Gaming's Defining Moments - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
It'd have been easy to leave Princess Ruto to her fate.
Bossy, spoilt and with only herself to blame, it was hard to sympathise with the girl; even if she had been swallowed whole by her greedy deity's whilst feeding him. An unfortunate fate for any - for Ruto, you sneakingly wished Lord Jabu-Jabu had bitten down and saved the world of a child's endless temper tantrum. Still, you venture into the beast's stomach to find her.
We're pre-adulthood in Ocarina of Time. Zora's Domain the last venture in securing the third and final Spiritual Stone. Those NPCs encountered thus far have entertained, amused, astonished. Ruto was a harsh slap across the face of the game's whimsical nature as she brought something new to the series; contempt.
But it was far from the violent, piercing hatred that fell upon us from the eyes of Ganondorf. Ten seconds into meeting her we wanted to throttle her, sure. But as Han Solo held that bemused smile at meeting Princess Leia for the first time, you're fascinated at the spoilt brat's shear self-involvement.
The brief introduction cut scene ends when Ruto turns to leave and promptly falls into and is swallowed by a pulsating organic hollow that, depending on the sketches in your classroom biology textbooks, looks like either the in or out end of a creature's innards.
What happens next is entirely down to the individual player.
Technically it's a defining moment due to our actions. Link as a character is an enigma. He's our view into the world of Hyrule, but it's entirely up to us to define what his point of view is.
Fourteen years later and in the face of this generation's choice-heavy RPG titans, Ocarina's pure black and white. Save the world, or leave the save game hanging.
In this moment, it's rescue the girl or be left slowly digesting. There are no quick time events, no split-second choices required. Likely everything will work out in your favour.
Yet we dove forward after the girl. Our thumb was already pressing forward on the N64's analog stick before direct control resumed. We plunged into the abyss after Ruto even when the game had not evidenced any mechanic that suggested we could use our hands for anything other than holding a sword and shield.
No thought, just instinct. Doing the right thing. Saving the girl. As it was, and unbeknownst to us beforehand, the organic mouth - yes, let's say mouth - opened wide and we fell onto the floor of the chamber below; one of many that'd make up Ocarina's third dungeon.
We could have been falling to our death, a Game Over screen, something else. The enormity of that decision, the leap before the look, hit us fully even as an unharmed and unruffled Ruto complained in our ear for still hanging around.
We went on to save the world. But that ending and our path towards it was pre-scripted to an extent. Inside a god's belly we stepped aside from puppeteer's guidance and away from perceived safety. A split-second choice between death and heroism, and one entirely of our own making.