Evening folks! Accompany me, if you will, back to September 2015, when after eight months in development and a 36-hour launch party, my daughter was finally released to general audiences.
Now lets go further back in time to my teenage years in the late nineties and early noughties. Perhaps it’s a result of coming from a semi-broken home, but as long as I can remember, I’ve idly imagined starting my own family. As I grew, those imaginings turned to thoughts of what kind of legacy I’d like to pass on to my kids, and as a result, I started forming a kind of mental “culture catalogue” of films, TV shows, books and games I’d like to share with my offspring.
But before we go any further down that rabbit-hole, let’s take one more time-hop. The year is 1997. Tony Blair’s riding a wave of public approval into 10 Downing Street, and Diana, Princess of Wales has met an untimely end in a urban road tunnel in Paris. Boy-bands are spawning at an epidemic-rate, and the Power Rangers are still considered spuriously cool. Joel Schumacher is defiling Batman at the box-office, the Spice Girls just will not stop, and there are posters for a curious new book about a boy-wizard all over my school’s library.
Also, the Nintendo 64 has just released in the UK, and (as usual for Nintendo) has sold out pretty much everywhere.
This last point didn’t really make much difference to me. The prospect of getting either of my parents to spend £250 (which is I believe is approximately £100,000 in sterling’s current worth) on a games console was simply one that would never have crossed my mind. I was content, though. As mildly impoverished as my family was, we were generally happy to devour pop culture a few years behind everyone else for a discount price.
My younger brother and I had recently picked up an old SNES from Mr Khan’s used electronics store, on sale for £35, complete with a copy of Super Mario All-Stars. This would more than serve to sate any moustachioed-plumber cravings we might have while our peers hopped into the third dimension on the newer machine. However, gaming audiences (and young boys) are fickle - a truth that even applied 20 years ago - and talk was already moving on to Nintendo’s next big tentpole release; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
I’d never played a Zelda title before, but years earlier, in GMTV’s halcyon debut era, ITV had seen fit to grace Sunday mornings with The Legend of Zelda cartoon. As a kid longing for escapism, I’d lapped it up, and (tragic as my ignorance was) it became my reference point for high-fantasy until my step-brother introduced me to the unfathomable sprawl of Warhammer. But back to 1997. A family trip to a Toys ‘R’ Us at a newly-opened shopping centre on the outskirts of Leeds gave me the unexpected chance to revisit the land of Hyrule. Completely by chance, while browsing the hilariously overpriced SNES titles on offer at the shop, I spotted the distinctive golden cover of A Link to the Past. JRPGs were completely alien to me at this point, but I remember rushing up to my Grandma with the box and gushing about the old cartoon. I never expected her to whisk the box away from me and march off to the tills to buy it. It was an unexpected bout of spendthriftiness from a sweet, but typically frugal pensioner.
For the next couple of months, I spent my evenings exploring dungeons, hopping between dimensions, and rescuing maidens. It was glorious. I was so enamored with the setting that I’d often pore over the beautifully detailed instruction manual, which came with a wonderful (if sllightly off-canon) illustrated story, or I’d boot the game up and simply set Link to idle on some part of the overworld to listen to the main theme repeat on loop while I read, or finished homework. This marked the beginning of an obsession that would only really show signs of waning as I headed off to university (albeit with a brief resurgence for Twilight Princess on the GC). Even now, I’m still charmed by the quaint fairytale aesthetics of the series, and its that very same charm that has led to the series - or at least certain notable titles within it - finding a place in my aforementioned “culture catalogue”.
I’ve now decided it is time to inaugurate my progeny into the hallowed halls of geekdom, following in the mighty footsteps of the likes of Darth Vader and Son author Jeffrey Brown and Kotaku’s own Evan Narcisse. I’m planning to chart my progress through select games, ably observed and occasionally assisted by my infant daughter, known here as Halfpint Hero, aged one-and-a-half.
As anticipation builds for the arrival of Breath of the Wild, our first title will be The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on the Wii U. We’ve been working through it for the past couple of weeks, and have only just obtained Farore’s Pearl this weekend. Anyone familiar with the game should be able to get a sense for the pace of progress to expect over the next few months (hint: it’s going to be slow). More on that later, though.
A few caveats: firstly, I’ll naturally only be playing games I deem to be suitable for her age-group, or titles that I otherwise know she is mature enough to handle as she grows. Secondly, for anyone concerned that I’m setting an infant down in front of a TV for hours on end, this is but one of many enrichment activities my wife and I engage in with our daughter, including singing lessons, music classes, reading time, outdoor pursuits and social activities. As my previous article on whether games should be considered works of art might suggest, I’d like my daughter to grow up with a healthy respect for the medium, one that she can share with her dear old man.
While I don’t expect to be (SPOILER WARNING FOR A 15-YEAR-OLD GAME) planting a sword into Ganondorf’s skull any time soon (END SPOILERS), I’d appreciate any other suggestions for titles once we’ve completed Wind Waker. Be sure to let me know in the comments section if you’ve had similar success in this field with your own kids, or have just encountered a title you think would be perfect for budding junior gamers.