A few days into the new year, I’m more attached to Link than ever.
Like many workers, I returned to the job after two weeks off. For the first few days, I felt energized, but now I’m in Groggy territory. My co-worker Essie van der Velde tells me that, apparently, it takes about nine days of vacation for me to feel completely relaxed, but only after one day at work to get back to my pre-holiday stress levels. I don’t feel stressed, at least not now. I just feel like I have to remember how this all works again. The core missions look a little more difficult than they did in December. In general, I feel like my body is mechanical. I vaguely remember how I work.
After playing a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild over the Christmas holidays, I realized I was having the same experience Link is going through at the start of the game. When Breath of the Wild begins, Link also returns to work after an extended vacation.
To recap, as Breath of the Wild begins, Link is awakened after sleeping 100 years by the disembodied voice of Princess Zelda calling to him. Nearly killed in battle at Hyrule, Link took a century to recover. When he emerges from the Shrine of Resurrection, Link must learn how to be a hero again.
At first, he wasn’t really up to the challenge. He only has three hearts, so even the weakest enemy can fall short if he’s not careful. He has threadbare clothes that offer no protection from the elements. He doesn’t know how to do anything. Honestly, it’s a pathetic scrub.
But as the tutorial section on the Great Plateau continues, Link learns some useful skills. With some help from a mysterious old man, he learns how to stop time, freeze water, chuck bombs, and use magnetism to manipulate metallic objects. He gains orbs that he can use to improve his health and stamina. He gets a glider.
As the game goes on, Link keeps getting better. He gets more hearts so he can survive the battles. He gains extra stamina so he can climb tall mountains. He can also upgrade his abilities. While at first he can only freeze objects in time, he can also learn to stop enemies in their tracks.
Most games have a power curve, and you can read all sorts of metaphorical meaning into this simplistic growth process. Link’s progression can represent a place of exercise, healing, spiritual discipline, education, or a whole host of other things. But, right now, as I’m writing this on my third day in the new year, Breath of the Wild feels like a deeply connected story of a man who goes back to work and doesn’t remember how to do anything. Eventually, he gets back up to speed. In fact, by the end of Breath of the Wild, Link is even better than he was before. Where he initially failed and had to spend a century recovering, he has now managed to defeat Calamity Ganon.
As I go back to my desk, I find this an encouraging thought.
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