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Andrew Quesenberry

ENGL 222 001: Mythology

11:00 11:50
John Nizalowski
The Players Journey
The Heros Journey is an ancient and powerful mythological pattern, present in many if
not most stories. When its utilized well, the stories are often timeless, and retold for countless
generations. From ancient stories like the Odyssey to more modern stories like Star Wars, this
pattern is important to the listener of any given story. When it is utilized best, the experiencer
feels this journey alongside the characters, and is able to return to the normal world, having
taken something away from the journey. With video games, developers have a unique
opportunity to help the listener of the story participate directly in the hero's journey in a way that
no other form of media can. After examining Dark Souls, well also discuss how Dance Hall of
the Dead utilized the Heros Journey and helped bring the reader through it.
The story of Dark Souls, as presented to the player, is fairly simplistic, but it utilizes the
pattern well. The game opens by giving you the creation myth of its world. When the world was
gray and unformed, there was only one disparity. The Dragons ruled the world above, and
everyone else lived below. Then the fire came, and with it came all the disparity that fire brings:
Heat, Cold, Life, Death, Light and Dark. Four beings seized great power from the First Flame.
Lord Gwyn took the Light Soul, The Witch of Izalith took the Life Soul, and Nito took the death
soul. These three used their power to retake the World Above from the dragons, utilizing a
weakness shown to them by a dragon, Seath the Scaleless, who betrayed his own out of jealousy
of his scaled brethrens immortality. The fourth soul, the Dark Soul, was taken by the Furtive
Pygmy, who shrank back into the darkness, forgotten.
After the war, the Lords of the First Flame formed a great kingdom, Lordran, with Gwyn
as its king. Over centuries, however, his power waned, and the First Flame began to die. More

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and more humans were born with the Darksign, marking the Curse of the Undead. These humans
could never die, but were cursed to live forever, slowly losing their humanity until they were
driven insane. So the Lords rounded up the undead, dumping them in an asylum, "there to await
the end of the world." (Dark Souls opening cutscene)
Two things that establish the pattern of the Hero's Journey are the homeland and the
sickness. The homeland here, oddly enough, is not Lordran itself, but the Asylum. It is here that
all player characters begin the story, stuck in a cell, having long since forgotten his or her past
before. The sickness, however, is clear. The Darksign is most certainly linked to the First Flame,
and the more humans that go hollow, the dimmer it gets. The few humans that still hold on to
their humanity are all that are keeping it going. Something must be done and soon. While the
homeland is obviously the tribal home, the illness reflects anything that would cause neolithic
man to leave his home, most often, famine.
One character, Oscar the Fateless, has taken it upon himself to do something. There is an
ancient prophecy in his family: "Thou who art undead, art chosen...In thine exodus from the
Undead Asylum maketh pilgrimage to the land of Ancient Lords...When thou ringeth the Bell of
Awakening, the fate of the Undead thou shalt know..."(Oscar, Dark Souls). Oscar, an undead
himself, has decided to make pilgrimage to the Undead Asylum to try to be part of the prophecy,
and it is he who frees the player character from his or her cell, dropping a key down from the
roof. He hopes he either can help find the Chosen Undead, or that he himself is the Chosen
Undead. The Player Character is the only character we see other than Oscar who is not
completely hollow.
After a few moments of exploring, the player finds Oscar lying in a pile of rubble, broken
and becoming hollow. He sits under a hole in the roof, having been defeated by the demon

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guarding the asylum. In his dying moments, he tells you the prophecy, gives you your only
healing item in the game, and asks you to take on his quest to ring the Bell of Awakening, and
learn the fate of the undead. This firmly establishes the Player Character as the Chosen Undead,
the one who will escape the Asylum, and learn the Fate of the Undead.
The Player Character is the Hero of this story, the only one who can move things
forward. This is actually supported directly in the games mechanics. Throughout the world,
there are bonfires, linked to the First Flame. Whenever the player dies, he or she returns to the
last bonfire s/he rested at. Whenever a bonfire is used, or the player dies, everything is reset to its
original state except shortcuts, freed characters, and bosses. Without the player, none of these
things change. The Player Character, hereafter referred to as the Chosen Undead, is called to
adventure by Oscar the Fateless. The player is the only one who can learn the Fate of the
Undead, and hopefully find a way to cure it. This part of the pattern is usually seen as the
beginning of the Heros Journey. This is what pulls Heroes along, initially causing them to cross
the first threshold, and fulfill their destinies.
After this call, the Chosen Undead escapes the Asylum, born aloft to Lordran, by a giant
crow. If he or she ever did know Lordran, it has changed so much, and s/he has forgotten so
much that it may as well be unknown. This movement from the known into the unknown is an
important pattern in the journey. It is also called the Crossing of the Threshold, and it
symbolizes the Hero leaving his comfort zone in order to pursue his or her goals, in an
environment wrought with challenges and hardship, but also opportunity for growth.
The player lands at the Firelink Shrine, a great shrine that serves as the hub between all
areas the player shall journey to. The Chosen Undead learns that there are actually Two Bells of
Awakening, both in areas crawling with undead, or worse. One is in the Undead Church, the

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other is far underground, at the base of a place called Blighttown. After exploring the Undead
Parish, the Chosen Undead meets Solaire of Astora, a Warrior of Sunlight. These warriors are
tasked with helping others and protecting them from evil phantoms from other worlds. Solaire
gives the Chosen Undead a special stone that can be used to summon friendly phantoms for
Jolly Cooperation, and also allows the player to lay down a sign that can be seen across worlds
in order to be summoned to help others.
Companions are an important part of the Heros Journey, as it reinforces the community
required. I can imagine the first stories told around fires by neolithic man, trying to establish the
importance of community, companionship and family. Even today it is true that people can
hardly do anything alone. Either they must rely on borderline supernatural technology and
achievements, built on the backs of thousands if not millions before them, or upon the help of
those around them.
After countless deaths and trials, the player finally rings the Bells of Awakening. First,
they awaken Kingseeker Frampt, an ancient and primordial serpent. He tells you the Fate of the
Undead, specifically the Fate of the Chosen Undead. He or she is to succeed Lord Gwyn and
kindle his or her Soul to relight the First Flame and keep the Age of Fire going. They also
awaken giant gatekeepers of Sen's Fortress who open the path to Anor Londo, the Capital of
Lordran and the seat of Gwyns power. Frampt sends the Chosen Undead into this place in order
to find the Lordvessel, held by Gwynevere, Gwyn's daughter, which is the key to opening the
final doorway into the Kiln of the First Flame.
The path to Gwynevere is perilous and fraught with danger. Two guardians stand in front
of her door. Perhaps their role is to protect her, but more likely, their role is to test those who
would come past, assuring that it is, in fact, the Chosen Undead who wishes to speak with the

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Princess of Sunlight. Upon speaking with her, she tells you again that you are to succeed her
father and use your own soul to kindle the first flame. She also gives you the Lordvessel, an item
that allows you to teleport between bonfires, and the one thing that opens the door into the Kiln
of the First Flame.
Bringing this item back to Frampt reveals your final objective: Go and find four Lord
Souls to fill the Lordvessel, and open the door into the Kiln. These four souls are held by specific
area bosses. First, the two other Lords and companions to Gwyn in the war against the dragons:
The Witch of Izalith, and Nito. Second, Gwyn gave fragments of his own soul to his Four Kings,
who lie deep in the abyss, and Seath the Scaleless, who was given a portion of Gwyn's kingdom
in order to try to find the secret to immortality.
After killing these four bosses (the kings are fought as a unit), the Chosen undead meets
another Primordial serpent, Darkstalker Kaathe. He tells you that Frampt has lost his way. He
reveals that Pygmy is your ancestor, and the first human; He used the Dark Soul to create
humanity. Gwyn has become frail, afraid of the coming darkness, and of humanity rising up. It is
the nature of fire, however, to die. By defeating Gwyn and allowing the Age of Fire to end, the
Chosen Undead will become the Dark Lord, and usher in a new age, an age of darkness, the Age
of Humanity.
These characters are all symbols of the masculine and feminine in some way or other.
Especially Frampt, Kaathe and Seath, all serpents, the neolithic symbol of the feminine. The four
kings, on the other hand, symbolize the greed of men. The secondary reason for killing these four
bosses is because they've all become corrupt and insane. Killing them and kindling their souls in
the flame allows them and the world to be purified and start anew.

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With the choice of perpetuating the age of fire, or allowing it to end, the Chosen Undead
descends into the final area, the Kiln of the First Flame. After fighting through countless knights,
the player reaches Gwyn only to find the husk of the ancient Lord, his soul kindled, whatever
was left had long since been driven mad in fear of the coming dark.
This represents the Hero's final descent, to find the grail object, defeat the evil, and heal
the illness. This is often the turning point, the climax, where we will find out if the Hero will be
successful or not. Many times, in real life, this is when we want to quit, and its the worst time.
Going back to our analogy of neolithic man establishing this pattern in storytelling, I can imagine
talking about dangerous hunts, and emphasizing that when the prey is fighting the hardest, its
getting the most desperate and about to die. Rather than quit, this is the time to fight harder.
After a furious battle, Gwyn is felled, and the player is given the option to kindle this last
bonfire, or to walk away to become the Dark Lord of Humanity. If the Chosen Undead kindles
his or her soul, the cycle starts again. The four souls are returned to the First Flame, and new
lords of Light, Dark, Death, and Life, arise. This is reflected in the games New Game Plus
mode, which allows players to take the same character through the game again in a harder mode
where most everything is reset, but some things are slightly different, and everything is stronger.
The Chosen returns, to utilize his memory in a new game, trying to end the cycle once more.
If the player instead chooses to walk away, the flame extinguishes, and the world is
plunged into darkness. While this seems like the bad ending, the other ending is far from
good. The cycle just perpetuates over and over, which is the exact opposite of what the first
flame brought: Disparity. By ending the age of fire and starting the Age of Man, something is
changing. Fire must die, and the Age of Fire must eventually come to an end. In fact, it is heavily

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implied in Dark Souls 2 that this is the canon ending, as the flame will naturally relight itself,
given time. The Chosen Undead becomes a king and raises up his own kingdom.
This part is the part Joseph Campbell felt was the most important part of the journey: The
Return. In both cases, the Chosen Undead is returning to the land of Lordran, now the land of
mundane, to raise up a new kingdom, or to become part of a new cycle. The Return would have
been important in Neolithic times, especially as tribes were forming, since the meat and other
resources gathered would be needed for the good of the tribe. Without returning, the Journey
would ultimately be a failure.
To only speak of the story of Dark Souls as it is presented to the player, however, is to
barely scratch the surface of the story that From Software were trying to tell. Dark Souls is a
Japanese made Western-style Roleplaying Game created by From Software, and it is known for
its opaque story and crushing difficulty. When you start peeling back the layers, though, you start
to see the depths of the Game Director Hidetaka Miyazakis vision (not to be confused with Film
and Animation Director Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli).
The most core element of Dark Souls is its difficulty. The areas are labyrinths, full of
tough monsters, traps and ambushes. The combat is slower than most Roleplaying Games, and it
forces you to commit to each action once youve taken it. Button mashing leads to quick deaths,
and in order to survive, you have to learn how enemies fight, and adapt accordingly. Dark Souls
also has multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive. Unlike most games, however, these are
integrated directly into the game. Opening up your game for other players to help you also opens
up your game for invaders to hinder you.
This theme of difficulty extends to even the story. In order to actually discover the true
story of Dark Souls, you must be willing to dig. Unlike most games, Dark Souls does nothing to

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tell you that a character might have something to say, or that they might have more to say than
their initial greeting. Theres a lot that you can miss about the story if you dont take the simple
step of talking to them multiple times. You also have to read descriptions of items to gather more
lore about what they are and where they come from. In addition to that, there are countless
environmental cues like the placement of particular armor sets, enemies, characters, and set
pieces that all silently add to the lore and story.
All of this combines into a singularly unique experience for each player. The story of
Dark Souls is not the only the cinematics and dialogue, nor is it the story you inferred by reading
item descriptions. The story of Dark Souls is the players story of struggle and triumph against it.
From Software and Miyazaki went to great lengths to craft this game around the Players
Most games are crafted in such a way that players will easily find 100% of the content, so
that not a single dollar is wasted. A famous and influential developer once said Story in a game
is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important.(John
Carmack, Masters of Doom p. 120) This quote has gone on to influence many a marketing
executive in their decisions of where to put what funding. In their eyes, the story is only really
there to get you from one fight to the next. It is in this illness of patronizing immature military
fetish fantasies that Dark Souls calls the player to adventure.
The player finds many companions in his adventures with Dark Souls, both in game
through the white soapstones, but out of game with friends and online celebrities playing through
it constantly. Fans of the Souls series have their own language, memes and culture. These
companions help the difficulty curve to be considerably easier to swallow, and make the game
far more enjoyable.

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The encounters the player experiences with sacred Masculine and Feminine Energies are
still the same, Frampt, Kaathe, Gwynevere and the Lords. Going a step deeper, however, we can
see the dual role of the feminine as helper and temptress. If players slay Gwynevere, it is
revealed that she was an illusion perpetuated by her brother, Gwyndolin of the Darkmoon,
revealing her to be more of a temptress. It is then up to the player to decide if Frampt or Kaathe
is playing the helper or tempter. It teaches players not to trust their eyes and ears.
The players magic object is the same as it is in the games story, the Lordvessel, which
allows the player to travel from bonfire to bonfire, instead of having to fight their way from one
to the next. This allows for the player to take a lot more risks, since theyll be able to travel back
to much safer areas from even the most dangerous ones without having to fight through countless
enemies. This is when the game is at its most open.
The descent for the player is also very similar to the Chosen Undeads descent, as the
fight with Gwyn requires every skill the player has learned thus far. The most important being
the timed parrying move taught in the first half hour of the game. Without it, the final battle is
very difficult indeed. Many players do quit at this point, instead exploring the many side areas,
or taking up one of the many covenants with the Lords.
The Players return is to the world we established previously, to other games. The face of
gaming changed when Dark Souls came out, especially for developers. It broke just about every
rule of conventional marketing and game design. The game does nothing to hold players hands,
and very little to guide them from fight to fight. From Software spent thousands porting the game
to PC when conventional marketing says that the PS4 and Xbox One are the only consoles worth
releasing on. It dared to be obtuse and difficult in an era where most publishers would shy away
from chasing any player at all away from their game. It showed that difficulty as a primary

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dynamic can be a more than acceptable dynamic to base a game around. Players, after Dark
Souls, now feel more comfortable demanding more games like it. Because players can keep
playing Dark Souls at higher and higher difficulty levels, they are more comfortable waiting for
more games like it to be developed.
It is because it stuck so close to the Heros Journey, and committed to taking players
along for the journey, that it is going to stick in players minds. It is considered to be genre
defining for its time, not only inspiring a sequel, but two other games have gone into
development that are both trying to modify the formula set forth by Dark Souls. Like other
stories before it, Dark Souls will be remembered for generations.
Tony Hillerman also invoked the Heros Journey in his tale Dance Hall of the Dead. By
cluing readers into these very elements, he helps draw them into his story, pushing them to try to
solve the murder before Lieutenant Leaphorn does.
One of the first things we learn about Joe Leaphorn is his rank; He is a lieutenant. This
already establishes him as greater than normal, as he not only must be a good detective, but also
must demonstrate leadership skills. He is our hero, and the detective on the case.
His homeland is that of the Navajo Reservation. This is the homeland he is sworn to
protect, and his place of familiarity. At one point, he speaks of the Zuni as being as different to
him as Shintoism would be to a white person. This not only establishes the unknown lands of the
journey, but also gives readers their own common unknown lands with Leaphorn. Any
information dumps about the Zuni will be necessary for both Leaphorn and readers.
The illness that infects Leaphorns homeland is not nearly so literal as the Darksign Curse
in Dark Souls, but is instead encapsulated entirely in the Zuni youth Ernesto Cata. This missing

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boy is the instigating event that pulls Leaphorn out of his comfort zone, and into the story. It is
also what initially pulls readers in.
The true call to adventure, however, is George Bowlegs, the other missing boy. I say this
because the search for this young Navajo boy is what drives the story from event to event. In
fact, if not for George Bowlegs, the entire case would have gone to Pasquaanti, the Zuni
Policeman that is handling the locating of Ernesto Cata. This young boy, searching for religion
among the Zuni, Navajo, and Christians, is what pulls Leaphorn away from his comfort zone and
into this unknown world of the Zuni. Trying to find George as well as understand him is also a
task given to readers. An unanswered question that they hope will be resolved throughout the
Leaphorn hardly embarks on this quest alone. Cecil Bowlegs, Susanne and Ted Isaacs at
various points join Leaphorn in trying to solve the murder. Id actually compare their help a lot
to how the phantoms in Dark Souls help players, since theyre only there briefly, and their help
varies from time to time. These companions provide every clue, in various capacities, that
Leaphorn and readers need to solve the case.
The sacred masculine and feminine energies are most shown through two characters.
First, Father Ingles, the wise priest of the local catholic church, who knows and is able to talk
about a lot more of the Zuni religion than most others, and is able to give quite a bit of insight
into what George was trying to do, and where he was mentally and spiritually. This is probably
the biggest information dump in the book, and it gives readers a lot of context for George
Bowlegs actions.
The second encounter with masculine and feminine energies is toward the end, with
Susanne. In the few hours after Leaphorn was shot by the tranquilizer gun, she cares for him and

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protects him, and while doesnt do much else, it definitely shifted her role from a simple
companion to more of a goddess archetype.
It is directly after this point that we encounter the magic object. The piece of a lance
point, stolen by George from the dig site, and used by Reynolds to try to falsify his entire study.
This is the reason why Reynolds killed Cata, why he killed Georges father, and why hes been
chasing him. All to cover up the falsification of his Folsom Man study.
With this information in hand, Leaphorn descends into the sacred dance of Shalako, in
full swing at the Zuni village. In the chaotic dancing, he spots George, who wanders off into an
alley, only to be killed by a man in a kachina mask, Chester Reynolds. Reynolds is dragged off
into a doorway, presumably killed for interfering and profaning Zuni ceremonies. This is all
readers last chance to figure out the murder before Leaphorn reveals it. This whole event is the
climax for both readers and Leaphorn.
Leaphorn then returns to Ted Isaacs, to tell him of what Reynolds was doing. He lets
Isaacs know that the dishonest professors body will likely never be found. Nobody would even
believe Isaacs that Reynolds was salting the dig site. He also lets Isaacs know that Susanne, the
young students romantic interest is sitting at the Zuni Police station being questioned about
drugs by the FBI. He tells Isaacs to choose, and leaves.
This final question ...what else are you willing to give up? is asked to the reader as
much as it is to Isaacs. It is what forces the reader back into the real world, and ask themselves
how far theyd go to achieve their dream? At what point would it be too much? This return is
what most books try to do: To ask readers a dramatic question at the end, to which they are
supposed to ponder.

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The Heros Journey is ultimately about growth. Many times in our lives, we move from
the known to the unknown, to pursue some goal, we rely on those who came before us or those
that walk with us to move us along toward it, and just when its getting to be at its most difficult,
everything clicks. This is why the journey strikes a chord with so many readers, viewers,
listeners and players.
With video games, the journey is used often in a very formulaic way, with writers
thinking about how to utilize it in their storytelling, but designers not really thinking about how
to let it permeate every other part of the game. A few others than From Software have started to
realize the potency of having players actively participate in the story, rather than using the story
as a reward for defeating enemies and solving puzzles. Every game that has done so stands out as
a classic. These games not only challenge players skills, but challenges their core beliefs and
character, in a way that helps them to grow as people.