Ride Ookla!

This entry was posted on Jun 08 2011

Hi, James here.

I don’t know about many of you, but I grew up in the 80’s, so I had the pleasure of growing up with many 70’s and 80’s cartoon shows. Dungeons and Dragons, Silverhawks, Spartacus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, and one of my favorites, Thundarr the Barbarian.

I’ll admit it, I still want that sunsword. It’s awesome.

Despite the awesomeness of the sunsword, Thundarr was not my favorite character. No, my favorite was Ookla. It saddens me that I never really got to know anything about him, but, for some reason, he was always my favorite. I think, perhaps, that it was because of his horse.

Ookla Riding

courtesy of

See, his horse told me more about the world than the opening credits did. It told me that, though it was Earth, it was not the Earth I knew. It was someplace else where things like Ookla’s horse existed.

It is true that there was Ookla, who was not human by any stretch, and there were monsters that Thundarr and his pals fought, but things of that nature are too easy to imagine. It is harder to make things that are fantastic part of the everyday world. This is something that many a RPG in the gaming world is missing (though definitely not all). What something like this simple horse does is defamiliarize the world in such a way that it attracts the interest of the audience, because it lets them know that there is more to this world than what is presented on the screen, without pandering or reaching such heights of fantasy as to be ridiculous.

Take Dragon Age, for example. There are dragons in this world and there are monsters, but outside of fighting things, it doesn’t seem to have changed the familiarity of a medieval inspired setting all that much. Wouldn’t a world where magic is not uncommon have different pressures on the local flora and fauna, making all sorts of new things that people, be they elves or dwarves, have use for.

Some may point out that in Dragon Age, there is the Nug, a rabbit-esque creature that the dwarves eat, but that is about it, and though it is referred to, we, the audience, never see one being roasted. If we had, that small detail, and others like it, featured prominently, would let do more to let us know that this setting is so much more of a world apart from our own preconceptions of it that it is worth exploring for its own sake.

So, to the world builders out there, please, remember your world is more than the people and the monsters, but the beasts and the trees as well. Need inspiration, check out the works of Dougal Dixon, or watch The Future is Wild. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.


About jkempf

James Kempf, CEO of Cliché Studio, has made two games for Mercury Retrograde Press, learned from managing the comics at Criminal Records that John Stewart is the best Green Lantern, and once happily played a 12 ft. dwarf in Rifts.