We, as gamers, have all been in very similar situations, despite hailing from different spots around the world, different races, different beliefs and different spectrums of gender. We've all thrown controllers in fits of rage, we've gawped at trailers, laughed at fan fiction and made various attempts at getting our buds and loved ones involved in our favorite past time — gaming.
And it's difficult at times, right? When you're there peering over shoulders screaming "triangle activates your ultimate!" or "hold down right bumper and press A lightly to do a powerful cross field ground pass!" your trainee only becomes more ruffled as your fire rises because of their inability to enjoy the game as much as you have, or do.
Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn't. Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a game click wholeheartedly with a loved one. My girlfriend, Anna, is currently over 130 hours deep into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and she adores the game. I mean...she really, really adores it. Obviously with the 100+ hours or so.
She's been playing my #NintendoSwitch more than I have recently (which is both a blessing and a curse) and even drops the knowledge on where I should head for shiny diamonds and rubies and shrines I've missed out on. It's quite something for a woman that's mainly versed in The Sims, Overcooked and a spot of GTA V every now and again.
So what was it that made Anna take the plunge into one of the finest and most daunting sandbox games ever created?
Non-Gamers & The Allure Of The Sandbox
"Initially I think my attraction to Breath of the Wild was that it's a very sweet, innocent and clever game, despite killing lots of bokoblins or whatever. Its fantasy element is important to me, as well as it not wanting to be snarky and problematic every few seconds like GTA V."
Anna grew up in a household where video games weren't exactly outlawed, but they weren't exactly welcomed with open arms either. Her first console was the Nintendo Wii we purchased second-hand a fair few years ago now. But, thankfully for this post, this doesn't mean she didn't have the chance to experience games as a youngblood.
A LAN-ding Pad
"I played PC games a little when I was younger. My dad was really into keyboard and mouse gaming. He enjoyed playing Starcraft, so naturally we gravitated towards playing Starcraft with him, all three of us together."
So despite not ever owning a console of her own as a child, Anna and her sister got to experience the mother of all multiplayer sessions — LAN.
"He'd be sitting in his study playing and we’d have LAN multiplayer sessions, but he always kicked my ass which was really harsh. He never held back, ever!"
Such is the dad's prerogative! Then, as Anna became older, her father started bringing out the big guns. Quite literally, I may add.
"Then later my dad got a copy of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault which we all enjoyed. Not just for the shooting, there was something really special about running and hiding somewhere, even though my dad would always find me.
Like, when I'd run and hide in the belltower on one of the maps, my dad would sneak up the stairs behind me and shoot me in the back. I'd be all "F U dad!" But I never said that obviously!"
A New Challenger Approaches
After time experimenting with The Sims and trying to get her hands on her sister's Game Boy — on which she played a little bit of Super Mario Land every now and again — it was the turn of a plucky neighbor who gave Anna her first taste of console gold.
"My neighbor had an Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64 when I was about 11 or 12. And every time I went over we'd play it for an hour or so. It was really fun and I was actually good at it! Not super good, obviously, but good enough to annoy him!"
Then the preceding years were devoid of PC and console games up until I came along and we purchased the aforementioned Wii. But it wasn't until a wild Red Dead Redemption and later GTA V that a gamer was born. But, naturally, there were still a few stumbling blocks to manoeuvre.
"I felt like I was so shit at games because the controls were initially tough to get a grip of, so I’d just sit and watch you play for hours. Games aren’t that much fun when you’re bad at them.
I remember being initially annoyed with Super Mario 64 because of the controller and the jump to 3D, but then I got my hands on PlayStation and Xbox controllers and it got ten times more difficult. Like when you’d say 'you have to look when you walk', which was tough because two sticks are quite daunting at first."
Take A Long, Deep Breath Of The Wild
What I adore about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild despite its challenge, its humor, its beauty and the sheer diversity of missions on hand, is the way the game handles real world logic. Like cooking and making actually tasty-looking meals, chopping down trees for wood or ending fire-type bad guys with a well placed ice arrow.
And for an ex-casual gamer like Anna, the reasons for taking in a Breath of the Wild are uncannily similar.
"It’s the real world simplicity that really excites me [regarding BotW]. There are so many ways of tackling a problem, where a game like GTA V is supermassive and open to traverse, but still quite linear.
With GTA V, if you don’t have the skills to tackle a task, missions, etc, then the open world kinda means nothing because all I’ll end up doing is driving around and not truly experiencing this impressive feat of game making.
BotW introduces you to its world effortlessly where you start by killing easy monsters with a tree branch. You only meet the easy-to-kill monsters until you're ready to move on. You can run around collecting mushrooms and bird eggs and it’s so easy to get better at it.
Now, thanks to BotW, I definitely think I have some gaming skills. But with GTA V I never felt that way. I feel as if it never gave me the skills that I needed to excel. Like the mission where Michael and Franklin are trying to get the yacht. That was next to impossible and it came from nowhere! Even you had to do it a few times before completing it."
And Lord knows I threw some casual curses at the TV during that mission. It took me, like.. what..., 6 or 7 tries to beat?
"Also, everything you gain in BotW has some purpose. You can kill monsters and use their parts in elixirs or sell them, the same with food stuffs too. You can better yourself with all these things. Your runes get better, armor gets better and weapons get better! Now I actively go after guardians because I know they'll give me lots of cool ancient stuff! And korok seeds too!
It's an open world where there's a purpose for everything you do. Now that I've finished the Divine Beasts, I've been running around checking off quests I still have lined up. And that's really cool; you get something after every one, like 50 rupees, or a new recipe or a weapon. And that's really cool! You can either spend your time becoming a force or just run around collecting things and killing monsters without having to subscribe to the narrative.
It doesn't matter when I go and fight Ganon, I can hold off on that and go off for another 50 hours because I know there's a true purpose to all of it."
There's no doubting that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the most sublime games ever made. No doubting, but it's even more encouraging to see how wide the game's reach is outside of our little gaming bubble.
Ocarina of Time was the game that rendered me a gamer, and now the Zelda series has found its latest fan in Anna, a girl who is more at home with a mouse and keyboard in her grasp, not the Master Sword and Hylian Shield.
GG, Nintendo. GG indeed.