March 27, 2023

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The best thing a game can give you is a camera

Holding a camera in your hands has a subtle effect on the nature of reality around you, I reckon. And that’s true even when the reality around you isn’t that real. In the Earth Temple, somewhere across the Great Sea, I once asked Medli to move to the left a little, just so I could get a picture of her in front of a huge golden sun of some kind.

I could not ask Medli, of course. I had to nudge her, and to move around in a way that meant she might follow and stop where I wanted her to stop. Then I raised the camera – wood and brass, I can almost remember the weight of it, the warmth of varnish and the chill of metal – and I took the picture.

Medli’s name has been long forgotten. I had to look it up just now, ditto the Earth Temple. But twenty years after the fact I can remember the moment. I remember, really, two things about The Wind Waker, the glorious Zelda game in which Medli lives. The first thing is looking through a telescope on Dragon Roost Island and seeing a distant toothpick of stone jutting from the water with a long-neck bird perched in a nest on top. A sense of observing from a way off, almost illicit. The second is getting Medli to move for the picture. The Picto Box! And both memories, I now think, are probably about the same stuff – the way a world surprised me by feeling real.

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