I spent my weekend destroying Ganon and restoring peace to the kingdom of Hyrule. What did you get into?
When I was a kid, every weekend would be dedicated to two things; pick-up basketball and video games. It makes sense thinking back on it. This is how my friends and I spent time with one another. I remember screaming over game chat until my dad stormed into my room telling me, “If I come here again, I’m ripping the cord off the ‘Game Station’!” The chat would go quiet for a while until I whispered, “Can someone revive me?”, which caused everyone to erupt in laughter.
This continued throughout high school and a little into college. But with a full time job, school, and a new-found love of alcohol, I lost touch with video games. Thankfully the friendships didn’t fade but what did was my love for video games. That is until the beginning of 2022.
With my nephews getting older and discovering their own passion for video games, I decided to get back into it. Several hundred dollars later and one helpful friend with a crippling addiction to video games, and I was the proud owner of a Nintendo Switch and Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild.
Over a year later and I have finally beaten BOTW.
As cool as it feels to beat a game, anyone who has played them knows that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about the journey you take along the way. As cliché as it is, it’s the truth and I think BOTW masterfully built a world on this truth.
BOTW opens with Link waking from a hundred year slumber to a very different world. Although I played Zelda in the past and as familiar as I am with the general premise (save Princess Zelda), I couldn’t help but feel there would be much more to this story. I was right. As the doors of the cave opened, Link looked out onto a massive and unfamiliar world.
The sheer size of Hyrule is one thing but you’re also playing with a character who has lost his memory. Meaning as you go through the story you, the player, have the opportunity to learn as much or as little as you want. There is the main quest (save the girl and the land) and there are side quests (learn more through experience). Like some of my favorite books, The Invisible Man, Alice in Wonderland, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Brave New World… BOTW invites people to explore both the world and themselves along the way.
Exploration is such a rare quality found in stories. Many books, movies, or video games today take you from point A to B. Only a few offer us the chance to go on our own journey. What I love about BOTW and the aforementioned books is that even though there is a clear beginning, middle, and end, each offers a different way of getting there.
In BOTW, this become more obvious as you play. It is an open world game, meaning we as players decide how the story is written. A lot of games have adopted this style but writers and directors can achieve this as well. Great writers tell stories in a way that offers readers an opportunity to explore. Great movies are just as much about the conversations that occur afterwards as they are about the film itself. Whether its a passage that touches on a hidden truth, or a scene that if pondered reveals something about ourselves. Whatever form it takes, great stories aren’t just about the journey, it’s about finding ourselves within it.
Although I am happy to have completed BOTW, I am equally as sad that it has come to an end. On Friday morning my Switch notified me that my downloaded copy of Legend of Zelda, Tears of a Kingdom was ready to play. A new story and set of challenges await me and as I play, BOTW will likely become a distant memory. What will remain, however, is the lesson that it taught me. A reminder that life is an adventure with seemingly infinite possibilities, opportunities to learn about myself, and lessons about the world. The choice is mine to take in as much as I can.
Side note: If my younger self could see what I can learn from a video game now, that’s all the leverage I would have needed to prove my parents’ claim of, “video games are rotting your brain”, wrong.