A Reason I Like Zelda: Head-Cannon Room

I like Zelda.

There are probably a lot of reasons, but today, my reason is:

It’s cool how much space there is to interpret the main character. Especially in Ocarina of Time, mostly because of graphics limitations. In these modern ones, with the graphics, Link has way more facial expressions, but it’s still true. Because they don’t even give you options for what to say (most of the time), you can pretend Link said anything. Link can be anyone. He can be solemn and omniscient, or a young boy possessed by eternity, or a girl who wanted to play the piano.

Obviously making a story different or your own (head-cannon1, right?) can be done with any story, but there are some stories (especially some video games) that leave so much more room for it. And that’s cool. Not always what I want, but when I do, it’s cool. Like Pokemon! Although Zelda’s plot events are more fun, and the premise isn’t as dark. But Pokemon is good for head-cannon rambles. Like Zelda, much about the world is not explained, and your character’s interactions with it have to be flavored almost entirely by hand (err, by brain?).

I’m not entirely sure how leaving room like this is done. I mean, they don’t just not have a story. For example, Final Fantasy One. No character detail, hardly any world info. But I don’t have huge masses of unwritten fan fiction waiting in the wings. I think it has to do with details, but I haven’t worked it out yet. Maybe there needs to be enough info to catch the mind, but not so much that all, or even most, of the questions are answered?

Clearly I need to play more video games!

What are your guys’ favorite stories to head-cannon in?

(Is that a verb? Head-cannon? Well, it is now. Thank you English!)

1Just in case you don’t know: Head-Cannon. The official document or interpretation is the Cannon. The stuff you make up is your head-cannon.

3 thoughts on “A Reason I Like Zelda: Head-Cannon Room

  1. I mean, I’m pretty partial to Zelda as well. In addition to the space it also captures the real-ness of human experience very well in general, and the sort of solidly-classical-western-fantasy setting is something I particularly like. Most of the other games that have the openness that you need for this kind of thing don’t have the vibrant characters that zelda does, and a game without characters is rarely much fun. Somewhat more importantly, if a game has characters, but then forces me to interact with them in a way that I strongly am opposed to and which fundamentally changes the relationship between them and the POV character, I usually stop playing instead of progressing through the offensive choice. I don’t find myself in that position in LoZ games because the level of detail in the characters is sufficient and the attention paid to those details sufficient that the ideas of who they are and how I should interact with them I come up with are consistent with what the dev team has permitted. I also don’t run into this problem with characterization in games like pinball or tetris or solitaire but that’s because the characterization and story are entirely on me and there isn’t really much for them to conflict with.

    You know, I take that back, I think my favorite game to Head-Cannon is Space Cadet, the game that ships with old windows OSes. Pretty much entirely because of nostalgia, but hey.

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  2. Oh man. I’m not sure I ever stop head-cannoning when I enjoy a work of fiction. Or when I don’t enjoy it, for that matter. Filling in the blanks is one of my greatest joys from media – also my greatest frustration when the “cannon” world is too contradictory to satisfyingly extrapolate.

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  3. I get the most mileage out of head-canon when a story has a lot of potential but falls short in ways that I can’t ignore. Granted, that head-canon is often times more of a nigh-complete rewriting — I’m either very accepting or not very observant, so if I notice something’s broken, chances are it’s because it broke the whole story. So I’m not sure if that counts as head-canon, because it tends to become an entirely new story with new characters that just happen to feature the same vague elements and names as the original piece. (Though I couldn’t tell you where the cut-off point between “head-canon” and “new story” is.)

    Generally speaking, my initial impulse is to accept stories more or less at face value. Consequently, when it comes to a story with a lot of room for interpretation, my imagination doesn’t step in to fill in that space. When I played Shadow of the Colossus, I just took in the environment and atmosphere. My brain was pretty quiet the entire time. Maybe that’s another reason it’s one of my favorites — the entire experience was kind of like a peaceful walk in the woods with a tranquil mind, punctuated by EPIC BOSS FIGHTS OF AWESOME.

    … How come every walk in the woods can’t be like that?

    Anyway, as far as providing “space” for head-canon, I think you’re onto something with the whole details thing. I think you have to start with a framework of consistent “rules” (LoZ’s really good at this, because it’s got a very clear structure and rhythm) that shape the world and how your proxy (be it the game character, the viewpoint character, etc.) interacts with it. And then — at least in terms of video games, as I’m sure it’s different with other storytelling media — you have to populate the world with both interactive (characters, dialog, quests, obstacles, locales you can travel to, etc.) and non-interactive details (that massive tree in the skybox over there that you can never get to but always see, relationships between characters, character subtext, the post-resolution of quests, a glaring error in your understanding of the world). I think the non-interactive details are the most important for head-canon, but only in contrast to the interactive details. As in, you have to have a balance of both, but it’s the non-interactive details that spark the desire to head-canon.

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