Game Over

When I first played Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I encountered my first “Game Over” screen early in the game. My character made a terrifying “huarkkk” sound and dropped dead as the world turned black. To a ten-year-old, it was terrifying. So terrifying, in fact, that I shelved the game and didn’t play for months.

I lent the game to friends. I read about it in magazines. I talked about it with my parents. But I didn’t play. Anything not to have to see that horrible “Game Over” screen ever again.

I don’t remember how long it took, but eventually, I found the guts to play again. “It’s just a game!” I realized. “If I hit ‘Game Over,’ I can just keep going.” I’m glad I learned this lesson, because otherwise, I never would have enjoyed the vast world, characters, and music of the highest-rated video game of all time.

Life is like that. It’s a big world full of wonderful art, characters, and things to experience. Sometimes, you hit a “Game Over.” Your exhibition is a failure. Your robot doesn’t work. Your company doesn’t pan out. In those moments, we can decide: Will we shelve the game and give up? Or do we press “Continue?”

Sometimes, giving up is the right choice, if only for the moment. We won’t like all the games we try. Most of the time, however, a good night’s sleep and a new approach will do the trick. You don’t press “Continue” to run into the same wall in exactly the same way you did before. You do it so you can see whether jumping from a different platform, attacking from behind, or slowing down before a corner is going to work. If you give up on playing altogether, you won’t have to keep coming up with new strategies — but you’ll also miss out on all the joys to be found in our big world.

20 years after I first learned this lesson, I put a controller into my girlfriend’s hands. We now regularly play the latest Zelda together. Sometimes, we hit a “Game Over” screen. Whenever we do, we just press “Continue” — and I suggest you do the same.