About two months ago I managed to convince myself that the Nintendo Switch was a necessary purchase in my life. I originally bought Splatoon 2 for it, but after grabbing a friend’s copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I finally sat down at home, powered it on, and slid the game card into the slot.
I don’t really get lost in video games. I reach a certain depth of investment in them, yes, but I don’t truly get lost, because games scratch an itch that they simultaneously can’t satisfy. They encourage the five year old in me, the one that likes to press all the buttons in the car, that wanders off after my mother stops holding my hand while we’re waiting in line for tickets to a movie, or the one that decides, hey, why not try climbing that precariously looking rock wall and see how far I get? But games are tasks you complete and check off on a list. I’m contained by invisible walls, countless enemies, barriers, repetitive buildings, and constant grinding. So when I found myself playing Breath of the Wild for about three hours and realizing it was 1 am and – hey, I’m an adult, I gotta wake up for work tomorrow! – I was stunned. I got lost. And I loved it.
Breath of the Wild is a game that scratches an itch, and satisfies at the same time. It encapsulates everything I’ve really loved about adventuring, about wanting to explore, while making it meaningful and enriching. I can come back from a long day and take out my Switch, play the game for a couple of hours, and go to bed immediately. I can count my hours and say I’ve done nothing at all, but at the same time, have gained 3 more hearts, completed some shrines, died mounting a horse, and talked to some fairies. It would all be true. Breath of the Wild after all, is a lonely and meditative experience, but not in a bad way. It makes me reflect on even the smallest of my choices – did I take decaffeinated coffee today? Or was it a latte? Did I try to learn something new at work? Or did I just blindly follow tasks? Maybe I should have tried putting more effort. Maybe I didn’t approach that bug the right way.
I say this because the more I grow older, the less time I really have to ponder. As life goes on, the laundry list of responsibilities becomes larger and heavier. Our minds shift to that of automated drones, with repetition as a standard: you wake up, you go to work, you come back, you make dinner, you take a shower, you go to bed. If we wake up in the middle of the night, it’s not because we want self reflection. It’s because anxiety chews on our brain. Am I going to get fired? Did I ace that exam? Is that person going to break up with me? It happens again, again, and again.
Interestingly, Breath of the Wild hitches on repetition, yet never feels tiring. You end up revisiting or retracking so many of your previous journeys, whether it’s to obtain something as ridiculous as a Mighty Banana or to maybe climb up that mountain you couldn’t reach before. Sometimes you don’t end up making it. A lightning bolt strikes you and you die, or maybe you get hit by an enemy and fall off a cliff. Even in its simple formula, Breath of the Wild remains elusive and inspiring. Nature and people can always surprise you. It’s this kind of philosophy that wards off bad thoughts at night, as I realize, perhaps I will grab that same coffee. Perhaps I’ll make those same ridiculous mistakes as yesterday. But instead of hastily going through it, maybe I’ll be patient with myself a little longer.
Art to a degree, holds expectation, and sometimes that expectation becomes investment; a mirror that reflects, a conversation. On the weekends, I drive my car out of the city and explore places I’ve never been, maybe try to talk to people I’ve never met before. The world is terrifyingly large, and our lives are so small, but it’s all the more reason to try, explore, be patient and listen. You may never know what will await you in the grand journey.