Read the Air


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

From The Guardian:

Amaro says that success in BotW depends on an important skill in Japanese culture and society: the ability to “read the air”. This means understanding body language, facial expressions and subtle hints, often used to convey information.

“If you can read the air in BotW, you’ll find that the order of the divine beast is subtly signposted: seemingly non-essential yet critical side-quests, recommendations and hearsay from travellers, the location of certain NPCs (the Goron merchant in Lanayru, for example): all these hints are there for you to pick up. Japanese language is often indirect: an allusion is actually a comment, a piece of advice is really a warning. That’s how BotW works: there is a carefully designed and quite linear walkthrough hiding inside this huge world.”

In the later stages of the game when your exploration is driven by curiosity more than narrative, there is what Burgess calls a “consistent language of expectation”.

“When it feels like something ought to be here, it almost always is,” he says, using the example of Korok seeds on top of hills and pillars to illustrate “intuitive” patterns and the expectation of a second, hidden treasure chest in each shrine as a “learned” pattern. It’s not so much that the player has seen something they want to get, but that they know it’ll be waiting when they get there. Intuition and received knowledge go hand-in-hand with exploration and puzzle-solving, and both inform the player’s choices in where to go and what to do next.

“Is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the best-designed game ever?”, Kate Gray, The Guardian