Stories We Need [Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask]

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

This post goes along with our Zelda Month theme for November along with NaNoWriMo that Rachel and I also participate in every year. This is more of a personal, introspective piece, so I hope you enjoy it. 

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The story line of video games is important to me. Like a good book, I need to be invested in what is going on in the game, the “why is this nonsense happening,” the plot. Don’t get me wrong, games without stories — like beat-em-ups or racing games — can be just as fun, but I definitely prefer games with a strong story.

It may just be the writer in me or it could be due to the gaming influences I’ve grown up with. My first clear memory of Mario was from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars rather than Super Mario World. Mario RPG had a story and an interesting world and characters who all had their own agendas and personalities, even if they were a little cliche. Mario World had a bare-bones story, making you go from level to level to chase down Bowser and the princess, and did its primary job of being a platformer.

(Of course, the other reason why Mario World’s story is so-so to me could be because, when I was first introduced to it, I wondered why the princess would need saving. Sure, at the beginning of Mario RPG, I learned that Bowser tended to kidnap her a lot, but after we busted her out, she refused to be left behind and joined the party to fight. Why couldn’t she just escape herself in Mario World with her frying pan and psych bombs? But, I digress.)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was another game that gave me a story line to adore. And, yes, most of the games in the rest of the franchise may have used the same general plot line — with the help of a woman with wisdom, a guy with courage goes to defeat a man with power — but they all have fantastic new adventures, and I’ve enjoyed most of them.

One that I did not particularly care for was Ocarina of Time’s sequel, Majora’s Mask. Despite the game’s following and all the praise it has gotten, I have never been able to bring myself to finish it. I have absolutely no desire to dive into that story myself.

Don’t get me wrong, Majora’s Mask was a game that I believe was done brilliantly. The themes of the plot — particularly loss, grief, and death — were heavy stuff that was pulled off masterfully. I appreciate what the game has brought to the table and how thought-provoking the game continues to be today.

But, unlike Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask was never a story I needed.

As a writer, one of the most overheard pieces of writing advice you hear is, “Write what you know.” Use your personal experiences, your feelings, your thoughts in your writing to evoke the same from your readers.

But that’s not why we write. We write to explore new worlds, to escape our current reality, to figure out our feelings, to maybe start following a different train of thought. Those are also the same reasons as to why I play video games.

Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 and Majora’s Mask in 2000. I’ll be honest, Ocarina of Time was a fun quest, one where I could play with the hero, but in 1998, I had no idea what I was doing. I just enjoyed meeting the characters, getting through a few dungeons and, on my uncle’s copy of the game, riding Epona around Hyrule Field on his (completed) save file. Majora’s Mask was darker, gloomier, and I didn’t care at all for the timed day mechanic as a kid.

The games came out on the Wii’s Virtual Console in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and I remember being excited for them. For the first time, I actually beat Ocarina of Time on my own, and the rush of accomplishment and pride was amazing. I was seventeen, in the second half of my junior year of high school, the time when everyone in my grade was panicking about SATs and college applications. While I did well in high school, I was firmly pretending that college was not a thing that existed. I ignored the impending deadlines, ignored the anxiety of trying to figure out a college major let alone a school, ignored the fact that my best friends were looking to go out of state.

I eventually made the decision not to even apply to any schools. Instead, I got a job while going to the local community college for an associates degree in information technology. When the SATs rolled around, my friends spent the night before with SAT prep books and practice tests. Me? I played video games with Rachel.

Ocarina of Time let me be in control during that tumultuous part of my life. I was with the hero, I was helping and saving people. I was allowed to explore the unknown, to figure out what I needed and wanted to do. I was able to get a horse. I was part of a story where I could make a difference.

I tried playing Majora’s Mask when it became available on the Virtual Console, and I beat a couple of the dungeons before being done. At that point in my life, I was nineteen and feeling left behind when comparing myself with my friends’ journeys. I was in the middle of switching my associate’s degree from IT to computer forensics to see if that would help keep me interested in school while still working retail. My passions for writing and gaming were getting more serious, but there was always those niggling questions of, “But what will you do for money? How will you do that for a living?”

Majora’s Mask echoed the chaos that I felt then. I was running out of time. I was missing friends from high school, friends that had promised with me to keep in touch, but then the friendships dissolved. I was part of too many stories that could be erased at any time, ones where my efforts wouldn’t matter and I’d find myself stuck at the beginning. Or, worse, a dead end.

It wasn’t the kind of story, the kind of game, that I needed back then.

Of course, my retail and computer skills have helped me tremendously with my current job. It’s not as creative as I would like it, but it has given me fantastic coworkers, an actual schedule, benefits, and pay that helps support both my bills and my gaming. While I’m not quite where I want to be yet, I can’t complain about where my life path has taken me. Ocarina’s story, to me, was about exploring and finding yourself and that’s what I’m still doing.

People should be told to write (or play) what you need more often. Stories have such a profound effect on readers, gamers, what-have-you, that I don’t believe people realize how much they need a story until they experience it. Ocarina of Time is one of my favorite stories from the Legend of Zelda franchise because it is what I needed at that time in my life. It’s taken me some time to fully realize it’s impact, but better late than never, right?

What video game story line do you feel has made an impact on your life?

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Reality is Broken

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

It’s the end of the first month of 2018. I hope you’re all doing well and that everything has been working in your favor so far. Here’s to the rest of the year!

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A book I’ve been reading lately is Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. It depicts why video games are important in today’s society and how they aid us in being happy and fulfilled with our lives. While the book was published in 2011 and, thus, is a little out of date at this time, it has made me think about my love of games.

Think about why you play video games. Is it because of the challenge of saving the world? The relaxing atmosphere of caring for a virtual town? The social aspect of online video games? No matter your reasons, you wouldn’t be playing video games if you didn’t enjoy them.

There’s a particular quote near the beginning of the book that McGonigal put in from Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist of play: “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”

Depression often gives people a sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity. Games, on the other hand, give us a sense of being able to overcome obstacles, an endorphin rush when we focus on our energy on achieving a goal. By gaming, we’re focusing on an activity that we’re good at and enjoy.

In other words, McGonigal claims, “gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.”

The key ideas of being happy include satisfying work, the experience or hope of being successful, social connection, and meaning, or “the chance to be part of something larger than ourselves.” Gaming gives us all of that. Rather than using games as a way to escape reality, gamers are actively making their real lives more rewarding by playing.

I’ll be honest. My day job is not at all what I want it to be. It’s stifling and not creative at all, in my opinion. Sure, my co-workers are fantastic and the job itself pays well with good benefits, but it feels like more of a chore than anything else. I’m working there to survive, not to live.

Reading this book just kind of made everything click into place. Video games were always a way for me to help save the world and pour my creativity into, such as writing a blog about gaming. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, and gaming has opened up a few connections that I never would have had otherwise. It’s rather amazing to think about, isn’t it?

Have you read this book? What made you start to play video games?

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Of Video Game Tutorials

Double Jump Kris MiiJanuary is flying by, isn’t it?

The new year brings about new games from the holidays, and something many games have at the beginning of them are the tutorials. For experienced gamers, they can be annoying, but for the new players, tutorials aren’t bad to have around, right?

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I enjoy scrolling through Tumblr whenever I get a few minutes during the day or just winding down at night. I tend to follow blogs that mainly deal with writing, art, animals, and, of course, video games.

There was a thread on there a couple of days ago that piqued my interest, and I’m facepalming that I didn’t save it. The thread was regarding how games nowadays are created with people who are already “gamers” in mind rather than new players. The original poster, and subsequent replies, mentioned how newer games they’ve played seemed to cater to the audience with the intent that the player had enough intuition to know what they were doing in the game.

In other words, instead of a tutorial telling the player the controls, the game dropped the player in the world expecting the player to instinctively know where to go. Or, at the very least, figure out what they were supposed to do.

Honestly, as someone who’s grown up playing games for the better part of her life, I don’t mind games that do that. I’m coming into the game with a gamer’s mentality. If I’m playing a new game and find land across a chasm, my instinct is to run toward the chasm and see if my character auto-jumps. For new gamers, though, it may not be that simple. They may run around to find a bridge or mash buttons to find a combination that let’s their character jump.

Exploring and experimenting is well and good for video games — in fact, they’re some of the primary reasons why we game in the first place — but for those just trying to break into the scene, it can be a little intimidating. Considering how much emphasis is put on multiplayer games, especially global MMOs, the idea of not figuring out how to play quickly enough can dissuade new gamers from joining in on the fun.

Almost a year ago, I did a post about how I would prefer to have tutorials be optional, especially for certain franchises like Pokemon. Seeing that thread on Tumblr about how tutorials seem to be disappearing from games in the original poster’s opinion, reminded me of my post long ago, and it took me a minute to figure out if I agreed with the Tumblr user or not. I grew up with Nintendo, a company that is known for being family-friendly and wanting everyone to be able to play their games, which means that they’re pro-tutorial. I’m curious as to what kind of games the original poster plays, what company they general flock to, to prompt the thread.

What do you guys think? How often do you go through tutorials when starting up a new game? Do you feel that certain game developers and companies utilize tutorials more than others?

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