Choice Paralysis: “Zelda and Chill”

It’s breakfast time, again, in my apartment. Because that happens once a day. My partner, L, is about to leave for work. I won’t see her again until 7pm when it’s dinner time. She asks me what’s for dinner.

“I don’t know, what do you feel like?” I reply.

“I don’t mind, whatever,” she says.

“Maybe just some chicken and veg, or something,”

“Whatever, something easy.”

“I’ll try and find something today.”

She leaves for work and I start to look up recipes. Searching for something ‘easy’ and for something that I can make quickly. There’s hundreds of recipes. No, thousands. Tens of thousands. How the hell did humans come up with all these variations of the same thing? I guess we’ve been cooking for a long time. Cavemen got sick of meat with a side of plant, too.

In the end, I settle on chicken and veg, because of course I do. Old faithful. Familiar. Simple. Effective.

I have an affliction. It’s a super weird affliction, I think. It’s not really an affliction, at all (probably). I call it ~choice paralysis~.

It’s making Breath of the Wild very difficult to complete.

“What do you want to watch?” L offers.

We usually sit down at the coffee table for dinner and watch something on TV. Not commercial TV, because a lot of that is trash reality. Something from a streaming service.

“I don’t know. You can pick.”

She looks at me with the Don’t-Make-Me-Pick stare. You’ve seen it, too, no doubt.

“Just pick something.”

Netflix is full of things I like to watch — documentaries and high quality Originals, comedians that I enjoy… But, I find myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. I rest on a few, read the synopsis and carry on. Discarded like the potatoes I’ve overcooked.

By the time we settle on something, we’re halfway through the meal.

I’m telling you. I’m not very good at choosing.

At present, I’ve played Breath of the Wild for about 25 hours. I have completed one Divine Beast — Vah Ruta, in Zora’s Domain. For the past ten hours or so, I’ve been wandering, taking in the massive game world and … well, not doing much else in the way of completing the story.

I often open Breath of the Wild’s map and survey it, zooming in and out on points of interest. A skull? I better go there. Oh, wait, no, I’m halfway through this sidequest, so let me see this through. I’ll stamp this spot on the map and come back to it. I’ll definitely come back to it.

As I travel further and further, uncovering more and more of the map, I take on more sidequests, because I’m addicted to seeing them light up the Adventure Log. I like that feeling. But, looking at my Log right now, I have 13 active sidequests and 9 Shrine Quests and it’s dawning on me that I’m not ticking them off. I’m collecting them. I’m trying to uncover all of the game world, so I can choose what to do next. So I can create a list in my head, start at the top, and begin ticking things off in the right order.

I’m a Quest Hoarder. My head filling up and overflowing with information.

But, now when I open the map, I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I will never be able to get through all of that, all of the Game Content that has been jammed into the tiny, disgustingly-flavoured cartridge. It’s like trying to choose which Netflix title to start on, or what to cook. There’s so many things I have to do and I can’t bring myself to just sit down and do them.

I wrote about this only last week — how the game world and the map is presented to you in such a way that you can plan what you want to do next.

But as I’ve dug deeper and deeper, as I’ve climbed higher and higher, I’ve seemingly, subconsciously, allowed everything to pile up and slowly, let the paralysis creep in. My next destination is now three-fold, or four-fold, or twelve-fold. I have too many Next Destinations.

It’s my fault.

Breath of the Wild presents an open game world without limitations. It’s an amazing display of game design that forces the player to explore. It’s in our bones, our marrow, to explore and this generation’s Zelda has captured that feeling better than any game I’ve ever played. As Janine Hawkins over at Waypoint puts it:

“It works because this is how discovery should feel.”

Breath of the Wild is a machine that creates stories. You, as the player, define Link’s journey in what order you knock off the Divine Beasts, when you build and furnish your own house, when you want to give a man a horse and how you enter a city where no man can walk. It’s narrative weaves and turns with you.

My journey with Link has stalled because of the sheer scale of Hyrule. I don’t know what to do next.

I think it has to do with my value of time. I look at all the other things I could be doing, say, writing this article, or finishing a novel I started before the game released or there’s 4 NBA games I haven’t watched yet and I am still somehow avoiding spoilers, I probably should catch up with that, or wow, it has been a few days since I spoke to my parents, I should see how they’re going.

I never want to get too invested in the major storylines of Breath of the Wild because I know that will send me down a rabbit hole that I have no hope of escaping. That I will become entranced and lose track of time. My choice paralysis must come back to that — it’s not that I can’t decide what to cook for dinner or what to watch on Netflix. It’s because I want to know, in advance, that I’m not wasting my time doing it.

I begin to consult the internet, uncovering secrets in Hyrule before I ever get close to them in-game. I want the best armour, the best weapons, the best recipes now — I can’t rely on myself to continually discover them. I need guidance. I need to know that I am using my time wisely.

Dinner time.

“What do you want to watch? A movie? A show?” L says from the kitchen, finishing up the cooking.

“I don’t know, I don’t mind.”

“Well, what movies do we have?”

I proceed to list off 4 or 5 movies I’ve yet to see. L contemplates them all and then tells me what to decide between. I can’t. She picks something.

“Do you want to watch that then?”

“Yeah, sure” I respond, hoping that the movie turns out to be a good one.

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