The Legend of Zelda as a Series
The Legend of Zelda has been around for as long as Nintendo has been in gaming. The series began with the release of The Hyrule Fantasy: Zeruda no Densetsu on the Famicom Disk System in japan, and later as The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System internationally.
The game, developed and published by Nintendo, was one of the company’s early games in the home console scene along with Super Mario Bros.
It’s original Famicom and NES release was actually a step to diverse the game from Super Mario Bros. Unlike Super Mario Bros., which was limited to linear left and right movement, The Legend of Zelda had North, East, South, and West movement, allowing for large exploration and adventure. The game would allow backtracking as well unlike the original Super Mario Bros. which locked you to advance right and only right with the occasional warp pipe.
Over the years the series has evolved and changed with the times but has remained faithful to it’s roots as well. You usually play as the young hero Link who ventures off into Hyrule to explore the world. Along the way the story unravels and you’re destined to save Hyrule by defeating Ganon or another evil that is trying to conquer the land. Depending on the story you also save princess Zelda or work along side her to stop the major threat of the story. The controls and visuals of the game have varied over the years but the mindset of exploration has remained the quite the same. You start the game with three hearts as your max health. You get through some quick words and before you know it, you have a sword and shield. After that you’re thrown into a vast world with any direction being your next adventure.
This way of thinking moved forward as the Zelda series progressed. Shigeru Miyamoto had a comment about Zelda when Zelda Ocarina of Time was revealed being:
“Throughout the Zelda series I’ve always tried to make players feel like they are in a kind of miniature garden. So, this time also, my challenge was how to make people feel comfortable and sometimes very scared at the same time. That is the big challenge.” Shigeru Miyamoto (1998)
The Legend of Zelda Breath of The Wild has kept this to heart and has kept the soul of the original game very well but with modern bells and whistles. You still start out with three hearts, you’re thrown into a vast world, and you eventually get a sword and shield. Zelda Breath of the Wild starts you with little to nothing and sets you off to find your own things though. Your first weapons and defense might consist of tree branches, mops, and a pot lid shield. The enemies you encounter will be difficult but you can approach them in different ways. From being upfront with your strength, to being sneaky and passing by with stealth, or using your tools to outsmart the opponent, there are many options. Link doesn’t always fight either, he needs to gather, hunt, and cook to survive as well. There’s so much to do than just saving the world.
The MoMA, Modern Art, and Video Games
As time has progressed, the Museum of Modern Art is one of the few museums that presently tries to showcase present day and recent past works of art. Since November 29, 2012, the MoMA has been acquiring Video Games to present in the Museum. As of today, they have acquired the Games/Game Boxes listed below.
- Magnavox Odyssey (1972)
- Pong (1972)
- Space Invaders (1978)
- Asteroids (1979)
- Pac-Man (1980)
- Tempest (1981)
- Yars’ Revenge (1982)
- Tetris (1984)
- Another World (1991)
- Snakes (1991)
- Street Fighter II (1991)
- Myst (1993)
- SimCity 2000 (1994)
- Vib-Ribbon (1999)
- The Sims (2000)
- Eve Online (2003)
- Katamari Damacy (2004)
- Dwarf Fortress (2006)
- Flow (2006)
- Portal (2007)
- Passage (2008)
- Canabalt (2009)
- Minecraft (2011)
There is a good range of games in the MoMA from various years, make, and type. The list is short however and this is due to strict set of guidelines or criteria that the Senior Curator of Architecture and Design of the MoMA, Paola Antonelli, follows in order to keep the games in line with the museum. The four guidelines she uses are Space, Time, Behavior, and Aesthetics.
“The space in which the game exists and evolves—built with code rather than brick and mortar—is an architecture that is planned, designed, and constructed according to a precise program, sometimes pushing technology to its limits in order to create brand new degrees of expressive and spatial freedom. […] Unlike physical constructs, however, video games can defy spatial logic and gravity, and provide brand new experiences like teleportation and ubiquity.” Paola Antonelli (2012)
Breath of the Wild uses space well and provides everything Antonelli stated. Zelda’s fantasy land of Hyrule was planned and designed to feel like a real breathing world. The world changes accordingly to Link’s position, travel direction, and actions on the world. There’s even a map that displays all locations within the game with their given names, land forms of mountain ranges and bodies of water, Towns and villages. The game even has it’s own experiences such as it’s own future yet ancient technology, mystical animals and monsters, and wildlife with vegetation that match the world. All of this meets the criteria of Space Antonelli wants as it makes the game unique to others that create a fantasy world. There’s even a compendium that fills with information of the various items you come across.
“How long is the experience? Is it a quick five minutes, as in Passage? Or will it entail several painstaking years of bliss, as in Dwarf Fortress? And whose time is it anyway, the real world’s or the game’s own, as in Animal Crossing? Interaction design is quintessentially dynamic, and the way in which the dimension of time is expressed and incorporated into the game—through linear or multi-level progressions, burning time crushing obstacles and seeking rewards and goals, or simply wasting it—is a crucial design choice.”Paola Antonelli (2012)
Time in Breath of the Wild exists but at the same time does not. There is a clock that tells you the hour of the day, the position of the sun and moon also changes throughout the day. Even the weather rolling by changes throughout the days that pass. No matter what you’re doing in Breath of the Wild, time is passing by in both the real world and the game world. The satisfaction of that time is up to the player and the time is dynamic in the way the player perceives it. There’s a sense of leisure in Hyrule as you play Breath of the Wild and nature plays a large role in this by being natural and having regular occurrences such as rain, windy days, sunny days, cloudy days, and more depending on your location in the game. You can spend the entire day fighting monsters or snow boarding down a hill on a shield. You could also spend the day exploring just as much as you can spend it sightseeing or hunting. The decision again falls to the player to take the game in a way they want.
“The scenarios, rules, stimuli, incentives, and narratives envisioned by the designers come alive in the behaviors they encourage and elicit from the players, whether individual or social. A purposefully designed video game can be used to train and educate, to induce emotions, to test new experiences, or to question the way things are and envision how they might be.”Paola Antonelli (2012)
Behavior is an area where Breath of the Wild excels in. Breath of the Wild allows for so much to be done and also leaves the ingenuity to the player. Zelda is full of shrines which are mini puzzles that have an end goal or prize for solving or completing whatever challenge they hold. These shrines have many solutions though and everyone tackles them in unique ways. Yes the game has rules, stimuli, and incentives to nudge the player but it does so in an open matter where it also respects the intelligence of a player and allows them to think critically. This allows for many different experiences among players, even if they’re doing a similar or identical puzzle or challenge.
“In the nearly thirty years since the release of Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario Bros., viedogames have become graphically richer and been extended to a bewildering range of play experiences” John Sharp (P.8)
John Sharp acknowledges how games have developed over time. This development from hardware and software have led to revolutionary games such as Zelda to create an environment where behavior in the game various player to player. The video above shows an example of this in one of the shrines by solving it in different ways while reaching the same goal. Paola Antonelli wants to separate the game from the at home environment and present it as an experience of interactive design. The heavy interaction in Breath of the Wild shows how well it also fits into Antonelli’s guideline of behavior.
“Visual intention is an important consideration, especially when it comes to the selection of design for an art museum collection. As in other forms of design, formal elegance has different manifestations that vary according to the technology available. The dry and pixilated grace of early games like M.U.L.E. and Tempest can thus be compared to the fluid seamlessness of flOw and vib-ribbon. Just like in the real world, particularly inventive and innovative designers have excelled at using technology’s limitations to enhance a game’s identity—for instance in Yars’ Revenge.” Paola Antonelli (2012)
Aesthetics play a large part in videogames. They are a window into guide to what you’re doing and it isn’t always pleasing but luckily, Zelda doesn’t fall short on aesthetics. In Breath of the Wild, the game uses a watercolor art style that gives the game a sense of realism while at the same time maintaining a fantasy feel. This allows the game’s actions and entities appear natural and believable inside the game. The time lapse video of the day going by shown earlier in this blog post is an example of how pleasing this game can be to the eye. The day goes by realistically with the sun and moon casting their light on the land. The clouds roll by and sometimes cover up the sky, casting shadow and giving shade to the land below. There’s also fog and mist throughout the day and you can see the wind being accented across the land as it sweeps by clouds or moves along the rolling fog. All of this still in the water color art style, yet very natural and timeless, it will surely age well thanks to the art style not relying solely on modern day hardware to look nice. Instead Breath of the Wild opted to set it’s own style to fit it’s world and this has allowed it to look unique with it’s medieval ancient yet futuristic fantasy world.
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild meets all of Paola Antonelli’s guidelines and is also unique. It’s also a modern day game that would last in a museum such as the MoMA thanks to it’s timeless art style. The game’s setting is also unique in space and holds time to the player’s actions, making them decide where their time has gone or how long in game time has passed. The creativity and open nature of Breath of the Wild allows players to interact with it in any way they please. Breath of the Wild is a game that waits for player interaction to take charge instead of hand holding them through an entire adventure unlike most modern games today. It would fit wonderfully in the MoMA as a game where a viewer could just as easily walk through nature or decide to let their curiosity run it’s course, to experience something new and unique as many others that have come across the same game but left with different experiences.
Baxter, Steve. “Zelda: A Tale of Two Video Game Legends.” CNN. Cable News Network, 4 Dec. 1998. Web. 6 May 2017.http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9812/04/nintendo.zelda/
Antonelli, Paola. “Why I Brought Pac-Man to MoMA.” Paola Antonelli: Why I Brought Pac-Man to MoMA | TED Talk | TED.com. TEDSalon, May 2013. Web. 6 May 2017.https://www.ted.com/talks/paola_antonelli_why_i_brought_pacman_to_moma?language=en