Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
A Terrible Fate
This week, Anthony John Agnello brought us a meditation on the questionable morality of Link’s quest in The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. This prompted some commenters to start reflecting on the moodier, more thoughtful moments in the Zelda series. The Intense Man shared some thoughts on Majora’ Mask:
Majora’s Mask is my favorite Zelda because it’s a deeply sad and human game. Just seeing how each person in Clock Town copes with the end of the world, knowing that they can’t really escape, is very touching. It’s sort of like an Nintendo 64 take on Camus’ The Plague, in which loads of people are trapped in a city as a deadly sickness takes over and a lot of people slowly come to terms with the fact they’re doomed.
But then there are the smaller moments, like the tear falling from the Moon’s eye at the beginning or how the Giants sing the “Oath To Order” less like a triumphant anthem and more like a crying moan or the way Majora imagines itself as this Happy Mask Salesman/Skull Kid hybrid on the Moon, alone and desperate.
Most of the sidequests in the game are less random fetch quests and more about listening to people tell their stories. You help them find love and cope with loss or accept a mask from them so that their legacy can live on through it. There’s a lot of stuff I love about that game, but I play it mainly as a collection of short stories about people (and other creatures) trying to struggle against a universe that seems to have it out for them.
Keeping on the Majora’s Mask train of thought, Mr. Martini linked us to a video that proposes a pretty compelling theory about what’s actually going on in that game:
And getting back to the Zelda originally at hand, Col. Roy Campbell provided a short but incisive reading of Link’s Awakening’s final battle:
I always loved the final boss of this game. It starts pulling nightmares from Link’s mind in a last-ditch effort to psychologically batter him. The inclusion of Agahnim and Ganon’s shadows also lets us peek into Link’s psyche. He’s still thinking about all these horrific things he’s witnessed in previous games. He has to live with all this stuff long after we’ve finish playing.
On a sillier note, a big thank you goes out to felonious for giving us this magnificent Zelda commercial:
Know Your Role
Samantha Nelson reviewed The Elder Scrolls Online, a living multiplayer take on Bethesda’s popular fantasy series. Fluka begrudgingly noted that many similar role-playing series seem to end up with these massively multiplayer versions eventually, possibly to the detriment of the actual role-playing:
I just want to see an end to the idea that the endpoint of every successful RPG franchise is an MMO—Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, this, the Mass Effect MMO that some people seem to want desperately want. Much like people clamoring for movie adaptations of books or games (movies being the “ultimate media form”), there’s this idea that multiplayer universes are something that everyone must naturally want.
My main problem with the model is how little it lends itself to actual role-playing. That’s not to say that multiplayer can’t support role-playing. (Day-Z is an excellent counterpoint, even though it’s mostly an asshole simulator.) I mostly play the Elder Scrolls games at this point for their immersion. I wander the countryside, make camp and stay at inns at night, go on little solitary adventures, and sometimes outright run away from combat. Samantha mentions preparing to kill a monster or mine some ore, only to find someone else already doing it. I can’t imagine anything more mood-killing.
Douay-Rheims-Challoner disagreed and told us why MMOs can provide an even better platform for role-playing:
That’s funny, I can’t imagine roleplaying in any other kind of RPG. I know people role-play in single player RPGs to a point, but I never get into it to the extent I do in MMOs, where I have run dedicated role-playing groups in World Of Warcraft.
Role-play is so much more fun when you’re doing it with other people and have the flexibility of what is essentially improv theater. For me and other role-players, that’s the big appeal of MMOs. They’re an epic role-playing canvas. I’ve been a part, tangentially, of massive story arcs involving hundreds of players and guilds, crazy parties that got way out of hand, and silly schemes (I role-play Gnomes, typically) that went nowhere fast.
And needlehacksaw told us about role-playing in Ultima Online:
Back in the elder days of Ultima Online, some friends of mine used to play on a role-playing server. (I couldn’t play it myself, because I did not have internet at my house.) That was actually pretty awesome. Since you could not actually play as other races, people would forge Orc masks and form tribes. Everybody would accept them for what they were.
Players got banned for speaking out of character or doing other stuff that could break the immersion, and it actually worked.
Of course, that was in a time before World Of Warcraft, when a lot of genre staples that are now considered sacrosanct were not yet established. There was no talk of an “endgame,” or a focus on monetizing the items you forged. There was a whole different design philosophy to Ultima Online, one that supported actual roleplaying. And while I can see why that model was not as sustainable or lucrative as World Of Warcraft, I actually can’t help imagining a parallel world where that kind of MMO was further developed and gained the popularity that it does not have anymore. A better world? Probably not, but it’s one where I could see myself still playing an online “role-playing game” from time to time.
That’s it! Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone. We’ll see you all again next week.