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Tears of the Kingdom is saving me from my checklist obsession

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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdomlike its predecessor breath of the wild, is a huge game packed with an incredible amount to do. It must be overwhelming — but in a twist, it’s actually helping me break one of my most compulsive habits.

I’m busy Not unusually so – no more than you are, probably – but life just fills up, you know? I have a to-do list for work and a to-do list for non-work. I have little time for myself and a million things I want to do with it; I have ballooning lists of things to watch and read and play that I’ll never quite put together. I have apps for logging movies and TV and games and books. I feel compelled to adapt. I am minimizing my free time.

Some of these habits are born out of gambling. Think giant open world games that parcel their massive maps and epic narratives into a digestible structure of objectives, checklists, and collectibles. (My friend calls them “Ubijobs” after the pattern of the later Assassin’s Creed games.) My dear world of Warcraft There’s basically an infinite to-do list in video game form. It may sound like work, but it’s also satisfying, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment and mastery – so give it a try in life. Designers of gamified apps to micromanage everything from pocket money to movie-watching surely learned from this school of design as well.

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Link climbs a sheer cliff in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.  In the background, a temple can be seen amidst the peculiar rock formations

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Image: Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

With me, the habit of turning everything into a checklist has begun to consume games that don’t outwardly encourage it. Until recently, the big game of my life was octopath traveler 2, a classical RPG with eight parallel storylines that highlights sub-objectives and a tracking system, and which allows the player a great deal of freedom in how to achieve them, beyond requiring the player to keep up with its leveling curve. Yet I found myself making lists in my Notes app for: a customized order to tackle quests, dungeons sorted by recommended level, items to hunt, and so on.

none of this is good for the time i spend with you The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, But, as I was six years ago breath of the wildI’m amazed at the extent to which the game encourages freeform, organic play, real exploration, and real adventure.

In the evenings, I set myself on fire with maybe two or three objectives in my head — explore some of the temples I visited, head for the next temple, explore a new section of depth. Three hours later, I’m only halfway towards my first objective, having had many wonderful adventures and made many surprising discoveries along the way. I’ve done things I didn’t have on either list: take down Battle Talus disguised as a Bokoblin post (and turn its heart into a hammer), enter a skydiving contest, collect fragments of falling stars Chase, clean the seal plush. I’ve followed my nose, playing in a naturally curious, experimental, freewheeling style, and I don’t worry about making progress. I’ve happily allowed one sidetrack (like exploring a cave) to lead into another (like building a stranded Korok a vehicle to pursue my friend), leading me away from the route I planned. Was. I live right now in the wonderful world that Nintendo has created. so busy and fun tears of the kingdom Maybe, you can actually call it conscious.

Link is a small figure flying in the sky on a wing-shaped flying device.  below is a hazy landscape fading into the sunset

Image: Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

How did the Nintendo team led by Eiji Aonuma and Hidemaro Fujibayashi do it? I wish I knew – as do many game designers, I’m sure. breath of the wild Often called influential, but in the past six years there has been a notable lack of games that have been able to emulate it, especially in this regard. There are few open-world AAA games that have been able to successfully hide the spreadsheets they’re built on. If it were easy, we’d have more games to make us feel that way. But there are some clues.

tears of the kingdomThe world map feels effortlessly natural, but it’s designed with an unwavering attention to sight lines: there’s always a view, and there’s always something to see within that view. This is combined with a visual design that emphasizes readability at a distance, with clear silhouettes and colorful highlights to attract the eye. With all its clever physics systems, it feels like a living, alive world, but just as importantly it should look like one, and that’s where the painstaking craft of Nintendo’s artists comes in. it was all true breath of the wildAnd all this is doubly emphasized by the astonishing verticality tears of the kingdomThe three-tiered world of the surface, the sky and the depths of the caves.

Then there’s the diversity of that world, and the level of craftsmanship in its construction. Unlike so many open-world games, this one doesn’t feel like a landscape that’s been populated with a box of cookie-cutter content types. Each enemy encampment, minigame, or cave system is unique, and arises organically from the scenario: those Bokoblins drive a treasure chest across the prairie in a cart as if they have somewhere to go. I wonder what they’re carrying? Why is that sky island shaped like a giant spiral? You are drawn to these points of interest, not by map markers, but because they look interesting; you’ve never seen anything like this He Earlier in this context also tears of the kingdomThe quests, like the seeds of Korok, don’t present themselves as a to-do list, because they (in their hundreds!) are so carefully embedded in an already rich world, rather than a map. To sprinkle on Engagement bait.

Link rides a horse across an open green field towards the mountains in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Image: Nintendo EPD / Nintendo

The new cave system is a great example of how tears of the kingdom constantly distracts you. Their inviting entryways are not portals to mini dungeons that will dump you back at the beginning when you’re done. Instead they take you down winding underground passages, usually away from wherever you were going. Finally, you climb to the top of a new hill, with a new view, revealing new things to investigate.

If you want to immerse yourself more tears of the kingdomThe Spartan Pro interface removes most HUD elements. By default, tears Provides lots of information – but save for a pulsing quest marker on the minimap, none of it is about what to do next. There are map pins that you have placed on yourself (perhaps using your telescope to scan the landscape), time, weather, temperature, your health, your abilities, and your geostationary coordinates. The search tracker, meanwhile, is quite rudimentary, and can only be seen in the menu.

what does this tell you tears of the kingdomThe developers believe it matters: where you are, what the conditions are, and what tools you have available. No What you should do. It, like so much else in this gorgeous, unpredictable engine of discovery, is up to you. Through their artistry and playfulness, the developers have allowed me to stop customizing, stop achieving, stop ticking things off my checklist, and experience the game they’ve created.

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