Welcome all, today we will be taking a look at the importance of culture in the media that we consume and how they capture it. I will be focusing on a few shows and/or games to demonstrate how this is done.
In recent years I have noticed this nice trend in some media, specifically in a few shows and games; and that is Culture. Culture is an important part of the worlds we create. But it is a concept that might be hard to truly understand. What makes culture exactly? The definition for culture says “The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group”. But what does that even mean? Let’s look at a few examples and see if maybe we can make sense of what culture really is or at least see what it looks like.
Potential spoilers ahead
Avatar: The Last AirBender
In Avatar the Last Airbender we follow a main character; his job is to keep balance between the world, people, and spirits. He has the power to control each of the four main elements of water, air, earth, and fire. There are four different nations and each one has people who are born with the power to control one of the four elements. That was until the fire nation attacked, they slowly began taking over place after place as it expanded its empire. The show takes place in this one moment of time as a group of friends tries to bring an end to the war. There have been a long line of past avatars who have dealt with their own struggles. The world has a past with moments in history but the show only gives you bits and pieces of it at a time.
In the Mandalorian we focus on a main character who is part of an elite race of people that excel at weaponry and hunting. This character is a hardened bounty hunter who always gets the job done. But when he comes across a live package of a sentient baby creature he can not deliver it to the people that hired him. He now has to run and hide across the universe as other bounty hunters come after him. This world has a deep lore of the Mandalorian people; but you only ever get bits and pieces of them. What you see is a deep honor and rules that each of them follow. They have a way of life that each of them lives by, and that way of life is sacred to them.
The Dragon Prince takes place in a magical world filled with elves, magic, humans, and dragons. The world is essentially split in two; humans live on the non-magical side, while elves and dragons live in the magical land of Xadia. There is a deep distrust and hatred between the two sides and they are constantly fighting one another. The main cast of characters is made up of people from both sides; fate has thrust them together and now they have to work together to deliver a dragon egg back to its mother and try to end all the constant feuding between the two sides. The world has a rich history and past with moments of war and unfortunate deaths on both sides. There are different subraces of elves which include; moon elves, sun elves, wind elves, and earth elves. Each subrace of elf is vastly different from another, each with different ways they act in their societies. One subrace might be a solitary bunch while another has big ties to family.
In the world of witcher there are all manner of races, people, and monsters. The world has elves, dwarves, humans, and many more. Monsters come in such a large variety that there are entire subspecies. In the world it is the jobs of mutated super humans known as Witchers to hunt down and kill these monsters that plague the lives of people. As the story progresses you come across some monsters that are completely harmless and some people who are utterly vile; it becomes clear that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Aside from the various amounts of species and subspecies of monsters the world is riddled with ruins of people long since past. There have been countless wars and power struggles in this world. All of these combine to make the world feel alive, rich, and full; while monster variation allows the world to feel like it is ever changing.
Culture & Worldbuilding
Many of these worlds have history, which is often revealed only a little at a time. There have been wars, struggles, and moments in time that are remembered by their people. Many of these worlds are inhabited with various creatures and races of all types. Each race of people acts differently in accordance to the area that they live in and the common practices that they follow. Lands are divided into nations and each nation has people that are affected by the regions, be it positive or otherwise. In the case of many of these titles, there are a series of traits, belief systems, and ideologies which are passed down from one generation to the next.
I believe culture is hard to define as a concept, but I think it is easy to know when it is present. You feel it in the people and how they act in the world, you feel it in the variation of monsters, creatures, and people of the world. So if you are trying to make your world feel like it has more life then try to think of these sources and learn from them. If you have a race of people make variations of them, even if it is just one extra type of each. If you have people in the world that live in vastly different regions, then how do they differ from one another? What traditions do they follow? If you have monsters in your world then why not make different types of them and think of why and how that change happened in the past. Adding just a couple of these things can change your entire world and make it feel more alive. Just a few changes can add a little culture into your world.
Do you have any favorite shows and games that have deep culture ingrained in it? Come let us know and follow us on our social media. If you have any interesting comments or funny anecdotes do leave us a message in our forums!