Lewis Gordon describes his recurrent experience with Nintendo’s hit and truly revolutionary “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” He compares it to Ambient Music, which is also a genre I love. Talking about the convergent emergence of video games and ambient music in the 1980s, he writes, “Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted to draw on his childhood experiences of climbing mountains and discovering lakes in the countryside around Sonobe, a town roughly an hour’s drive from nearby Kyoto and Osaka. His wish found expression in the original Zelda’s large, nonlinear and mythical pre-modern Japan. The designers, coders, and artists crafted a crude 8-bit landscape with the emerging computer-chip technology, the game’s deep, verdant greens a far cry from the concrete and steel dominating Japan’s cities and towns at the time.”
“Japanese ambient music of the 1980s reflected such concerns. Hiroshi Yoshimura released the album Green in the same year as The Legend of Zelda, crafting a work of almost unfettered naturalism, lush with shrubbery and the drip of water.”
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, […] has incredible grass. It undulates gently in the wind while the sun paints its tips yellow. Meadows turn into shimmers. Holding forward on the controller jostles Link, the game’s boy-hero protagonist, into a light jog, his weight only just displacing the greenery around him. In the evening I sit on the couch, letting the colours and sounds of the digital world wash over me, allowing my brain to slowly decompress. It’s a relaxation activity that slips nebulously into self-care, the video game equivalent of putting an ambient record on.”
This echoes my experience. I find myself drawn back into Hyrule after taking my time (more than 640 hours!) to complete the game and DLC in both regular and Master modes. I look for more Koroks (little surprises and puzzles hidden throughout the open realm,) help people in distress along the path ways, try to catch a better horse, or just watch a sun set on a mountain top with a dragon flying in the distance.
It’s the ambience of the game redeeming reality (to quote Kracauer) that draws me back and back again.