My preliminary analysis has identified two reasons we desire to play certain RPG classes over others; one conscious, one unconscious. The conscious, and lesser, motivating factor is based on the mechanics of the class, e.g. your standard Tank/DPS/Support/Healer breakdown. The more important factor, I argue, is the unconscious desire to align oneself with the archetype from which the class is derived. Let's break down what that means exactly, because I am sure in your ignorance you decided to read a blog about video games before reading the collected works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. You dunce.
German psychologist Carl Jung claims that there is a collective unconscious among all humans which, "continually influence[s] our thoughts and feelings and actions." Floating in this shared mental space of mankind there are a number of universal stories, images, behaviors, ideas, and ideals that motivate us on an almost instinctive level. These "inherited possibilities of ideas," or archetypes, are the basis for storytelling and the myths which define our culture. For example, in mythologies across the world, you will find trickster gods who by breaking the rules of the world, through their antics, act as the catalyst for the conflict which drive stories (Loki, Coyote, Hermes, Puck).
|Kefka is most certainly an example of the Trickster/Fool Archetype|
A hero is just a man who knows he's free.
This is significant because people are self-involved and therefore view the protagonist of a story as themselves or at least some synthesis of self and character. This concept of hero-as-self expresses our desire to undergo the Hero's journey ourselves. By reading, playing, or otherwise consuming a story we are simulating the experience of shedding our weaknesses and transforming into new, better people. The basic roleplaying classes are different variants on how the player can make themselves feel better or at the very least feel like they are becoming better.
In the forthcoming posts of this miniseries I will psychoanalyze the archetypes associated with RPG classes in order to determine why playing each class is fulfilling to certain groups. First, I will tackle why people choose The Knight, and talk about his relationship to the maiden, his lord, and the quest. Next, I would like to talk about The Healer and why players have altruistic and selfish reasons for aiding others. Supporters of The Mage believe that having more knowledge is more beneficial to both the order and chaos of society, and will be examined further in the third part of this series. And lastly, the appeal of the secrets and shadows of The Thief will be brought to light.
Additionally, I will talk a little about the psychology behind affinities to the mechanics of each class and will liberally use modern video game examples for your edification.
Many of my ideas on this subject are still being formed. If you have reactions to this post, let me know, and I can use your input when working on the rest of this miniseries. Do you have another reason why classes are appealing that I may not have thought about? Do you have differing ideas on what stories are supposed to do for people? Do you think I have missed a crucial class or archetype? Please comment below!