When did I lose my sense of childlike wonder when playing video games? Okay, that might be a little extreme. I certainly still enjoy getting lost in the lore and environments of my favorite games, but at some point over the past 20 years; the drive to progress, amass and conquer seems to have overtaken the simple pleasure of just looking around. This sobering realization has been brought into stark focus for me over the past couple of weeks while making my way through Breath of the Wild. I can’t take credit for stumbling over the truth on my own, though, it never would have occurred to me if I weren’t playing through the game with my five and seven year-old daughters.

The first time I stepped foot into this new version of Hyrule was sometime shortly after midnight on release day. Naturally, the kids were asleep, so I spent my first few hours with the game alone. It didn’t take long for me to traverse the Great Plateau and uncover what seemed like most of its hidden secrets and story beats. I had a blast, and felt pretty good about the time I spent there.

The next day, my girls were ecstatic to finally see the “newest Link” game for themselves, the one I’d been incessantly talking about and showing them screenshots of for years. Over the past year, we’ve played through about half a dozen older Zelda titles together (including the original), our way of passing the time until the Switch and Breath of the Wild finally arrived. Time well spent, obviously, as my daughters are now experts on the characters, lore and even the history of Hyrule.

With my copilots now on board for what would end up being most of this new adventure, I had no idea how my personal experience with the game would change. I had dabbled in cooking, done some random bug catching, and stumbled upon a few Koroks, but I at this point I had my sights firmly set on the first major story objective. So when we first played together, the timing couldn’t have been better for us to come across our first stable, and with it the motivation to go out and tame a wild horse or two. Honestly, I would have been content with one, and was all set to move on when the girls insisted I go back out and find a brown one with white spots. Five horses later (with the horses named after the pups from Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol, of course), they were finally ready to see more of this seemingly endless world.

Korok hunting was the next thing that captivated them, an activity that I only had a passing interest in. They both became experts at spotting abnormalities in any environment, and pointed me toward many a stray forest spirit, often while I was overly fixated on my next quest objective marker.

Breath of the Wild is designed to pull you in every direction, and as a younger, carefree gamer with all the time in the world I would have been thrilled to sit back and let it work its magic. But as an adult, with countless obligations vying for my time and attention, sometimes it’s hard to slow down and truly appreciate the subtle wonders of a game like this. If not for my youthful sidekicks, some of this Hylian magic would have undoubtedly been lost on me at this point in my life.

Oh, and we haven’t even talked about cooking yet. Obviously this is an important aspect of the game, as without hearts popping out of enemies and bushes, it’s the only way to keep Link in good health. A means to an end, right? I need to stay alive so I’ll make ten of the same dish that heals five hearts, that seems like a good recipe. Throw a couple spicy peppers in there and I can explore some frosty peaks. Awesome. Here’s where the kids come in… It never would have occurred to me in a million years to cook up some dishes just for fun.

My boring, grown up, logic-addled brain wanted to make every meal Link ate an exercise in practicality. I never thought once about Link actually consuming these dishes, and what they might actually taste like. My daughters were ten steps ahead of me in this regard. From the moment they discovered cooking, they would remind me every half hour or so to head back to a wok so Chef Link could fry up something fresh and tasty to eat.

There’s so much to see, hear, feel and even taste in Breath of the Wild that honestly would have gone right over my head if not for the backseat adventuring of my daughters. We have yet save Hyrule, mostly thanks to those constant little reminders I get to slow down, look around, and spend some time just soaking in all of the subtle delights that are packed into this game. Breath of the Wild continues to be a brilliant and special experience to me for many reasons, but I have to say that the most important and meaningful one by far is sharing it with my girls.

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Written by Brittin Shauers

Brittin literally grew up with Link, Mario and Samus. These three characters and their worlds collectively capture everything that he loves about video games.


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