Book Review: The Legend Of Zelda And Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am

The Legend Of Zelda And Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am, Edited by Luke Cuddy

An amusing example of efforts by philosophers to demonstrate the seriousness of pop culture [1], this volume consists of about 20 essays that fill 250 pages of entertaining essays that view the video game series of The Legend of Zelda with a great deal of seriousness. For those who are fond of the series, there are a lot of inside jokes here to be found that show the absurd sense of humor of philosophers who are clearly moonlighting by writing parts of a volume that both demonstrate potential that video games provide for serious thought and reflection for those who are so inclined, as well as to provide an opportunity for philosophy graduate students to demonstrate the viability of their writing in search of elusive opportunities for works read by a wide audience. This volume, as part of a series of books of similar size and contents that demonstrate the philosophical implications of pop culture, is fairly representative of the series in that it rewards those who are philosophically inclined who also happen to take pop culture, like cinema, television, music, literature, and video games seriously. If you are such a person, you know who you are, and you will enjoy at least a fair proportion of what you will read here.

In terms of its contents, the twenty essays of this collection run a wide gamut, and are organized into different levels. The first three essays are grouped around the topic of emotion, experience, and thought, and deal with questions of why we care about whether Link saves Zelda as well as questions of critical thinking. The next two essays deal with the subject of death and Link’s search for meaning from the point of view of existential philosophy. The next two essays after that deal with questions of identity as well as the distinction between Ganon’s “master” morality and the slave morality of the people of Hyrule that leads them to be rescued by Link and his master sword. The next two essays after that deal with timelines and the question of canonicity within the world of Zelda. After this come two essays dealing with the temporality of Zelda (specifically Majora’s Mask) and the construction of NESpace (specifically in the original Legend of Zelda) out of various elements with various items that allow the player to interact with the environment of the game. The next two essays after this look at the Zelda series from the point of view of art criticism as examples of translucent art and also examine Hyrule from the point of view of a utopian ideal. The following two essays after this examine the problematic status of freedom and the will among both the player and for Link himself. Two more essays deal with the Triforce and the doctrine of the mean which separates Zelda and Link from the villainous Ganon(dorf). Following this are questions of the nature of evil in Hyrule, Zelda’s problematic status as a feminist icon, and the importance of getting to know the world around us and the ways in which our lives show both literal and logical distance that make our behaviors into quests [2], like the games we play.

What is the value of such an investigation? To be sure, many of the essays are riddled with the biases of contemporary philosophy, but at the same time they offer much in the way of encouragement to those who straddle two worlds, the world of academia with its focus on deconstruction and irony and politics of various kinds and the wider world of pop culture that is often considered to be beneath serious study, yet often richly rewards those who look at it closely and critically. To be sure, this book is not a book that one can trust in terms of morality or even ethics, especially since those authors that touch upon ethics are quick to praise the ethics of mastery and domination, so long as they are the ones doing the domination. What is more noteworthy and praiseworthy about this book is its encouragement to its readers, at least implicitly, to take everything in life, and every aspect of culture that one comes across, as the potential subject of study and investigation and analysis, and that is an approach that is worthy of emulation, even if the contents of that investigation will vary based on the presuppositions and worldviews and approaches of the analyst.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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