I’ve been playing a lot of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s really fun to just roam around and gather ingredients for cooking. And by “gather” I mean I clear out every mushroom, nut, flower, fruit, animal that doesn’t run away from me in the forest.

One day I was bombing all the trees in a forest to collect firewood (I didn’t have space for an axe), and my partner teased me for being unsustainable. “They’ll grow back!” I said. But the comment got me thinking, What would video games look like if they had sustainable ideals? What is the underlying message that video games tell us about our relationship to the environment?

I think the main video game message right now is: Everything is yours for the taking. The world is just a place that spawns loot to help you on your quest.

A more balanced message would be: The world, like the map, is not limitless. If you want to survive, you’ll have to follow some (sustainability) rules & give back a little. Video games are all about rules right? It could be fun!

I’m going to collect some random thoughts in this post and hopefully something will come out of it. Maybe after I defeat Ganon.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What if:

  1. A completely harvested/fished/hunted area would not regenerate. (The Blood Moon wouldn’t apply to natural resources.)
  2. Bombing the fish would destroy them (instead of being an easier way to hunt).
  3. Chopping down trees would time-consuming, instead of an easy way to harvest fruit.
  4. The shrines would lose power/fuel/manna if you took too long to solve them.
  5. A dropped weapon would persist and slowly degrade/rust (unless it was in the path of NPCs)
  6. Shopkeepers would not buy more perishable produce than they could reasonably sell.
  7. You could save all your damaged weapons and have them repaired.
  8. Why is there that one trash dump surrounding the bad cook but nowhere else? Where does the town’s trash go?
  9. Where is the infrastructure in general? Power, heat, running water, sewer system…
  10. More realistic representation of mining & use of explosives. Water near the mining activity would be toxic.
  11. Hunted animals would not turn immediately into single-servings of meat. There would be leftover entrails & parts to clean up.
  12. Side quests to replenish the world & clean up that Ganon slime? Kind of like how some side quests give you a better ending. These side quests could give you a better environment & higher-quality loot.

Other games

  1. Stardew Valley: Crops planted in the same location would become less productive over time. Droughts every X years (irrigation wouldn’t work, you would have to purchase water).
  2. Horizon Zero Dawn: The story line is great! But the actual game mechanics for collecting & using resources are the same as other action RPGs.
  3. Overcooked: So much food waste! There should be penalties for food waste, food that has touched the floor, using the same cutting board for meat & raw vegetables…
  4. Other games that I’ve played and can’t remember: Diablo, Oblivion, Dragon Age, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Civilization, Borderlands… will think about these later.

Game/mechanic ideas

  1. MMO to simulate resource grabbing
  2. If you use up all the resources, you have to go on an extra quest tedious to balance things. Also, the townspeople will be mad at you because they’re starving.

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