The Missing Link
This article is a preview of a weekly(?) column called Metagaming in the Zeldaverse that I will be doing as a joint project for ZeldaBlog and Zelda Legends once they finish their site reorganisation.
I’m going to warn up front that some of you may find this article a little out there in left field. This article is a little bit off my normal pace, something of a bold experiment, if you will. However, inspiration strikes at the oddest of times, and I know from my fanfiction authoring heritage that when you hear the call to write, the best response is always to heed its call.
Last evening I saw the documentary 8-BIT, an independent film about the history of video games and underground Gen-X art forms that erupted due to inspiration caused by our newfound video games heritage. (Such art forms, for the curious, include the demoscene, chiptunes, and artgames—modifying original games as a form of art.) I’m not going to discuss the movie in any detail because it gets very deep into the artistry of these otherwise disconnected genres of geek art, but the underlying goal of the film was to analyse this specific subculture of the up and coming generations, figure out what brought this into existence, and to present it as a legitimate art source worthy of being displayed in a art museum (granted, a post-modern art museum, of course, but a museum nevertheless).
However, beneath this theme was a point that I have probably known for quite some time but never truly regarded as important until recently. As a member of the so-called Generation Y, I, like nearly all of us (unless you happen to be significantly older than me!) grew up with Nintendo and video games present within our culture. Our childhood is riddled with so much influence of video games such that merely hearing the bleep-and-bloop music from the original NES immediately triggers memories from our past. (For some of you, that will have started with the SNES or N64, but the point is still the same.) Every reader of this blog has had their life influenced by the medium because you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t. Just by reading these words (unless you Googled this by accident), you are unwitting members of the Zelda community…
… whatever that is.
Seriously though, what is the Zelda community? This is a question that’s very similar to other questions that I attempted to broach before, but this question is still subtly different from those. What truly is the Zelda community? Sure, we could take the cheap way out and answer that with the snarky reply that it’s all of the people who come to our Zelda websites on the Internet and talk about Zelda all the livelong day, but that has all the elegance of wet, smelly Hylian loach. We can do better than that answer.
If you take a cross-section of all the fans within the Zelda community, you end up with a wide array of people from many different walks of life, and I’m not just talking about their ethnic background, religious beliefs, individual ages, or whatnot; I’m talking about what the fans within our community are doing. You’ve got your fanfiction authors, your fanartists, the moviemakers, speedrunners, fansite webmasters, bloggers, timeline theorists, roleplayers, forum posters, poets, essayists, song remixers, and many other categories that I’m certain I missed. Each of these groups to one degree or another have been influenced by Zelda to the point where they are completely impassioned by it, where they are not content to simply watch the games scroll by them. (Is that not why you are here reading these words?) That discontentment has spurred them each in kind to find other people who love the Zelda series and to talk, to chat, to discuss, to share… to generate content, to create. The various members of our community have transcended the game and become contributors to the Zelda feeling—the Zelda aura—instead of merely being consumers, those who simply play the games and then move on without looking back.
There’s a fundamental difference between the two designations, although it’s a subtle difference that can only be seen with a nuanced eye (and certainly not with the bludgeoning device of sarcasm!). If you look hard enough, you can see that deep within the confines of the myriads of content spawned from members of the community, we have achieved artistry. I mean, at some level, chatting about Zelda with all your pals in a forum isn’t all that dissimilar with a slew of artists chilling inside a small, cosy coffee shop, and writing a small Zelda drabble is no different than creating an elegant sketch on canvas. While inspiration can certainly come from the games, so many other inspirations will drift from other conversations with Zelda fans (I have a series of small fanfictions to do because of plot bunnies passed to me from friends!), and we inevitably begin to breathe the air of Hyrule rather than of Earth, no longer considering Zelda to merely be a video game but also a way of life. As such, the community in essence is nothing more than a game existing on top of the original games—a meta-game, if you will, about Zelda.
While some of you might scoff at the idea of calling ourselves artists by simply discussing the series, at the thought of becoming some aloof artist snobs, pause for a moment and take a look around the community. Isn’t the layout of a good site art? Isn’t your favourite fanfiction or fanart art? Roleplaying? Timeline creation? Poetry? Good Zelda humour? This very essay? I would say that all of these are indeed pieces of artwork—at least in an abstract usage of the word, and these pieces will continue to get recycled and used as inspiration for other works, for further creations, expanding the bounds of the Zeldaverse… expanding the bounds of the community itself. The community, therefore, is nothing short of a game like Second Life or The Sims with the only difference being that it is built within the constructs of Hyrule. We are inevitably outsiders looking into the kingdom of Link and Zelda, but I believe many of us—if not all of us—pretend at some level as if we were insiders… as if we were not humans but rather Hylians… Zora… Kokiri… Gorons… Gerudo… Rito… living the game that is not really a game, the Zelda meta-game.
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