Naval Gazing: Zelda
Everything I ever learned about gaming I learned from Zelda. I paused in my Bioshock play because, honestly, the idea of sitting in front of a computer for more than ten seconds at a time is abhorrent to me right now. Well, I say abhorrent, but what I mean is I have no focus and all my energy is still being used up on the whole surviving and taking care of myself thing, and less so on anything that requires thought. Which isn’t to say that I’m down in the dumps or anything; things are improving and my mood is ok but I haven’t shaken myself out of crisis mode, and there are still times when I feel overwhelmed by unreasonable panic. So I’ve focused all my energy on taking really, really good care of myself, and right now that includes not shouldering any unnecessary tasks — things that feel like a chore. But curling up in bed with a 3ds and Ocarina of Time, that I can do. It’s five minute play blocks followed by half an hour of reading twitter. It’s GREAT.
The Zelda series rewards exploration, non-linear thinking and checking everything. Twice. Three times. EVERY TIME YOU PASS BY THAT SPOT TRY TO PUSH THE GRAVE AGAIN. That statue you see might not move now, but down the line it’ll open a dungeon. The rocks you can’t blow up you can pick up and toss when you get the special gloves. Eventually, you get so familiar with the small world Link travels in that you could walk it in your sleep. In my Ocarina replay, I could probably make the trek from Lon-Lon Ranch to the palace without looking at the screen. I could certainly make it to Lake Hylia and back to Death Mountain in a brisk and efficient manner, and the timed quests present absolutely no difficulty. Because you spend so much time in each location, the excellent music imprints itself on you, until the Lost Woods theme soothes you and the Forest Temple theme makes you feel uneasy. I can understand why video game concerts are so popular. Music can elevate a game completely.*
Plus, Zelda has one of the best creepypastas out there: Ben Drowned.
When I still had energy for MMOs, I was a total achievement chaser. It was that same Zelda trained urge — do everything. Get every heart piece. Kill every skulltula. Buy every special piece of gear. In non-MMOs, I finally broke the urge to get 100%, but I still spend a lot of time exploring nooks and crannies, hoping to find something cool. Exploration helped me find the Turret symphony in Portal 2. It helped me beg mages and warlocks to get me underneath Stormwind back in BC. I still wish I had taken the time to explore under Kara and see the Hall of Upside Down Sinners in person. I also have a huge amount of patience; I’ll spend an hour wandering four rooms to figure out a puzzle before I’ll consider looking it up online.*
I’m still relearning my way into single players. I played WoW for long enough that non social games felt a little empty and I didn’t have the attention span for them. But I’m enjoying them now, enjoying the way I can play when I have time, even if it’s just five minutes. I’m sure when things settle down again I’ll want to get back to those social games, but for now single player is the distraction I need.
* FTL is a charming game with lo-fi graphics and an AMAZING soundtrack. I would never have made it through the first few plays without that music. Also, Final Fantasy — I think those of us who didn’t cut our teeth on Zelda probably did so on FF, which had an equally amazing soundtracks. The chocobo song still makes me twitch as I remember the hours spent breeding ’em.
* In Portal 2 co-op, there is a hellish level. This level involves light bridges, platforms and slanted walls, and the solution is so blindingly simple that I have never felt dumber. But my partner and I spent an absurd amount of time on this level, banging our heads together and wondering what the hell we were missing. If I had looked up the solution, I would still be hating myself today. The moment we figured it out it was like sunshine coming out.