I fully expect to see Succession get more words published about it on the front pages of online media outlets in the coming weeks than the new Zelda will.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2023/05/13/301-2317-dial-m-for-metaverse/
Tears of the Kingdom
As happens when you have a weekly podcast, I had a different episode all written and ready to go this morning. Another entry in my ongoing ‘The Artist’ series. But as I was doing the final word count edit, I realised that I didn’t want to sit in front of my computer and talk about something that I could say at any time.
The only thing I want to talk about this week is Zelda.
Because it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about. It’s consumed my thoughts. I’ve been having dreams about paragliding and fusing things together. The other day I walked past some scaffolding in town and wondered how much stamina I might need to scale it.
As someone who doesn’t watch any television or films at all. I don’t participate in, or particularly acknowledge any of the minor cultural disturbances that the medium generates. In fact as an outsider, it seems to me that the medium of the moving image hasn’t made much of an impact on the cultural sphere at all recently. Not like it used to anyway. Squid game? The Game of Thrones finale maybe?
Has there been a big TV event or movie since then? Streaming and binge watching has flattened the cultural spikes of attention that the medium used to generate.
But the launch of Zelda last weekend has felt like ‘an event’.
My band played a gig last Saturday at a 40th birthday party. Now, I know we’re all older than we used to be and no one really drinks like they used to. But it was funny to hear people over their second pint, after the candles and cake, wondering how much of a faux pas it would be to leave soon, so they could go home and play Zelda.
I don’t think there have been any movies released at least in the last decade that have penetrated culture as quickly and as deeply as the release of Zelda. When was the last time a large portion of your social circle wanted to drop everything and go home to read a book?
The last Harry Potter back in 2007?
Some people like to follow and track the opening weekend box office revenue of movies from their favourite franchises.
Commodity media capitalism recast as some kind of grotesque spectator sport.
I’ve always found it odd. I personally don’t care how much a movie made at the box office during its opening weekend. In fact I don’t care about the movie at all. But I do think, treating economic success as a proxy for artistic merit – and justification for one’s own fandom – is doing immense damage to our culture.
I said earlier that the release of Tears of the Kingdom, as a cultural event, feels similar to the finale of Game of Thrones – but there’s a difference. The last episode of GoT was the culmination of 70 hours of television broadcast over 8 years. A narrative world that during that time installed itself into the cultural subconscious. The release of Zelda on the other hand is the beginning of 70 hours of engagement with a world and its mythos.
I know I just said that it’s weird when people talk about box office numbers, but indulge me for a moment as I need to do so to continue my point. Besides, Tears of the Kingdom is one of the best games ever made, so I’m not justifying anything by mentioning its sales figures.
Full numbers haven’t been released yet. But we do know that in the first 3 days of release it’s sold 10 million copies worldwide.
10 million units, times the retail price of 50 quid, beats out the biggest global box office weekend opening of any movie by over 100 million dollars. And as if to prove my point about economic success as a proxy of artistic merit; the movie that holds the title is Fast & Furious 8.
The new Zelda with a bit of exploring takes about 70 hours to complete the main storyline. Which means that in the coming weeks and months, At least 10 million people are about to share a collective 700 million hours in the world of Hyrule.
In an economy dominated by attention, I wonder if TikTok or Instagram budgeted for the release of Tears of the Kingdom in their revenue projections. Can they see the drop in attention happen in real time in their dashboards after the release of the game?
Despite this hugely influential piece of media currently installing itself into a strata of our cultural subconscious. I fully expect to see Succession get more words published about it on the front pages of online media outlets in the coming weeks than the new Zelda will.
The reason being it’s difficult to write about video games. They are worlds that people enter, spend time in, (largely alone) and have experiences that are very different to that of other media. The average length of a movie is 80-120 minutes. The average novel takes about 8-12 hours to read. If I want to write about Zelda, what would I even write? How does one even begin to write about 70 hours of time spent in another world?
One inspirational answer is ‘You Pray for Dry Weather at the Sight of the Sun’ by J David Osborne. A long aphoristic essay on playing the game Death Stranding and becoming a father for the first time. It’s one of the best pieces of game writing I’ve ever read.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the episode.
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