Monday, September 7, 1998:
Respecting the character in the game.
The character was there before you showed up and will be there after you leave.
Radical thought? Not really. If you take but a moment to consider the context of the character there is a context.
In the game of Zelda we are inside a character known as Link. Link obviously had parents, a childhood, friends and the rest. When we are not riding around with Link hacking and slashing our way to the inner chambers of Gannon, Link has a life. How hard can it be to respect that life?
It will add to the game. It helps to immerse one in the nature of the game. You don't have to be lost in identification in order to immerse one's self in a game. Identification is the opposite of being able to separate oneself from the character thereby experiencing the game on more than one level. I'm not suggesting that you dive head first into the character losing your own individuality in a mesmerized submersion into the goals and aims of the character. You don't have to forget who you are in order to take on some of the characteristics of another. And appreciating another perspective does not mean being owned by it.
One would think that elementary schools would teach these simple ideas to children as part of the standard curriculum. They are after all elementary ideas without which appreciation of diversity becomes impossible in the face of the xenophobic perception that f anything not identified as oneself is alien and to be feared.
Well, if you have the habit of identifying with and becoming anything you come into contact with then I say you have the right to be xenophobic. Heck-darn, if you are owned and driven by anything you don't fight against you could find yourself becoming a homo, or a debutant, or a valley girl, or a jock, or a nerd, or a (god forbid) used car salesman. Run don't walk to the nearest exit if that is your situation.
But if you want to maybe break free from this endless cycle of identification, momentary freedom, followed by identification then I suggest a deliberate strategy of game playing as a course of action.
In a game you have the unique opportunity to take on some of the characteristics of the in-game character without being irrevocabily owned by the character. It's not guaranteed but there is the opportunity.
As you sit in front of the television set using a controller to move Link around on the screen killing bad guys and being killed yourself no matter how deeply you are identified with Link eventually pressing issues will drive you to notice you are using a controller looking at a television in your living room. At that moment you will have the double view of being both the character and the player.
Now, pay attention here for a second. I want you to follow this. If you do not identify with the character at least some then you can not have the double view of being both the character and the player -- you will be all player. If you identify completely as the character then you can not have the double view of being both the character and the player -- because you will be all character. Only when you straddle the line of partial identify can you have the double view of being both the character and the player.
More about that next time.