master Chief and quite possibly there will be even more added to the stories of these characters.  The characters take on a life of their own through the gaming experience and additions to their stories thus creating modern mythology.

2 Comments

Derek Tickle said:

Hi Darrell! What a great topic to write a research paper on! Video games are very influential in today's society. I think that you use many great examples such as Mario and Lara Croft. Isn't it amazing how when we see the name Mario (and were talking about video games) we instantly refer to the video game. I never played the video game Halo, but have seen and heard a lot about it. I like how you teach the reader about the game and the characters through this example. Many characters in video games have become forms of mythology because of how popular they are. For example, Mortal Kombat is known by almost all video game players (if not all). This Online Presentation has been a great read. I think that your paper should be very interesting and be very informative to the reader. I noticed that your children link goes to the "Game Studies" website. I also have used this website for my research paper and find it to be a good source for information. Good detail overall and best of luck!

Brandon Gnesda said:

Hey D,
Great topic. I really enjoy the way that you use more than one example to support your thesis. I think that the support you provide will be more than enough get your point across. I definitely agree with the thought that some games and characters can really become more than just a video games sometimes. As Derek mentioned the Game Studies website is a fantastic source for information, I've actually used two articles in my annotated bibliography. I also like that you incorporate the fact that children are exposed to games at an early age and can identify with these figures and really help them take a shape of there own. I also thought Red Vs. Blue is a very concrete example of a game going beyond just being a game. The fact that people create separate storyline really shows how popular a game is. You could also research Half-Life as part of your paper as well, thats also a very popular game that people mod and change into there own genre of game. Great topic, I look forward to reading the finished product.

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