Between writing and going back to work for the summer semester, I have been playing Breath of the Wild whenever I can manage. I’ve played for roughly sixty hours, and can easily see adding sixty more, and recently thought to assess where and how I was spending my time in-game.
I decided to do this because I pushed early on to unlock all of the Sheikah Towers to reveal the map (I’m not sure what compels me to do so, but that’s something I’m always pushing for in games). After doing this, I spent some time searching for shrines, collecting weapons and gear, and running about completing some side quests. I had reached a point in the game where I wasn’t sure if I was doing much worthwhile or if I should have been doing something else to prepare for the story quests. It was a brief moment of panic.
It was then that I let myself relax. It’s a video game. You have all the in-game time in the world to do whatever you want.
This freed me to go on a collecting spree: I tamed horses, picked apples, chased down deer and crabs, and used bombs to catch fish (heh). I was in my glory riding around with an inventory full of stuff.
I’ve always had a leaning toward games that are both open-world and allow for a variety of open tasks (tasks that can be completed at any time and with high or low frequency) such as the gathering of multiple resources. Going out and doing those seemingly mundane tasks gives me a sense of purpose. Maybe it’s just me, but I often give myself objectives for games like unlocking the map, finding the best horse—things that the game allows players to do but doesn’t necessarily compel them to.
I didn’t just pick apples to pick apples though. Going out to gather is connected to exploration and going off the path. The activity allows me to experience parts or aspects of the world I might have otherwise missed if I only did the minimum to complete the story. In a similar fashion, spending time cooking up recipes makes me feel like I am a part of the world through Link. Instead of just finding already made dishes or potions, I can spend hours finding the ingredients and putting them together. But I don’t have to.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am sometimes drawn to the domestic in video games. Cooking, gathering resources, buying a home and furnishing it, taming animals: these are all activities that can make a game that much more immersive.
I like spending time getting to know these vast games and feeling like a part of them. If a game is done right, if it has enough diversity in its mechanics and story, I don’t find the above-mentioned tasks mundane or dismissively optional/extra. They become an enjoyable part of my time playing.
Maybe it’s a bit odd, but I’m going to go pick some more apples.