My middle son is obsessed with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and he has taught me how to play the game to perfection.
The Switch is a pretty great system if you have a big family, and with five kids, my family is ... pretty big. My middle son is under the age of 10, and his favorite post-homework activity is to grab the Switch and squirrel away somewhere in the house for an hour or two.
He doesn’t have to tie up the television, so the younger kids can watch something else, and he can flutter away to whatever corner of the house pleases him, so the older kids don’t mess with him while he’s playing. He sits, focused, and becomes completely lost in the game. He’s locked into the experience in a way that’s close to impossible when you’re an adult. He has nothing else on his mind while he’s playing.
Sometimes he tells me stories about a puzzle, or a fight he barely won. He talks about how frustrating it is when a weapon breaks, and he tells me all about his favorite places to visit when he just wants to hang out. He’s unaware of arguments about frame rates, and he’s completely ignorant of the existence of guides. He just plays.
“Do you have the paraglider?” he asked me one evening after dinner. I said that yes, I had the paraglider.
“Oh. I just got it, and now I’m on the ground. I flew down like ...” and then he pantomimed flying around the house, his arms over his head as if he were holding the paraglider. I was gobsmacked for a few minutes; he had played hours upon hours of the game, and he just now got off the Great Plateau?
He had been content with walking around, memorizing the ground and making sure he knew exactly where everything was. He didn’t feel any need to hurry, nor did he beat himself up if he didn’t get far enough after a session of the game. He just played for an hour here and an hour there, and experimented to see what he could learn about how everything worked. He felt no great rush to beat those first few shrines.
“Being on the ground is pretty cool,” he said. “I’m trying to find Kakariko Village, and I’m going to learn how to ride a horse.” I told him I was proud of him for getting that far.
“Thanks,” he said, nibbling on a piece of toast. “Zelda is my favorite game. Is there much left?”