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Ancient Myths Fuel Creative Storytelling

Return of Heracles gameMythology has thrilled and inspired legions of fans for thousands of years and continues to be a major influence today. Greek myths specifically continue to be a part of popular culture, in both overt and subtle ways. It’s the overarching themes of Greek mythology such as heroism, love and sacrifice, that provide such potent fuel for storytellers. For writers looking to create powerful characters with strong ideals facing difficult obstacles there are few better places to mine for ideas than in ancient mythology.

A good place to see this continued inspiration is within video games. While video games can have the character play out the myth, they can also provide a way for developers to extend the story of the characters into new directions. One of the most popular early video games was The Return of Heracles, an adventure game built for the Atari 8-bit, the Commodore 64 and the Apple II in 1983. The game allowed players to control heroes from Greek mythology such as Pegasus, Achilles and Odysseus, and even team them together for harder quests. Remember, this was 1983 where anything beyond some simple moving dots was seen as revolutionary. Reviews of the game said that it was both lively and colorful, and a must-have for any gamers of that era. Even now, more than 23 years after the game was released, mythology continues to provide the source material for games, either on consoles, mobile devices or old-fashioned roleplaying games.

One year later, Yaquinto Publications would release the early historical role-playing game, Man, Myth & Magic that drew its stories from a template of legends ranging from 4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. With classes that came from a diverse array of cultures, including a British druid and a Greek sibyl (a nice name for oracle), among others, the deft application of mythological themes provided a rich tableau from which players could experience any number of characters and adventures.

Mythology continues to be a relatable theme for the games of today as well. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in mythological makeovers of traditional games with the Age of the Gods gaming series of slots. The site features three titles including Age of the Gods, Prince of Olympus, and King of Olympus online games that all draw from the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses. While these titles don’t necessarily tell any of the direct stories surrounding myths, they take the spirit of the myths and translate it into something for today.

The continued influence of mythology on video games can perhaps be most clearly seen through the God of War series, which is loosely based on Greek mythology. The series focuses on Kratos, a Spartan warrior tricked into killing his family by his former master, the god of war, Ares. The series follows Kratos, reimagining stories from Greek and Roman myth with the upcoming game looking to draw from Norse mythology as well.

And mythology continues to be a driving force in role-playing today. There has recently been an attempt to crowdfund a new tabletop RPG based on myths and legends that received a fair amount of support. The game, Hero’s Journey, was able to meet its more than $20,000 goal rather quickly and is currently production to bring its take on gods and heroes to tabletops across the world.

Myths have a root virtually in all storytelling, even if it’s not always patently obvious. When creating the next character or storytelling, writers can find inspiration in the heroes and villains of mythology and then find new ways to tell those stories through modern means for a fresh take on time-honored tropes.

This is a guest post by Rick Dinardo, a London-based freelance writer who can’t get enough of everything related to ancient myths right now. And yes, he’s particularly obsessed with Greek mythology.