If you look for the origin of the word “monster”, you might be surprised at how much its etymology is anything but negative. Monster is a word of Latin derivation, or rather of the word “monstrum”, a term that defined a creature with a bizarre and, often, terrible aspect, but which could be understood, for the most part, with the meaning of “prodigy”.
A monster, therefore, is something prodigious and, going even deeper, you may discover that “monstrum” is itself a derivation of the Latin verb “moneo” which means to admonish, but also to inspire. A monster, in ancient times, was therefore not a fair placed there to make color, nor a creature guarding who knows what mythical reward, was he rather a divine prodigy, a warning to men or, at other times, an inspirational figure who paved the way for the hero to a transition, a passage or, if you like , a maturation. How we ended up from myth to the most common meaning of monster or monstrosity is a mystery which, as often happens, should be explored backwards in literature and which, at least here, we will not want to investigate further.
But returning to the monsters, we would admit that we don’t think about them that often, because it is probably not easy to find ourselves dealing with them, especially when they nestle under the beds of our daily life. Yet it is undeniable that monsters, almost never friendly, and more often furious and terrible, are the daily bread of anyone who has to do with the world of digital and non-digital imagery. Whether it’s a story, a comic, a film and, of course, a video game.
Just a game, you will guess which, led me to reflect on monsters and their meaning, and I’m obviously talking about Monster Hunter Rise which, in addition to a fascinating Japanese-inspired lore, makes monsters its playful and narrative fulcrum and this, in no uncertain terms, is extraordinary for so many and so varied reasons that it would be almost worthwhile to list them one by one. However, one, iconic and inimitable, is enough to make the difference for most of us, especially in this long year in which the thought of monsters has been supplanted by the monstrosity of reality and this reason is hunting.
The adrenaline of digital hunting is something that cannot be explained. It must be savored, played and lived step by step. It is not unlike any other heart-pounding encounter that you can experience elsewhere. Just think, for example, of the powerful and – in some ways – tiring battles with the sword of any souls like. Yet playing Monster Hunter Rise offers a different, galvanizing and, at times, almost cathartic experience given the times they are.
The difference is one, and only one: you are not alone. You can be, of course, but as far as a part of the game is concerned, more exquisitely designed for team play, venturing alone means – almost always – going home defeated. Talking about it now, today, in this situation in which we are all gripped by the great monster of loneliness, starvation and the fear of uncertainty, is more important than ever. You are not alone in Monster Hunter Rise, you are with your friends fighting monsters. You can do it by organizing yourself well and better, you can do it by planning each mission with a precision that would be the envy of any compilation of the 730, but the point is that you are on a team with someone who, like you, shares the passion and, perhaps, even a certain feeling of emptiness.
The power of Monster Hunter Rise, beyond the goodness of a game that is almost “miraculous” considering the Nintendo Switch hardware is here: it reminds us that monsters, in their figure of powerful divine warnings, of difficulties that literally swoop out of the blue in everyone’s lives, they can somehow be defeated if you count on the help of others, if you trust, if you try to tackle the “problem” together, even when this problem is high, fanged and squirms like a maniac. Perhaps, therefore, the point is not to go hunting, but only to face the problem together, even better if you have clear ideas in your head on how to deal with it and you are fully armed, and tell me if, after more than a year of COVID-19, of stop and go, of restlessness, Monster Hunter Rise hardly seems like a godsend. In a sector where cooperation has long since given way to competition, and where the team is not as important as getting lost in a frenzied online shooter, Monster Hunter Rise offers an almost Zen approach, helping us to fight fear fully armed, of course, but in company. The battle, then, becomes a moment through which to empty oneself and throw everything out, returning to that catharsis that was said a few lines ago. Fight monsters yes, on and off the screen and you are not alone.