Why we need heroes

by Georgi Merdzhanov @ 02.05.2018

Why we need heroes

Georgi Merdzhanov, a PhD student in History of Rhetoric, is writing about the reasons behind our love and need for superheroes!

My name is Georgi Merdzhanov and I’m a PhD student in History of Rhetoric. During my internship as Narrative Designer, I’m involved in the creation of the narrative for Triumf’s game. I have experience as children writer, puppet theater dramatist and animation screenwriter, which helps me a lot to understand the way of thinking of Triumf auditory.

Games, in general, are much older than our primary method to conserve human’s knowledge –written words. Probably games are more ancient than even the cave paintings. As professor Johan Huizinga explains in his book “Homo Ludens”, in games we preserve knowledge of our culture and society. Importantly, games give us a method to acquire this knowledge through experience.

In the simplest games, such as Tic-tac-toe, we have two roles for the player - winner and defeated, a protagonist and antagonist. In classical Chess game the situation is more complex as there are many pieces on the board and each one has its own rules of action. These pieces could be converted into characters very easily. However, there may be games without the roles of winners and loosers. For example, a lonely child playing ball in the street. There is no opponent, but rather it’s exercise developing physical skills. If someone adds a goal to this training, such as "Learn how to kick this ball every time behind the goal line and one day you will be the greatest soccer player", this simple game turns into a story of a personal growth. Many doctors have pretended being doctors when playing role games and treating their pets or dolls during childhood. Similarly, many engineers used to play with LEGO or solve puzzles.

There are many types of games. There are games that rely on social situations, games that rely on logic, games that bet on chance. At last, one thing is certain - everyone wants to be a winner, to be the main character in the game, to be a hero. The hero’s narrative is examined in details by Professor Joseph Campbell in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Heroes are leaving their ordinary world into a new, sometimes fantastic world where they go through thousands of trials and gain experience. They become heroes when returning to their realm with new useful knowledge. In the society, where hero’s narrative belongs, their story became an inspiration.

What is common between Prometheus, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs and Batman? They are all heroes for someone. They all have the power to motivate others. Sometimes a well-narrated story can replace thousands of definitions of good and evil, to inspire people to follow the hero’s example and to change history’s course. To make someone follow an example or idea is a rhetoric. Games themselves also have a rhetorical impact; this is what Professor Ian Bogost named "procedural rhetoric". This means that the player could learn via game’s rules and processes.

But why do we need heroes in our life so much? Because they have the power to win and to inspire other people to follow their example. In our game, we want to inspire children to repeat in reality the heroes deeds that they already did in the virtual, fantastic world. We don’t know how to cure cancer. This could be done only by doctors and medical scientists. Yet one thing is certain - if there are no heroes to fight constantly against the disease, to seek solutions and new, unexplored ways, how can a victory be achieved? Everyone feels tired, disorientated and without hope from time to time, but nobody should give up. Sometimes all you need is just a slight push to continue the journey.

That's what Triumf game does. It speaks the language of the children in a difficult time for them, and they have a good example to follow. In addition, this example is interesting and fun. Children accumulate knowledge through an active method, gaining experience via play.