Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 Hide
27 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: Mythological research through cultural osmosis or the Rule of Lazy Cool rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Olli Juhala
Finland
Turku
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
So, I happenstanced by a thread about Sellswords: Olympus and found out that this game of Greek Mythological theme has a card for the Kraken. The Kraken being a north atlantic, specifically Norwegian and Icelandic sea monster that is mostly associated with Greek myth because people saw Clash of the Titans once and thought it cool.

The Kraken thing has become bit of a pet peeve of mine, because it's such a clear indicator that research was mostly done through pop-culture osmosis, and it's become something I've just dubbed the rule of lazy cool -

For all the stuff geeky themes revolve around the fantastic and the older Rule of Cool, it's also remarkable lazy sort of theming, where same aspects of cool are endlessly regurgitated. It's not like Greek myth doesn't have other monsters, but we keep coming back to same 3 or 4 creatures time and again. Or that for the vast tapestry of weird and wonderful myth in the world, we tend to stick to Norse/Greek/Egyptian always, with occasional forays into narrow subsets of Chinese/Japanese myth. Or that most fantasy is just a third-hand recycling of Germanic myths by-the-way of TOlkien.

Because we've learned this stuff by heart through billion sourcebooks and game media, and don't actually like going outside the comfort zone. And it sort of stops being cool and just starts feeling lazy. And it's sort of getting annoying, these days.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Look on my works ye mighty and despair
United Kingdom
Huddersfield
West Yorkshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
How is any of this different then the Romans constantly adopting foreign Gods and myths from people they conquered?

Also, if you want to blame anyone for the Kraken becoming common cultural currency it was probably Pliny the Elder's fault.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmb
And even within Greek mythology, myths were taken from the Dorians, Ionians, Cretans, Scythians, Phrygians, etc and "mixed and mashed" together. Mythology is a living thing. It is not controlled by any council of old guys. Some myths increase in popularity, decrease in popularity, merge with others, gain and lose parts of their stories. People love myths and myths are living things.

For example within the last hundred years, we have seen many new elements get added to the Santa Claus myth including Rudolph. Tolkien and "dungeons and dragons" have crystallized what all sorts of creatures are and do.

Purity and orthodoxy cannot be imposed on culture that is controlled by everyone and no one.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Olli Juhala
Finland
Turku
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm not so much interested in purity and orthodoxy as I'm wondering if people aren't really even trying to find new cool things in the vast tapestry, rather than just recycle the same elements again and again, because that's what we've always done and that's what we used to and that's what they know, because so much of it has become just shared pop-culture knowledge.

Like, we have same fairly constrained view of Greek myth being the basis of roughly three thousand games, but how many are there about say, central African myths?
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Stanton
England
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I find the cross-pollination of myths globally to be of interest. Maybe there aren't that many truly different ones.
Hamlet's Mill by de Santillana & von Dechend is an interesting read.


As to why there are so many about certain myth groups and few about others.
We tend to like the familiar. This can be seen manifest in a variety of ways.
This does mean that we are more likely to get something that we know a little about (It's also why shop aisles are full of endless varieties of Monopoly & why they sell)
So from a retailer point of view, having a familiar theme translates to more sales
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bjorn B
Belgium
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Now we're talking about Santa, it's derived from Saint Nicholas. Most saints in turn were a combination of local myths and heroes, which helped the people convert to christianity.

So christian mythology is mostly derived from Roman and Germanic myths. As said before, the Roman mythology also has it's roots in the myths of the people it conquered, and so on...


Many myths are related to each other. But many people don't know the old ones anymore. Film industry selects and tells the story of a few mythological creatures, who did well in prouvious movies. The others are forgotten. Now people mostly search for information digitally. Looking in books requires more effort. The result is that even more stories will be left out, they will be replaced by other iterations of the widely known selection of myths.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Heather K
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree. I'm tired of the same themes being rehashed over and over and I don't even own any of these games. It feels like every other game out there right now is about Cthulhu. Maybe it is just because I have zero interest in this theme but how many games about this subject are really necessary? I went back through the Speil de Jarhes prizes and the game that caught my attention the most was Villa Palleti because it's so different. The game I enjoy most at home now is Birds of a Feather simply because the theme is so fresh for me. (Cue someone posting 500 games about birds that I've overlooked lol).
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bryan Thunkd
United States
Florence
MA
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
As others have said, myths evolve and change over time. People borrow from earlier stuff and then change it.

That being said...
Shader10 wrote:
how many are there about say, central African myths?
It would be cool to see more games that go outside the "traditional" common myths we're familiar with.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Watson
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Shader10 wrote:

Like, we have same fairly constrained view of Greek myth being the basis of roughly three thousand games, but how many are there about say, central African myths?


That's because most of the market are familiar with Greek myth, very few are familiar with central African myths. Things being what they are if you're going to present your audience with Made Up Stuff they're not familiar with it makes far more fiscal sense to use your own original work than using mythology; far easier to lock down the IP and monetize it that way.

The other reason is that humans aren't particularly imaginative when it comes to mythology. If you're going to use 'thunder bloke', 'fertility woman' or 'warrior type' you might as well use the names your main audience is familiar with and let culture do your marketing for you rather than having to spend time explaining who Obumo is (particularly when the likely response would be along the lines of "so basically Thor then?").
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tomáš Sládek
Czech Republic
Brno
flag msg tools
badge
DOES NOT COMPUTE ||| EXTERMINATE ||| EXTERMINAAAAAATE
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Archonsod wrote:
Shader10 wrote:

Like, we have same fairly constrained view of Greek myth being the basis of roughly three thousand games, but how many are there about say, central African myths?


That's because most of the market are familiar with Greek myth, very few are familiar with central African myths. Things being what they are if you're going to present your audience with Made Up Stuff they're not familiar with it makes far more fiscal sense to use your own original work than using mythology; far easier to lock down the IP and monetize it that way.

The other reason is that humans aren't particularly imaginative when it comes to mythology. If you're going to use 'thunder bloke', 'fertility woman' or 'warrior type' you might as well use the names your main audience is familiar with and let culture do your marketing for you rather than having to spend time explaining who Obumo is (particularly when the likely response would be along the lines of "so basically Thor then?").


Pretty much this. Comfortable, known = more reliable income. It's like why big video game publishers funnel money into sequels more than original projects. People are more likely to buy buy what they already know they like. People even actively demand more of what they like. (one would think this is less true of themes themselves and more of an actual whole game package, but look at the demand for Marvel movies - and those are just generic action flicks with variations on a specific well-known theme).

And people aren't too much at fault for this, really. While unknown monsters spark curiosity - and that is the best that they can do - known monsters carry with them a bunch of meanings. You instantly know what a Kraken is and what it is capable of, even what its history is. This sparks player's imagination to create stories and/or inspires respect, which is both better for the feeling you get from a game than just curiosity.

Sure, after you satisfy your curiosity and learn about new monsters, advantages may shift, but first impression matter a lot.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CARL SKUTSCH
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
badge
SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sure, a lot of cultures borrow myths but the OP is right that a lot of the borrowing and myth usage in games is lazy and unimaginative.

Also, curmudgeons gotta respect curmudgeons.

But I still like all the monsters in Rising Sun.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve C
United States
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
See: Rising Sun and "Kotahi" (link to Shut Up & Sit Down)

If a designer/artist is looking to get more sales to casual audiences, the presentation needs to be something that grabs their attention. "Hoomandafundr, He Who Controls Storms" is a lot less familiar than "Thor", and also needs explanation to get the audience immersed and imagining how cool it would be to pick that character.

The audience needs to spend effort into imagining the former, and effort is not a currency that flows freely these days.

If a known designer is willing to make a niche game (aka target a niche audience) then they can be as creative as they want, knowing that there will be at least some number of folks who are interested enough to give it a chance, but I don't see a lot of designers/publishers willingly NOT targeting the widest or most profitable audience possible these days.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CARL SKUTSCH
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
badge
SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm not shocked by Rising Sun and Kotahi. Very mildly disappointed but it won't stop me from drooling over the games' toys. I'm shallow that way.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
People's preference for familiar creatures which already resonate with deep meaning and tradition explains why publishers repeatedly use well-known creatures like Kotahi.


When I saw the thread subject, I would have sworn that the OP was going to link to that Kotahi thread...
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Freerksen
United States
River Forest
Illinois [IL]
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Shader10 wrote:

Like, we have same fairly constrained view of Greek myth being the basis of roughly three thousand games, but how many are there about say, central African myths?


Not many however if you count Voudun as partially Hausa tribe in origin (the other part of it being a syncretic tie in to Catholicism) quite a few (still not a lot but enough to be in my radar). I know it's an example and I do wish Africa, Polynesian and even Nahuatl myths were used more. High Heavens I think would be awesome for this. Shango vs. Maui
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tomáš Sládek
Czech Republic
Brno
flag msg tools
badge
DOES NOT COMPUTE ||| EXTERMINATE ||| EXTERMINAAAAAATE
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
copcopps wrote:
Shader10 wrote:

Like, we have same fairly constrained view of Greek myth being the basis of roughly three thousand games, but how many are there about say, central African myths?


Not many however if you count Voudun as partially Hausa tribe in origin (the other part of it being a syncretic tie in to Catholicism) quite a few (still not a lot but enough to be in my radar). I know it's an example and I do wish Africa, Polynesian and even Nahuatl myths were used more. High Heavens I think would be awesome for this. Shango vs. Maui


I think that if you say "Vodun", people will just understand "Voodoo" and associate it with Louisiana at worst, Haiti at best. Or are there games that involve the African version specifically?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kirk
United States
Commerce Twp.
Michigan
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
skutsch wrote:
Sure, a lot of cultures borrow myths but the OP is right that a lot of the borrowing and myth usage in games is lazy and unimaginative.

Also, curmudgeons gotta respect curmudgeons.

But I still like all the monsters in Rising Sun.


Agreed. Lazy is lazy. But there will always be sophists explaining it away!

Also agree that said laziness wont typically get in the way of me enjoying a game either.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brendan Riley
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Nos operamur, te ludere
badge
"Life is more fun if you play games." - Roald Dahl
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Another factor, I think, is the sense of cultural ownership. I feel some "right" to use European mythology in a game, perhaps, because culturally my family descends from Europeans. Using the mythology or cultural touchstones of another region becomes dicier as I'm appropriating it and, even if I feel I'm doing so sensitively, I'm replicating a longstanding pattern in Western culture of taking cultural things from other places and using them as if they're mine.

Of course, the free exchange of cultures and ideas is part of what makes humankind so interesting, so I wouldn't want to suggest people use themes set in places other than those where they live, but it's worth taking into account how the people whose culture you're taking from feel about it.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Posthumous Jones
United States
Milwaukee
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's super lazy.

Every culture throughout time, including ours, has an underpinning of myth, a rich pantheon of deities that inform the way our ancestors perceived how the world worked. Yet, we get Greek, Roman and Norse myth time and again. From a western perspective,these spirits, gods and critters cast a long shadow on our culture, but to default to reusing the same tired tropes when we have all the cultures of the world at our disposal? It's lazy.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
The Gnarlo
United States
Atlanta
Georgia
flag msg tools
LESS FILLING
badge
Guy Smiley
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
wombat929 wrote:
Another factor, I think, is the sense of cultural ownership. I feel some "right" to use European mythology in a game, perhaps, because culturally my family descends from Europeans. Using the mythology or cultural touchstones of another region becomes dicier as I'm appropriating it and, even if I feel I'm doing so sensitively, I'm replicating a longstanding pattern in Western culture of taking cultural things from other places and using them as if they're mine.

Of course, the free exchange of cultures and ideas is part of what makes humankind so interesting, so I wouldn't want to suggest people use themes set in places other than those where they live, but it's worth taking into account how the people whose culture you're taking from feel about it.


The video game Smite, a MOBA type game of gods battling, ran into issues when it included Hindu gods in it's pantheon of playable, battling characters. At least "Western" (for lack of a better term) publishers know they are fairly safe including Zeus, Loki, Cthulhu, or Horus in their game, as there *probably* aren't too many people around worshiping them.

D&D ran into similar issues with including names of devils and demons taken from the Christian tradition; they backed away from that rather quickly in the moral panic of the '80s.

Along with people being more comfortable with what they know, I would think most publishers and designers would consider that sticking to the tried and true rather than spending money and effort on an unknown that may end up offending large populations somewhere is the wiser course.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CARL SKUTSCH
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
badge
SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yeah, but if Marvel Legendary added a Hindu pantheon expansion we could see Ganesh go mano a mano against Magneto. Or elephanto a metalo. It'd be rad! Real men culturally appropriate.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Erik Rensberger
United States
Frederick
Maryland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
rubberchicken wrote:
And even within Greek mythology, myths were taken from the Dorians, Ionians, Cretans, Scythians, Phrygians, etc and "mixed and mashed" together. Mythology is a living thing. It is not controlled by any council of old guys. Some myths increase in popularity, decrease in popularity, merge with others, gain and lose parts of their stories. People love myths and myths are living things.

For example within the last hundred years, we have seen many new elements get added to the Santa Claus myth including Rudolph. Tolkien and "dungeons and dragons" have crystallized what all sorts of creatures are and do.

Purity and orthodoxy cannot be imposed on culture that is controlled by everyone and no one.


The lazy osmosis of those crystallized forms is an orthodoxy, and an uninteresting one. It's rather the opposite of a creatively living mythology. And it hardly needs to be imposed; we fall into it all too readily, especially given a popular movie version.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Ladson
South Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'll bet Loki is watching and thinking this is one of rhe more amusing threads since she sprung from the head of Zeus.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cornixt
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
skutsch wrote:
Yeah, but if Marvel Legendary added a Hindu pantheon expansion we could see Ganesh go mano a mano against Magneto. Or elephanto a metalo. It'd be rad! Real men culturally appropriate.


Most entertainment avoids including gods or other religious characters from religions that are still commonly practiced because they know it will get them more than a few angry people. So you get shows like Star Gate and Hercules that mix in all the ancient mythology but avoid elements from Hebrew and Hindi as much as possible, even though they were around at the same time as everything else they include.

And then there's South Park.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brendan Riley
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Nos operamur, te ludere
badge
"Life is more fun if you play games." - Roald Dahl
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
TheGnarlo wrote:
...publishers know they are fairly safe including Zeus, Loki, Cthulhu, or Horus in their game...


I don't think Cthulhu belongs in that list, unless Lovecraft was tapped into a corner of history of which I'm unaware.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.