I love videogame culture and feel it’s a medium with loads of potential. I mainly play Nintendo games as well as a lot of retro stuff. Im currently studying for an MSc.
Videogames in general often provoke sentimental, or even spiritual feelings in the player. From the time travelling mechanics in Chrono Trigger, which often make the player doubt their own reality and concept of time to more subtle references in games as seemingly innocent as Pokemon or Mario. Ocarina of Time subtly references many religious themes including the introduction of (religious?) sages in a Zelda game for the first time.
Ocarina of Time
Videogame culture has become a great place for artists and storytellers to express themselves freely. The fact most genres of games are still quite niche, means this freedom of expression is still guided by personal beliefs and expressions rather than having to tick certain boxes based on what investors want. Whether this will eventually descend into obscurity is up for debate. This article is a brief overview of how Zelda: Ocarina of Time deals with concepts that are often ignored by the contemporary media or at the very least elude the general western public.
In Ocarina of Time the player makes a journey through his youth and adolescence as he battles to save the world from a tyrant. A common story in literature, film or videogames. However, the subtlety with which Ocarina conveys meaning in the story shouldn’t be mistaken for simplicity (as some videogame journalists suggest). This game has a deep subtext that extends beyond what the player objectively experiences. The way characters react to the player in the two contrasted worlds (child vs adult) and the little touches the game presents add weight in creating a credible, yet weird, world. No doubt this is inspired by our own (sometimes) strange world. The developers have done well to craft this into a family friendly game that is a great and inspirational form of art.
Each of the sages in Ocarina of Time have spiritual power which eventually aids the player against Ganondorf. They are all childhood friends or acquantices of link. This is as to be expected. However, once he becomes an adult and meets each of them in their specific temples he sees them once before defeating the temple boss. Now, many people have argued both for and against whether the sages are dead. For a long time being on the fence would be understandable. But, If you look at the evidence you never see them in physical form once you complete the dungeon. In Ocarina of Time the last meeting Link has with each sage is usually a tense and foreboding affair which might not necessarily bode well for the life of either character if we’re being realists.
Games as Art?
From Saria to Ruto, to Darunia (who insinuates he will fight volvagia to the death). You only see them in the temple of light of the sacred realm once you beat the dungeon. Now I don’t want to put a downer on the game or it’s potential for miracles. The game leaves certain things up to the players imagination and that’s a huge benefit games of the 32/64 bit era have. In fact voice work would probably have spoiled the experience for those with nostalgic glasses on such as myself. This game is a seminal piece that could (and maybe will) be up there with Tolkien’s and J.K Rowling’s work.
The main piece of evidence I want to draw on though is that a gossip stone (one of the stone statues that dot the land) responds to you when wearing the mask of truth by saying; “They say that the owl Named Kaepora Gaebora is the reincarnation of an ancient sage”. What this suggests is that Kaepora Gaebora is a reincarnation of Rauru the sage. They carry similar traits and it is generally accepted that Rauru is Kaepora Gaebora.
What this implies is that Rauru has two forms. One, a reincarnation in the sacred realm, the other, an owl in Hyrule. His two forms can’t exist on one plain. The same goes for all the other sages. They are either alive or in spirit form. All the sages may have died in their battles against the bosses of their respective temples. Once in the sacred realm/temple of light the sages could help Link. However, only in that realm, not in Hyrule. Hence how link was ‘trapped’ in the sacred realm for seven years without being conscious.
The argument is obviously open to debate. The reason any of us probably write about these games is because of the credible, believable worlds Miyamoto and his team create. Ocarina of Time has garnered a lot of praise since its release and it’s legacy will probably continue for the foreseeable future. From time paradoxes (the windmill in Kakariko Village) to dealing with death (the fallen soldier in Hyrule castle town) the game brings up interesting themes that provoke debate.
There is no solid evidence the sages are alive after they appear in the temple of light. Each give Link a medallion and ‘help’ from another dimension. Whether that be from ‘heaven’ or the sacred realm doesn’t really matter as, with respect, they’re probably interchangeable (and or imaginary).