Mired In The Mythos
By Tom Mannering
I love Lovecraftian horror. It resonates with me on a level that shock and gore horror simply does not. The creeping dread of unknowable, indefatigable nightmares that the human mind simply cannot comprehend is far more unsettling and simultaneously more intriguing than any other genre of horror.
I'm not alone in my fondness for works inspired by Mr. Lovecraft, as is evidenced by the rise in popularity not only in Cthulhu but other Great Old Ones. There are obvious examples of this that can be seen across the whole spectrum of gaming communities. For those with an interest in digital gaming, there is the upcoming Call of Cthulhu video game, which is being sold on its evocation of the atmosphere of Lovecraftian horror. In the board gaming community, there is a wealth of Lovecraft and Cthulhu inspired games, including the sizable Fantasy Flight range with games such as Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness and Eldritch Horror but beyond that there are others such as Cthulhu: Death May Die. That's not even mentioning the wealth of 'Lovecraft' influenced expansions for existing card games, such as Cthulhu Gloom, Munchkin Cthulhu and Smash Up: The Obligatory Cthulhu Set. Even the role-playing market is dominated by Call of Cthulhu, Chaosium's flagship system that has explored the Cthulhu Mythos since 1981!
With the gaming market saturated with games focusing on or inspired by Lovecraftian horror, the question I ask is, are we mired in the Mythos?
Popular culture seems to go through trends when it comes to the supernatural. The likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dusk Till Dawn started the 90's spike in interest in vampire mythology, which span through series like True Blood and Vampire Diaries and breathed it's last undead breath with the Twilight series. The zombie trend, appropriately, continues to rise and fall, but currently seems to be waning (but that said, it has seen its own sizable catalogue of board games both good and bad). Is the rise in interest in the Cthulhu Mythos likely to see a similar cycle of popularity in the gaming community and are we currently at the breaking point in how much Lovecraftian horror the community can handle? The short answer is, in my humble opinion, is probably yes.
As much as I love the genre, I do think almost every conceivable take that could be done with Cthulhu and his peers has pretty much been done and in some cases, it has been done to death (...and with strange aeons even death may die - Editor). Between board games and role-playing games, Lovecraftian horror has made an appearance in just about every possible timeline, setting and existing intellectual property available on the market. Lovecraftian horrors have transcended beyond the gates of Arkham and their influence is clearly visible in elements of Pathfinder, World of Warcraft and countless other gaming franchises beyond.
Does this over-exposure herald an end the Cthluhu Mythos? Of course not. The interest in the settings and the horrors it offers has existed since it wormed its way into the public domain with Lovecraft's first published work in 1917 and I suspect it will continue to play a part in the genre until the Great Old Ones come to claim back their intellectual property. In the meantime, while the surge in the popularity of the Mythos may wane in the coming years, I fully expect the likes of Chaosium and Fantasy Flight to continue to produce the high-quality Mythos products they have done for years. The Mythos may never vanish from the community that elevated it from its cult status, but it may retreat from the spotlight. In the meantime, hopefully the Mythos won’t ‘Twilight’ us by inspiring some love story about a woman falling in love with some amphibian horror.