Zelda Shaped Me as a Gamer and Person

By Lyle Izzillo
October 4, 2018

Opinions. It’s a funny word. We all have ‘em. Some ARE more correct than others in some regards. That’s something that people nowadays have a hard time grasping. I digress though, my point is, although we all have these opinions about the games we love, I highly doubt many of us have sat down and actually contemplated WHY we think the way we do about certain games.

One of the hardest things to do as an older gamer nowadays (I’m 27 and yes that’s ‘older’) is to take a step back and look at what I love in games and why I love what I love in the genetic makeup of, in my opinion of, a great game. I need a compelling story, excellent character development, clever and memorable dialogue, and something relatable. That last one is the least important for me. Anyways, you notice what’s missing from that? Everything about multiplayer. Sure, I enjoy a good multiplayer game every now and again, but there are very few games nowadays that offer substance. We’ll get to all of that in a minute.

Take a second to think back on a game you played between the ages of 7-12. A game that really stuck with you, whether it was a world renowned classic or a no-name game that never got the credit you think it deserved. Are any of the reasons you loved that game just pure nostalgia? Or do you believe that that game had many, if not all, of the standards that you have set for a good game nowadays? Do you think that any of the reasons you love that older game play a part in the reasons why you seek a certain style of gameplay today?

My game from back in those days would be The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. That game was a masterpiece in my eyes, heck, it still is. The character development is visible in both Link and Zelda as well as all the sages, the music and environments were all magical and memorable, NPCs had good dialogue for their roles in the game, however, I’ve learned through the years to take a step back and take in the big picture. Look at why I may have loved that game. I grew up in a small neighborhood, lots of trees and areas to explore with my friends. So when I played this game as an 8 year old kid, I felt like I was Link in the world of Hyrule. Exploring all of these dungeons and temples, defeating all of these enemies and monsters is SUCH a satisfying memory for me. BUT. Writing this article 19 years later I’ve had some time to analyze the goods and bads of the game (trust me there are some, as biased as I am).

But I take a look at this, as well as the rest of the games I played growing up and how they relate and shape the kind of gamer I am today. If I didn’t go to Blockbuster and rent Ocarina of Time for the first time and I had picked up Goldeneye or Turok (two amazing games yet very different from Zelda) would I be more of a first person shooter gamer today? Now I’m not saying this applies to everyone. However, I did mention the age range of 7-12 for a reason.

The age range applies to the gamer demographic that mainstream gaming has taken a hold of today. The human instinct is wired for competitive types. We are designed to always want to be better and superior. If we don’t or can’t, it’s because of a genetic inheritance or inferiority. Game developers that are open about being in the industry ‘just for the money’ and are vocal about not caring for the gamer at all (Electronic Arts for example) know this and exploit it. Around the ages that a lot of these younger gamers are, are when their brain development and certain hardwiring in the mind gets ingrained to want to always be better than everyone else and doesn’t allow us to be as analytical as adults can be for that simple reason of underdevelopment. As myself and Red have stated, we feel ‘left behind’ as lovers of the single player narratives. I don’t believe these single player story driven games will ever die out, and the past year or two have certainly proven that. However that’s why these massively successful games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, etc etc are so successful.

Kids these days are shaping their futures as gamers with these games. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discrediting their fun with these games. Different strokes for different folks. When I was younger games like this weren’t massive and online. We had the story driven narratives in surplus and those are what made most of us.

Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past are two games that purely paved the way for why I am the gamer I am today for all the above stated reasons. I believe that we, as the previous generation of gamers, need to make sure that in the future our favorites and our reasons for being the gamers we are don’t die out and can be passed on. I want others to understand why Zelda is the greatest franchise. I want others to be able to take off their nostalgia goggles and be able to teach others why certain games are objectively bad. That can set trends and in turn force developers to create more games with substance.

So I leave you with this. Take a second to think about what games back then made you the gamer you are today. Reflect on why some games may be better than others but still hold a special place in others hearts. Remember, you can’t discredit someone else’s fun. If someone else has an unbiased opinion about a game you love, you may learn something. We make this industry.