Crispy Gamer

Holy Saturday

                        <Power.>

Long ago, in the beautiful
kingdom of Hyrule, surrounded
by mountains and forests...

***

         There were six of us that day—I and the housemates Rad, Waker, Alex,

and Sylvio traced along Front Street from Hancock, met up with Haley on

Oxford, then turned up north, along Aramingo Ave.

         Sweltering, yet beautiful out, in Philadelphia, trying to decide if I would

move there after graduation or stick around New York for 2011. More than a

break in rent or a chance to lay roots near familiar faces, I was here for some

final impression-one that would decide everything and answer everyone's

questions about my life. But I knew the city too well for amazement, hardly

enough to unearth its hidden certainties. Each moment folded between the

ambiguity of what I sensed and what I could imagine.

         And all afternoon, I had these video game thoughts bouncing around

my head-extra lives: a Messiah out of quarters, Heaven in poverty, the

universe budgeted in prosperous times, then erected during an economic

downturn-hence, the cutbacks on general sense.

97

         But even the night before, I kept flashing back to Super Nintendo, The

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Marc, who slept in the living room, got

home around midnight from work. He offered me ramen and chased the idea,

I at the foot of the stairs, he from his mattress on the floor.

         "Just start talking about it," he said.

         "Okay, so you're Link, this kid in the ancient land of Hyrule. You wake

up one night, because Princess Zelda telepathically communicates that she's

been kidnapped by Agahnim, a corrupt court wizard in the pay of Ganon."

         "Ganon?"

         "'The King of Evil,'" I said, "A giant blue pig demon out to conquer the

world. He needs the princess to unlock the power of the Triforce, which is

pretty much the elemental essence of the universe."

         "When did it come out?"

         "1992. '93 was a good year. Batman the Animated Series was in its

second season. My brother saved a year's allowance, and Zelda was bundled

with the system. I used to watch him play it all day."

         Marc laughed, "Sounds like fun."

         "Well, I mean, it was a one-player. His friends had Turtles in Time,

Illusion of Gaia. He knew what he was doing. He pretty much taught me the

basics."

90

         "B's the sword."

         "Like this?"

         "No that's A." My brother scowls; we are five and seven. "A lifts

things and uses the running boots, but you don't have them yet."

         "I wanna boomerang."

         "Y. Hold down B to do the sword spin."

         "What does this do?"

         "X is the map, Start lets you pick items, Select lets you save and

quit."

         "What do these do?"

         "L and R don't do anything."

         I look up, thumbing the D-pad. Link does a donut and leaps into the

nearby river, only to reappear on land, flashing, but uninjured. "Why

can't I swim?"

         "'cause you don't have the flippers."

         I leap again into the water.

         "Come on. Lift up that bush and jump down."

         I giggle, rather, holding Right as Link travels an endless cycle

between land and sea.

         "Go in the cave!" Losing his patience, he grabs the controller back.

"I hope you know you're an idiot."

         "Plus, he could read. And I learned a lot of the secrets."

         "There's an angle-you and your brother. What else did you do

together?"

         "He taught me to draw. We drew a bunch of comic books. Played a lot

with Legos. Wandered around with plastic swords. That kind of stuff. We set

up a lot of mythology, even around video games."

         Marc scratched his beard, "Nabokov said something like-the author is a

storyteller, teacher, and enchanter. If video games, like film or books, direct

imagination by simulating experience, all told, what makes it fun? You spend

this whole game finding items, fighting bosses dungeon by dungeon. What

does it all come out to?"

         "Getting lost," I said. A dim cave never knew better company than a

child with a lantern. "Most of it's puzzles and surprises. Even when you've

been everywhere, you enter the Dark World, which is twice as long. It's only

after getting the Moon Pearl that you don't turn into a defenseless pink

bunny rabbit there."

         Marc laughed again. "That has adolescence written all over it. Maybe

the whole thing's a lesson on transition-taking things as they come-small,

and unknown, and gradual. Maybe it just teaches you how to play the game

well, so you can beat it." He shrugged. "I don't know if any of that helped at

all."

         "It did," I said, and went upstairs to brush my teeth.

91

         "Can I get a cigarette?"

         Back to the six of us, now in the evening; four blocks south of Allegheny

Square, we found a bar grandfathered out of the smoking ban. A stumpy,

middle-aged Polish woman with thick glasses served everyone, then asked

for my driver's license. Returning it, she mentioned how young I looked, as if

at twenty-two this was a compliment. But I'll get the last laugh, I thought.

         "Here," said Rad, passing me the one he had just lit, reaching down to

roll another for himself. I handed it to Alex.

         "Thanks."

         I turned back to Waker, "The iPad's not supposed to be this great thing

in itself. It's just a way of acclimating people to touch screens."

         Waker rubbed his eyes, "Yeah, but people aren't going to give up

keyboards. There are some things buttons are just better for. My phones've

had touch screens for years. I use it for scrolling menus and all that, but

when it comes to texting," he slid it open, tapping the keypad.

         He had a point, but how much of form is romanticism?

         Anyone of my generation will recall Pokemon (some way or other) with

a certain fondness. I forgo ROMs for the tactile senses of controller shape,

neck craned to a glaring, round-monitor television. Consider chiptunes―our

musical genre utilizing hacked GameBoys, NES, and other antiquated systems

to compose and perform original arrangements―already digested, fertilizing

with 8-bit synth tones all manner of contemporary music. Time and again, we

were warned of being the first generation to come of age with PCs and video

games. What I find truly interesting is that we were the only generation to

mature with dial-up internet, MIDI soundtracks, and two-dimensional

graphics. No child now will recall a time before YouTube, Google and

Wikipedia, with VHS and bunny ear antennae. They will scoff at our notions of

innovation, intrigue, and convenience: wires, newspapers, books, ancient

electronics with obsolete hardware.

         Beyond the facade of youth, the vocation of all form lies with comfort

and memory. What survives decay floats on the buoyancy of our nostalgia,

until we decompose―our friends, places, objects, aesthetic

sensibilities―artifacts of our lives, and without us, they are nothing.

         "But some things," Waker maintains, "People will never abandon. And

that's that."

         On our way out, we noticed a phone booth that must have been a

century old, too dark for Sylvio to photograph. Said the bartender, "Worked

right up until yesterday."

92

         The sky faded pink with the last of the magic hour. South, over railroad

tracks, hills tunneled through for the roads and sidewalks, a bridge thickly

overgrown, we came to a brackish field. Waker begged off, wanting no harm

to his high-tops.

         Before, the skyline came to light, presenting itself to no one in

particular. Behind, two billboards reached from the ground. Atop a concrete

chunk full of twisted metal bands thick as my arm, I felt the hot breath of

uncertainty on my neck-sensing I was far from home, existing by a landline

stretched across the mountains. Hyrule is a lonely place, inhabited mostly by

monsters. People are scattered haphazardly, in shops proffering bombs and

shields-things that you, alone, might ever buy. There is one village, Kakariko,

but the people say the same things, over and over again.

         "We're heading down," called Alex.

         Picking down the rocks, past the No Trespassing sign, we went on,

"parkouring" pylons under the Delaware Expressway. Really, this meant

running at things, kicking off or leaping them, shouting "Parkour!" Nothing

very impressive, but like Rad's habit of rolling everybody cigarettes, it grew

from that month in the earlier summer, tearing across the highways, over the

mountains, up and down the coasts of North America, he, Alex, and I,

delirious with Kerouac in our eyes.

         As I mention this, many wistfully turn to the window and sigh, "Ah, but

if only..." in the tone that implies they can't do the same. Yes-we were in a

unique phase, when none of us were tied down, we were full of vigor, we

borrowed a car for four weeks. All of these things are true and fortuitous, but

none of it coalesced with clarity or certainty at the time.

         Hyrule is full of people who, rather than asking you why you're

ransacking their houses, speak of evil and trouble in the world. Their folklore

tells of a Legendary Hero, who alone can resist the darkness and transform

this world for the better. Yet they have clearly made no effort to discern who

this might be, so none would ever know, if even the hero numbered among

them. What's so legendary about Link is that he leaves the familiar to travel

the strange and find what he can. After all, the player's first task is to get out

of bed and leave the house...

         In the middle of the night...

         During a thunderstorm.

93

         The Triforce is divided into three parts-power, wisdom, and courage-

paralleled by Ganon, Zelda, and Link, respectively. Compassionate and

astute, the Hero makes his stand against corruption, vanquishing it to will

some semblance of sanity and justice into the world, at least for a time; but

the story begins with bravery.

         Rad has observed how oddly attuned we are-he, Alex, and I.

"Together," he says, "We form a balanced person." He calls it "the

Manifestation." Alex once spoke of this as "the Trilogy (not 'the triumvirate'),"

and while it has as much to do with cramped spaces, as with a year's worth

of social time passed in the course of thirty days, it shouldn't be overlooked

that I only met Rad the day prior to departure. A friend to us both, Alex

perceived shared characteristics-bluntness, naivete, a certain lack of contact

with reality. He was, of course, a miraculous judge of character, but greater

still is whatever held us together, through thick, and thin, and weird. Perhaps

not a direct parallel to the Triforce, but enough to navigate 15,000 miles of

road without GPS, never once sleeping in the car and never once paying for

lodging, arriving home with all of our throats intact. The most important

aspect remains that we tried.

94

         "Parkour!"

         Sylvio rushed at a pylon, just as Waker's formidable shape jumped from

behind it, screaming something in Japanese. Sylvio charged face-first into the

wall, barely protecting his camera as the Million Youth March hat he'd bought

that afternoon at the dollar store went flying from his head. Standing, in

mock outrage he hurled his phone at Waker, who held his ground, shaking

his head as it missed and skittered across the pavement.

         "What do I care?" said Sylvio, "My phone is a (chain of expletives)."

         "It isn't working," I tell my brother. When I hit Power, a series of

red lines. Then nothing. I wouldn't have told him, except that he came in

just then. I am terribly frightened. He reacts calmly. Proud, even.

         "Blow," he says, "Like this," and pressing Eject, carefully raising

the gray plastic tabernacle to his lips, he exhales a powerful gust through

the opening slot. Treating the system to the same, he inserts the game. He

slides Power on, Reset, Power off, on, off, on and voila: the title screen

gleams in familiar glory. "Now be careful," he says, "And never slam the

cartridge."

         "Why?"

         Speaking with gravity, "Zach slams his, and they never work."

         Zachary Law lived at the end of the street, in the house around the

corner. Famed for jumping off roofs, throwing handsprings on asphalt, he

chronically lost, broke, or gave away his toys, including $50 video games.

         Some hold technology in a certain reverence. Some treat it like anything

else. There are those who complain every year of another ailing phone, an

mp3 player gone to bits, a hard disk fried under a keyboard doused in wine

or tea. Suffocation, or certain destruction; prudent insurance, or absolute

liberty-who is to say what choices exist, what balance struck between

discretion and chance? In any case, I will say this-all of my cartridges work.

Super Metroid erases files from time to time, but I bought it off Zach in the

seventh grade.

96

         The final sequence in Link to the Past is the Triforce floating across the

land, purifying it of evil, turning the sky from red, to gold, to green, to blue.

Peace returns to Hyrule, while arguably the best theme music in the game

plays for the first and only time.

         Rad and I stopped to relieve ourselves on a burnt-out car as the

streetlights flickered overhead. Finished, we crunched along gravel, forty feet

behind everyone else.

         "I think he'll really like this," he said, patting his backpack-the filtered

papers, rolling machine, and pouch of Amsterdam Shag we'd picked up for

Marc that afternoon.

         "Anything to get him off Newport Menthols."

         Rad's was the smile of promissory light breaking after the storm, "I'm'a

make him like, thirty when we get home, and put 'em all in little a box."

         I asked what he called the difference between happiness and a happy

life.

         "Word," he said, "Joy."

         "That's what I called it too."

         We traversed a glass-strewn lot, up a cobblestone way to Penn Treaty

Park, hours later than originally planned, but it made no difference. We

climbed out onto the rocks, where a cool wind bit through out t-shirts. And I

stood there, capturing one of those rare moments of oblivion, deaf to

unhinging memories, decisions of where and how to be, the Easter traffic I

would wait on the following night in a humid bus lacking air-conditioning,

watching the headlights vanish through the trees, along a far-off road

adjacent to the darkness.

         A matter of gathering what you need to go on, no matter what

questions you may have concerning what, or why. A matter of getting out of

bed in the morning. I watched the lights pulse on the Benjamin Franklin

Bridge from to red, to gold, to green, to blue.

                                                                ***
                                                                The Triforce is waiting for a
                                                                new owner. Its Golden Power is
                                                                in your hands...

                                                                Now, touch it with a wish in
                                                                your heart.
                                                                ... ... ... ...

                                                                                                        <Reset.>

 

Comments

Thanks for the video. Mebbe you can also look at this.

TP180 Hive Duo RS

The Legend Of Zelda games feature a mixture of action, puzzles, adventure/battle gameplay, exploration, and questing. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions featured in each new game. -Online Reputation

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