I am a firm believer that inspiration can be found just about anywhere – movies, books, comics, dreams, stories from co-workers, an overheard conversation at Panera, etc. But one place that gets overlooked just as badly as comics is the world of video games. In this series, I’d like to cover a handful of video games that have inspired writing ideas of my own throughout the years. The first and probably most well-known game series that comes to mind is The Legend of Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I came into the world of Zelda late. My first time being exposed to the wonder and creativity of the franchise was in the 7th grade when I received The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Christmas. It was released on the Nintendo 64 system, a system which my parents purchased for me at the tender age of eleven and told me that in order to repay them for it, I had to empty the dishwasher for LIFE. It was worth every plate and piece of silverware I had to stash away in a cupboard.
Games such as Zelda, StarFox, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Forsaken 64, Hexen, Jet Force Gemini, War Gods, and DOOM infiltrated my childhood and carried me through my teenage years (at least until Harry Potter took my attention away). Nowadays its difficult to find the game system for less that $100 and even harder to find some of these classic games for less that $300 online.
The Best Video Game of All Time?
At the time, the Ocarina of Time was hailed as one of the best video games if not the best for the Nintendo systems. Decades later they would vastly out-do themselves with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (more on that later). Looking back at Ocarina of Time, the graphics were terrible compared to today’s standards but at the time, they were awesome!
So what made the game so great and inspiring?
One of the greatest appeals to video games is that they have the power to insert us into new worlds with new sets of rules. Instead of reading a book where we are at the mercy of the author, video games can follow a linear story line while still letting the player make the experience their own. Video games allow the audience to make decisions.
In some instances, those decisions affect game-play but this is not the case with Zelda. However, I discovered elements in the game that I had not yet seen in fiction (at least not as an 11-year-old.) Along with monsters and creatures that I’d never heard of and boss fights that were each unique and rewarding, there was a new set of rules.
A New set of Rules
- Players could trap fairies in bottles for life restoration.
- Dungeons and temples aren’t just buildings in the world. One is inside the belly of a volcano, another is inside the belly of a fish and a third inside of an ancient tree!
- Monsters came out when the sun went down.
- A house filled with cursed spider-people awarded treasures to you when you cured them of their spider-ness (seriously the stuff of nightmares).
- Blue flame and the ability to trap it in a bottle to melt ice later.
- Music changed the weather, changed the flow of time (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask) or teleported you across the world.
- Arrows wielded elemental magic (light, ice, fire, etc.)
- Special clothing allowed players to endure underwater questing or intense heat.
- Bombs grew out of the ground as plants.
- Money and magic were found my destroying things, looking under rocks or cutting the grass.
- Ghosts could be trapped in a bottle. (Seriously, obtaining bottles was a personal goal in this game.)
- Masks gave you new abilities, changing your body into something else (specifically in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
- Secret grottos contained treasure, riddles and puzzles to solve.
- There is another world at the bottom of a well.
- There is an artifact that allows you to see through false walls.
- You can fly while holding onto a chicken…cough… I mean, cucco.
And those are only to name a few. Though many of these elements are commonplace by today’s video-gaming standards, they weren’t always. Keep in mind that this game was originally released in 1998.
A Magical Universe to Explore
There were all sorts of unspoken treasures and secrets hidden in the land of Hyrule. It was a colorful world and I was also very into the plotline. Having never played a Zelda game before, when I sat down to play Ocarina of Time, I was fully engrossed.
I knew nothing of Zelda at that time and became fascinated by this “Hero of Time,” the Triforce, and characters like the Great Deku Tree and Impa. Speaking of the Great Deku Tree, I would often walk in just to hear the hauntingly beautiful music. Needless to say, this was the first video game that prompted me to buy its soundtrack and still remains to be one of the few. I’m listening to it as I write this post.
Obsessed With the Cultures and Lore of Hyrule
After I defeated The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I couldn’t get enough of the land of Hyrule. Not only did I replay the game, but I also got a Gameboy Color and games like Link’s Awakening and Oracle of the Seasons. However, Zelda in 2D didn’t provide the same inspiration as Zelda in 3D, at least not for me.
However, I was still inspired by the diverse races and cultures of Hyrule. From the ancient and wise Sheikah to the child-like Kokiri, my mind was racing with all sorts of creative ideas for a fantasy realm of my own. Hyrule’s lore was rich in spirituality and history. To this day I still find myself reading up on it to learn more.
It wasn’t long after the success of the new Zelda games for Nintendo to release The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Though I helped my nephew beat it years later, I was never a big fan of the game myself. I’m not a big fan of time limits and the game is one BIG time limit. Time limit quests are one of my least favorite things in video games (right next to in-game rain – cough, cough – Breath of the Wild brought that to a whole new level of hatred). As years passed, my love for Zelda was passed on to my nephew as he grew up playing older games like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess and others.
Will There Ever Be Anything as Magical and Inspiring as the First Time I Played a Zelda Game?
At this point, that first Zelda game was unbeatable in my mind. Nothing could top it and I would never experience that sense of awe, wonder and inspiration again. My memory of the game never faded but my interest moved to others video games, seeking and sometimes finding inspiration in them. This was until another Zelda was released.
The Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
No longer the naïve, sheltered eleven-year-old that was playing her first real video game, I’m now a fully-fledged adult who has been exposed to so much fantasy and magic throughout the years (I’m still obsessed with the Harry Potter Series). By this time, I had played World of Warcraft on and off for years, dreamed of becoming a Grey Jedi, played Fable a dozen times, and volunteered myself into the Hunger Games (I’m from District 4). This game had its work cut out for it. And boy did it do an outstanding job!
First of all, let me say that purchasing the Nintendo Switch was no easy decision. After looking at the other games for the system at the time, nothing appealed to me except Zelda and we struggled with the idea of buying a whole new console for one game, especially as minimalists.
But our desire for this game was great. So we purchased a Switch, (along with a larger controller for his man hands) and we purchased the DLC along with the game. It was an investment to say the least. However, the enjoyment that we both got out of the game as well as the inspiration that it reignited in me (giving me at least one novel idea) was worth it.
Relishing in the Breath of the Wild
Not only did Breath of the Wild keep hold of certain classic Zelda elements such as the elemental arrows (adding bomb and ancient arrows), and special garb but the creators expounded upon it. Drawing from other popular RPGs, players were now able to brew elixirs and potions, cook unique recipes for attack and defense boosts, collect multiple armor sets and use items from the world to upgrade their stats – often granting stronger abilities once the complete set was obtained and upgraded. Things like swim speed, climbing speed, lightening resistance and stealth to name a few.
Climbing presented a whole new way to explore the game. Vast canyons and mountain regions were now 100% explorable and filled with unique monsters and puzzles to titillate our minds.
Drawing Writing Inspiration from Breath of the Wild
In a completely open world, anything is possible. Things in this game were unpredictable and largely based on the players decisions. Don’t believe me? Check out this fan made video on YouTube. Seriously, you don’t even have to play the game to find it hilarious.
This video alone provided so many ideas from the game that I could inject into writing. How?
- What can go wrong, will go wrong.
- Death finds a way.
- Anything is possible. Literally.
When writing a story, authors often talk about the slow, sagging middle of the story. What if, like in the video above, an arrow is shot at them from an unseen enemy in the middle of nowhere? The treasure they were seeking kills them? They are able to have one enemy attack another? Video games with such an open world filled with possibilities can open up ideas in your writing.
Magic is Only Science Which Hasn’t Been Explained
The Sheikah Slate, a smartphone or tablet-like device in BoTW, presented players with the ability to use technology that was “ancient.” Players could not only use it to map the humongous map, but also to freeze time for specific objects, move metallic objects, create ice from water, track resources and create bombs. The so-called “ancient” technology provided a way for advanced science to enter a world of magic. Hey science fiction and fantasy authors, I’m looking at you!
Other Inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Shield surfing
- Having an enemy get electrocuted during battle because he was fighting with a metal weapon in the middle of a lightening storm.
- Special abilities granted to you from dead friends.
- Melee weapons augmented with elemental properties.
- The possibility that your weapon can break mid-battle.
- A blood moon which when rises, resurrects all the previously defeated monsters.
Players are also introduced to new groups of people like The Yiga Clan and the Rito. Now, the Rito race was featured in another Zelda game that I didn’t play so while this was the first I’d seen them, they weren’t entirely new. I fell in love with the Rito Champion, Revali, and adored the Gerudo Champion, Urbosa. Characters like this, along with the amount of cut-scenes, bring that much more depth and pleasure to an already vast and amazing world.
I hope if you’re struggling to find inspiration, you take a look into some video games. Keep in mind that they are another form of story-telling and can be a valuable resource for those who know where to look.
Cover Art from GQ.com
Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores, sushi restaurants, and small town cafes.