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February 1, 2012 / jwaxo

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Fishing)

– by Jeff Wax

Not that I ever saw this screen in color.

Sometimes there are things that we don’t like to do, and we’re not sure why. And then there are other people who love doing those things, and we’re still not entirely sure why. This forms something called “opinions,” and I guess they’re what makes the world go ’round and lets us talk about such inane things like if Superman is truly Clark Kent or if Clark Kent is just a facade, and genuinely care about the outcome of these debates. Some things just excite us and are exciting and fun and relaxing, and some things are just inanely boring and impossible to find excitement in, no matter how logical you look at it.

This post is about those kinds of things, I guess.

In those strange, wobbly years before I got my GameBoy my chances at playing that powerful little indestructible box of wonder were limited to visiting my friend who had one. Fear not: I was not the kind of person who loved going over to a friend’s, nabbing their portable gaming console, and holing up in a corner. I would wait for a polite moment to be offered the device in question, a sleepover perhaps, then, after making sure that the owner did not mind, play the game in question in fits and starts, always making sure that the owner was not bored and was okay with me co-opting their toy.

Ha! Right.

Said friend in question had three games that I can remember, split between him and his sister: Kirby’s Dream Land, which was a weird but fun game that I got a good kick out of before I inevitably died, Metroid 2, an intriguing but hopelessly complicated game that I, regrettably, never got into until I was well into college, and the portable sequel to one of my favorite games ever: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

There was some sort of strange story, a new concept to me seeing as how, at this point, I had only ever played the first game in the series, the most story-void of the entire series. In any case, you still wandered around in a top-down perspective (for the most part), still swung a sword, still swapped out items and explored for more dungeons.

I never got too far into it, playing the game in snatches of 15 minutes or so. What I did experience was right at the beginning of the game, for a measly 10 rupees a cast: fishing.

And it was addictive. I would run my wallet empty casting out over that fish pond, do my best to reel in the bigger fish, throw out a little-kid curse when I failed, and then happily run out to get enough money for another go. It didn’t matter if I caught a fish or not–I was having fun just fishing, just trying, and maybe catching the smaller ones every once in a while.

There was just one oddity in this, one that I wouldn’t realize for years: in real life I absolutely hated fishing.

My dad can attest.

Okay, slight retraction: I didn’t absolutely hate it. I just found it mind-numbingly boring, and more and more as I grew up. If I was out camping, sure, I would fish, but more for just something, anything to do. If I was at home and there were other options, heck no.

So why was I playing in the game?

The silly thing is, this disparity never occurred to me until years later, playing Ocarina of Time, where there was another addicting fishing game. I at first made the argument that I enjoyed it because there wasn’t so much sitting around: fishing in video games is much more active and interesting than real life, with higher stakes. But no: more than 99% of your casts, it seemed, still came back with an empty hook, and there was little point in fishing once you caught the biggest thing in the pond, but I still did it. It was relaxing and soothing and a nice break from the daily rigors of fighting giant spiders and sneaking into pirate fortresses.

So why did I still do it?

I honestly never came up with a good answer, but this was the true lesson: there’s no way to figure out why some people find certain things fun while others find them a boring way to spend a weekend, and the smallest changes can suddenly turn some dull into an exciting feature that you look forward to in a sequel. Some people just like what you don’t like, and that’s just part of life.

Not even the Sims could make cleaning fun, though.


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