(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 7: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom — Baroque Beauty and Mourning Play

After a brief hiatus, Ajay and Isi are back with another episode of (Pop) Cultural Marxism! In episode 7, they sojourn amidst the splendid ruins of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the much celebrated 2023 game from Nintendo’s EPD development group, directed and produced by Hidemaro Fujibayashi and Eiji Aonuma. Before delving into the series’ past and present iterations, the two spend some time catching up on what’s new at the movies—including the expected summer blockbusters, relative degrees of hackery, and other matters. Then it’s on to Nintendo and its quasi-mercantilist business model, the awe-inspiring complexity of the latest entry in the Zelda franchise, leading to excurses on Situationist psychogeography, flânerie, combinatorial aesthetics, architectural reasoning and silent film techniques. Taking up Tears of the Kingdom as a kind of Trauerspiel in the Benjaminian sense, they explore the dialectical tension between humor and mourning, diegetic and critical knowledge formation, comparative religion, and the beauty of works that are incomparably more than the sum (or multiplication) of their parts. Stay tuned for answers to burning listener questions on the game’s environmental (or extractivist) dimensions—with reference to Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke—and the (fairly incomprehensible) class structure of Hyrule.  

You can download the episode by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.” Or, look us up on Spotify or iTunes.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism is produced by Elliot Yokum. If you like what you’ve heard, consider subscribing to Brooklyn Institute’s Patreon page, where you can enjoy access to all past and future episodes of the podcast.


(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 7: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom — Baroque Beauty and Mourning Play


Michael Sorkin, “See You in Disneyland,” in Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space, ed. Michael Sorkin (1992

Louis Marin, Utopics: Spatial Play (1973)

Guy Debord, “The Naked City” [psychogeographical map of Paris] (1957)

Nanni Balestrini, Tristano (1966)

Jasper Juul, Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (2011)

Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (1970)

Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928)

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland (2002)

Susan Buck-Morss, The Flaneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering (1986)

Graeme Kirkpatrick, Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game (2011)

Jason Schreir, Even Video Game Developers Can’t Believe the New Zelda Exists (2023)

Logan Plant, Game Developers Share the Most Mind-Blowing, Inspiring Elements of Tears of the Kingdom (2023)

Reconstruction of Nintendo Game Developer’s Conference [GDC] talk referenced in episode about redesigning open world games:

Isi ‘s and Ajay’s paths at approximately the same number of gameplay hours:

Isi’s path

Ajay’s path

Guy Debord’s “psychogeographical” map of Paris

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