Storytelling is very important to our culture—it’s something that truly distinguishes us from any other living thing in the known universe—and we need it for feeding our minds as much as we need water and food to drive our bodies. Stories may well be the most important thing to human culture. Just consider that while Trump was talking to the press about what he thought about Syria gassing its people—he was playing the new Star Wars movie Rogue One in the background. Trump seems to have a very healthy love of stories—especially movies and I’d go so far to say that it has made him an exceptionally good president—because he’s a thinker. He may have the articulation skills of a typical Queens taxi driver—but he does think deeply about things from many angles—and stories certainly help develop that skill.
Among the kind of storytelling that we perform in modern times, video games are certainly at the top of the importance list because in a lot of ways they are the new dominate form—replacing books and movies as the cultural go-to method of telling them. So when I run into a good video game, I typically talk about—and if it’s truly exceptional I’ll write about it. Some recent games that amazed me with their technical and storytelling achievements have been Uncharted 4 for Playstation 4 and Rush Blood for Playstation VR. Not only are those great games, but they tell stories in completely new and literally uncharted ways that I have been amazed by.
Way back, twenty years ago, in the mid-90s while my two daughters were growing up and learning to read I had bought a Nintendo 64 and the latest Zelda title at the time called Ocarina in Time to play with them. It was too complicated for them to play but they’d sit with me on the couch and watch me play because the story was so compelling and there was a lot of text to read—so in a lot of ways it helped them learn to read. There are enough words to read in a Zelda game that essentially makes it a moving graphic novel. The plots are thick—the philosophy unmistakably Japanese yet there is a little King Arthur in the storylines which makes the Zelda franchise highly sought after in western cultures. Like Star Wars, there is a very healthy mixture of eastern and western philosophy reflected in the presented mythology which makes it an incredibly powerful storytelling device. I often have said that I thought Ocarina in Time was the most intelligent video game I have ever played and it holds a special place in the hearts of my family because for about a 100 hours at a key time in my children’s life, we played Zelda each night before they went to bed and they have never forgotten the experience—even to this day. I wasn’t allowed to play the game without them—so we did the whole thing together with them helping me make decisions that eventually won the game even though they were too little to play it themselves at the time.
Now they are all grown up obviously and Nintendo still has a place in my heart because of Zelda. I typically buy whatever Nintendo creates out of loyalty to them because of their direct attachment to the Zelda franchise. I famously tell the story often about the various elections that I’ve been a part of, especially the Lakota school levy events where I had something on the ballot that I was leading the charge for and the media always wants to know what kind of watch party you might be having so they can get reactions later that night from the winners and losers. Well, my routine was not to rent out a bar to watch the results pouring in with my team nervously around a big screen television—but to play Nintendo Wii. The game of choice for my wife and I was Wii Golf which allowed me to play as if I were on a real course somewhere, but from the convenience of my living room so I could monitor the results and answer questions from the media in an expeditious manner. Nintendo has always been very good with driving the video game culture in creative ways to use the tools of game play in new ways—and their Wii system really opened the doors to interactive gaming where you could stand in your living room and interact with the big screen of your television in a virtual environment.
When word came out that Nintendo’s latest masterpiece was something called the Nintendo Switch, and that they had a new Zelda game for it called Breath of the Wild I had to get it. It was simply an unquestioned reality. The Switch featured new, unique game play options that were essentially unheard of in previous markets; you could play Nintendo Switch from your television in the traditional way. But–if you had to catch a flight to a different city for a business trip, you could take the whole thing with you. Plus, virtually every part of the game system including the controllers could be utilized in some unique aspect of game play making the Nintendo Switch incredibly versatile as a system. I thought it was an astonishing breakthrough yet again for the good people at Nintendo. So my wife and I made it a point to hunt one down because as of this writing they are extremely hard to get at the store. Since their lunch at the start of March 2017 they sell as soon as they hit the shelves at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and Gamestop. That’s typical for Nintendo products, as a company they often under produce so they can drive up demand with frustration—which increases their market value so they create positive word of mouth which drives up their price—a good healthy business model. But even for Nintendo, I don’t think they thought they’d have such an intense desire from the public for this new Switch because the sales seemed to be getting away from them. We tried for a solid month to get a Switch all over Cincinnati and Dayton with no luck. A few units would show up at a Target or Wal-Mart and we’d head to the store and they’d be sold out before we could get there. People would watch the inventories of stores online and do like we would-drive in to buy the units the minute they showed up. Outlets refused to hold anything because the demand was too high.
Just for context the Target in West Chester had a return of a Nintendo Switch—a used one returned to the store for whatever reason. I had been watching the Target website all week and noticed that one Switch unit was put into stock and literally I was in the car within five minutes to make the ten minute drive to the store. When I got back there another guy had just bought the unit and the cashier told me that all the units have been sold in this way. People literally were standing in line as the supply trucks tried to restock the store and you just had to be lucky enough to be at the store when this happened. Because as soon as the inventory clerks scanned the units into their systems and they showed up online, people were buying up everything within the hour. I could tell the same story for just about every other store all over Cincinnati—not just Target, but everyone. I was starting to wonder if I’d ever get my hands on a Switch.
Then it happened, my wife was at Wal-Mart at the Bridgewater location and ten Switches were put in stock just as she was heading there to check—as she was there to shop for other things. Of that ten nine of them were gone instantly and she got her hands on the last one. She sent me a text letting me know that our search was over and I rushed home to unbox it and play it for the first time. And let me just say that playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an extraordinary experience. I’ve been playing it for a week now and it is just an astonishing video game—it’s deep and very fun to play—and it brings out the best of what Nintendo’s Switch can do.
I have found that I like to play Zelda as the portable unit almost as much as the traditional TV based console. It is very effective to be able to take the game everywhere with you, airports, the breakfast table, to play while watching the news—it is extremely versatile and well worth all the work it took to get my hands on one. But the new Zelda is simply astonishing and well worth the money. I continue to be extremely amazed and now that I’ve incorporated it into my lifestyle, I can see that I’ll get a lot of mileage out of that Nintendo Switch. It’s one more technical marvel that is carrying mankind forward in ways that many never thought possible. For me it is encouraging to see so much extraordinary quality on display from the mechanical features of the Switch hardware to the subtleties of programming featured in the Breath of the Wild video game. The people who made Breath of the Wild are obviously very intelligent and it is refreshing to me to see so many young people calling it the best video game they’ve ever played. But more than anything, it is great to see so much optimism emerging from a story telling market. I can’t think of anything negative about it. For instance, I had a really stressful week where many important decisions had to be made that might have an impact on millions and millions of investment dollars. So how did I manage all that stress—I took my Nintendo Switch with me everywhere and played it at restaurants and in shopping malls to blow off the steam of anxiety that often comes with doing important things in life. And you know what—it worked marvelously. It is so wonderful to take a world like Zelda with you everywhere you go—and to give yourself a break when you really need it. And for that, Nintendo as a company deserves a lot of admiration.
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