Romance and The Hero’s Journey In Ready Player One

By: Sparling Wilson

In Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With A Thousand Faces, he outlines the stages of the hero’s journey. Of these elements, he does not fail to mention romance, which he calls the “Meeting With The Temptress”. Campbell explains that in traditional stories of the heroic kind, romantic encounters serve as a kind of sidetrack or distraction for the hero from his journey. In the sense of accomplishing his mission, these encounters are definitely seen as negative. Ready Player One reflects this view in its portrayal of romantic relationships within the novel.

A comical and salient parody of Campbell's model for the hero's journey.
A comical and salient parody of Campbell’s model for the hero’s journey.

In many young adult novels, one can expect to find romance to be at least a part of the story. In the age of young adult novels that center their plots on romance, but combine their genres (so they are more like YA + dystopia, YA+ paranormal activity), it is strange, but also refreshing, to see a novel take a more classical approach to romance. Ready Player One steps away from the modern notions of romance in novels (hello, Twilight) and moves back towards a more classical approach towards this topic in terms of the hero’s journey. As we talked about it class, yes this novel contains romance, but the whole plot does not center itself on pursuing a relationship or finding love in the midst of dystopia. Like more classical hero’s journeys stories, such as The Iliad or The Odyssey, Ready Player One includes romance as a part of the journey, but does not make it the purpose of the journey.

The basic plot of Twilight and other current YA literature. Also, let it be known that this photo was entitled, "Who Is The Hottest", which I think is very telling of the genre.
The basic plot of Twilight and other current YA literature. Also, let it be known that this photo was entitled, “Who Is The Hottest”, which I think is very telling of the genre.

In fact, the story really emphasizes the classical view of romance in stories of this kind by making Art3mis be the protagonist’s “femme fatale”, if you will. The author literally brings this point forward by having Wade confess his love to Art3mis at a club called the “Neo Noir”. I found that point to be very funny in a film-geek kind of way. In noir, the femme fatale was the love interest of the protagonist that lead him to ruin, and the author makes it clear that Wade’s obsession with her is doing just that (at least in terms of his standing in the competition). Anyway, this reference makes a really salient point that while there is romance, the author does not take a positive stance towards it. Perhaps things will shape up positively for Wade in the end, but so far the author is placing romance purely in a classical view. Ar3timis is the “temptress”, if you will, that puts our hero off of his course.

To me, it is refreshing to see a lovesick teen in a dystopian hero’s journey not have the girl fall right into his lap. I love that in this modern, YA novel, being a borderline stalker does not reward the character. Also, I applaud the author at realizing there are so many interesting aspects to this universe that need exploring rather than just Wade and Ar3mis’s relationship, as well as his clear understanding of the proper structure of literature. You go, Ernest Cline.

Creature Consumed by Creativity vs. Addictive Alien Annihilator – The “Artsy” and the Gamers

They will rot your brain. They will make you lazy. They will demagnetize your moral compass and turn you into a sociopathic monster. They will sabotage your ability to function in the real world. Sound familiar gamers? I think so.

Artists aspire to create, and create differently. They differ from engineers only in that their creations are not tangible and thus have no clear physical benefit on the world at large. Blessed with incredible talent, artists are able to create creatively, meaning that they have the ability to construct, draw or recreate things right from their mind. These powerful aesthetic or sensory experiences are utilized by the artists as a from of expression, but also to stimulate a different part of the appreciator’s mind, the creative aspect. We exalt the masters of creation and re-creation for their abilities to understand what we would like to see, or piece together thousands of sounds into a brilliant symphony that makes us recall a powerful memory.

Why then are video game designers not artists? They too create worlds with no tangible benefits. They too have the unique talent to take what is in their mind and recreate it in a medium for us to walk and adventure through. These worlds provide powerful and often enjoyable experiences through music, narrative, graphic design and interactivity. As those of us who have tried game design, and all of us who will later this semester, it is hard- very hard, and there is a huge difference between an excellent game, and a really bad one. Video games stimulate a fantastical part of our minds, one that allows us to escape reality and play by rules in a “safe magic circle”. We encounter creatures, quests and lands that have been brought to life from people’s minds and feel strongly emotionally invested in our character’s successes and failures.

Just as artists used to have studios, with hundreds of apprentices working on one sculptor, does the chief game designer, who delegates but sees the full completed picture of his game not deserve the adjectives, creative, brilliant, or a master of his art? Are the intellectual challenges posed by a new rule, or a newly introduced ability that change the game and make we gamers think differently not stimulating? No, I do not believe that the person who writes code to create the bird nest behind one of Bilbo’s Trolls’ ear is an artist. However, the person who chose the music, envisioned the light poking through the trees, and a challenge worthy of being proud while passing through the area is. LOTRO may not be the best example because it is based off of a book, but the same holds true for may games such as World of Warcraft and even the creator of chess. That to understand human nature, the power of variables, rules, fiction, tone, setting and story is an art, and that this new art has champions who deserve to be famed as artists.

But who are those people who fame artists. The twenty year olds with the tight, off colored jeans, strange facial hair, tight shirts, cigarettes and some sort of hat, that we call “artsy”? Or the straight laced doctor, who hasn’t rhymed or drawn since mandatory 5th grade art class who through his pervasive knowledge of art history, is considered an expert appreciator? Or is it the kids like me, who have a full outline for a fantasy series but without the god-gifted talents of composition who reveres those legends like J.R.R Tolkein? All of our opinions should be considered, but only those culturally accepted are heard.

Some people do not like video games- they are a waste of time, physically. Some people do not like art- it is just as much a waste of time, physically. We as humans need to waste time in creative ways. We appreciate what humans can do besides build sky scrapers and powerful calculators and realize that there is more to life than procreation and financial success. What is scary is when people like Steve Wiebe or ambitious artists aspire to be the best at wasting time or allowing us to waste time. When gamers sabotage one another’s scores or rich kids from NYC spend hundreds of dollars to look like poor rebellious artists, we have a problem. Gamers and artists who try and escape the competitive world, actually play the game of relative power (see Kintex’s Theory of Relativity Part One) and do not embody the essence of creative entertainment.

People need to look at video games and art in a similar way. You may wear some article of clothing from the 1860’s that looks absurd to most, to make a statement about who you are- an appreciator of the creative arts, but me wearing a shirt with the sigil of the horde (my faction in World of Warcraft) is just as much a statement of what I appreciate and should be treated as such. Yes, video games are addictive and serve no tangible benefit, but a binge museum goer is also no way to live life. Society still looks at them differently though.

Most of us are not artists, most of us are not video game designers. We are the appreciators and gamers who facilitate the furthering of these arts. What games we play are just as reflective of our creative processes as what art we like, and if done in moderation, games can be a stimulant for, critical and creative thinking (rules and fiction). To create these games is an art form and we gamers are not less sophisticated for appreciating them. Why I love this class is because I can have a lengthy talk about Master Van Goh followed by a lengthier one on Lord Voldemort.

I am an artist. I am a gamer. I am an appreciator of the arts.

“Humans are body and soul. Brains are pragmatic and creative. We are judged and classified by our bodies and pragmatism to fit an ideal. We must stop judging and classifying soul and creativity. There are no ideals just perceptions. In art, majority should not rule.” – Kinetix

– Kinetix

The Questions Continue: Can A Game Be Art?

Can a dolphin swim in water? Of course it can. Can a game be art? Of course it can. There is more to art than using paintbrushes and charcoal; there is a huge spectrum of how art can be expressed, from drawing, to writing, to designing, to cooking, to applying make-up, to even sex! You get the picture. The definition of what a word means should never limit someone from being able to express him or herself. Art is about using your imagination, creativity, and most of the time you also need talent.

In a game, designers defiantly have to use their talents, creativity and imagination, because nine times out of ten, they are creating a world no one has ever seen before, and have to come up with new and exciting ways to appeal to their audience. If every game out there had the same setting, the same types of guns, and only one character to choose from, what would be fun about that? Game designers today have joined forces in creating the most compelling, and realistic, game experience there can possibly be, and they do a damn good job at it too.

The story line, the details, the graphics, the color scheme, the flexibility to go where you want in the gamespace, all of these are artistic examples of what a game entails (plus many more things I am sure). Without these artistic elements there wouldn’t be anything fun about a game.

When you look at a piece of artwork you like to feel engaged by what you see at and interested. The same idea applies to a game. Sure back in the day games hardly had any intense graphics are amazing plots, but life was also a lot simpler back then. With the way technology has progressed over the years, some day soon there will be game systems you can set up in your living room that you can three-dimensionally play; how cool does that sound? And the three-dimensional setting will never have a one-dimensional concept. It will be insightful, interactive, and unique to any other type of game out there.

Gaming in itself can also be a form of art! Sure it’s for a bunch of nerds but who’s to say they don’t have the talent to move their thumbs at the speed of light, or shoot 300 bullets in less than a minute? The beauty of a game is you never know what high score your going to get or how many levels your going to pass in one night. The idea of playing a game is doing it for fun, but to analyze a game for its graphics and artistic concepts, well that in it self is a different art as well. But the over all answer to all of our questions is: YES, of course it can be art!

~Adriana

A Board Game is Forever!

The Game of Life… the classic board game played from high school graduation to retirement. Throughout my youth, the game would sometimes give a sense of direction to where my real-life was heading. What usually brought me out of my fantasy world, was when I’d draw a card for my occupation and become a doctor, then I’d draw a card for my salary and its $20,000 a year. The idea of being able to play out my entire life in less then an hour was quite mindboggling for the average 9 year-old. There is absolutely no strategy or skills needed to play this game, except maybe knowing how to read and count. It’s pure luck based on the number you spin and even if you don’t retire first, there is always a chance you could still win if you ended up with more LIFE Tiles then everyone else.

LIFE brought out a new dimension of thinking for kids like me who grew up in the 90’s. With any board game I ever played, the real fun was being able to use my imagination as if I was on the board myself jumping from square to square. I imagined myself weaving through Candy Cane Forest in Candy Land, or getting thrown in Jail during Monopoly. I was fascinated by the idea of going to college, getting married, and having my first kid all in under 5 spins of the wheel. 

Now fast forward to the new millennium, technology is booming and kids like my younger brothers and sister could careless about using their imagination. Why would they want to when they have awesome graphics on their new console game that they play religiously every day after school? Their eyesight is becoming worse as they stare into the television set for hours; their thumbs are getting arthritis at a young age from using the controller for so long; their brains are being manipulated into thinking that violence, shooting, killing, and robbing people are all fun to play and watch.

I think it’s great that technology and multimedia have reached another level of success and improvements, but seeing a 7 year-old on her cell phone, and a 10 year-old with the lasted ipod touch, and a 13 year-old asking when he’s going to get his first car, only breaks my heart because children are no longer living like children in today’s society. Kids don’t enjoy playing board games anymore, rolling the dice, waiting their turn, reading the cards, moving from space to space all seems too time consuming. Their idea of a game is fast paced; each scene is pre-designed for them, and at the click of letter B on their controller, an entire village is destroyed–that is fun.

The Game of Life… the title alone brings out a whole new understanding of what life really is. The real life we live in is a game. There are rules, there are different paths you take, there are obstacles that might make you loose a turn, there are responsibilities like work, and family, and having a house. If kids like my younger brothers and sister understood that there is more too life than playing a console game through a first-person shooters perspective, they might see one day through their own eyes that life outside a game is just as fun. Technology is always on the rise and getting updated, every year or so you have to buy the new and latest equipment so that you can suitably function the new and latest console games. But the simplicity of a board game is forever, and once technology runs out of great ideas for you, creativity and imagination will always be there to keep you enjoying the real game of life.

~Adriana