Sophil gazed out across her once proud realm, desolate and silent now, no longer teaming with the life and laughter of her people. Once these halls rang with the triumphs and despairs of hundreds of her kin - Terkon the True, Golvar the Wise, Branchel the Strong. They were all gone now, all gone forever.
Sophil knew she'd had a hand in this. If only she'd been more accepting of Trozl. If only she'd been more tolerant of his peculiarities, he'd have been less inclined to side with the hordes when they arrived. But when the hordes stormed the gates, Trozl turned on all his old friends, driving each of them away, one by one. Eventually, even Lolkats, ever a source of light and joy, could withstand the onslaught no more and fled. Now there was only Sophil, and after today, not even she would remain. One last speech, one last indictment against the banality that ruled the day, one last bitter tirade, and she too would leave. From now on, it would be up to Google and the Wayback Machine to recall the former glory of the realm she once ruled, her old gaming message board.
Mythology is the stories a culture tells about itself. Their choice of gods, heroes and the struggles they face speak volumes about the society's ideals, dreams, fears and understanding of the world. Norse mythology speaks of its people's struggles against the elements and isolation. Greek mythology, while in many ways no less brutal, speaks of a complex social structure, exemplified by rivalries and conflicts within the pantheon. Egyptian mythology is fractured and sharp-edged, with a focus on the sun and death, the two inescapable facets of desert life.
Gaming communities tell their own stories and build their own mythologies, too. Each is unique, yet each shares common themes with the others. And while ancient mythology can certainly add depth and resonance within a game, it's the modern mythology that surrounds the game that truly captures gamers' imaginations and sparks their passions.
When we become members of an online gaming community, we are free to ignore the constraints of our everyday reality. We choose what aspects of ourselves we're going to share and what roles we're going to play. It doesn't matter so much what our self image actually is, only what we wish it to be. Our interactions take on a mythic cast. The roles we choose and the selves we project speak volumes about our culture.
The elder gods arrive first. They are typically the hopeful, the dedicated followers of the studio or the genre. They bring with them an optimism and faith unmatched by all the minor deities who follow, at times unmatched even by their forebears, the developers themselves. It is these first comers who determine the mood and size of the pantheon.
These pantheons need not be limited to a single game, or even a single studio. Often they outlive and outgrow the product or team that gave them birth. They've even been known to migrate to their own Asgards and Olympuses when the realms they previously inhabited are struck down. Regardless of size, location or strength, if you've ever participated in an online community, you're sure to recognize some of these pantheon members. Perhaps you've even played one of these roles yourself.
The Allfather. This god is rarely very active in the community, but when he does speak, he's greeted enthusiastically by the elder gods. He often stops in for official announcements, either about the development process or the community itself. While he may not always be an employee of the studio, he is usually responsible for the official web site and forums.