One of my favorite Lorewalker Cho stories is “Hozen in the Mist”: a Pandaren father tells his misbehaving son that he’s acting like the hozen (an ill- mannered, mischievous, monkey-like race). After taking his son to the forest to see how the hozen live, the father asks, “Do you want to live like that?” The son responds: “we work and toil on our little farm, but … the hozen have the whole world as their garden…. we squint by the light of a single candle, but … the hozen enjoy the light of the stars…. I go to school every day, but … the hozen learn by doing…. I should very much like to live like a hozen!” “Who, then, was the wiser?” Lorewalker Cho asks, “The father or the cub?”
Perhaps neither was particularly wise. The father failed to see the positive side of hozen life, the part his son admired: hozen are relatively uninhibited, spontaneous, and comfortable in their own bodies and natural surroundings, unconstrained by sit-time in classrooms, not subjected to droning lectures; they learn by doing and, for sure, by playing. Moreover, the father denigrated a culture about which he had no experiential knowledge and generalized what little he knew without regard for individual differences among different hozen tribes and individuals. The son, for his part, failed to see what most of us would consider the hozen’s negative aspects: they’re a short-lived race, prone to squabbling, without a stable social system or reliable food supply, and largely hostile to other races – although, regarding the latter, there are notable exceptions. (Look here for more about the hozen).
Rather than the characters within it, the story itself can be seen as the potential holder of wisdom – not unlike the way that an empty carafe is the potential holder of wine. Wisdom, in this analogy, is the wine that listeners pour into the story. And Lorewalker Cho – by asking the question, “Who, then, was the wiser?” – prompts listeners to make the wine with their special blend of personal experiences and traits such as empathy and the desire to understand. In my example, then, there are three main conditions for wisdom to emerge: a story, a prompt, and a thinker who responds to the prompt by reflecting on the story.
Of course, no story calls every listener to fill it with wisdom. Someone could say, “Isn’t that cute!” and move along to something else – and that’s fine. But listeners or readers can choose to be a story’s wisdom vintner; and each wisdom vintner produces a different vintage, a different perspective. I’m reminded of another analogy about a painting on a Grecian urn that sits on a museum pedestal: From my angle I see dancing women while you see musicians with lyres and flutes. I describe my view to you and you describe your view to me; together we see the bigger picture.
Be that as it may, stories that become part of a people’s lore, even a fictional people like the Pandarens, have a quality that speaks to them (and perhaps to us) in a deep way, even if that way is seldom articulated. For me, the characters in “Hozen in the Mist” show two ways, both inadequate, of responding to cultural and individual differences: believing, like the father, that conforming to one’s own cultural or religious norms is the right way to live and believing, like the son, that freedom from the constraints of a civilized, literate life would be more enjoyable. In Freudian terms, the cub, by defending hozen ways, can be seen as representing the id (instinctual drives, self-gratification) and the father, by denigrating the hozen, as representing the superego (conformity to his culture’s social ideals and rules). I’m tempted to say that the story itself represents the ego (reality principle); yet while the story doesn’t take a side, its sympathies seem to bend toward the cub’s desires since he has the best lines in the story.
As a parent, I’m on the father’s side: the hozen are unacceptable models of behavior. But in the game, the World of Warcraft, my inner hozen is at play – at least in this way: I enjoy virtual fighting (pleasure principle joined with aggressive behavior). But why? At this point I’ve circled back to the question I raised in my previous post: Why do I, who eschews violence in my everyday life, enjoy virtual fighting? Now it seems the id is deeply involved. So I did some research related to my question and found two responses that address the fighting instinct:
(1) In a CVG interview, game developer Yosuke Hayashi was asked why he designs fighting games: “I think all of us humans still have that primitive nature in us,” he said. “We need fulfillment, and fighting – or fighting games – gives us that.” Talking about his group Team Ninja, Hayashi said, “Making games to appeal to human instinct rather than human logic is something we always remind ourselves to do. When you play a game there’s always something there that’s instinctive rather than logical. You can’t explain why it’s so good: it’s almost impossible to put into words. It’s that instinctive element that we make sure is included in our games.” For Hayashi, in-game fighting fulfills an instinctual drive in a very satisfying way.
(2) Child psychology professor Douglas Gentile, “who studies the effects of violent video games on children,” agrees with Hayashi. In an NPR feature, Gentile is reported as saying that “violent video games tap into a primal instinct” and that “video games offer an immersive experience that we’re hard-wired to crave.” Gentile provides a brief biological explanation: Gamers have “an adrenaline rush, and it’s noradrenaline and it’s testosterone, and it’s cortisol … the so-called stress hormones…. That’s exactly the same cocktail of hormones you drop into your bloodstream if I punched you…. But when you know you’re safe, having that really heightened sense of stress can be fun.”
Until a little over a year ago, I never imagine that I would enjoy a fighting game. But I do. And I think I’ve found a compelling explanation as to why: It has much to do with human biology. It makes my inner hozen happy.