So, my blog has been quiet lately. Not for lack of writing, more for a renewed feeling of focus. I have several projects I’m working on and I churn out about the same number of words a week as I did when the B.O.S.S.s were in full swing.
But this past Friday something came out that threatened to crush my productivity: The Nintendo Switch.
I was born alongside the birth of the console system. I’ve been playing them my whole life. There’s no one more iconic than the Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s nothing that quite captures the excitement of exploration that Nintendo brings.
For you in the book crowd? I’m talking about the excitement that comes with reading the first chapter of a novel, getting thoroughly hooked yet having no idea what to expect next.
That’s how I’m feeling with the Switch right now.
What’s happening with console games right now can easily be equated to the novel world. With consoles it’s specs. With novels it’s formula. I’ve always appreciated Nintendo’s less is more mentality. Their critics like to say they take the less traveled path, but I see it as often opting to take the more traveled path in a unique way. The Nintendo Switch isn’t a powerhouse like the PS4 or the Xbox One. Instead, it’s an incredibly practical machine that allows people to play and enjoy games.
I got the Switch this past Friday at the midnight launch at a local GameStop. About twenty-six people– some my age and some younger– all gushed about the prospects of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That’s what I brought home, as I had little interest in 1/2 Switch. (No disrespect to those that enjoy party games.)
After admiring the hardware for a bit, I popped it in and only had to endure a quick ten minute (software) set up. For anyone that has bought a PS4 or a Xbox One, that process is easily more than an hour. System. Update. Game. Update. Play. I was impressed.
But when I turned on BotW, it greeted me with little fanfare. A minimalistic black screen with ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ and Link waking up in a cave. For example. The game shows you the basics, the new stuff, exactly once. There’s no handholding. You open a box, there’s a shirt. Put on the shirt. Open another box, there’s a pair of pants. Put on pants. There’s a hint magical doodad. Get magical doodad.
After a minute of grasping at straws, I stepped into the bright new world.
And I was hooked.
There’s a pretty large sandbox to start with. I found a twig, beat a Moblin with it and took his club. So I did what any boy would do, stripped off my shirt and declared myself Cave Boy Link. There monsters to kill, animals to hunt and weapons to find, cliffs to fall off of. *sigh*
But there lies the magic. There was nothing holding you back from going most places in the NES Legend of Zelda. If you wanted to fight something that could kill you in one hit, you could. You could even kill it if you were saavy enough. Spoilers: you weren’t.
In my first hour of Breath of the Wild, I died ten times, but I wasn’t even mad. I didn’t really lose much in the way of progress, just inconvenienced by being sent to the last save checkpoint a little wiser, (but a little poorer because weapons are a finite resource in BotW).
Allow me to be blunt. This game isn’t great for what it pushes forward, the system itself is rather dated hardware. If 4k resolution is your thing and 60 Frames Per Second(FPS) is law? Don’t even bother. This game chugs along at 30fps and dips into the low teens at times. But if you just want a pretty looking game that will still look pretty ten years from now, you’re in the right place.
A lesson you can take from the switch when it comes to writing? You can find success outside the ‘formula’ if you do what you love well enough. This doesn’t mean ignore the naysayers, it means writing with your fans in mind.
Instead of a distraction from writing BotW and the Switch makes a great reminder to keep to the beat of your own drum.