When seen laid out plainly, it's clear why so much back and forth and trading is required. This is how the economy of Koholint Island works. Unlike other Zelda games, Link's Awakening doesn't take place in Hyrule. The over-complicated quest was the only way Nintendo could properly illustrate the unique barter economy of the Island. What kind of hollow game world would Link's Awakening be without such an exploration of its economical system??
Do These Boots Go with My Thirst for Revenge?
Then there's the curious case of Red Dead Redemption's John Marston, a man who straddles the line of peacekeeper and outlaw. In a time when men are supposed to be men, it's no surprise that others in the West might raise an eyebrow at Marston. He won't sleep with women (be they polite whores or undead whores), he's been bit by the fashion bug ("Squeeee! The Treasure Hunter outfit is finally mine!"), and he likes to pick flowers from the side of the road. People could easily get to talkin'. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Fortunately for Mr. Marston, there are often manly reasons for doing some of the things he does in his spare time. Like, that time the old man asked Marston to pick flowers for his dead wife. That's a perfectly reasonable excuse to frolic through the Western wilderness snatching up desert sage and feverfew. And getting the latest fashion? Well, that's just a byproduct of all the rough and rugged missions such as buying an item at the general store in Chuparosa or purchasing something pretty from the tailor at Blackwater.
It's Like Inception, Only You're Opening Lots of Drawers
Fetch quests are the ultimate expression of our own lives. This is never clearer than in the ultimate fetch quest game, SEGA's life simulator, Shenmue. As Ryo Hazuki, players open drawers, knock from one door to the next, buy useless crap from vending machines, waste time in arcades, and ask children for the best place to pick up sailors. This is life. Real life. Face it, we're all fetch questers.
No game has ever allowed you to open several dozen drawers for no other reason than to open drawers. Who does that? Oh, that's right, I do that. I've opened drawers in my house for no reason. I open them, look in, think, "What the hell was I looking for?" and then open the next drawer. Life is pedantic. Fetch quests are a tie to who we are. Take out the trash, find batteries, ask someone for directions, deliver a message - that's human existence. Without those simple tasks in games, we'd find little connection to a dragon slayer or a gunslinger.
I don't know about you, but I play games not for escape, but to be reminded of all the boring tasks I have to do in my normal life. The fantastical element means that when I'm doing a real-life fetch quest, I can secretly hope it will lead to battling demonic hordes. Video game fetch quests, then, are a boon for the common man; a symbol of hope that things only have to be boring 70% of the time. Adventure is just around the corner. But first, could you round up these chickens?