|||.......a little boy went out to play. when he opened his door, he saw the world. as he passed through the doorway, he caused a reflection. evil was born. evil was born, and followed the boy.......|||
let's talk about a videogame called Zelda...
sometimes, you'll find yourself in a small village. as you exit the village, the sun sets and a wolf howls in the distance.
soon, the bubbly theme music is gone. there is only quiet, and the quiet leaves a night filled with danger. there's a plague on the land. evil lingers there, and its creatures will turn suddenly into crazed, bloodthirsty monsters. their souls are possessed by a deeper, darker force. the sword must be used, but the sword doesn't solve the problem, merely lets you navigate through it for a little longer. the evil is beyond any one creature's will. the evil is some kind of disembodied force, much larger than the bad guy. it's built into the program.
then the tinkling theme of the sun song starts hesitantly, and the darkness recedes as quickly as it began, retreating back into the shadows for now. the land is slowly begins its cycle anew once more. another day. hope and happiness. and then you wander through the fields and into a bubbling town, with all kinds of irritating noises and people chatting. the people are weird grotesque lego creatures and you don't really understand what they're on about all the time, but you still appreciate them for what they are. but then, exit the town and you find a temple sits above it all, knowingly. the serenity of the temple sits in dark contrast to the town just one screen over. it's the true source beyond the bustling. it shrouds the land in mystery. the temple is the fourth wall - it's the guiding spirit that leads you through the game. the temple is the home of the game designer.
the land is sick. you're not sure what kind of illness. but you can feel it lingering. you know that soon time will run its cruel machinery over the landscape until it's tilled bone dry. you know the bustling masks suffering. you know evil will overtake the land. it's already fated to happen.
there are some spiritual guardians (mostly women) who see it too, and they want to help you. some of them are more consciously aware of it than others. their spirit of generosity is infinite, but they lack the power to deal with the kind of evil that will soon ravage the land. their power is easily stomped over by this new kind of evil.
this evil - black magic. a mysterious, powerful new technology. industrialization. colonialism. a harmful, dispassionate occupying force. one which the constant fallout from is built into the fabric of Eastern culture. constantly living in the dark shadow of occupation.
to restore the land, you must fully understand the land. to understand the land, you must become a scientist. you must feel the land's pain. you must feel what it is to be inside of a dying tree. you must feel what it's like to be inside the belly of a creature. all creatures have a temple inside of them, even if it's sometimes a really weird one.
and then, when you step through the door. when you remove your weapon and prove you're ready. when you're wandering the dangerous, merciless wasteland. you'll see the true form, the thingness of things. you'll see their deep sadness, and it will be overwhelming. but if you can fix your gaze longer, you'll see straight through their pain down into their biological inner-workings, and you can watch all the strange life that lives within them. and view their arcane scriptures, expressed in a way no human (or whatever you are) is meant to understand. you'll see the full scope of it all. and you'll need all kinds of new tools to comprehend it and penetrate through it.
and your shadow is born.
Link is a restless figure, one without parents. he's always very far away from home. his is a story of destiny, of endless searching, of finding a larger purpose. Link is mute, but we are meant to express our desires onto him. we want him to be somebody.
while Link's journey is fraught with danger, he's being heavily guided through it - by us, by the characters in the story (many of whom are women) who are protecting him, and by the designers. we want Link to succeed and not come to any serious harm. and so, if we're successful, he ultimately will.
the darkness. of breaking the landscape into easily parsed chunks. one part embodies one idea, another another one idea. enrich yourself with the knowledge gained from all of them until you're complete. your path is predetermined from the beginning. you know exactly what to expect, even when you don't. this is what we call The Hero's Journey, and its tendrils are covering every kind of mass entertainment imaginable - but especially videogames.
which begs the question - does Link save the land or is he only led to believe he saved the land, because that's what we want him to have done? did all those puzzles all meet their perfect solutions with all the tools he just happened to have found scattered about? were all those hookshot targets all conveniently placed so he could navigate easily over the deadly spike pits placed below? did he really understand what the hell was going on before marching into yet another race of creatures' holy temple with his sword unsheathed, looking for a fight? the game certainly gives us very little indication that he does.
it's okay. the settings are all just a playground for him. a sometimes dangerous playground, but one that is highly navigable. they ultimately lead us to feeling he's accomplished something deep and substantial - and that's because they're set up that way. the game is not about the world of Hyrule, the game is about Link, the Hero - and us. it's Link's world, made specifically for him to navigate through. it's not about some random bystander NPC who gets in the way. they're just a prop to his journey.
and so we see that Ganon is maybe not as much a shadow of Ganondorf, who is barely established in the story, as he is a shadow of Link.
by the end, the darkness has finally receded. we've become scientists and mastered all the elements of the land, and have used those abilities to vanquish the ultimate darkness. we're pretty fucking badass by this point and it seems like we must know how we got to be that way, but we really don't. we do know we've delivered the final blow. we've traveled through unendingly hostile systems of torture and suffering. we've fixed our eyes into them deeply, and it was terrifying, but we made our way through them bravely, albeit with many scars. and now the plague over the land is receding. and we should be overjoyed, but the sadness remains. and it is immense.
Link must return to childhood, back to innocence, to finish what he started. and so that's what we'll see, because that's what we want to see. but it's not true, because he can't anymore. the door has already been opened. his shadow is now already out wandering the countryside, looking for women to fuck. it can't be put back in anymore.
we've never moved out of childhood, yet we can't return.