Before I start Iíd like to comment that I believe that the heroes we play as in videogames do help to shape what we believe a hero should be. Even if you are simply playing a game for escapist reasons you are still being affected by the ideas of heroism that the game is presenting. If you think Iím reading too much into this, that is fine, but I really do like discussing games as art and discussing art is 10 percent knowledge and 90 percent bullshit anyway. Iím also aware that game design and entertainment are major reasons for how games play and what characters act like, that is a given here and not what the discussion is mentioned to approach.
Link is a young boy from a small town, near the age of becoming a man who finds himself, usually through no fault of his own, in a grand adventure to save the world from a great evil. In the majority of his adventures this world saving occurs from Ganon or Ganandorf the leader of a tribe of men and involves Princess Zelda in some fashion (usually a form of rescue). The three are connected forever through time by the tri-force of power of which each has a part. Link: Courage, Zelda: Wisdom, Ganon: Power. However not all of his adventures involve these other two characters. What is consistent throughout is that Link must fight evil creatures and solve puzzles on his own in order to defeat evil. Though he is often accompanied by another character throughout his adventurers the weight of saving the world is always squarely on his shoulders. Humble and brave Link takes up his quest without any complaint and helps others almost constantly.
What Does he Teach Us About Heroism?
I think what is great about Link and the legends of Hyrule is that at the center of it all is a moral that shows that one attribute of heroism alone is not enough and often time only having one can lead not to heroism but evil. The Tri-Force and its division among multiple people, though an incredibly simplistic representation of heroism, is a fantastic metaphor for how a hero can not simply be powerful, or wise, or courageous but must be all three. The adventures of Link, at their base, show us that heroism is not all about who can kick more but who can balance power, wisdom and courage in order to act justly and wisely.
However, this metaphor doesnít really sound throughout the entire gameplay of the series. The very character of Link is a classic representation of how a boy is supposed to become a man via acts of heroism that involve violence and risking of life. The fact that Zelda is almost always captured also doesnít really give wisdom that great a role in the grand scheme of heroism or speak well to the strength of women.
On the other hand, Zelda has often been shown as a strong and wise leader who can handle herself in difficult and harrowing situations. Also many of the Links challenges are not only physical and violent but also mental and having to do with problem solving and lateral thinking. In fact most of the bosses in the Zelda games infuse both these characteristics needing both problem solving skills and violent actions to beat them. In the end though it comes down to bashing them with your sword (or arrow, or boomerang or hook shot or spinny wall thing or object you just deflected back into their face) in order to progress so the final message seems to be that the sword wins out.
So while the games preach that a true hero has three of the attributes that are in the tri-force they donít always practice what they preach. Link seems to want to be about this balance in heroism but his execution tells us that power and courage are better attributes than wisdom.
Link also teaches us that heroes are selfless and act towards the greater good without asking any questions. While the attribute can always be good, they often lead to ďheroesĒ acting not very heroic. How many times as the poor kid been tricked into helping the enemy because he thinks he is doing good? While it all works out in the end itís a little scary how blindly Link puts his faith in what he is told. Though it does offer a firm counterpoint that heroes donít lie and villains do it sends the message that questioning authority is not for a hero to do and that they are always in the right. In the real world things arenít quite as cut and dry and not asking questions often makes actions that could be heroic seem down right evil. The blind faith that Link puts in others is a respectable attribute in a hero but not always one to be proud of.
In our culture a hero is often a solo person, supported by outsiders but on his own and fighting his fight, when in reality heroism is usually the work of many people. Link was the epitome of the lone adventurer in his early games but more recently (in release terms, not chronological) he has received substantial aid from others on his quest, redefining the lone hero as the lone hero with support. It is interesting to see that while Link is always the main hero and the work is on his shoulders that he is often helped by many others. The blind faith mentioned previously here allows for help from others as well. Link shows that a hero does not have to be on his own, plowing forward without help, but can be supported by others and still be considered his own person.
In the end what Link teaches us about heroism is that it isnít all violence and action. Thought and time must also be put into being a hero and while a hero takes tasks on his own shoulders without complaint he realizes that there are others there to support him. Still the emphasis on growing up and entering manhood through adventure and action stereotypes heroism as something relegated to the male realm. Link is an interesting character, especially since he is from the world of Nintendo where heroes are more often than not silent and solitary. So is he a hero?
Ok I canít tell if Iím just bullshitting through this or actually discussing something interesting. What do you guys think should I do more characters?
Also Iím gong to try to get the wrap up in today but Iím heading out to Boston for the weekend so might not.