Game Development Reference
Fantasy encourages “escapism.” These are “fantasies,” after all. These alternate
worlds, often taking place in the past, which emphasize a dream-like quality,
are “escapes” from this world and its concerns. This element of escape is crucial
in fairy tales, mythology, and fantasy. There is an idea that a hero (or indeed
the reader) journeys to this alternate place to learn a lesson about life and then
returns to enlighten his community (or in the sense of the reader, himself ).
This is Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, which is a typical fantasy structure.
This would be a good time to mention very briefly Joseph Campbell's hero's jour-
ney. Simply put, Joseph Campbell researched thousands of myths and fairy tales of
hundreds of world cultures and discovered that many of these stories had an identical
structure. He theorized that these stories formed a “monomyth,” meaning a myth
that all mankind shared at a deep, perhaps even cellular level. This story structure
had distinct phases, as follows: “The Ordinary World,” “The Call to Adventure,”
“Refusal of the Call,” “Meeting the Mentor,” “Crossing the Threshold,” “Tests, Al-
lies, and Enemies,” “Supreme Ordeal,” “Revisiting the Mentor,” “Return with New
Knowledge,” “Seizing the Prize,” “Resurrection,” and “Return with Elixir.” We will
re-address these points later in this chapter.
In fantasy stories, good and evil are often simple and clearly drawn, and the
divisions between them are obvious. White knights versus dark knights. This
is in part related to the simplicity of the stories, but it is most assuredly part
of their attraction, the conflicts of the world boiled down to their essence, so
even a child can understand them. The complexities of day-to-day living are
stripped away. The story takes place in an alternate locale where life is simpler.
Because fantasies are appealing more to the emotional part of the brain than
the analytical, they can successfully use our deeper yearnings, including the
more primal urges. Fantasy settings are often used in “bodice ripper” stories
and can succeed very well in those settings. This just echoes the genre's foun-
dations in the emotional arenas.
In fantasy, unusual events are explained by using “magic.” This magic, whether
actual, assumed, or psychological, has its roots in areas traditionally associated
with the feminine: psyche, earth, and the elemental forces. One interesting
thing: magic is often powered by an internal discipline or force (except, of
course, when it is wild and uncontrollable). Both sides of this power source
are very feminine in nature, relating to cycles in the feminine. The important
point here is this: magic is personal and internal. Magic is “of ” the person
who wields it.
Fantasy centers itself on the “why” of things. Motivations. Wants. Personali-
ties. Forces in the fantasy world are rarely out of control, except as a result of
emotions (jealousy, rage), meaning that the balance of the world setting is not