Small Worlds, Big Stories...

It’s a good time to be a Zelda fan. I’m elated to finally know something real about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After years of teasing, we can finally see what a Zelda game will be like in the style of Skyrim, Fallout, and Metal Gear Solid V. I recognize that I might be tying myself to the tracks of the hype train by saying this, but I was secretly hoping Breath of the Wild wouldn’t be open-world. I’m not trying to trash the glorious reputation of open-world games. Rather, the reverse. Everyone knows how good these games are. They’re everywhere. Their quality is self-evident. Instead, I want to prove that linear games are great too. Not better, just different. Like, a better sort of different. Here’s why: I’ve found that a story is a finite thing. If you want to stretch it very wide, you must accept that it can’t go deep. Breath of the Wild’s long development process and release on two consoles parallels my experience as a teenager waiting for Twilight Princess to come out. When that finally arrived, I cried watching Link ride across the sunset-washed title screen for the first time, in spectacular 480i. (That was a big deal ten years ago, wasn’t it?) We don’t like being unable to choose, even though we rarely can. Twilight Princess was massive. But outside of the vast main quest, there was not much to do. Back then, I was disappointed—I thought there was potential to fill the game with so much more. In retrospect, I think I was missing the forest for the trees. The things that make me truly, truly feel like a part of the game, are when the story sinks its teeth in, when the...

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This....

Mid-summer birthdays are lonely. I mean sure, they’re spaced far enough away from Christmas that the “Kyle’s temporary material happiness fund” should be well stocked, but most of my friends were off on vacation and unable to attend an appropriately large birthday bash. However, in the summer of 1986 I could not have been more thankful for the solitude. In my hands I held the iconic gold cartridge of the original Legend of Zelda. I had maps, I had snacks, and I had a stack of Nintendo Power magazines by my side; I was ready to go. But none of those provisions were necessary when I directed Link into that first cave. It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this. I explored a vast unknown world, discovered hidden dungeons, felt the tension of that last half heart, slew great beasts of legendary proportions, and ventured through seemingly infinite sequels—and it all began with my first sword. Recently, someone posted a meme featuring that phrase on my Facebook wall. The scene was the same. Same old bald man in a red suit. Same bonfires on either side. Except instead of a sword, Link was lifting up a cup of coffee. I realized the sword I want to give my little girl isn’t called education. It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this. ABSOLUTELY, I thought. The world without my coffee in the morning truly is a dangerous place. I pondered that phrase for the rest of the day. The world really is a dangerous place. What did I have in my bag of holding to deal with its dangers? More importantly, what was I equipping my four-year-old daughter with to prepare her for what she would face? It seems like every week I am re-posting a new picture of a...

The Power in Link’s Silence...

In a bout of nostalgia, I re-opened the manga adaptation of my favourite video game of all time, half expecting to hear the anticipative “hidden item” fanfare as I did so. As a child, I specifically remember the hero of Ocarina of Time capturing my interest. Link was both admirable and player-impressionable, which allowed me to meld bits of myself into his narrative. His journey captivated me; I was taken on a daring quest through time into fantastical lands inhabited by exotic creatures. Mostly, though, I remember being enthralled by Link’s silence. Theses have been written on the role of silence within video game narratives, though Link’s silence in particular is an issue returned to time and again by theorists. The most technical of the bunch insist that Link’s silence is a tool used by the game developers to allow the player to “impress” themselves upon him, thus offering immersion within the game and identification with the green-clad hero. From a purely developmental standpoint, that may be true. But as a wide-eyed ten-year old venturing into the land of Hyrule for the first time, I wasn’t altogether focused on the game’s mechanics. I connected with Link’s silence because I admired it. Here was a character who never spoke a word (outside of his combative foreign language), yet ten-year-old me was convinced he was the most noble, humble, and brave individual I’d ever connected with through a gaming controller. That’s partially because his selfless and heroic actions made words meaningless, but I also admired him because of his humility—his willingness to carry the weight of Hyrule on his back, his temperance not to lash back at others who mocked him, and his determination to make good on others’ vested faith in him. I like to...

Link is fated to die

So this sage fellow tells you that you’re the legendary Hero of Time, and it’s your destiny to save the land from evil. At this news, perhaps your soul puffs up with the righteous thought of your future victory. Or, if you’re like me, you get annoyed at the guy who’s not only telling you what to do, but what you’re going to do, as if you didn’t have a choice. Either way, let’s do this, you say. If it’s your destiny, after all, how can you fail? But then, somewhere along the line, you die. Whether it’s because you let an Octorok spit one too many rocks at you, or because you couldn’t figure out the trick with the first boss, Link’s health will eventually go down accompanied by the annoying beeping and his slight gasp before he falls in slow motion to his doom. Or so it would seem. A second later, however, he’s up and at it with only a few missing hearts to show for his trouble. Now that’s what I call a Hero of Time. Death seems to have found its way so readily into video games because it was the logical fail safe for arcades. You couldn’t have one quarter lasting someone for hours, after all. Pac-Man has to die sometime. Mario can’t avoid being bowled over by Donkey Kong forever.It’s my fate as a gamer to win and fail at the same time in a clashing set of universes. Not only does this impending doom rake in the coins for arcades, but games just wouldn’t be fun without that chance of failure looming over the player’s head. A lot of older games capitalized on the thrill of terror and release. As Churchill put it: “Nothing in life...

A limerick for Link Jun05

A limerick for Link

There once was a green-garbed young bloke who tried to tell Zelda a joke He wanted to say “… please press A” but no words came out when he spoke.

Video game music that we love May08

Video game music that we love

Since May is our music-themed month, we will be regaling you with fun playlists every Friday. This is some of our favourite tunes from awesome video games. We love that the Civilization IV song is the Lord’s Prayer. And also, Lindsey Stirling is one of our favourite musicians of all time; go listen to all her stuff on YouTube. “Zelda Medley” (Lindsey Stirling) This gives us the feels. Time to go play Ocarina of Time.   “Baba Yetu” (Civilization IV) This is actually the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. It was the first video game theme nominated for a Grammy.   “Never Forget” (Halo) We will never forget how amazing the Halo soundtrack is.   “Fear Not This Night” (Guild Wars 2) This Guild Wars 2 song is our sandwich, along with the game itself.   “One Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy VII) You can’t go wrong with Final Fantasy music. Really, it’s all...

Link doesn’t need a better plot...

As a female gamer, I feel like I’m scrutinized a lot. I don’t usually mention the fact that I’m a woman when I’m online gaming because a) I don’t think it should matter, b) if I do, and we lose, then the reason we lost MUST be because I’m a girl, and c) if I do and we win, I get a lot of attention and the guys in the lobby often start hitting on me. So I have to be good at every video game and every style to get approval, and even then it’s not the kind of approval I appreciate? I have to dominate at Halo to be considered a “real” gamer, even though that kid over there sucks just as much but it’s okay because he’s a boy? I’m not trying to whine here or say, “Woe is me, blah blah blah,” I’m just generally curious about this attitude. Gender is the chromosomes we got stuck with. It reminds me of when I hear people complaining about Nintendo and that they need to offer better plotlines in their games. “Link should talk.” “The story should be more interesting.” “Please kill Navi.” Ummm… no. Except maybe that last one. Here’s the thing, Legend of Zelda does what Legend of Zelda does best, which is interesting gameplay and puzzle solving. We’re not going to see intricate plotlines along the levels of a game like Mass Effect, because that’s not Nintendo’s strength. And remember when they did something drastically different with the release of Majora’s Mask, and so many fans complained? (Ironically, that is one of my favourite Zelda games, though I’d argue Nintendo was still playing to their strengths with that release. It was amazing.) Where am I going with this? I promise. Hang in there. Nintendo is in a whole different league...

Characters who should have died but didn’t Mar13

Characters who should have died but didn’t

There will always be characters who just aren’t that interesting but are required to help drive the story along. Then there are the characters who do their best to burn the story to the ground. Here are our ten. 1. Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix We’re pretty sure she was more evil than Voldemort. 2. Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer It was always me me me me. Sure fine she was abandoned (in Joss’s words) by “about six parental figures” but whiny is whiny. 3. The entire Lannister line except Tyrion from Song of Ice and Fire ‘Cept we kinda like Jaime too. 4. Harry Kim from Star Trek: Voyager He’s kind of the Dawn Summers of the Star Trek universe. 5. Navi from Ocarina of Time “Hey, listen!” “You’re dead to me.” 6. The dog from Duck Hunt And now in Super Smash Bros. Wii U, he CAN die! 7. Willie Scott from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom This. 8. Slippy from StarFox Really? You’re in trouble AGAIN!? You need my help AGAIN!? How about no? 9. Rose Thomas from Fullmetal Alchemist Dress up in a frog costume and fly a space-ship already. 10. Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace We made him last so you can channel all your hate there. Okay, so who’d we...

Opening a geek (not greek) pizza shop… Feb13

Opening a geek (not greek) pizza shop…...

The best pizza shops name their pizzas so we decided to give it a go. Not that we have any intention of ever opening up a pizza shop.. or do we? So what did we miss? Any further suggestions?