With only four days to go the Kickstarter for Cthulhu: Death May Die by Rob Daviau and Eric Lang has blown past its pledge goal by a merger two and half million dollars.
While it is no surprise to see these two designers garnering such attention it is surprising that we are watching yet another Cthulhu game hitting the market to an audience with arms wide open. The board game market is littered with Cthulhu themed games; Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, Elder Signs, Pocket Madness, Tides of Madness, Pandemic Cthulhu, Cthulhu Wars, Mansions of Madness, Munchkin Cthulhu, Dread Cthulhu, Mountains of Madness, and Unspeakable Words to name just a few. Yet years after some of these games have been released audiences are enamoured with this 1936 horror theme from the mind of H. P. Lovecraft. What is it that makes this theme so adaptable and accessible, not to mention an outright cash grab? To answer this quandary we may need to look into the world of storytelling that first captured our imagination, the great myths of old.
Ask most teenagers today what myth is and you will hear that Myth is a Fortnight streamer. I know, because I asked and 4 out of 4 classes provided me this answer. In a more duplicitous fashion, today’s usage of myth simply refers to anything false.
Coffee comes from beans… myth.
We use 10% of our brain… myth.
We have only 5 senses… myth.
Bananas are a fruit… myth.
Monopoly is a fun game… myth.
Pretty much any playtime on a board game box… well, you get the picture.
Yet this is not an accurate use of the term. Myth is a form of story telling that expert in comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, referred to “clues to the potentialities of human life.” Myths come to us in the form of creation stories, sagas, legends, parables, fables, camp fire stories, and even in today’s movies.
Myth is a form of storytelling that reaches back into antiquity and found form in the oral traditions of early societies.
Societies that managed to develop a form of writing would eventually set these stories in stone, and I am not just talking metaphorically. To academics like Campbell, myths may not be factual but that does not mean they are untrue. If anything myth conveys truth at a deeper level than facts. Campbell talked about myth as working on multiple levels including the metaphysical, cosmological, sociological, and psychological. I will not go into each definition now, but over the coming weeks, I would like to explore this concept of myth and how it communicates to the human journey. As storytelling becomes a central feature to good board game design I think that myth is something that will definitely engage and inspire our imaginations. Next week we will discuss some of the functions of myth and how board games may be engaging us in this ancient storytelling in a way we may never have considered.