It’s cold outside. There’s a hard frost on the ground. It’s still dark out. The bike season is almost over and I have a difficult decision to make. I could go for one of the last rides of the season, with layers upon layers of gear, the subtle burn of a winter embrocation, my body braced for the bitter chill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, spandex and lycra do not make for great insulation. The wind pushes at my window as I stare at the bike. I could go for a ride this morning, or, I can keep playing The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker. A difficult decision indeed.
I first played the The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker ten years ago. It was the end of the first semester of my first year of University. Final exams were only a few days away. There were heavily-weighted term papers to write and my hated Latin finals to study for. It was an early Sunday morning when I walked to the store. It had been years since the last fully fledged Legend Of Zelda came out. After securing one of the few remaining copies, I spent the walk home on auto-pilot, absorbing every detail of the game’s art and packaging. The cellophane wrapping was off from the game’s case before I even walked in the door of my dingy basement apartment.
I told myself that I would only play for an hour, just to check it out. Just to see what would be waiting for me after finals. It was eleven in the morning and I thought I would play for an hour, make some lunch, and then spend the rest of the day studying and writing. That was the plan and, seemingly, a good one. I placed the disc in the machine and started to play. Immediately I was struck by the music. Instead of bleeps and bloops, music was filled with strings and woodwinds, the tune vaguely Celtic. It was like an animated movie come to life. This was a vibrant new world, strange and endearing, with a seemingly boundless horizon to explore. The Legend Of Zelda has never been a complicated story. There’s a world to save, an evil to defeat, a princess to rescue. But, the world it creates, and the experiences you have within it, can be truly wondrous.
After a while, my stomach started to rumble. It must be lunch time, probably around 12:30. Sure, I had played for more than an hour, but not much more. That was then I looked out the the window and it was pitch black outside.
“That’s weird” I thought. “Why is it so dark?”
Moving to the kitchen I had to do a double-take when I saw the clock. It was almost ten at night. I had been playing for almost 11 hours, non-stop, without food or water, without moving from the couch. I had become totally engrossed in this new world. Everything else had disappeared as I was absorbed in my new-found adventure. I had found that zen-like state where time and place cease to exist.
To me, The Legend Of Zelda is a very intimate and very personal experience that only happens once every few years. In a lot of ways, The Legend Of Zelda mirrors the many things that I love about cycling. That state of zen, where the world melts away leaving just you and the immediate moment. I seek that. I aspire to find that state of being every time I ride a bike. On my best days, I can find it on the trail, my mind and body finding harmony with machine and nature. But, I have also found it in a video game. That sense of stepping out of your house and having a large world to go out and explore, some of it potentially dangerous. The knowledge that there are risks that have to be taken in order to develop new skills or discover new things. Challenges that reward perseverance, observation, and cleverness. Cultivating a personal sense of wonder. The idea of an unlimited horizon. For me, cycling encompasses all of that. The Legend Of Zelda encompasses it too.
I could go for a ride today. I could just keep on playing. Difficult decisions.