Thursday, September 11, 2014

Living Folklore in Year Walk

The Night Raven from Year Walk
My latest PopMatters article is live, and it's about the realization of folklore in Year Walk.

I make an important division in this piece between games about folklore and folklore games. As I see it, the difference is one of immersion and respect. For those living embedded in cultural experiences (ie all of us), mythological narratives are fundamental aspects of reality. The man who lights candles an altar dedicated to deceased relatives, or the woman who puts slices of melon under her son's bed to ward off spirits, these processes are as mundane, in a way, as cleaning the dishes or going to sleep.

As an atheist (or agnostic at best), and a firm believer in the power of rational thought and the scientific method, I also cringe a bit at the superstitions that drive us. I find myself both awed by ritual and cautious of it. I don't always know where I stand on the practice, but I am certain of my beliefs regarding how we tell stories about these practices. It is an accuracy, if not a lie, to treat mythology like some alien artifact, some inhuman relic to be boxed up and displayed. It is far more powerful and authentic to express folklore as it is lived, as an experienced truth, mystery and legend infused with as much reality as the soil under our feet.

Year Walk is not a documentary experience by any means, but in its melding of mythos with all aspects of the game, it treats the folklore like truth.

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