4/21/2008

Part Three!

of a series that wasn't supposed to have more than one part.

For reference:
Part 2: http://htparnell.blogspot.com/2008/04/warrior-mother.html
Part 1: http://htparnell.blogspot.com/2008/04/final-fantasy-and-hayao-miyazaki.html

The important aspect that's been missing from the last two posts on the subject is a closer inspection of the purpose of the roundtable to begin with. If a game features a character like this, what does it mean about the plot arc of the game, and what does it mean for the game mechanics?

It's a little hard to say for the game mechanics. This archetype appears almost exclusively in Japanese games (though if you have any thoughts on Western products that fit the bill, I'd love to hear), and most often in Japanese RPGs. Ultimately, though, nothing necessarily connects the RPG format to the character, other than the prevalence of RPGs in Japanese games, and the prevalence of the character in Japanese RPGs. So, instead of attacking it from that angle, I'm going to come up with a story format that necessitates the character, and then see what game mechanics lend themselves most easily to that story.

The plot arc of the Warrior Mother is, much like the Brash Young Hero archetype, a coming of age story. Much like Joseph Campbell's journey, the Warrior Mother must become fully realized. She must discover her physical heritage. She must conquer self doubt. She must cast aside the example of her current mother, or embrace the example that her mother left behind. Finally, she must learn that her power is to be used for healing, not for war.

I use the word “healing” in the broadest sense here. Example: Mist (from the GC Fire Emblem) is the only one who can hold onto the talisman of ultimate evil without being corrupted. The peace at the center of her soul doesn't restore HP, but it means that she can keep the talisman hidden away from the forces that would use it for personal gain.

On a side note, I expect that FF7 was so popular with the 13-18 crowd because Aeris is the completely self-realized version of this archetype. She has no character arc, and it's her lack of faults that makes her death seem so tragic to the player.

All of this lends itself most easily to an RPG. There are enough facets to the story that a long narrative suits it best (though a very short one could be fascinating to see). Someone realizing that they're not destined to fight makes for a very difficult main character in a video game (though Ultima IV comes to mind), so the archetype lends itself to a secondary role, or at least a game with another primary character. None of this, however, requires any particular kind of game. It wouldn't work as a main character very well, but there's no reason this archetype can't appear in adventure games, FPSs, anything and everything. What is does, if the character is important enough to the plot, is fundamentally alter the core fantasy of the game. I've used the term before, but it requires a better definition. So, for next week, what's a core fantasy, and how does the Warrior Mother affect it?

2 comments:

carol said...

Well, we'ver certainly talked about this question enough times. It's easier to identify a specific core fantasy than it is to define the entire concept of a core fantasy, but here's my attempt. The core fantasy is the belief held within the viewer/participant that is confirmed by watching the movie/playing the game. In other words, engaging with a specific property affirms something within me. I watch the Lord of the Rings movies and come away with the belief that one small person, no matter how insignificant, can alter the course of the world. A cautionary note, core fantasy is NOT the same as a moral. It's not always a good thing. In the film Chinatown, for example, the core fantasy is that evil exists, evil exists and sometimes wins and all a person can do is let go, move on and hope for a better outcome next time.

Core fantasies get repeated. There are numerous examples of "love conquers all," "have faith and it will be rewarded," or "strength and honor." From that example, you can gather that on some occasions, a movie/property will go so far as to specifically state their core fantasy and turn it into a call to action or even a catch-phrase for adherents or participants.

The question that is answered by a core fantasy is -- why do I come to this property and not another? What belief is being reinforced here?

My thoughts anyway --

Malgayne said...

I have always wanted to have a clear definition of this concept, I've struggled with it a lot. Thank you.