There are places in our world where fiction and dreams can come true.

6th October 2012
Article: Alan Wake and Campbell's "Hero's Journey" Monomyth (2/3)

INITIATION

Road of Trials

The hero begins to prepare himself by collecting arms and preparing him for the final battle. The trails given are intended to provide, and build up, tension.

The first section is Road of Trials which was described by Campbell as a “dream landscape of curiosity, ambiguity and challenge” which fits the setting of Mr Scratch’s labyrinth. Scratch’s intention was to create a repeating unwinnable puzzle to test Wake’s determination. Each leap can be considered as a trail in itself with new problems arising. Outside of American Nightmare, this can also be compared to the second DLC, The Writer, where Alan travels through his own mental labyrinth.

Meeting with the Goddess / Woman as Temptress

The protagonist meets a woman who is either a personification of the supernatural or an ordinary human who helps the hero in his quest.

In the original game, the Temptress can easily be compared to the Dark Presence masquerading as Alice, in Episode Six. The comfort of Alice and the location seduces Wake to surrender to the familiarity, while still not believing that this place is real.

In American Nightmare, Alan encounters three women who have important roles in helping him achieve his goal and return to reality. The first is Emma Sloan, an engineer working at a local garage. Her previous knowledge of Scratch’s persona and location makes her a valuable source of information. Doctor Rachel Meadows, a scientist at Red Tooth Observatory is different; her help allows Alan to obtain the message printed in the sky, instructing him how to return home. Finally, Serena Valdivia is a film maker who has worked with Alice Wake. In Campbell’s Monomyth, Valdivia can be described as the “Temptress” as she flirts with Alan under the Darkness’ power; to seduce and distract Wake pushing him to make a mistake. 

The first person the player meets in American Nightmare; Emma Sloan
Atonement with the Father

The hero encounters a leader or fatherly figure that he may either defeat or impress. The figure can either be real or symbolic.

There are several ways in which this title can be perceived. The Clicker, introduced to Wake as a child, was a tangible link to his past and his estranged father. This device later became a fundamental weapon in combating the Dark Presence. Perhaps Wake’s distance from a father figure led him to imbue the clicker with the protective characteristics of such a character, that it could keep the nightmares at bay, that it could keep him safe. In using the Clicker, he is creating a bond with the idea of a “father”. This idea is explored through his fascination of reality blending with fantasy.

Another way to think about this topic, especially in comparison to American Nightmare, is seeing the father not as the “fatherly figure” but rather a leader. In this interpretation, Mr Scratch becomes the “father” who controls creatures emerging from the Dark Place and holds significant power over Wake as he can reorder time.


Apotheosis

In this section, the hero acquires new knowledge that aids greatly in his quest.

After facing the first of Scratch’s trials, Wake shortly discovers what it is he needs to do in order to fight the enemy: rewrite reality. Using the manuscript acquired in the observatory, he can match the items to their location to recreate their description on the paper. This is the apotheosis. In Campbell’s Monomyth, the apotheosis can also include transcending to another level. In the case of American Nightmare, this other level is reality, with fiction forming the bridge allowing him to return.


Ultimate Boon

Through many trials, the end goal has finally been achieved with the death of the antagonist.
With the end of American Nightmare, we’re left with the belief of Mr Scratch’s demise and Wake’s return to the “real world”.

Since Wake’s Return manuscript was created for the Night Springs TV show and not as Departure’s sequel the return may not have happened; although the script could have been revised while Wake was trapped in the Cabin in the Dark Place. If this is the case, it can be considered that the Return ending creates a possible loop hole or escape from the Dark Place and back to reality. After all Zane didn’t know of an escape route out of their prison, perhaps because at that point Wake didn’t revise Return yet.

Manuscript page from This House of Dreams


Despite its name, Wake’s Return manuscript fits easily into Campbell’s Initiation. This theory is entertained by one of the manuscripts from This House of Dreams, where Samantha underlines the word “Initiation” on the Return manuscript title page. Perhaps two simultaneous stories are co-existing; one character’s “Initiation” could be another’s “Return” which may be explored more in the next game.

If we think of Departure as being the original Alan Wake game, and Initiation as American Nightmare, then it’s tempting to try to anticipate where the franchise may head according to the third and final segment.

Pending the next AAA title, it’s hard to judge about what kind of effect American Nightmare has had on the overall storyline. Perhaps it is simply a television script created by Wake when he first began writing; if this is the case, elements of Departure may have been inspired by it; the arcade title could present hints for how the venture might be resolved and some of the challenges Wake might encounter along the way. As the programme shares many similar elements to the game, the script could have been rewritten while Wake was in the cabin. If this is the case then, he could have written the episode into existence to create a fault with Mr Scratch or to allow for augmenting reality in the future.

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