February 2, 2019
When my TGPZ career commenced, I thought nothing of creating opinion articles and reviewing games, but I honestly never considered that I might detail my thoughts on a book. Surprisingly, I’ve been gradually increasing my consideration of the possibility as various publications have risen over the last few years, from Art and Artifacts or The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia and other official material of the like, as well as fan-inspired pieces such as Philosophy and The Legend of Zelda: I Link, Therefore I am. Well, the time has finally come to pull the proverbial trigger about a new work, The Psychology of Zelda: Linking our World to the Legend of Zelda Series.
Though this is a review of sorts, there won’t be a score; it’s not a game that I can objectively allocate a numeric representation of its mastery over particular aspects of the medium. I will simply suggest whether or not it is worth picking up based on your particular tastes. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
Upon entry, I must admit I had several concerns about this read, but they were all quickly put to rest. Considering the possibility of a long-winded dissertation regarding topics in which I am unstudied, I was pleasantly surprised by a fantastically unintimidating experience. Rather than a single work on how the Zelda series affects us on a psychological level, this is more a collection of shorter pieces much like you might find on a fan site such as Two Guys Playing Zelda, albeit by much more studied professionals than the average volunteer/hobbyist writer. These are then chopped up into shorter segments which make the book easy to pick up and put down at your leisure while still leaving you with a feeling of progression. This feeling is rather akin to playing Breath of the Wild on a Nintendo Switch. You can step in only for a few moments before you have to return to the real world, but when you leave it doesn’t feel pointless as it might if you played five minutes of Final Fantasy at a time. What is that, two random encounters? Simply keeping the segments concise creates an easy-flowing book to read. In the busy world of twenty-nineteen, and as a parent to small children with a full-time job, I truly appreciate that.
My other primary fear going in was simply that I would be too dumb to read this book, or perhaps that the book would treat me as such being written by hoity-toity doctors and psychology instructors. Psychology is a subject in which I have had a passive interest for most of my life, but admittedly I was somewhat intimidated by the notion that this book might feel as though it was talking down to me because I was just an insipid Zelda fan picking up a book about a subject I am only vaguely familiar with.
Bereft entirely of such pretentiousness, The Psychology of Zelda even goes the extra mile to summarize psychological concepts for those unfamiliar when referencing such. These additional descriptions make the book far more approachable to the average reader, and they are simple enough to ignore that I do not believe they would bore a more seasoned psychological scholar.
So the book reads easily, but does that really make it good? Well to get gamers to read books is no easy feat so I say it is certainly a boon, but beyond that the content was truly enjoyable. Several of these concepts discussed have been floating around the internet as fan-theories for years, and I have discussed many of them, such as the true meaning of Dark Link and the representation of the five stages of grief in Majora’s Mask for years now. Seeing a doctor of psychology take a whack at explaining these subjects, however, puts it into a new light and presents it with a heavier impact than some schmuck with a forum account.
The Psychology of Zelda’s greatest success, to me, is its descriptions and references throughout the book which reveal details about the author’s personal experiences with the games. Every person has a different experience with every game, and through their descriptions I am easily able to recognize that each author has played and enjoyed these games, just as I (and so many others) have time and time again. There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of somebody sharing their story, reminding you of your own story, as well as driving your desire to revisit a classic and create a new story. This book makes me want to play Zelda, a feat which no book has accomplished outside of Legend of Zelda instruction manuals and strategy guides. There is something more personal about these accounts of the in game happenings than those in works such as Hyrule Historia. Most officially published timeline material feels like it was written for a textbook; informational but not very interestingly presented. The Psychology of Zelda is completely free of this feeling, and that’s worth the world to me.
Overall I think you can already tell I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, so I won’t drag this on too much. If I were to offer a singular complaint it would be that one chapter is divided by a large table describing exactly how the psychological topic relates to each game specifically, and the formatting to fit the table is oddly laid out. This was hardly a worry of mine, since even if the table were left out the chapter could be understood, and it felt like an addition to go a little more in-depth on the subject. It was much like having a cherry on top of your milkshake that sank through the whipped cream. Yeah, it looks kind of weird but cherries are still delicious.
The Psychology of Zelda: Linking our World to the Legend of Zelda Series is a masterfully crafted ode to my favorite game series, and if you have any interest in psychology whatsoever, this would be a great title to add to your collection. I might even recommend this to somebody who was more interested in Zelda who had no interest in psychology. Putting a new spin on these fan theories is worth the read itself in my opinion. It is presented in such a way that I believe it has a more massive appeal than the small overlap of people interested in these two seemingly unrelated topics. The book releases on the nineteenth of February, and you can pre-order it here (or purchase it after the release date).
Will you be picking up this book? Would you like to see more Zelda-related books on other subjects? And what do you think of book reviews for the site, should we keep doing them? Be sure to let us know on our Discord server or Twitter and keep the conversation rafting!