[In his latest 'distinctive' opinion piece, Reset Generation/Pocket Kingdom co-creator Scott Foe explains the Campbell 'Hero's Journey' monomyth, and challenges designers to... automate it?]

There I was, in what had to have been the first-ever public speaking stump in my professional career: Hackers 2001, an invite-only support-group for people who suffer from rules-allergies, hidden away in the Californian cranny of Yosemite.

I really shouldn't have been so nervous, seeing as most of the attendees were gorging on ganj and/or hugging the hops from morning onward.

(Perhaps I was nervous because I was possibly the only one there in Yosemite who was not "high on nature," having been, at that time, a not-so-proud member of court-ordered rehab, due to a tiny misunderstanding that had occurred at a Paul Oakenfold show in Fresno earlier that Summer: The tiny misunderstanding being that I thought that a seven thousand dollar lawyer would do more than advise, "Plead guilty.")

Hackers was truly one of the most delightful conferences I have ever attended: Three days sequestered away in some lodge with a bunch of people who see the world as something that needs fixing - we're not talking your "black hat"-variety hackers, no, we're talking those MacGyver-types, who, whether through technology or even social engineering, use constructs in ways that were not intended by their creators. We were each assigned a roommate for the weekend: Somebody that we hadn't met before, somebody to bond with.

(And if you ended up not thrilled by that somebody, it didn't matter, as the whole affair played out as seventy-two hours huddled together in small groups charged by sleepless, electric discourse.)

There was no schedule of speakers at Hackers 2001. The first night of the conference was a flurry of Pecha Kucha (mini-presentation), where each attendee would get up in front of a mic for five minutes to describe the perception-flipping hacks that they were working on. (My favorite was the toilet that played Ms. Pac-Man.)

Down the hallway of the lodge were different rooms labeled by category where one could sign up a time and speak about whatever one pleased - and whatever I please is almost invariably "video games."

My thought for discussion was "The Campbell Engine," so named for the American mythologist Joseph Campbell, who, through his Earth-breaking work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, had developed and described "The Hero's Journey" (also known as "The Monomyth," a phrase coined by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake) a narrative template that appears throughout stories, across time and across culture.

My question was, why hasn't somebody automated The Monomyth? Why hasn't somebody made "The Automyth?"

At the close of my virgin presentation, two attendees approached me with a solemn, "We have to talk." In the privacy outside of the lodge, these hackers informed me that they were hard-working on just that, a "Campbell Engine," a system for automated narrative. I know you hear this all the time, but I think this was the first time that the notion truly came off the street and rented space in my brain: Whatever grand plan it is that you have, there are others out there that have it too: All plans are "Monoplans."

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

I'm going to in this section summarize the Monomyth - forgive me those who know it well, forgive me those who don't - I am no Joseph Campbell. (Hell, I'm not even Joseph Dirt.) Suffice it to say, these themes and textures can be found throughout human story the world and eras over. Though not all elements appear in all stories, nor do elements appear in the same ordering in all stories, the "nuclear unit" of "separation," "initiation," and "return" pervades.

PHASE 1: DEPARTURE (also known as SEPARATION)

The Call to Adventure: Our protagonist is heralded to adventure, often times through some "helper." This is the first notice to our protagonist that "things are going to change." Example: In the comedy-drama Knocked Up, the hero receives notice that he has impregnated a one-night lover, and that the adventure, pregnancy, awaits.

Refusal of the Call: Oftentimes, a protagonist will, for whatever reason, refuse the call to adventure. Example: In the J.J. Abrams re-launch of the Star Trek franchise, James Kirk wants nothing to do with Star Fleet, an organization to which his father belonged and an organization for which his father died.

Supernatural Aid: Once committed to the adventure, the hero becomes aided by a powerful somebody and/or something. Example: In Adam Sandler's comedic golf romp Happy Gilmore, Happy is trained in golf by one-handed Pro-Tour legend Chubbs Peterson.

The Crossing of the First Threshold: At this point the hero enters the world of adventure, where everything the hero knows to be true must be left behind for the unknown. Example: In Tolkien's prototype-fantasy The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins must leave his house and walk down the path, behind him the safety and comfort of the shire, in front of him what he does not know. Oftentimes, there is a "Threshold Gaurdian" or "Threshold Battle," someone or something blocking the path to adventure.

Brother-Battle: The hero must do battle with or placate a brother (or the like) figure. Example: At the opening of the Wachowski brothers' Speed Racer, Speed races the ghost of his brother, deciding at the last second not to break his dead brother's track record.

Dragon-Battle: The hero must do battle with or placate a fearsome opponent. Example: In the screw-ball sporting comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, the team from Average Joe's must best Girl Scout troupe 417 at a game of dogeball.

Abduction: The hero does not always cross the threshold willingly (and "abduction" can sometimes be the killing or kidnapping of somebody the hero loves). Example: There wasn't much that Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz could do about that twister - she was going to Oz whether she wanted to or not.

Crucifixion/Dismemberment: The hero does not always fair well when crossing the threshold. Example: The Fugitive's Dr. Richard Kimble loses his struggle with the one-armed man and is then condemned (crucified) by the law.

Night Sea Journey: The hero journeys into darkness, not knowing where he or she is going. Example: In Alice in Wonderland, Alice falls down the rabbit hole, not knowing where it will lead.

Wonder Journey: The hero steps into a world that is completely unreal and unlike anything the hero has ever seen before. Example: In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone, Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley.

The Belly of the Whale: This is the protagonist's final separation from his/her old self - the protagonist is "swallowed up" by something dangerous, and undergoes a metamorphosis, opens his/herself up to the new world of adventure, showing that he/she is no longer "a fish out of water" and that he/she is resigned to the fact that there is no going back from here. Example: In the original Ghostbusters film, Dr. Venkman and the gang are jailed by the Environmental Protection Agency, leaving the city of New York and the Ghost Busters both in jeopardy.

PHASE 2: INITIATION

The Road of Trials: Tests and challenges present themselves to our hero, along with new allies and enemies - sometimes our hero fails. Example: In Stephen Sondheim's musical fairytale Into the Woods, the Baker must collect (one) the cow as white as snow, (two) the hair as yellow as corn, (three) the cape as red as blood, and (four) the slipper as pure as gold. Along the way, the Baker is aided by his wife, and together they encounter obstacles in the form of Jack, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella. Unfortunately for the Baker, the "cow as white as snow" dies before the Baker has a chance to complete his mission.

The Meeting with the Goddess (also known as The Sacred Marriage): The hero encounters true love, a love so complete and unquestioned that it is akin to maternal love - if this object of love has been hesitant in the past, that hesitancy vanishes. (This object of love is not necessarily a woman, or even a person; this object's conquest represents the hero's "total mastery of life.") Example: In HBO's Sex and the City, despite an all-the-time dramatically up-and-down relationship, Carrie Bradshaw finally weds Mr. Big.

Temptation to Quit (written by Campbell as "Woman as Temptress"): Something or somebody tempts the hero to abandon the arduous toil of adventure. Example: In the second installment of Wachowski brothers' science fiction epic The Matrix (The Matrix: Reloaded), Neo is offered easy survival by The Architect if he will abandon his quest to take down the machines.

Atonement with the Father: This is the crux of the Hero's Journey, the confrontation with the ultimate power. Example: At the close of Joss Whedon's urban horror-opera television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy must enter the "hell mouth" that lies beneath the Sunnydale high school and closes the hell mouth once and for all.

Apotheosis: The hero achieves divinity, godhood, extreme power, inner peace, or self-assurance. Example: In The Transformers: The Movie, Hot Rod opens the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and becomes Rodimus Prime.

The Ultimate Boon (also known as Elixir Theft): The hero has achieved the reward of his/her quest (most often by obtaining or destroying something of great significance). Example: In the stoner super-adventure Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, both Harold and Kumar, having vanquished their "road of trials," indulge in the gluttony of consuming plates piled high with White Castle sliders and fries.

PHASE 3: RETURN

Refusal of the Return: Now that the hero has found The Ultimate Boon, achieved Apotheosis, or has had a Meeting with the Goddess, that hero is reluctant to return to the ordinary world. Example: In the classic fantasy tale The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, upon liberating Narnia from the White Witch, the hero children stay to rule Narnia for many years before returning home.

The Magic Flight: Returning from the journey can be just as dangerous as embarking on the journey. Example: In Spielberg's great war box-office explosion, Saving Private Ryan, once Private Ryan is found, the U.S. soldiers must still face overwhelming odds against Nazi military forces.

Rescue from Without: Sometimes (for whatever reason) the hero needs assistance (helpers) in returning from the adventure. Example: At the close of Hayo Miyazaki's animation masterpiece Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Naushika and the Valley of the Wind), Naushika is, for all intents and purposes, dead to the world, and it is only the "omu" (bug creatures) that can bring her back.

Crossing the Return Threshold: Upon returning to the ordinary world, the hero is faced with the challenge of accepting the ordinary world as his/her own, and the challenge of applying lessons learned from adventure to that ordinary world. (There is sometimes a struggle or a price to be paid when crossing the return threshold.) Example: At the close of hipster journey of self-discovery Swingers, loser-at-love Mike crosses the "return threshold" by hanging up on the ex-girlfriend that he has incessantly pined for, in favor of talking to a new girl who he had just recently met at a club.

Master of the Two Worlds: The hero has become well-adjusted to both the world of adventure and to the ordinary world and can share his/her knowledge (and/or spoils) with others. Example: At the close of Spiderman 2, Peter Parker has finally revealed his other identity to Mary Jane; Peter can now fulfil his duties as Spiderman with confidence while at the same time maintaining a relationship with Mary Jane. ("Go get'em, tiger.")

Freedom to Live: The hero sheds him/herself of fear of death, and so has the "freedom to live." Example: At the finale of kung-fu fighting flick The Last Dragon, Bruce Leroy has achieved "the glow" through defeating Eddie Arcadian and Sho'nuff (the Shogun of Harlem) - with the ability to "catch bullets with his teeth," Bruce Leroy now has the freedom to live.

Our gaming-fu is masterful indeed: At this point in our collective discipline, we have Diablo's random dungeon generator, Left 4 Dead's AI director, and Jonathan Blow's ultra-opus Braid. (Jon, if you're reading this, let's form "Blow, Foe, and Co." Call me!)

So why don't we have "The Automyth?" Why haven't we automated the Monomyth? Hackers 2001 was in the year 2001 (believe it or not); I figured by 2009 we would be way past randomly generated narrative and well into subtly administering Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or Kiersy Sorter tests to players to determine Jungian Archetype and react. (Like, eliminate chores or collections for Extrovert Intuitive Feeling Thinking players.)

But I digress. I've noticed with previous articles that the comments sections always wind up being better than the articles themselves (except in the case of Opinion: Be A Wiener, which is still my favorite piece).

With that in mind, I'm making this Automyth piece a "Challenge" instead of an "Opinion." Take the below code and make us an Automyth - or, hey, start from scratch. Use the comments section to display your work and discuss the work of others. What parts do we need? What do we not need? Is an Automyth even possible?

The creator/coder/author of the best Automyth entry will win an all-expenses-paid-by-you dinner date with myself, gorgeous Adonis of the video gaming scene Scott Foe. [EDITOR'S NOTE: In your face, Foe!] (Extra points will be given to smarty pants, know-it-alls, and over-achievers.) Also, glory and shameless self-promotion await any and all submitters to the comments section below! Good luck!

enum EAutomythState {
  //adventure not started
  ORDINARY_WORLD,

//"departure"
THE_CALL_TO_ADVENTURE,
REFUSAL_OF_THE_CALL,
SUPERNATURAL_AID,
THE_CROSSING_OF_THE_FIRST_THRESHOLD,
THE_BELLY_OF_THE_WHALE,

//"initiation"
THE_ROAD_OF_TRIALS,
THE_SACRED_MARRIAGE,
TEMPTATION_TO_QUIT,
ATONEMENT_WITH_THE_FATHER,
APOTHEOSIS,
THE_ULTIMATE_BOON,

//"return"
REFUSAL_OF_THE_RETURN,
THE_MAGIC_FLIGHT,
RESCUE_FROM_WITHOUT,
CROSSING_THE_RETURN_THRESHOLD,
MASTER_OF_THE_TWO_WORLDS,
FREEDOM_TO_LIVE
};

class CAutomyth {

public:

protected:

private:

EAutomythState mState;
};