With the release of the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it felt like it was the beginning of a new era for the way I played and perceived videogames. Obviously there’s the generational shift that comes with new hardware, but what I mean is with the Wii U and 3DS galloping into the sunset, I suddenly found myself being hyper-focused on a single console. Ever since I’ve had a disposable income I’ve tried to have and play everything. While that meant I had a large breadth of experience, it also meant I tended to forgo finishing them. I have nothing against dabblers personally; but the fiscally responsible family man I’ve become just doesn’t mesh with that train of thought very well.
If you had asked me in my mid-twenties what I’d think of that he’d probably be abhorred. But now in my late thirties, I relish playing a handful of games on one system to completion than I would bouncing between experiences in the hopes of rounding out my cultural cachet. My money and my time is too valuable to waste on dalliances; it’s more satisfying to see things through to the end. It’s a different level of appreciation, one that works particularly well with the flow of my life these days.
I like to work my way through a game in measured beats; not necessarily slowly, but in a way that I can appreciate what developers are trying to do. Rushing means forgetting to stop and smell the roses every now and again. Sure, it means I can jump into the conversation on social media right away, but both the game itself and what’s actually worth talking about is lost without more context.
With that being said, taking a more deliberate approach to the way I play games has dug up an old habit within myself that is tangible, practical and pleasing – using a notepad to jot down things worth remembering in the games I play.
In case you weren’t aware, Breath of the Wild is huge. One of the perks to starting the game on release day is that a lot of what the game presents to you is an enigma. Intentionally so; there’s no ham-fisted tutorial to be had and everything you discover feels as if you sussed it out on your own even though it was more likely because of crafty design choices. When you found something out, it felt really damn special. As you experiment with crafting or tracking down quest solutions, it can also be overwhelming to keep track of it all. When the game gave you a recipe, it felt pertinent to record it; when a conversation seemed to point you in the direction of a goal or hidden grotto, you needed to figure out a way to get there thanks to landmarks.
The easy way out is to find the answers you seek online. Which, in a pinch, can be a worthwhile endeavor. But I found it extremely gratifying to log all of this info on my own. I had a recipe book, puzzle solutions and other interesting information in a convenient little notepad that I could crib off of when need be. And it was really, really fun to do. I’ve been hooked ever since, keeping it next to my Switch as a stalwart journal of my adventures that honestly have been more helpful than any FAQ or wiki could possibly be.
I’m currently working my way through forma.8 and, while I blazed through it once for review, I’ve gone back to it for another outing not only because I wanted to soak in the details but because I missed a lot of collectables along the way. The game itself has an auto-map feature that’s a little opaque, so as I’ve been travelling along its mysterious world, I’ve been keeping tabs on the ones I missed to I could go back to them later when I had the proper abilities to do so. Obviously I have completionist tendencies as it is, but it was fun to go back to areas I had previously been to and feeling very powerful because I had netted some new kit but also a better understanding of how the world works.
I’ve also found it to be a very cathartic experience, drawing maps. Being an amateur cartographer, even in a videogame, is a great little side hobby that I’ve added alongside photography as something worth doing in a game besides its requisite goals. I don’t do it because I need to, but because I want to. Zipping through games is something I’m not really interested in doing anymore, and it feels like I’m giving the developers the credit they are due for creating these experiences for us. As much as I’d like to posterize things like Jeremy Parish, I’m pretty content just holding onto these notebooks for posterity.
And who knows, they might help somebody else someday.