What does the Code of the Highway represent in what I am now calling the Thematic Trinity of Hagakure 66?
On my ride home today, I had this subject heavy on my mind (set aside your fears, I was paying more attention to the road, of course). It hit me the heaviest at a certain point on Skyline, when we took a sharp blind curve. At that moment, in the pouring flash thunderstorm rain, a truck coming the other way sped across our path to a side street and a bicyclist only 80 or so feet ahead popped out of a driveway. It would have caused an average rider’s sphincter to clench a bit tighter, but for me the situation was far more personal and tense.
You see, nine weeks ago today, I had my first motorcycle accident on that exact curve, in the exact spot where the driver cut us off today. Circumstances were different, but I would be a liar if I said that I didn’t get a little tense every single time I’ve taken that curve since (read: every single day of the work week, usually twice).
Relating this to Hagakure 66, a good friend has emphasized his belief that the Code of the Highway should mostly serve as a metaphor for a character’s relationship with himself, and his place in the universe. As one is less than sure of their place in the world, one’s connection with the road would wane, one’s ride would deteriorate, and so on. And the closer to purity of self, the better the rider.
But looking back at that time I wrecked by bike, and the few mishaps I’ve had since then, all happened to me at times in which I felt most at one with the universe. Times of bliss, of connection, of comfort with myself and my existence. Times wherein I had no complaints, and was truly reveling in the feeling of life.
There’s also a good reason why many a biker will tell you that owning a motorcycle is like having a second (or first!) girlfriend. You make time and excuses just to go out riding her, to feel her engine between your legs, to share experiences with another thing that no other person you know would really understand. Many describe it as borderline sexual, and some even cross that line of connection. When another man sits on your bike, you feel a deep insult that is akin to another man grabbing your wife’s breasts. There’s a deep, personal connection to the bike that goes far beyond your place in the universe.
Riding a motorcycle can also within you a certain amount of fatalism. When every single ride is like a spin on a rollercoaster, it is easy to become more accepting of the notion that nothing else matters, only this connection, only this moment, only this next corner, and the next one. It is true that we of the two-wheeled inclination frequently turn to the road to clear our minds, but that in itself can become a dangerous addiction. There are real-life tales of those who have lost themselves in it, and been taken by the highway. There are those who have grown passively suicidal in that fatalism, caring not if they launch their bike over the next cliff and fly towards their death. I’ve met a few of these folks, and they can be unsettling.
All of this consideration sets up some unanswered questions. What does the Trinity itself represent? Is it everything that defines the character? If so, then it would need to be able to accommodate the entirety of the game within itself. Each of the three Codes (Pack, Sword/Retainer, Highway) would encompass the whole game, and everything would be about the conflict between those three Codes. The act of finding some balance between the three would the serve as the entire focus of play. For this, simply picture a Triangle with three points, each a different code. As the character favors one or more codes over the others, the triangle’s proportions stretch and skew accordingly.
Or instead, is the Trinity itself just a shackle placed upon the Self? Picture the same triangle, but now place a dot right in the middle, and call it the Self. Let’s harken back to the original stated setup: “The war is over, and your side lost. Everything you knew and loved is gone, destroyed or taken away from you. All you have now are your bike, your sword, your pack, and The Highway.”
Considering this, the True Self would likely not exist as a segment of the Trinity, but instead as either its ward, or its prisoner. The Self That Was is no more, or at least is crumbling. The War saw to that. The character lost something dear to his heart, something that can never be regained. Now the character protects himself with the Trinity. He turns to the Pack to distract himself in the affairs of others. He turns to the Patron to become something other than human, something deadly and single-purposed. He turns to his steed to lose himself in the Other, to find a connection with something inhuman and unlike himself.
Using this model, new options present themselves. Does the character use the Codes as armor to protect his weakened self? Does the character only follow the codes to fit in with the Pack? Does the character lose himself in his connection with his bike, to the point that he becomes cold and inhuman? Does the character throw away his identity entirely to become the deadly extension of his master’s will? Does he let himself be absorbed within the mentality of the Pack?
Or does he renounce the Codes, and find his own way? Does he focus more on uncovering the past, and resolving his ties to that which was lost?
Regardless of the nature of this Triangle’s points, both implementations will have to consider what potential conflicts can be brought into play in order to threaten and test that Code.
When I first came up with the idea for this game, I wanted a game that could effectively evoke the connection between man and steed, and yet have it conflict with the connection between man and sword, and man and pack. Implementing this will be tricky. I know of no other game that treats steeds and bikes like their own in-game entities. Usually they are just tools – inventory clutter that serves minor mechanical purposes here and there. Evoking the depth of this relationship will require a lot of consideration.
I gotta think on this one.