Mythos Unbound is Tesseract’s first game-based course, an award-winning experience focused on Greek and Roman Mythology, offered at the University of Arkansas through Global Campus, its online learning division. Mythos Unbound’s creative inception came from a desire to free classical myth from the confines of the lecture-style format, and present these ancient stories in a new form of cybernarrative, a 3D world in which the student-player can play an immersive part.
Mythos Unbound is driven by a frame-narrative in which players assume the role of a newly acquired slave in a Pompeiian house circa 65 CE. The goal of this narrative anchor is to communicate how deeply and widely infused myth (and “mythological” patterns of thinking) were in everyday lives in classical antiquity. As the player character progresses through the story, ever in the pursuit of freedom (a common practice found in Ancient Roman slavery), players learn about Greek and Roman mythology, experiencing it embedded within the game world. Players are transported to a myriad of “Myth Levels” through features in the domestic environment like wall paintings, pottery, and even recipes for cooking, and by hearing the myths retold by other characters. Once they have crossed over to the myth world, players assume the roles of various mythological characters including Hermes, Odysseus, Penelope, Hercules, Cassandra, Orpheus and many more. Each Myth Level is designed to evoke a key concept that players then take and apply in analyses of the actual mythological texts and the overall narrative continuity of the game.
While Mythos Unbound is intended to be a fun experience, the game also underpins a serious course on Greek and Roman Mythology. Mythos Unbound does not aim to replace critical engagement with classical texts with senseless video game action. Rather, the game aims to facilitate, both from within and without the game world, a wealth of comparisons that can be made between the two forms, recognizing that video games are moving into a new phase of deeper emotional engagement, moral complexity, and narrative elaboration.
Mythos Unbound is a diverse, engaging experience containing over ten hours of total gameplay. It won third place overall in the 3rd International Educational Game Competition at the European Conference on Games Based Learning. The game was developed by the Tesseract Center for Immersive Environments and Game Design, employing extensive use of undergraduate interns led by a small group of full-time staff.