ZeldaBlog

Questions Are Better Than Answers

January 3rd, 2007 at 1:01 am by The Missing Link

Well, it’s 2007 and another new year! The best part of the New Year (or at least a good part of the New Year) is that, once again, I have a blank slate when it comes to writing articles for you. My yearly quota of bad articles (which do happen every now and then) is restored, and I no longer have to sweat it out every time I hit the “Publish” key, hoping that you’re reaction doesn’t put me over said quota! Unfortunately, a blank slate merely provides the opportunity to write a controversial article without any risk involved, and already I cannot resist its sweet temptation. As such, I will forewarn you: You’re probably either going to love this article… or love to hate it.

So yes, you may have realised by now that I am one of those (dreaded) timeline enthusiasts. However, I’m into that sort of thing for a much different motive and inspiration than my colleagues. Having been dedicated enough to write a fan-novel dedicated to the very subject (something I have yet to see properly replicated by anyone else), my perspective is naturally somewhat different from those who pursue it in terms of a strict ordering strategy (nearly, if not absolutely, everyone else). In short, much to my chagrin few people seem to care about the storytelling aspect of a timeline that seems so natural to me, especially when compared to such epic story-based series as Metroid and Castlevania.

Because I look at the timeline from a storyline perspective, I am quite easily swayed by the alluring writing principle of artistic license, resulting in what tends to be regarded as a blatant disregard for “canon.” After all, the very nature of artistic license—the ability to change details on a whim to make things “prettier”—is essentially the exact opposite of canon—believing that a set of facts, all the way down to the letter, is truth beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yet because I allow myself the freedom of artistic diversions from “canon” in order to make the story much more plausible and believable, my resulting theories become—to most other timeliners—this ugly hodgepodge of game details intermixed with off-base assumptions, even if it gets around those paradoxes that are inherent within the series, paradoxes that continue to plague the wisest Zelda historians out there.

And since I have enjoyed the freedoms of coming up with my own timeline, I ardently believe that others should be allowed to do the same, free from the restrictions that my own analysis has added into my timeline. Thus, essential to my beliefs about timeline is the disbelief in the existence of a One True Timeline, the disbelief that Nintendo is orchestrating the entire series solely to give a coherent accounting of Hyrule’s history. And it is this very notion that has made me perhaps the most controversial timeline theorist in the whole community to the point where I personally think the folk over on the Zelda Legends‘ timeline forum were more than happy to see me leave after I got completely frustrated with their ilk, the sort of people who seemed to enjoy telling you what you should believe more than openly discussing the vast array of possibilities out there. (At least so it seemed many years ago; I dare not step in there again out of fear of my life!)

But this is not an article about timelines. This anecdote merely serves as a prelude example to what this article is really about: questions and answers.

Like me, because you are reading this article, you are likely obsessed with the Legend of Zelda series in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t matter with which aspect of the Zelda series you’re obsessed, whether it’s timeline discussion or fanfiction, fanart or roleplaying, even going overseas to fight in the Shipper Wars; we all are obsessed. To boot, we all have our own individual thoughts and ideas about what the Legend of Zelda is about, at least within our own area of “expertise.” I have a certain attitude about how character X from the series thinks and acts, and with almost complete certainty you feel quite differently about how character X thinks and acts, and for the most part this is a good thing. When you truly think about it, Nintendo has given us precious little information beyond the bare necessities needed to enjoy each Zelda game as a self-contained experience, and dragging anything out of them beyond those basic details—you know, those little factoids about our favourite characters and games that we fans go gaga over—is quite nearly an exercise in futility.

To put it very basically, Nintendo is very good about creating lots of questions for its players while withholding its answers—those secret titbits of info that we fans so desperately crave—quite well.

We’ve seen it so many times before. The questions are nearly infinite in their number. Will Link ever have a romantic interest; will he ever hook up with Zelda? Will we ever get to see Hyrule flood at the end of a game; just what exactly happened to Ganondorf at end of it anyway? Why is Tingle so creepily weird; just how many Malons are there in the series? And by Din, what is the true ordering of the Zelda titles!? I’m sure you could easily expand this list to the point where my poor server here would run out of hard disk space. (Thank goodness I don’t do a Whose Blog? every day of the year!) Questions… questions… always more questions, and we as gamers try to read between the lines of dialogue and the scan-lines of artistry on our TV screens to find the answers.

But Nintendo is a harsh mistress; they keep secrets like it’s nobody’s business. We can’t say for certain at the end of Wind Waker whether Ganondorf, trapped in stone at the bottom of the sea, is actually alive or dead. We can’t devise a true characterisation for Princess Zelda in Ocarina of Time because we don’t know the intotation with which she says her lines. We can’t figure out the timeline because Nintendo keeps making games that take place “100 years after Ocarina of Time.” Nintendo refuses to give us all the answers.

And as people one by one complete Twilight Princess, the grumbling about how Nintendo is continuing their trend of not filling in all the little blanks (and indeed, this time doing so in spades!) keeps rising and rising. Wherever I turn, whether it’s IM, LiveJournal, or E-mail, people almost without fail reference this gripe in their analysis of the game. Even I, to some degree, was thinking it as well… but soon thereafter I got to thinking about it, and I posed myself a question, a question that I wish to pose to all of you as well.

Is it truly such a horrible thing that Nintendo does not answer all our questions?

After some thought, I realised that the question has a very easy answer. (Yes, here’s the part that some of you are absolutely going to hate.)

Within reason, I believe that the more things left open in the game, the more questions without answers a game presents, the better that game is for the community.

I believe this is the right answer for one reason and one reason simply: The less that we know for certain, the more creative the community will be when it comes to finding the answers. Believe it or not, Ocarina of Time is proof in the pudding of that. If you wade through the vast amount of fanfiction written in that setting (I don’t recommend it personally; murky waters those are!), you’ll find thousands of interpretations of the ending, hundreds of possible alternate futures where authors contemplate different choices characters could have made, and many, many more stories where two characters ultimately hook up with one another. None of these stories are canon, of course, yet most of them are based heavily upon the details and nuances found within canon. In fact, depending upon how you interpret certain scenes and character reactions, these fanfictions are, in some cases, valid possibilities for what could have happened if.

I myself have done several character studies and scene studies within the Zelda series. Many of which have taken place here directly on the ‘Blog (such as ye olde famouse Ikana article), but I also have written fanfiction in hope of trying to understand just exactly what happened in a given scene in the game, just exactly what characters were thinking as they said what they said and did what they did. For instance, my first such study, Secret of the Shadow, was an attempt to figure out exactly who Sheik was deep down, exactly what he(/she) was thinking when he(/she) came to meet the Hero of Time for the first time in the Temple of Time. My most recent one, Two Sides of the Same Coin [GORON-SIZED SPOILERS!], is a scene study of… well… a rather spoilerific scene within Twilight Princess. It is here within these literary works, these explorations into the plot of the game, where I’ve come up with solutions that, for me, answers all the questions that I had about certain aspects of the story. Yet at the same time, people are free to come up with their own ideas different than mine… and they are still in the right. And if our Zelda community is not a place where we exchange ideas that we’ve had about our “areas of expertise,” then I don’t know why the community actually exists. (Okay, there’s news about the newest Zelda, but with as tight-lipped as Nintendo is, it’d be a pretty boring place most of the time if that’s all we had!)

I think that the exchange of ideas, the comparing and contrasting of perspectives about the Zelda games is not only healthy for the community but essential to the community. I ardently believe that, were Nintendo to reveal everything, for them to tell you what happened to Link five and ten years after each game, for them to reveal their Master Timeline and rigidly adhere to it, it would be the end of the community as we know it. There wouldn’t be questions in our minds, things to talk about… and ZeldaBlog would have nothing more to talk about. Even worse, I don’t want Nintendo answering the questions for me because they might answer it in a way that breaks my suspension of disbelief. I still shake my head at Final Fantasy VIII because, darn it, Squall belonged with Quistis, not Rinoa… but I had no choice in that. I had to accept it, even though it didn’t make sense to me. I don’t want Nintendo to do the same with Zelda.

I’m content not knowing what the timeline is. I’m content not knowing who Link is going to marry each time. I’m content not knowing every little trifle in the Zelda series. I simply figure that that just creates more fanfiction plot bunnies for me to explore on my own.

Filed under Community, Timeline, Shipping, Editorials, Fanstuff

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31 Messages from the Gossip Stones about “Questions Are Better Than Answers”

    Comments

    For me, it is not so much the desire to know how everything fits together and how the character’s lives go on after the end of the game. Major things like that are never really answered in games, so gamers should really not expect it.

    What I love to discover and know about are the small details about the worlds, the things happening behind the scenes, the side stories to the main plot, the lives of people not involved in the quest. Those are the questions that I like answered. What happened to the little girl chasing chickens in Hyrule Market when OoT Link was a boy? Was Link’s uncle really his uncle? Since Mikau is dead, who will look after Lulu and their children? How did Zelda/Tetra end up being the captain of a pirate ship at such a young age? What happened to Mido in that seven year stretch to make him do a complete personality 360? Why does Link never have parents but occasionally has a sister/grandma/uncle? (I would have questions about TP, but i’m only 1/3 of the way through the game)

    I don’t want to know everything about the major plot, it would take away from the after-experience of the game. What I want to know is the small details, those are what make a game rich and full. It is why Majora’s Mask is one of my favorite games; so much character development for you to see or not to see.

    I find it very interesting that TML touches such themes as storytelling and TLoZ and FF series within the article.

    There is an author, the greatest writer in contemporary literature in the Spanish language IMHO, called Julio Cortázar, that once talked about those “books that let themselves be read from top to bottom, like good boys” instead of letting you, in a nutshell, play with them, their character, their message and even with their effect on yourself. In this author’s masterpiece, Hopscotch (Rayuela, in Spanish, for those interested) the chapters are arranged in such a way that you may either read the book, indeed, from top to bottom or follow the sequence that the author suggest, which is filled with side events, thoughts put down by Cortázar himself, quotes from other works and even seemingly nonsense, that contribute overall to the enrichment of the novel.

    Ring a bell, anyone?

    Precisely, I think that is one of the big differences between TLoZ and the FF series.You might want to call FF the “good boy” which is enjoyable gameplay, of course, but does not let you do much more than follow him by the hand. On the other hand, there’s Zelda and its convoluted timeline (or at least attempt of it ;) ) that plays with you (and your nerves, and your mind, and your HEART… Vive la Ranchgirl! …*ahem*) constantly, so that you become a little obsessed like our dear TML and yours truly with the lots of things that you find in one game or the series overall.

    Which is the beauty of Zelda, isn’t it? :)

    On a little sidenote

    I still shake my head at Final Fantasy VIII because, darn it, Squall belonged with Quistis, not Rinoa… but I had no choice in that. I had to accept it, even though it didn’t make sense to me.

    Hey, even though the Lady in Pink was my favorite character (and I did call myself at some point during the game Trepe Groupie #4), I must say that Squall and Rinoa did a lot of sense to me precisely because it didn’t make much sense. Just think about it, he’s 17, he doesn’t like anyone, he’s never had a girlfriend and, suddenly, one springs out of the blue a rocks his world. Hey, their only teenagers, after all… Nobody’s saying that Quistis is completely our of the picture!

    I completely agree with you. In this case, the idea of leaving holes in the plot is effective, because it allows the player to fill in the blanks, expanding to hundreds of possibilities without really ever being proved incorrect. This is probably one of the reasons I love Zelda so much, because I love coming up with my own solutions, and I hope Nintendo continues this route.

    And it’s probably one of the reasons why lots of people are very much so against someone making a movie based off the game - they may not agree with or have a completely different perspective than the movie provides.

    I, like everyone else so far, agree. Zelda is one of the few internet communities I have continued to visit consistently through the years. I am often a passive observer, but I do keep coming back. I am sure that is due to questions left unanswered. I don’t feel like I could do that with any other series. I think of other communities I’ve spent excessive time reading theories in, and usually the stimulus is that, either the series is ambigous, or the plot for the series(I’m thinking of books right now) isn’t finished yet, and so there is still ambiguity intact until the final installment.

    Timeline-wise, I’ve moved on from “what is the exact order” to “where could this game possibly fit?”. There is a lot ambiguity in the timeline. I feel there can be multiple interpretations…and like you said TML…it’s more fun coming up with possible ways to construct different interpretations.

    Never thought of it that way before. Part of my heart will always want to know what happens, but yes, I agree that’s the part that keeps me in the community, keeps me rping and looking at places like this. After all, if we humans discovered everything in the universe, we’d probably join another… universe… site…

    Yeah, anyways.

    agreed. its nice not knowing what happens after the game. thinking of your own possible endings and stories really keep a guy going sometimes.

    [TML: For the love of Nayru, don’t post your gripes about TGA on the ‘Blog. It’s not on topic. It has NOTHING to do with this entire site! It’s meaningless, and we do have rules about that. If you want to complain about it, do it over E-mail. >O]

    i hate how much information nintendo dosnt give.a secret here and there is always nice,its what makes games (and magna/anime for that matter) what they are.and having everything revealed isnt much fun either,no room for the imagination.however,nintendo abuses the ability to make things vague.its to the point were your actually shocked when they give you game related info (and that takes away from the fun of it all).I dont know,to me it just looks like nintendo cant figure out exactly what they want to do so they leave it to the crazy fans to fill in the blanks.a clever,but very lazy,way of taking care of things.

    Complete agreement. I’m with Halan, too, in that I think the non-plot-related things could be fleshed out a little more. One can only wonder, though, how many questions we’ll have unanswered when the series, unfortunately, ends (Goddesses willing, that’s still a long way away).

    The thing that have been “Left Out” really add to the appeal of Zelda for me. After all, how many of these forums, blogs, and the like would exist if it wasn’t for the mysteries that bring us together?

    I never really thought about it before, but the holes in the timeline does give us writers plenty of room for artisitic license. If Nintendo came out and said that The Minish Cap does come before Ocarina of Time, then I probably wouldn’t be able to write my fanfic, The Legend of Hyrule. Well, I probably could, but people probably wouldn’t like it because I didn’t stay true to the timeline Nintendo had set out for us. Although, I’m pretty sure the one person who I do know that reads it probably wouldn’t care.

    I’ve actually done a little thinking about this myself, and i came to the same conclusion. If we knew everything, then… what would be left? If we took away every article on the blog that had to do with ‘what if’s… we’d have a pretty boring blog. ;)
    I think the fans are what really make Zelda great. Every fan has a different pespective, a different theory, a different reasoning, and all those different people coming together to share their ideas… thats what makes the Zelda community flourish. Sure, we have our fights, but when it comes down to it, we all just love Zelda (and therefore continue eating out of the palm of Nintendo’s hand!). Its all the diferent ways we answer Nintendos questions that make our community come alive. Without that… what do we have?

    I think that triforce of time theory worked pretty good.

    Shinigami Ninja said:

    I think that triforce of time theory worked pretty good.

    *head zaps* uhhh…Im not sure if it did or not :| .

    I definately agree. I personally adore thinking about all the little “what if’s”. I remember thinking about things after reading most of a book, then going to bed and thinking about what could happen, only to have it crushed when I finished the book and the “what if’s” were resolved. Not to mention the video games where I love the beginning,and then game play, then end up hating the later half because of the direction the video game takes.

    Shinigami Ninja said:

    I think that triforce of time theory worked pretty good.

    Uh, even if it’s simply because of the etymology of the word, I don’t see how the Triforce of Time works out in any way.

    Funny comment about FF VIII, I always thought that Quistis belonged with Zell. I mean, Selphie has the gunner dude I can’t remember and Squall has Rinoa.

    AHEM, back on topic here… With how many times it’s mentioned that Zelda is descended from royal blood, and that all Links seem to be closely related, and we put to the mind that All Zelda’s should marry all LInks, wouldn’t all the Zeldas and Links be cousins? Sick and weird, I know, but OoT’s Link can’t go with Zelda, he MUST gowith someone outside of the realm, preferably a country girl… Speaking of which… Cremia is one FIIIIIIIIINE lady.

    Yeah, this is about where I get slapped by a huge hammer by one of our female members, you know for being an ahh… PERV.

    Dark Mime Gogo said:

    Sick and weird, I know, but OoT’s Link can’t go with Zelda, he MUST gowith someone outside of the realm, preferably a country girl… Speaking of which… Cremia is one FIIIIIIIIINE lady.

    Actually, if you’ve ever fully explored Majora’s Mask, you’d know that there were rumors about Cremia and Kafei (mostly from Anju’s mother), all eluding to a possible love triangle between Cremia, Kafei, and Anju. Unrequited love, anyone? Awww.

    Dark Mime Gogo said:
    …he MUST go with someone outside of the realm, preferably a country girl… Speaking of which… Cremia is one FIIIIIIIIINE lady.

    I always thought that if Link from OoT/MM were to go out with any one in either of the games, it would be Romani. But why have Link hook up with a character in the game when you can create a character for him to date?

    Halan said:
    Actually, if you’ve ever fully explored Majora’s Mask, you’d know that there were rumors about Cremia and Kafei (mostly from Anju’s mother), all eluding to a possible love triangle between Cremia, Kafei, and Anju. Unrequited love, anyone? Awww.

    seriously :P ?

    ….. uh…. i dunno about this entirely, but… i always thought it would be one of two girls that Link would go out with (note, this is for oot), 1.) Malon. 2.) Saria. please excuse me if you think im a nutcase, this is just my opinion. of course, there are always other candidates. any suggestions? ooh, i know! what if Link decided to go back to Terminia????!!!!! *loud gasp* that would open up several new options! as mentioned earlier, theres Romani, and that girl in Ikana (not likely to be my choice, by the way), and dont forget, there is always someone intown that we might have missed. maybe theres someone hiding in the shadows of the alleys in Clocktown? OMG! i just thought of something……………………………… THE GREAT FAIRY! what if Link (when he grew up, mind you,) fell in love with one of the great fairys? the thought is just too weird… tell me if i might have missed someone…

    How about one (or both!) of the twin dancers in Clocktown, heheheheheheheh…

    Why do I always end up making this creepy laugh? Oh well…

    Ahaheheheheheeheheheheh…

    Cool…

    … uh… no. :p then again, im not much of a love artist.

    This is begging to become a skirmish in a Shipping war…

    Ironically I come from the same fold as you. I’m the dyed in the wool artistic kind of person. I can’t see their insistance on adding yet another Imprisoning War just to abide by in game facts that are irrevocably broken in the first place, and they can’t see why I would abandon what is in essence the one true way of painting a complete timeline. It’s like that line from Spiderman 2 where they can’t understand TS Eliott, but I can’t understand some scientific law. Their basis is mathematical principle. They deal with facts. To me this is cold and unnerving. I want to just abridge the entire thesis and appreciate the artistry and beauty that is the timeline.

    And of course with the exception of FSA I still know every line of dialogue in the games. There isn’t a fact that I’m not privy too. It’s simply that to err is human, and to err in the Zelda timeline is as common a human doctrine as freedom and the pursuit of happiness. I appreciate the games as man made vehicles for thoughts and ideas. Inivetibly the way the games are made and structured, errors will trickle through the cracks. Some of them are intentional, some of them not. I choose to recognize those errors, and of course I take it to the end of the spectrum. I will blatantly ignore some facts just so I can see what the creators meant when they did certain things. I’m at the edge of the world in that respect, but really, they set up a fact for a reason, and they went back on it for a reason. Without uncovering that reason, I believe that we might as well give up on discussing the timeline.

    I’ve actually posted on that Zelda timeline forum many times before. People there are a little too objective and stodgy in their thinking. They argue over the smallest facts, and I’ll argue that those facts aren’t worth arguing over. Honestly, if Miyamoto saw some of the stuff we argue about, he’d stroke off.

    The timeline really is a double edged sword. If Nintendo revealed it all, we’d be out of a job. And yet it’s anarchy the way it is. Everybody brings their colored lenses to the table over exactly how to devise a complete timeline; there is no common ground between friends and foes. In a perfect world we should be arguing over the placement of the Oracles, not over something so big as a split timeline. The fact that Nintendo brought zero clarity with Twilight Princess and made us keep guessing is a little irking. Still, if Nintendo did reveal something like that, I can’t say I wouldn’t miss the arguments and discussions no matter how much they make me want to bang my head against the wall. That’s something thoroughly unique to the Zelda series, as if it didn’t have enough to set it apart from the other children at the table already.

    uberzeldamaster said:tell me if i might have missed someone…

    well….there is always that girl who runs the maze thing in clock town ;) (shes the counterpart of the girl who runs the bombchu game in hyrule).

    I think the reason why I dont like when nintendo keeps things vague is because they dont give enough facts.it starts to be where you have to guess everything,and at that rate your better off making your own game :P .secrets are good,but it is possible to overdo it.

    Mgoblue201 said:

    Ironically I come from the same fold as you…

    Et caetera :P

    Would you mind clearing out a bit your point for me?

    Faethin said:

    Would you mind clearing out a bit your point for me?

    In short, good friend above wishes that Nintendo would give some answers but not all the answers. And that the stubborn my-way-or-the-highway thinkers should loosen up a bit so that everyone leaves the table happy. Which is in essence what I said in my article. X)

    wow. this article blew outta epic proportions by… post 16 i think. if nintendo revealed the answers and didnt keep them a secret, it will be like getting a present you didnt ever want. my thought is that the reason nintendo wont reveal the answers is because if we keep buying the other games, we might find something that reveals more about all the games, like that tetraforce theory is true or some other whacked out theorum.

    …few people seem to care about the storytelling aspect of a timeline that seems so natural to me

    The storytelling aspect is what drew me into the Zelda series in the first place. I wanted to know the story behind all the games, and I wanted to connect everything together into one consistent narrative. This is why I founded Legends of Zelda with the intent of writing out the story of the whole series in its entirety.

    After a while I realized my interpretation of the story was not necessarily the right one, so I endeavored to understand and order all the relevant source material. This led me to the concept of canon, and to closely analyzing the texts. It sort of became an article of faith in the ZL community that there was an official timeline and we just didn’t know what it was.

    After a couple years of doing this, and after the release of a couple more Zelda games, I came to realize that Nintendo was deliberately leaving storyline holes, and that our burning questions could never be answered because there were no answers. So I sort of gave up.

    This article gives a plausible explanation for why Nintendo has tormented us so. The Zelda community is unique in that we are all constantly questioning and interpreting all aspects of the series. Most game series don’t have these “problems,” so they don’t have a community that actively and regularly questions and reinterprets.

    Good thoughts.

    agreed beyond doubt.