Quests are in basically every game. In role-playing games, they will be called "quests" straight up. In other games, they are presented as a narrative. "Main quests" are often epic and adventurous (as opposed to "side quests" which can be hit or miss).
My son loves these Greek myth graphic novels and one specific story he enjoys over and over again is that of Heracles (Hercules, in Roman myths).
Through means of an oracle, Hera sets Heracles to serve King Eurythesus, and the King gives Heracles a quest. He is to perform ten labors (that turn into twelve) involving some Witcher-style tasks like monster killing and some humbling tasks like cleaning up cow shit that has been caked on for years.
Anyway the point is having a quest gave Heracles a clear purpose. A quest has a defined end state (complete all twelve labors). The path or journey to the end is clear even though it may not be clear how to overcome individual obstacles (oh, the hydra's heads regrow). It also has a reward for its completion (redeem yourself). The reward is usually some intrinsic reward (soul is at peace) but likely comes with some extrinsic rewards (more money, better loot). The key is that Heracles isn't doing it for the loot.
Therefore maybe we can define the qualities of what a good quest is:
- It should have a well-defined end state
- It should bring you some intrinsic reward
- It could bring you some extrinsic rewards
- It has a defined path or journey to follow
So what is your quest?
If you're following me perhaps you might say, "To climb the corporate ladder."
But this doesn't satisfy our qualities of a good quest. Climb the corporate ladder for what? For glory? This isn't Viking times.
Instead you might have some fuzzy answers like...
- To make more money (How much is "enough"?)
- To become a Principal Engineer (What then?)
- To be successful (How do you define success?)
These are okay but I don't think they go far enough.
Here are some example quests to get you thinking more deeply:
- Become a Principal to mentor early-in-career developers so they excel in their own careers
- Quit corporate to coach other developers on how to go independent so they can design lives they love
- Implement agile in my organization so we can break down barriers between silos and deliver quality software faster
Ask yourself: What am I doing this for? And who am I doing it for?
If you can answer those clearly, you've got a decent quest to embark on. If who is it for is someone other than yourself, you've got something worth fighting for.
Thanks to Seth Godin for his questions, "What and who is it for?" Ultimately, these questions uncover who you are serving and for what higher purpose. It is geared towards marketing but I think it just as easily applies to our own lives.