Reviving Arkhaven

It isn’t just DevGame that is getting active again, although we’re already seeing some incredible results out of the revival of the game developer site, by which I mean it looks like we are going to be publishing not one, but two, game design books by a truly legendary game designer. I’m referring to the Arkhaven Comics blog, which will now be featuring the talents of the Dark Herald and comics writer Jon Del Arroz on a regular basis. 

The Dark Herald has already written a highly informative initial post on Eastern Story Structure:

Hakawati, is the Arabic tradition of story telling wherein each story must have and teach a moral lesson.  I suspect this tradition is more Middle-Eastern than specifically Arabian because the story of Jonah fits perfectly within its structure.

Jonah’s story is rather unsatisfying to a Westerner, if you read the whole thing

Jonah is ordered by God to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and deliver a command from Him to stop sinning.  Jonah, like all of his people and well, everyone else who had come into contact with Assyria wants them all dead. So he refused to deliver God’s message and ran away to sea.  A terrible storm came up while the ship was at sea. The crew drew lots to see who was to be sacrificed to appease the waters.  The never-lucky Jonah lost and was chucked over the side.  God sent a whale to swallow Jonah.  Jonah repented and God had the whale spit, Jonah, on to a shoreline that had decent access to Nineveh.  Jonah delivered the message to the hated Assyrians and then went to a nearby hill to watch God’s wrath descend on Nineveh.  And it didn’t.  

The End. 

When I was in Sunday school the whale part of the story was the only thing that our teacher concentrated on. Mostly because a giant whale story would keep squirming seven-year-olds occupied while their parents had coffee and donuts after the service. It worked because that part of the story was the closest thing that conformed to the western idea of the three-act story structure with an introduction, an inciting incident, rising tension, climax, and then denouement.  

The original purpose of the story however wasn’t to entertain, it was to teach. You aren’t entitled to any special reward on this Earth just because you did what God told you to.

The dominant religion in an area strongly influences that area’s story-telling traditions and story-structures.

Christianity has been the dominant religion in the West for the past 1,500 years or so.  Give or take a few centuries depending on your physical location.  Conflict is central to the faith.  If you are a Christian, you are fighting Satan.  If you fail at the fight you go to Hell.  Win that fight and self-improvement will occur but it is a side-effect, not the goal.  The goal is salvation and you don’t have to be the wisest of the wise in order to saved. 

Buddhism is the dominant religion in East Asia.  Buddhism at its center is self-improvement for its own sake.  There is no conflict driving it forward.  If you screwup in this life you slide down the ladder into a lower form of life. Be that a lower caste, a woman, all the way down to animals and insects.  Improve yourself enough and you will achieve Enlightenment. And not have to be reborn into the world of suffering and desire anymore.

In Buddhism you absolutely have to be wisest of the wise.  Achievement is a requirement to reach Nirvana, and this has influenced all aspects of their societies. Especially with regards to storytelling and it’s concomitant tropes.

Read the whole thing there. And if you enjoy comics, add it to your daily bookmarks.