Category Archives: Geekiness

The Artistry of Breath of the Wild

It’s been a little over two weeks since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out, and I’ve been loving it. There are so many things that I could talk about — and most of them, spoiler-free — but there’s something that really struck me as I was playing last week: just how beautiful the world is.

Now that I’m learning to paint, I have a new appreciation for the aesthetic. To date, all of the games have had things about them that are beautiful, but the way that this world comes alive is so different than anything I’ve experienced before. The environment changes with the weather and time of day. The animals respond to my footfalls when I get too close. The sky is as dynamic as the real sky.

The most stunning moment I’ve had so far was atop a cliff. I had to gather arrows and take a picture of an enemy down below. (One that killed me several times with one hit! Thank God for all the auto-saves.) Then I had retreated to safety above. It had been raining lightly, and the rocks had even gotten slick.

I turned around to see if the monster below had chased me, and I found the most dazzling sight instead.

A double rainbow and a sunset.

 

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A picture of an in-game picture hardly does justice to the original beauty of the moment.

I’ve never seen anything like it in a video game. It was absolutely stunning. Once I’m more proficient in painting on my own, I want to recreate this.

This is one of the coolest parts about Breath of the Wild. These sorts of beautiful moments aren’t a rarity. They happen all the time. It definitely is the most beautiful video game I’ve met so far.

 

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Musings on Storytelling

Story inspiration comes from everywhere. A trip to the grocery story. A conversation with a friend. People watching at a restaurant. But one of the most inspiring sources are often the stories I love most.

Obviously, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has had a huge impact on the stories I write, but it’s certainly not the only source. In fact, right now I’m playing through one of them: The Legend of Zelda. (And, yes, this means that Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be better than I anticipated.)

Like with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and so many other great tales, it all starts with someone who starts off (usually) rather ordinary, finds that he (or she) is the answer to a desperate need, and goes on an adventure to fulfill that need. The call to adventure, the selflessness of heroism, that touch of magic… they’re all the things that I love in a story.

One of the things that I think is most interesting about Zelda is the storytelling. According to The Hyrule Historia, there is a timeline and the stories do fit together. However, I have always had my own view on it.

Cultures around the world tell the same story over and over again. Tales of creation and great floods, faithfulness and betrayal, heroes and sacrifice. And that’s how I’ve always seen these stories. The hero and the princess face incredible evil and defeat it. It looks different every time it’s told, but it’s always, in essence, the same story. And that’s okay.

After all, that’s what we do. The stories come in different shapes and sizes, but most of the stories are retellings of things that have been told for years.

Years ago, I worried about this, but a CS Lewis quote fixed me of that fast: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

That, and seeing that Zelda tells the same story over and over again and somehow it never gets old.


Five Hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Or perhaps the more apt title is “love is letting your husband have first dibs on playing your favorite video game.”

In either case, the newest Legend of Zelda installment (and the newest Nintendo game console) are the newest additions to our household, and so far, we are enjoying both. It’s not what I was expecting.

Normally, I’m excited about any Zelda game. (Okay, for full disclosure, I really jumped on the bandwagon with Ocarina of Time. I played a little of Link to the Past before that, but even as an adult, I really struggle with top-down games. And platformers. 3D Zelda is more my pace.) As more news came out about this one, though, two things really worried me.

1. Voice Acting

In most games, it feels just fine. However, Zelda has always been more like a living fairy tale to me. Characters only communicate verbally through sighs, grunts, giggles, or in rare cases, babbling. The rest is text. There’s something charming about it. The series wouldn’t be the same if everyone actually spoke. And, as an introvert, I’m not entirely sure I want that many characters verbally talking at me since I love to start conversations with everybody.

2. Completely New Format

Ever since the groundbreaking Ocarina of Time, the games have all been fairly linear and followed a similar format. Sometimes you have options and there are plenty of sidequests, but for the most part, the story tells you where to go and what to do next. Breath of the Wild promised to be very different, with a more open world, some decidedly different dynamics, and — most daunting of all — it’s hard. Just in case I didn’t have enough trouble with those awful water temples…

By release day, I felt skeptical. Had they ruined my favorite game series?

The verdict so far: no.

Actually, far from it. The voice acting is minimal — restricted so far to a few cutscene-like moments. Otherwise, it’s the normal mix of sounds and text.

And in spite of the open world, there still is a path to follow. Sure, you could go do just about anything you wanted to, but you’re not completely left on your own to survive and figure it out. There’s even a new menu with different quests and what you’re supposed to do… something I wished there was long ago.

As for the difficulty, it’s a far more forgiving game than any of the others. Since I could fall off a cliff because I’m not used to climbing everything or could wander into a camp of moblins I’m not prepared for, the game seems to be constantly saving in the background and will respawn me not far from where I died. Even when I died five or six times trying to cross a river, the autosave was only steps from where I kept messing up, making it easy to try again. And again. And again.

And a fun side note: So far, my husband and I have had two very different experiences so far. I’ve encountered things he hasn’t seen (like keeses) and tried things he didn’t do (like hunting). So even when I do watch him play for a little while, I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself for later, and he doesn’t get bored watching me follow because there’s something new to see.

So even though I’m only five hours in (and waiting patiently for my next turn on), I like it. In spite of my fears, I think they may just have created the newest revolution in the Zelda series. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game holds.

Do you play The Legend of Zelda games? What do you think of Breath of the Wild so far?


Reading the Inklings: Robert Harvard (Preparation)

The adventure of reading the works by the Inklings (besides just Tolkien and CS Lewis) is about to begin. The ironic thing, though, is that it’s actually about to start with CS Lewis.

Only a few of the books I plan to read are available as eBooks at the library and most of them are already checked out. So I decided that it’s okay to start with one of the authors I’ve already read before: CS Lewis. After all, the only non-medical journal work written by Robert Harvard (who was indeed a doctor) is an appendix in Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.

I can’t believe I’ve never read The Problem of Pain before, but now seems like an appropriate time. Life has been hard, and I could use some encouragement from someone who’s been there as well. And it only seems appropriate to read the whole book before the appendix written by Harvard.

Have you ever read The Problem of Pain? Do you have trouble finding the books you want via library eBooks too? :)


What If He Was in Beauty and the Beast?

As a writer, I think it’s hard not to occasionally wonder what would happen if a story were different. What if the main character were swapped out for someone else? What if it were moved from modern times to the height of the Roman Empire? What if ninjas could hop into a medieval story and save the day? What would happen if you recast a villain into another character’s role.

Well, the video below answers that last question.

And just in case you think it’ll just be Beauty and the Beast and Harry Potter references, there’s a famous Lord of the Rings one hiding in there as well.

Have you ever reimagined what a story would be like if it were told differently? If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, is this hilarious, mortifying, or both?


Reading Beyond Tolkien

I’m not the biggest New Years Resolutions person, but I do have a couple of goals that I’d like to start this year. One of them is reading more books.

So far, I’m off to a good start. I finished one book between Christmas break and the start of the New Year and since then have read…

  • Two comic-ish books (Simon’s Cat and another that has to do with cats… not a lot of words, but they still count, right?)
  • Half of a book (before deciding I really didn’t like it that much and accidentally losing it at the gym… I promise it was an accident!)
  • The beginning of The Jungle Book (which I intend to finish, unlike the last one)

It’s more than I’ve read in such a short time in a long time. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been reading, but the Brandon Sanderson books deserve to be counted as four or five books each!

While I’ve been working through my want-t0-read list, an idea hit me. I have a beloved Inklings t-shirt that I got for my birthday, but I haven’t actually read anything by most of the Inklings.

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Tolkien and Lewis have always been part of my repertoire, and I picked a Roger Lancelyn Green book for my 7th graders in part just because he was an Inkling. (It’s a great version of King Arthur anyways.) I’ve borrowed one book by George MacDonald, a fantasy pioneer who influenced Tolkien and Lewis (and, random fact, was Lewis Carroll’s mentor). That’s about it.

So it’s time for a new reading adventure. Time to check out some of Tolkien and Lewis’ biggest influences and the works of their friends.

Have you read books by any of the Inklings? Have you ever chosen to read books based on a similar theme?


For When You’re Feeling Board: Star Trek Panic

Every Christmas, my husband and I look for a new game that we can play together. We love games: card, board, and video games alike. This year turned into a game extravaganza, between gifts to each other and from family and friends. I’m sure I’ll talk about at least one other one (the Oregon Trail now has a card game version, so there are new ways to die of dysentery!), but there’s one I can’t resist writing about: Star Trek Panic.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a geek while playing a game. But it also is a lot of fun.

The object of the game is to complete missions (most of them based on Original Series episodes) and keep the Enterprise intact the whole time.

 

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Cards tell you what to do and when to do it, the missions add pressure (especially because there’s a turn limit before you have to restart the mission), and enemies can start piling up quickly. They also are very true to the show: Tholian ships will create a web around you to keep you from moving, ships that can cloak in the show will do so every other turn, and the introduction of Klingon captains like Kang can cause serious trouble.

Unlike most games, this one is completely cooperative. All of the cards stay face up for easy strategizing and you can trade cards with your teammates (which is sometimes essential to winning/not dying).

If you’re a Trekkie, it’s definitely worth checking out. And if you’re not and a Trekkie friend invites you to play, don’t worry. You don’t have to know that much about the show to know what’s going on.

Have you played any form of Panic before? What kinds of games do you like to play?