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Why Is My Pastor Playing "Zelda"?

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

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In this article:

  • Why so many ministers are obsessed with "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom"
  • The escape of an immersive experience
  • An allegory of sacrifice and salvation

I can’t be the only one to notice - it feels like every pastor, clergyperson or ministry leader I know is playing the latest installment in the iconic Nintendo franchise “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom”. 

In this pretty-much-a-sequel to the incredibly successful “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (2017), the player once again is set on a journey as the silent protagonist Link in which they will seek out courage, wisdom, and power to save Princess Zelda and, ultimately, the world. The game is already performing just as well as its predecessor. Subjectively, it might even be an improvement on “Breath of the Wild” in seemingly every possible way. However, the question remains: Why are all these faith leaders playing this game?

I play a lot of video games. It’s, quite literally, what I do for a living. I notice whenever the leaders I follow are watching a new television show, movie series, or video game. And “Tears of the Kingdom” has been an unprecedented virality in the church-leader world. So I asked them. Here’s what they said.

Games Are Fun

“Because games are fun.”
- Russ

“‘Cause it rules.”
- Pastor Carter

This may seem a bit obvious - but it’s important to note that ministers aren’t some elevated class of human beings. We are just people. And we like to have fun. And video games are fun. Sometimes the answer can be simple. But, of course, there is so much more to why ministers are playing this game. 

Getting Lost

“The short [answer] is to get lost in it and explore that thing I see just on the horizon.”
- Pastor Nathan

“Breath of the Wild (and Tears of the Kingdom so far) are the most beautiful, immersive, and freeing game experiences providing beauty, wonder, danger and adventure.”
- Pastor Hector

One of the most notable differences between “Breath of the Wild" and “Tears of the Kingdom” from the other entries into the franchise is the truly open-world nature of the gaming experience. These entries have captured the Zelda magic and presented it in a novel format that has taken the video gaming world by storm in recent years. You’d be hard-pressed to search for a video game released in the past three years that wasn’t open-world.

"Open-world" refers to the way that the player experiences the space within a video game. Consider the classic “Super Mario Bros”, where you would complete a level of the game (e.g. World 1-1). The next iteration of that might be in “Super Mario 64”, in which there was an overworld where the player could walk around and choose a level to complete next. 

Both of these playstyles are mostly old hat in the current gaming space. The much more popular design involves a playable space that requires little to no loading time with the levels integrated directly into the humongous map. “Breath of the Wild” took this model and, not entirely uniquely, wiped the map clean at the start of the game. As Link (the main playable character), you were a stranger in a (somewhat) strange land, venturing around the world and slowly completing the map. What this open-world experience has provided is an experience of being lost and discovering a new land as you play. This is the truest form of adventure for the avid video gamer. 

One of the ministers quoted above related this feeling of getting lost to the phenomenon that happens during Sabbath rest. Entering into a one-ness without intention or expectation and allowing the moment to exist and be revealed in time. So, this video game is not only fun - as many are - but it is also specifically tuned for a sense of unknown akin to the freedom we find in spiritual rest. At the very least, perhaps there is a bit of overlap here with being “once lost and now found” that comes along with the territory.

Powerful Allegories

“I am really interested in some of the religious aspects that are already foundational to the story.”
- Pastor Shane

“Stories of good versus evil have a lot of nuance in video games and in real life, so I’m thankful for a new chapter in the Zelda series that lets me think of how to carry myself on my own life adventures.”
- Pastor Jeremy

“I preached about it yesterday… The relationship between wisdom, power, and courage.”
- Pastor Matt

Since its inception, “The Legend of Zelda” has been perceived as being fairly light on the story elements that are experienced through base gameplay: The Hero saves Princess Zelda.The deeper narrative is best told by reading the manual in early games or making sure to read notes around the game thoroughly in later entries. Depending on the interaction of the player and the lore, it’s a story that can be as simple as rescuing a princess and as complex as a destined trio traveling through time and space in a multiversal epic. It would seem that it’s the latter perception that is honed in on by pastors. 

Deeper still than the narrative, the symbols of the game evoke a powerful connection with spirituality, especially of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Notably, the franchise is intimately tied with the iconic Triforce, a triune power dynamic. Our Trinitarian Christian theology can bleed into things a bit here. 

The story ultimately is one of balance and righting the wrongs of the past. It can take a slant, as one of those quoted above notes, towards good versus evil. However, on a metaphysical level, the true evil in “The Legend of Zelda” is the lack of balance between the three elements of power, wisdom and courage. None are good or bad, they are simply balanced. Unless they aren’t, in which case everything is wrong and must be fixed by the heroic journey of the player.

And do you know who loves seeing things brought to order within an imperfect culture through the sacrificial actions of a salvific figure? Pastors. It’s, quite literally, what they do for a living. 

So maybe this is a bit biased, but let them play the game for a bit longer over the next month or so without giving them too much slack… it’s pretty much their job.

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Rev. Nathan Webb of Checkpoint ChurchNathan Webb is a major nerd in just about every way. He loves video games, anime, cartoons, comic books, tech, and his fellow nerds. Hoping to provide a spiritual community for people with similar interests, he founded Checkpoint Church--"the church for nerds, geeks and gamers." Nathan can be found lurking on some visual novel subreddit, reading the latest shōnen entry, or playing the newest Farm Sim. Nathan is an ordained provisional elder in the United Methodist Church in the Western North Carolina Conference. He hosts a weekly newsletter podcast: To The Point.


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