Screen Reference #1 – Week 1
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (intro to games).
So some might know I am a huge advocate for video game representation in ‘screen worlds’. I know that people understand that they do belong in the category of screen worlds but it seems that they are often overlooked or never drawn upon as examples in discussion. This can be simply due to the fact that the majority of the class don’t play video games. So at the risk of being outspoken in class I’ll draw upon most of my thoughts about games here.
So games give audiences something that most movies and television shows cannot; agency. The ability to control the protagonist means that video game writers don’t have to hold hands and guide consumers through the narrative so rigidly anymore, they can write all sorts of plot points, supporting characters and character arcs. Now I don’t speak for every single game but the most prominent genre of games that employs a philosophy like this is the ‘open-world’ genre of games where players are placed in a seemingly ‘open’ world for them to explore and move freely. I think the most amazing thing about this is that even though somebody has probably worked very hard on writing a story aspect into a game, audiences might not even encounter it during their playthrough. Does this render the writing useless and a waste of time? Absolutely not. If the same case were to happen in a movie 9 times out of 10 you would see that section of the script cut or have more added to the script in order to smoothly add it into the piece.
Side quests and side missions are a quintessential part of the ‘open-world’ game. They give games that edge and capacity to shatter more traditional and conventional methods of storytelling (3-act structure for example). This is because there’s no set path that the protagonist is on. Sure there’s an overall path but there are massive twists and path branches along the way. Some games even allow you to influence how the story ends. Multiple endings is something you can’t convincingly achieve in a film or TV show.
That brings me to this game. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an open-world game where you play an amnesiac hero who has awoken from 100-years of sleep, only to find the world inhabited by evil. Your objective is to battle and destroy this evil and free the land of Hyrule. Now. Most open-world games give you main quest lines that inform you and your character of what their motivations might be. They may give you conflict to resolve or conflict that sets you on the path of achieving victory. There is usually a story and it is usually told in relative linearity. This game is the first game I’ve played in 17 years of gaming that allows you to go from the beginning of the game and skip everything until the final confrontation. That to me is insanity. It’s unprecedented and mind blowing to me. It’s barely story-telling but for some reason is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
There’s no doubt that games are only going to continue to innovate the entertainment industry, seeing what this game has achieved makes me think I’m going to be fortunate enough to see it happen in my lifetime.