We are all sick. Not “pneumonia” sick, but symbolically sick. Any hardcore Zelda fan can attest to the ailment in their gaming life, one that has progressed in intensity over time, and one that continues to permeate our very existence, appearing in personal articles, creeping throughout our theories, and even lurching forward while running about Hyrule Field mid-game. We, the hardcore Zelda fans, are all victims of the Zelda Lover’s Curse. Not only is this curse one we must live with, but it is one that claws at the very fabric of entertainment society, creating a being that doesn’t play the games for enjoyment, but simply to criticize, analyze, and gut the very bane of our childhood.
You may be asking yourself, is this really me? Do I have the Zelda Lover’s Curse? There is a simple test to figure out the conundrum that has faced so many in the past. The Zelda lover not only plays the games, but lives the games. It’s not a matter of recreation any longer, but a carefully scheduled experience in which the Zelda lover takes notes, jots down references, takes screen shots of the gameplay, and even blogs about such activities on forums and fan sites, to seemingly no end. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who enjoy the series as a fun way to pass the time rarely delve into these self-annihilating avenues, in the name of time, homework, or downright nerdiness. However, it is us, the blatant theorists, writers, wiki editors and webmasters, who one by one have fallen into the gaming abyss that has claimed so many before them. This blasphemy must end, and soon.
The plain fact is that games are made for human enjoyment. In the case of The Legend of Zelda, a game series that prides itself in its intricate dungeons and puzzles, third-person game play, and fantasy storyline, these titles fit so well into this mold that they’ve become the targets of extensive studying, laborious referencing, and tedious theorizing, all of which leads to an end that may never be explained, sourced, or supported. Sadly, it’s not a fate that can be prevented. The Zelda series is notorious for capturing its fans and forcing them to not only play as many games as they can get their hands on, but to scrutinize these games for connections, theoretical value, and most importantly, any evidence of a timeline. The suggested connectivity of the games only intensifies the Lover’s Curse, the proper name for the affliction plaguing many a gamer worldwide.
The funny thing about this disease is that none of us were born with it. All gamers begin as what is generally accepted as “casual”, or simply players who operate as a function of their allotted free time during the day and even then only see gaming as fun, exciting, and interesting. Give these same people two years with the Zelda franchise and see what comes out. Given that they stay with the franchise for the entire two years, expect a different person. It’s this disease that traps players into perilously dissecting the Zelda franchise for consistencies between different incarnations of Link, landscape changes, and the significance of symbolism and color instead of appreciating the games for their entertainment value.
For example, we often hear that the book version of a certain story is much better than the movie version; however, it’s the movie version that is constantly debated in terms of canonicity and relevance when compared to the book version. The truth of the matter is that the movie is made, and there is nothing that anyone can do to change that after publication. The same applies to the Zelda series – perhaps hardcore gamers afflicted with the curse should better use their time playing and enjoying the effort put into the Zelda titles, instead of voicing complaints about the inconsistencies and the small letdowns the series and previous titles seem to have while looked at under a discerning eye.
In reality, the casual gamer only notices extremely obvious game defects like glitching, lengthy loading times, and a non-interesting plot, especially one that fails at fueling their interest to continue the game. For the sake of the Zelda games, all of these imperfections rarely occur in respect to the “casual” viewpoint, however, as a hardcore gamer, these small issues tend to explode themselves, and unnecessarily so. Because of this, there seems to be a total lack of appreciation for the actual game in this age, when it comes down to the hardcore fan sector.
Articles and theories are consistently focused on what could be changed, instead of what is good about what already exists. And when articles do come to the surface about the good parts of the Zelda franchise, the words “Ocarina of Time” always make their way into the text somewhere, as if that is the single crowning jewel of the Zelda series. Under closer inspection, all of the Zelda games carry equal weight, as they are perfect gaming examples of one should expect given the generation, regardless of “issues” such as rushed publication, subjectively-judged storyline, and traditional schematics common to the majority of Zelda titles.
All in all, the Zelda Lover creeps, stealthily, into the pixels of the game, magnifying discrepancies and weeding out storyline holes, sometimes ones too small to see with the naked eye, while the casual gamer looks overall at the game and admires it for its color, playability, and interactivity. We, the hardcore gamers, have become so consumed with our beliefs, our desires, and our technique that the actual game is lost in translation. All we see is the Link that should be, the dungeons that should have been, and the Hyrule that could have been, instead of looking at the Link that is, the dungeons that are, and the Hyrule that lives.
The grass is greener on the other side, right? Well, once we actually arrive on the other side, we tend to yearn for the pasture we had just left, claiming it to be greener. If we actually just take what we are given with the Zelda franchise, we can look forward to the games with an increased amount of anticipation, knowing that what we get will be in no doubt better than what was, and honestly, that’s all we need.