“For every Zelda game we tell a new story, but we actually have an enormous document that explains how the game relates to the others, and bind them together. But to be honest, they are not that important to us.” – Shigeru Miyamoto
“Yes, there is a master timeline, but it is a confidential document!… The only people that have access to the document are myself, Mr. Miyamoto, and the director of the title. We can’t share it with anyone else!” – Eiji Aonuma
When Miyamoto san first referred to the existence of a timeline document, the Zelda community was on a high. Specifically, majority of the theorizing community believed that the existence of a timeline was confirmed. Others remained skeptical. Then just recently, on the topic of Skyward Sword, Aonuma mentioned the master timeline document. Fans were again delighted. The existence of an overall chronology had ultimately been confirmed in their minds. But I want to look at this from a broader angle. Just because they say it doesn’t make it true. Am I accusing our legendary developers of lying? Perhaps I am. The point here is, we must take what they say as a grain of salt. Ultimately, it means nothing. What else could they say?
Now I love Nintendo, there’s no question about that, so I’m not going to come right out and accuse them of being deceitful liars. Instead, I want to take a global perspective on the potential real nature of this so called ‘timeline document’. It may or may not exist. No conclusions are going to be jumped to here; rather, the possibilities are going to be considered. The first option is that it exists, it is amazing, and it is more than you could wish for. The second option is that it exists, but it would be the biggest disappointment in gaming history if we ever saw it. The third option, of course, is that it simply does not exist.
So let’s say the document exists. Gameplay before storyline is the philosophy of the Nintendo we know. This document is “not that important to us” – they were Miyamoto’s words. Perhaps the document is on Miyamoto san’s home computer, perhaps hidden deep within a system of password locked files deep within Nintendo’s network. Who knows? The document very well could exist. It could be massive and have all of the connections that theorists have established. It could have the definitive timeline. By all means, it could. But then again, it may not.The master timeline document could be a great disappointment. A little file that lays out the arcs we already know. Does the document address remakes and which versions are canon? Does it address localization issues? Does it explain which version of game manuals are the correct ones? If a theorist somehow obtained the document, would they be satisfied? Is it really that comprehensive? Is it a simple list of game order, or a large document detailing everything? Of course, it may be. Of course, it may be something that we’ve greatly over-hyped. Perhaps even more likely, it doesn’t exist.
So, the third option: Nintendo has lied to us about the timeline document. Is it really that hard to believe? Isn’t it just a trick of the trade? A marketing stunt? Consider Nintendo’s options. They say that there is no official timeline and many Zelda fans have mental breakdowns, go into withdrawals and turn their back on Nintendo. Yeah, many of you will see that as too extreme, but it would happen. This is the Din damn timeline. People are attached to it. The second option for Nintendo is to say that there is a timeline, but that no-one will ever see it. The fans attached to the timeline get to keep their hope. Those who couldn’t care less about the timeline are unaffected. Do you see why Nintendo would lie? Do you see why, whether or not this document actually exists, of course this is what Nintendo would say?
I have great respect for Miyamoto san and Aonuma san, and always will. If they have lied to us about the timeline document, that is nothing to begrudge them for. Put yourself in their shoes. Can’t you see that there are circumstances out there where lying is better? Isn’t is better to tell your child that it’s all right, even though you know it’s not? Don’t we live in a society that says telling our children a fat man dressed in red breaking and entering into our houses, stealing our food and drink, and leaving Din knows what under a tree is alright? Why do we do it? To indulge in some fantasy? To keep the kids happy? The same goes for Nintendo here. They want to keep their audience happy, and so, they announce to the world that there is a timeline. The difference between them and parents is that they will never have to sit their fans down and say, “listen here, there’s no such thing as a Zelda timeline.” In the minds of us fans, if they say it, then there is the hope that the timeline exists. We, as fans, just need to realize that either way, this mysterious document will never be seen by us. It matters not, and whether it really exists is of no real importance.