Heroes: A thing of the Past, or of the Imagination?

By A.A. BENJAMIN

Storytellers struggle to make whimsical what the world makes dull. We foster deeper understanding by exaggeration, by parable and metaphor, or by creating what we wish were happening when it really is not.

When renowned English texts like “Ulysses” by Lord Tennyson and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight begin with lamentations of the lost grand empires of heroism, I have to stop and think for a second…

Alice In Wonderland Confused animated GIF

Oh, that’s right! Storytellers…generally don’t care for reality. As a matter of fact, we generally don’t know what we’re talking about. The trick of our craft is to pretend that we do.

alice in wonderland animated GIF

Great storytellers exist because they are excellent observers, synthesizers and masters of their chosen method. Accuracy doesn’t fall into one of those requirements. Therefore, we can make an educated guess that epic storytellers like Homer of The Iliad weren’t on any battle fields whatsoever. So when we interpret Lord Tennyson’s poetry as commentary on how heroic lifestyle has disappeared in the Victorian era and been replaced by a more docile life, well…there were plenty of wars in Tennyson’s time to choose from. But because in real life there’s no Achilles waiting in his ship to take the Trojans down single-handedly, real wars always seem a little less awesome. In real life, men die without favor, without magic powers, and without luck. In real life, no one has the right to say that the man who died just wasn’t heroic enough.

The storytellers sitting behind computer screens are kind of in the same boat as the Homers. Though I recognize the extent to which storytellers go to experiment and experience the stories they create, sometimes we’re just full of it. So when we then sit before our digital playthings to exit our lackluster lives and take up the rifle of the bludgeoning Master Chief, update our Champion’s reputation in Middle Earth, or chase our interstellar Destiny, maybe the desire to be heroes comes from our pure lust for fantasy rather than nostalgia for the heroism of the past.

The real Pocahontas wasn’t this “grown and sexy” when she saved John Smith.

Games like Halo and Destiny put an interesting twist on this theory because they take place in futuristic settings. It creates a discourse with heroic civilizations of the past, posing a “heroes yet to come” question. However, it still leaves us sandwiched in the middle, as if we’re all just weaklings living safely in our double lives. Yet when we place the “glory days” in actual historical context, we find that those who lived in those eras would have rolled their eyes at our perceptions of grandeur. In my Classical Literature class we watched “Medieval Lives” where Terry Jones informed us that the great chivalric code of heroic knights was really just an attempt of the authorities to control what became a steel-clad blood-thirsty army. So NOT heroic.

Just as authorities struggle to implement decrees to improve our current state of life, so do storytellers implement dreams that attempt to surpass our current state of living. I wonder what the 41st century will come up with once they begin to confuse our dreams  with our reality.

Experiencing Historical Narrative: Mission U.S.

I started with Mission 2, which is based on the life of a slave girl. Initially, going into the game I liked the music. The game is interesting and fun to me because I used to play games like the Oregon Trail when I was younger and the “Choose Your Own Adventure” theme fun for me. Once in the game I felt uncomfortable answering the questions and making decisions. I think that is really realistic with the decisions that you have to make. They allow for the slave girl to choose to dissent from her master’s orders and the consciences from those actions happen almost immediately. I almost felt conflicted when the game would ask me if I wanted to do the masters orders as they were given or if I wanted to dissent and half do the work or plant things that were harmful to the productivity of the plantation. It was shocking how real just making those small decisions felt even as an initial reaction to playing the game.

            It is fascinating to play this type of remediation of history lessons. When I was younger I was a fan of fictional diaries that represented the life of various young girls during historically significant moments in history. Those books gave you a more personal narrative story of history and helped me understand history deeper than I had prior. My initial experience with this game is similar the “Choose Your Own Adventure” aspect as well as the true to life situations don’t really teach you more about the Historical situation but rather gives me a deeper understanding and personal significance to the event.  Overall, my first reaction to game is that it is truly immersive game if you want to connect personally to the narrative of history as a whole. I am excited for new missions coming out in later months for sure!

Amanda