I'm still interested in the Zelda-series however and don't mind keeping up to date on information or reading/listening to the odd piece about it. So it came that I listened to a podcast about Majora's Mask by Cane & Rinse, a podcast I recommend checking out if you're into more in-depth discussions about video games.
|The heart shape is a trap.|
Just as with most Zelda games, I've never really played Majora's Mask myself. I've got the Zelda-collection on the Gamecube and gave it a spin a couple of years ago but just couldn't get into it. Just as with Ocarina of Time it's not because it's not a good game, but because it doesn't feel like I belong there. I feel out of place. It's a difficult feeling to explain and I've tried to formulate it to myself many times. Since I've never heard anyone mention feelings similar to that (not that I've asked though), I've always sort of thought I was just being weird about it or that it was actually feelings of inadequate skill that I tried labelling something else. It's far from just Zelda games that give me this feeling either, Omikron: The Nomad Soul is another good example of a game I have no reason to dislike, yet have so much trouble to get into because I simply feel like I'm not supposed to be there.
I don't get this feeling from anything else either. There's never been a movie I really enjoyed but didn't want to watch through, or a book I thought was great but didn't want to finish. Maybe it's because I invest more of myself into a game than those things. With a book or movie, I am an observer. With a game I am participating, I am the one getting affected by what happens, through my proxy on screen. Eventhough I love books and movies they can never become as immersive as a really good game to me. But I wondered if I was the only one who thought that way about some games.
|Yes, David Bowie is in the game.|
Then I listened to that C&R podcast on Majora's Mask and realized they were talking about exactly those feelings. In it, spoiler alert here by the way if you actually want to go and listen to it yourself first, they conclude that eventhough Majora's Mask is a very good game in almost every respect, it's just not very welcoming. Most agreed that the game was original and were glad it existed, yet none of them (if I remember correctly) said they wanted to ever return to it. Even if they didn't word it the same way I had to myself, I instantly recognized what they were talking about. But what does that even mean? And how can a game be good, yet not be able to make you want to play it? Isn't it by definition a bad game then?
As I said I've been trying to explain to myself how this can be happening, but I am struggling to find the right words for it. Looking again at a game like Omikron, that I've at least spent more time with than Majora's Mask, I have no real reason to dislike it. The controls, albeit taking some getting used to, are fine. The story is interesting, the gameplay is cool. And it's far from a scary game - yet it is definitely unsettling in its style. The world is so different, the characters in it so odd, that I feel out of place and frankly, stupid, whenever I play it. And it is exactly that feeling I had when playing Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Even if I may be perfectly capable to play the game, and I know I am, it instills me with a feeling of inadequacy, like there is always something going on behind my back that I am not quite getting. Like I am the one being played and not the one in control.
It takes me right back to when I was completely new at gaming and every game I booted up made me feel insecure and out of place. I didn't know the controls, I didn't know the gameplay. It took me a lot of time and courage before I even dared to try out entire genres, like shooters, because I simply thought I didn't have it in me to play those kind of games (bullshit, of course). Now, except horror games, there is no genre I avoid simply because I think I am incapable of learning them. I know I am bad at certain games, but I'll still play them and I will still have fun with them if they're well done. Yet these special style of games like Majora's Mask and Omikron, eventhough I have fun with them once I get around to playing them and think they are good games, they make me feel like a newbie again. The best thing I can compare it to is having a crush on someone but you end up avoiding them because they just make you so nervous.
|Yep, nightmare fuel.|
Maybe that is the root of the problem. These games make me feel vulnerable, not because I am afraid I am going to die or fail but because I can't work out what the game wants me to feel and think. The game feels smarter than I am and like it is always one step ahead of me. I never feel like I am in control and as such it is like playing something that is always on the verge of becoming a nightmare even if I intellectually can tell myself it isn't (to be fair, a lot of people think Majora's Mask is nightmare fuel). This drains me of so much energy when I play them that even when I do get around to starting them up, I can never stick around for long before I am mentally exhausted. It is really a very difficult thing to wrap my head around and I end up wishing I could just think of them as "just another game", but somehow instead I get too invested.
The worst thing is that I actually like these games, I do find them fun. Omikron has been such an interesting experience so far and it should be right up my alley, yet I have to force myself to play it because it stresses me out to play it for some reason. Maybe I just need to gather up the courage to ask it out on a proper date.