zelda

The Legend of Zelda: Uncanny Valley

Let me start by saying I do not support the idea of having Nintendo create a character in the upcoming 2017 release The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in memory of Christina Grimmie. The 22-year-old youtube sensation-turned-singer-songwriter was shot following a performance in Orlando on June 10th and subsequently passed away. An aspiring musician and an energetic, charismatic performer who won the hearts of thousands of Americans when she took third place in the singing contest The Voice in 2014, Grimmie went on to gain popularity and acclaim prior to her death. Despite her relatively accomplished career, I still do not want to see her visage appear in any Zelda title. Get mad. Get furious. Call me whatever you want – but I have been a Zelda fan for 17 years and I have never and will never advocate for the politicisation of this game series. Now, here is why:

Think about what you’re petitioning for here. Fans of the Zelda series has created two petitions that have garnered over 75,000 signatures effectively demanding that Nintendo reanimate the 22-year-old in the form of a digital NPC that will live on forever within the world of Zelda. I’d like to take this moment to remark on how distasteful and utterly terrifying this is. Ms. Grimmie’s death is tragic, and my thoughts are with her friends and family, but why on earth are anyone’s thoughts with Nintendo? Nintendo do not have a moral or ethical responsibility to place every person with a passing interest in one of their franchises into their games in the event that they die.

WiiU_TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild_01_mediaplayer_large

Just pause and consider the ludicrous precedent this might set: every person that dies – of which there is a 100% certainty that everyone on earth right now will die at some point – should be immortalised into a video game that they tweeted about on a semi-regular basis. Do you want the next Zelda game to be a virtual morgue, filled to the brim with several hundred people who have been shot, stabbed and killed during the development of this game? Do you think that Nintendo should make the next Zelda title an interactive obituary, where dying gains you entry into a game. I do not want to have to deal with this.

This idea is simply haunting to me, and should be to you to. I can’t help but think about the moment in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask in Ikana Canyon, where the little girl who lives in the musical house has to deal with her undead father. At least in that game, the father and the daughter are 1) fictitious and 2) reunited at the end of the relevant story arc, resulting in the father returning to the land of the living. No such happy ending awaits the corporeal corpse of Christina Grimmie, no matter how much her fans delude themselves into thinking otherwise. Remembrance and denial are two very different things, and enshrining Ms. Grimmie in a virtual world is a horrifying idea. I mean, what actually makes Christina Grimmie so special that she ought to be remembered forever in a video game compared to other fans of The Legend of Zelda series? What are her credentials, and why is she more worthy of remembrance than anyone else?  

Image courtesy of Zelda.wikia.com
Image courtesy of Zelda.wikia.com

The criteria for this pseudo-moral, ever-lasting digital vigil is ambiguous and allows virtually anyone to be trapped within a Zelda game just to make a minority of online moral arbiters feel good. She died, she was popular, and she enjoyed The Legend of Zelda series. That’s it. She was not a great humanitarian, or an inspiring political figure, or a celebrated pop culture icon, or even someone who worked at Nintendo or was even remotely connected to the staff who created the game: she existed and then ceased to exist. That’s it. 

On that basis, should we demand that victims of the recent Orlando massacre be immortalised as mannequins and placed within the nightclub where they were all murdered? If a freedom fighter dies for his God should we amend his holy text to include him in it? If a plumber dies – for any reason – should we include him in the next Mario game because of the associated profession? Where do we draw the line? To what point can we just accept that the moral relativism of a minority should not be thrust upon the majority, with death being treated as a rebirth or ‘beginning’ and not addressed as an absolute end that should not be used as a bargaining chip by emotional, agenda-driven charlatans who feign remembrance when all they are really doing is cheapening our healthy, cultural apprehension of death. The case for Ms. Grimmie’s resurrection is deeply unsettling, demonstrative of the millennial project to ignore the reality of death, and also illustrates the tyrannical power that supposed ‘fans’ think they have over game developers today.

Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com
Image courtesy of sheknows.com

Fans of the Zelda series are incessant with their socio-political demands regarding the franchise – from petitions to include the late Robin Williams in a Zelda game (literally, the sole reason for this being that his daughter is named ‘Zelda’) to the never-ending calls from agenda-driven ideologues to forcibly make Link a woman because… well… because it would make the game ‘inclusive’ I guess? Or is the current buzzword intersectional? Fuck it – it doesn’t matter. Supposed fans keep dragging The Legend of Zelda further away from the legend and ever-closer to this mess: real life. No longer can gamers young and old enjoy a timeless tale of heroism, heartache and happily-ever-afters without some tumblr-educated millennial demanding that the next Zelda game feature safe spaces, or that Nintendo bend over and do whatever they say because they signed a petition that has no legal basis whatsoever.

Nintendo make games, not political or social statements, and the very act of people demanding that Nintendo look like they care about someone dying actually disables Nintendo from doing so from a position of ‘genuine’ fealty or compassion. Strong-arming someone into caring is not the same as that someone actually caring, and this rationale should make it immediately clear to 100% of readers that the act of digital necromancy fans are demanding of Nintendo will be entirely divorced from any genuine feeling from the company, since they have been petitioned into doing this by the change.org mob. Nintendo do not owe you anything, and you have to start realising this before you take to your change.org account and demand that Link become a gender-fluid, amorphous collection of pixels that uses privilege checking as a weapon rather than the Master Sword. Wait a minute… ‘Master’ Sword?

Master Sword. Image courtesy of gamingtrend.com
Master Sword. Image courtesy of gamingtrend.com

Let’s ruin this series, shall we? The connotations of the word ‘Master’ are all too obvious to anyone with a passing awareness of the slave trade, right? The associations this word has with a vile and despicable epoch of human history will continue to be proliferated if we maintain the use of the word ‘master’ in this context. While in possession of this article, Link is a ‘master’ and is emboldened by this privilege insofar that he can kill and murder without consequence, and even cause untold property damage to crockery, plus he has the blessing of the bourgeoisie – in the guise of the royal family – thus allowing for the relevant ideological superstructures to generate a grand narrative that gives Link immunity from the consequences of his actions: he can murder all the Gerudo women he wants because the monarchy said so!  Furthermore, Fi is subject to the whims of her male, white master. She is asleep within the hilt of the Master Sword, forever forced to kill on behalf of Link.

This continued suppression of alternate female roles in the Zelda universe must stop. Now. Fi is the very embodiment of a patriarchal apprehension of the concept of woman: silent, sullen, and a tool of man – useful only as far as the patriarch deems her to be. I mean, what happens at the end of virtually every Zelda game once Link murders his way to another misrepresentative, patriarchal concept of woman – the ‘Princess in distress’ – and is done reaping all the glory? He locks Fi away forever until the next white, cis-gendered patriarch comes along and uses her to fulfil his own masculine hero fantasy. This abuse of women needs to stop – so I’m going to create a petition to have the Master Sword removed from all future titles in The Legend of Zelda series, and if you believe in the equal rights of women, the micro aggression inherent in the use of the word ‘master’ and the deconstruction of gender roles within gaming, then join me in destroying The so-called ‘Master’ sword and creating a space where intersectional values can cohesively combine to enhance the experience of a myriad of gamers!

Image courtesy of www.gengame.net
Image courtesy of gengame.net

Feels good to turn a video game into a political football to be kicked around and dismantled, doesn’t it? Here is the thing: games do not have to appeal to your moral relativism. You don’t get to make games political, and why would you want to? In America, for instance, the people have political parties, representatives and a senate in which their political concerns can be heard, debated and challenged. With a neo-globalisation project having been birthed from the evolution of social media, political movements from all over the world can be heard by and disseminated to millions of people in an instant.

Why, in this world of ideologues, demagogues and [insert something that rhymes with ‘ogues’] do we feel the need to poison our entertainment with political rhetoric? If a work of art wants to be political, then fine. If a work of art is interpreted as a political statement, that is merely the manifestation of subjectivity colouring a discourse surrounding the particular article, and such a reaction ought to be anticipated by the creator since they have entered their product into the realm of open and free discourse. Interpretation is fine, and does enrich conversations concerning certain media and art – I dare you to see Waiting for Godot and not be drawn into a religious, Marxist or psychological reading of that play! – but this doesn’t apply when the creators of a piece of entertainment or artwork expressly set out to tell a defined story with determined characters – especially if the creators of the aforementioned art are in an entirely different country and do not necessarily conform to your relativistic moral models or cultural zeitgeist.

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Waiting For Godot. Image courtesy of variety.com

The Legend of Zelda has always adhered to its own mythology and has even out-right rejected or discredited entries into the series that do not comply with its rigid timeline. The infamous CD-i titles produced by Phillips in the 1990s are written off by Nintendo in the Hyrule Historia, in a foreword on titles that do not belong in the official timeline. Furthermore, the political machinations of fans regarding the gender politics they want to see inserted into the Zelda series have no place for inclusion, since the mythology of the Zelda series does not allow for it. This is evident to anyone with a knowledge of the ‘origin’ story to the franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and fans will be well-aware of this. The Zelda series is deeply rooted in its mythology and its internal consistency, and while representatives from Nintendo do sometimes muddle things a bit – looking right at you Bill ‘Sheik is a woman’ Trinnen – the lore and narratology of the Zelda series is something that Nintendo always ensure remains consistent from title to title.

In summation – however much ‘fans’ of the series want Link to be 7 genders at once, or make Epona wheelchair accessible, or remove Ganon from the game because his visage might offend Muslims, they do not have to do any of this and we shouldn’t force them to. Isn’t the magic of this series fundamentally rooted in the escapism we can achieve by venturing into Hyrule one more time? Don’t you see just how important it is to allow artists the freedom to create the worlds and stories they want to create, without being bullied into echoing the political agenda you want to see? I believe in the rights of the creators to be free from intimidation by pressure groups and mobs. I believe that Nintendo should take their Master Sword and stick it up your collective arseholes if you are on the side of mob-justice, morally-superior petition-signers who think they have the right to manipulate companies into doing what they want just because you say so.

Image courtesy of spieletester.com
Image courtesy of spieletester.com

Thus we return to Christina Grimmie. Should Ms. Grimmie be remembered by her fans? Should her life be celebrated by those who loved her and those she loved? Of course! We should remember those we lose and accept that death is the end and not grounds for another petition. Death is poignant because it is the game over for us all, and the people Ms. Grimmie touched in her lifetime have every right to remember her: but forcing a company to take part in your grieving process is utterly ludicrous. This coping mechanism that has emerged within emotionally stifled millennials needs to be addressed, and by far more capable people than me. I for one feel that taking The Legend of Zelda series and populating it with the digital remains of fans is an eerily nightmarish thing for anyone to ask for.

When games mirror real life, that is one thing, but when games mirror real death? This whole motion seems like something straight out of a creepypasta, and gamers and gaming companies should not have to bow down to the demands of a childish minority with severely misplaced ideals of righteousness and moral authority.  While these fans are sat in their bedrooms signing online petitions, I hope they take the time to realise what they are doing to this series, and more importantly, take the time to consider that if they really wanted to remember Christina, they could close their laptop and pay their respects in person. I know the idea is soooo 2000 and late, but even Zelda games have places where the dead are remembered: they are called graveyards.

About Adam Kheroua

Profile photo of Adam Kheroua
From J-pop to Nintendo, Adam’s daily battle with his inner otaku is one he enjoys losing. Since playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in 1998, he’s been a gamer ever since. Currently studying English at university, Adam has the silly ambition of one day becoming a paid writer – a guy can dream, right?

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  • smashbrolink

    When I saw the words “Uncanny valley”, I thought this was going to be about the graphical style and whether or not it should have tried for a more realistic style instead.

    Very misleading title, dude.

    • Daniel Pitt

      The name refers to the Freudian concept in psychology that addresses how and why people are unnerved by things that seem human.

      • smashbrolink

        True, but lately it’s had its strongest connection to video game characters, hence my statement before.
        Not saying you’re wrong, mind.

        • Daniel Pitt

          No problem at all 🙂