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Thoughts on Freedom vs Direction

Posted March 12th, 2017 at 4:36 PM by Sir Codin
Updated March 12th, 2017 at 10:30 PM by Sir Codin

It's been about a week now since the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and like so many gamers, I could not resist the urge to jump on the bandwagon once again and play the next big Zelda title. So far, most of what I expected is there with some slight disappointments here and there, but in my extremely subjective opinion...this is probably one of the best Zelda games by far, despite some of its glaring gameplay flaws.

Most of its success can be attributed, of course, to how different it is from your usual Zelda game. Ostensibly the fact that it is an open-world game, it is to my knowledge the first console Zelda game since the original 1986 game that allows you to basically go anywhere you want in the Kingdom of Hyrule and do anything in any order you wish, your path is entirely your own and you have to figure things out on your own as well. It is for these reasons that while many enjoy the game, there are also others who are not fond of the gameplay style this new entry has taken, most of these complaints from people who are more used to the casual linear handholding that the series has adopted over the years, especially in Skyward Sword. Of course, there are also people who just plain don't like open-world/sandbox games in general. The most common complaint is that they feel these games lack direction and are too chaotic.

Which brings up something that I've observed over time: the continual struggle between freedom vs law. Direction vs uncertainy. Order vs chaos.

To my understanding, part of the appeal of open-world video games is that they fulfill something that lies deep within the human spirit, something that has been missing for a very long time now in our modern society: freedom. I don't mean this in the whole "MURICA PSYDUCK YEAH VOTE NATER RON PAUL WILL MAKE ANIME REAL" kind of sense, but rather this feeling, this desire...to go out into the world, unrestricted, and roam wherever the winds take you and to truly appreciate this world, this nature, this environment that we live in. So many of us are stuck in day-to-day casual societal routines that we feel trapped. You wake up every morning, get some breakfast, then go to work from 9 to 5, head home and plop down to do something with the 8 hours of free time you have in the day before you have to go to sleep for 8 hours, then get up the next day and repeat the whole process. Sometimes weekends are not immune to this, as we - especially Americans - often use up our time on weekends to do more work, more personal work. Clean house, take out the trash, organize your tax records or something. Busy busy, hardly ever having the opportunity to actually go out and see the world.

In addition to this, in our modern society - most of the world is locked off from us. Whether it is from lack of money to visit places or remoteness or simply the fact that land that you want to explore is owned by someone - government or private owners - who doesn't want anyone on their land for whatever reason and will perform any kind of legal action to ensure you kids git off mah lawn. As a result, we feel cut off from the world. Not cut off from humanity, necessarily, but from everything else in the world. Modern society is anathema to what humans have been like up until about a century ago: explorers.

Wayfarers, nomads, academics. Exploring the world and finding new things satisfied an innate human desire of curiosity. The feeling of finding something new and unexpected. That sort of feeling, that desire has been suppressed as of late by the current geopolitical climate as well as by continuous discovery. Modern society has now reached a standpoint where we cannot take the time to go out into the world and truly explore wonders of our world. We are stuck in monotony in our lives where many of us have to work menial jobs to survive and we spend so much time doing this that we lose sight of what our passions are and we lose our desire to explore not only our environment but ourselves. Especially in the big city.

Open-world games fulfill that desire. In your precious little free time in this world, these games can provide comfort by creating a fictional environment that scratches that curiousity itch, that feeling of freedom and wanderlust within a convenient and more compact environment, complete with an avatar that often has more physical capability than our own selves. They create a sense of freedom, an escape from our trapped reality. They give us a new world outside of our own to explore and discover. We become an avatar of Lewis, a modicum of Clark.

This kind of freedom is characteristic of nature and human desire to be free. However, I think of the other side - the side that finds distaste in the open-world. To go the risk of sounding like a complete douche, I think the people who feel like this are people who are....afraid of freedom. I don't mean that as an insult, it's just how some people think. Although humans desire autonomy, they are also plagued with another innate human trait....the ability to feel doubt. Many of us wonder why we are here and what it is we are supposed to be doing. Many people who let their creativity wander end up deciding this meaning for themselves, but some others are more inclined to feel like they need something or someone to give them a sense of direction.

Most people have elements of both of these philosophies, which plays influence on how things like government and business are run. Most people want to have choice, but also don't want to fumble around in the dark. When we don't get this guidance, sometimes we invent it. Gods or politicians; entire philosophies and cultures have been formed around the concept that we are in need of direction and so we create a common goal, a common philosophy to give us some sense of direction in life. It gives us power, it gives us closure, it gives us comfort against the unknown.

Open-world games are for those with no fear against the unknown, while they are most often not for those who prefer something to give them direction.

Or maybe they just don't have enough free time and want to get stuff done soon, so they therefore don't have time to wander around. I don't know, I'm kind of talking out my ass. I'm just trying to figure out what it is that makes people tick when they argue in favor of or against the open-world direction of the new Zelda game.

Overall, overwhelming wilds and openess are chaotic. For those who are society oriented, chaos can seem frightening, but those who are more individualistic welcome this. At least, that's in my highly subjective and inconsequential opinion. Like I said...I'm totally talking out my ass.
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