Have you ever played the Persona series of games? If not, I’d highly recommend checking them out. Persona 4 The Golden is an excellent starting point, but if you don’t have a Playstation Vita (which wouldn’t be surprising, considering how quickly that console died), you could start with Persona 5 on PS3 or PS4.
Why am I suddenly recommending you Japanese RPGs? Simple, because one of the things I adore about the series in question is its exploration of—what else?—personae, the different metaphorical masks people wear. As a series, it delves heavily into Jungian psychology, including the titular persona, but also the concept of the shadow, which are literally the enemies you fight in the games, and the collective conscious, which make up the dungeons you have to fight your way through to progress.
Getting into the specifics here would take multiple posts and a whole lot of digital ink, so instead I’ll simply link you to some further reading if the subject interests you:
The games love to play around with the various concepts Jung put forward. Kanji, a character in Persona 4, for example is confused about his sexuality because he’s a masculine and aggressive young man… but also loves sewing/arts & crafts, and is attracted to an outwardly male character. He’s effectively a personification and exploration of the animus/anima concept (see the article I linked).
Likewise, the concept of one’s true self is heavily tied to that same game. In fact, it’s the game’s thesis statement, its primary theme. The main title theme music is even called Pursuing My True Self, and the characters each have to overcome their own shadow in order to find—and, more importantly, embrace—their true selves. Failure to do so = death.
Similarly, the other archetypes (listed at the end of that article) are explored in depth, with ‘the trickster’ being one of the main themes in Persona 5. The game’s main character represents this archetype, and the game explores themes of social alienation and stigma, and more firmly delves into the concept of collective consciousness.
So why am I telling you all of this? Good question! And one with a simple answer: because quite apart from my own interest in this stuff, I’m planning a work of my own that will explore similar themes, and I wanted to share 🙂
Specifically, I love the idea of the collective consciousness. With that in mind, I decided to develop a setting similar in general tone to the Persona games, where I can explore similar themes. Though in deference to my love of lesfic/yuri, the main character is a girl… and that’s all I’m saying on the subject for now ;p
The setting will be a fictional coastal city, though I’m still deciding where to place it, possibly on a fictional island in the Pacific. In addition, there’ll be an island academy just off the coast of the city itself, where the world’s best and brightest attend.
Thematically, I want to explore the concept of saving face and keeping up appearances in society. Everything in this academy revolves around social standing. No weakness can be shown, and any possible scandals are swept under the rug and kept secret as much as possible by everyone involved. Towing the line is another way to look at it, with social consequences for not doing so.
Our main character is a Japanese girl called Ichigo who manages to get into the academy not through social positioning, as most others are, but through simple hard work and top-of-her-school grades. As someone coming in from the outside, she’s free from the shackles of keeping up appearances and will be uniquely placed to help the other main characters with their various problems.
Of course we’re talking urban fantasy again here, with supernatural components and a literal collective consciousness the characters will have to dive into and explore. But more than that, I love the idea of another concept related to this: collective effervescence, the idea of a society or group coming together unconsciously to perform the same idea or action.
Naturally, there’s nefarious goings-on at the academy that our heroes will uncover and have to fight against, but rather than being direct physical threats—though those will also exist—it’ll be heavily focused on winning hearts and minds, too, in both literal and metaphorical senses.
Like all authors, I have way too many ideas and never enough time to write them all. But since the Persona games are some of my favourites experiences ever, especially 4 and 5, both of which are in my top 5 games of all time, this story sits right at the top of my list of ‘things I absolutely must write before I die’.
Thanks for reading!