Bring in the Games
This past summer, in the midst of the pandemic, I moved out of my mom’s place and in with one of my best friends who I have known since I was in the fifth-grade. Since I was filling the place of one of her college buddies who was moving out of the apartment due to getting married, I thankfully didn’t have to provide any furniture when I moved in, but I did get to bring something else into the apartment. Video games!
I’ve actually mentioned her in a review before. I described her having video game literacy on a third-grade level. While, yes, this was just a way for me to sneak in a reference to one of my favourite gaming YouTube channels (Girlfriend Reviews), it was also pretty true. The last console that she had was her family’s Wii back during the big Wii boom and while she had a DS, she never upgraded beyond the DSi. She’s been left behind by an entire generation of gaming aside from some party games at group gatherings. Not that it was a big deal since she was never super into gaming, but now I was able to introduce her to some of what she had missed.
Starting Somewhere Else
We actually started out with my PS4, funnily enough. I thought it would be good for her to get her head around a more conventional controller and we started with Spider-Man (2018) to get her feet wet. It went pretty well, though it was clear that she was more used to Nintendo’s 2D fare or games with a camera that was not controlled by the player since moving her camera took getting used to and we even had to turn on inverted camera controls. However, once she was deep enough in, she started to get the handle of things.
One night, when needing a break from the Playstation, we broke out the Switch. I gave her a few options of games that I thought she might like. She chose Breath of the Wild even after I warned her that it was likely going to be the hardest for her. But, hey, she had managed to play Spider-Man just fine, so I didn’t have too many worries with sending her into the wide-open world of Hyrule. It turned out to be something really wonderful to watch as a backseat gamer.
The Backseat Experience
There is something kind of magical about watching someone else play Breath of the Wild for the first time when you have already played the game, especially so when it is someone who doesn’t or hasn’t played very many other games. While I did give her help when she needed it, I tried my best to also let her make discoveries for herself. Seeing her figure out the mechanics and sometimes cheat the systems of the game (or at least try to) was so reminiscent of playing through the game myself for the first time.
When I go back to Breath of the Wild, I don’t have that experience of “Whoa! What’s that?” anymore. I know what everything is either from finding it myself or from seeing it in the clips that flooded the internet following the game’s release. My roommate, however, was seeing these things for the very first time. It was all new! I helped with explanations when she seemed particularly stumped, but most of the time I would just give a name and let her figure the rest out herself.
Not only was I seeing the game from the experience of fresh eyes again, but I was also seeing it from a new gameplay perspective as well. In most games, I do try to take the stealthy option or work from a distance from my enemies with whatever ranged attack systems the game allows. (I try my best to act like a sniper in Horizon: Zero Dawn, for example). Breath of the Wild was a game that I went diving into the action, though. The melee combat system was really suited to what I needed from it and while I liked the bow, I wasn’t willing to fully commit to it as my main weaponry in my first playthrough. With Zelda, I ran headlong into battle against everything but the most powerful enemies.
A Whole New Style
My roommate, however, has been playing very much the opposite of that in a lot of cases and using parts of the game that I never really paid attention to. When she comes across a small camp of enemies, she uses her slate or sneaks up for a quiet kill or two before she lets herself go wild in the action. It’s a change, but hey, it’s what works for her so I’m happy to just see what happens. She’s only taken on one of the four divine beasts so far too, always worried that she’s not ready for it, whereas I made a beeline for them every time I ran across one. However, that’s the difference between being cautious vs overconfident in your abilities.
What shocked me the most was the way that she got thoroughly involved in a system that I barely utilised while I played. I had never paid much attention to the cooking system in the game since I wasn’t to interested in experimenting with it. Sure, I would make a little food with some effects here and there, but I was more likely to pause a fight to shove 8 apples down Link’s throat rather than spend time making and selecting the perfect meal. (Though I would cook every once in a while just to hear the cooking song because it’s so adorable.) However, my roommate would spend a good chunk of time at every cookpot that she came across, always having nearly three pages of meals in her inventory at any given time. I once saw her actually run out of food, and both of us were genuinely shocked. We hadn’t been sure that was possible with how much she cooked!
Someday we’ll return
She still hasn’t finished the game yet. She’s a teacher, so there was less time for games when school started back up in earnest. These days she’s more likely to hop onto Animal Crossing for a quick 20 minute unwind rather than get sucked into Breath of the Wild for a few hours at a time, but that’s okay. It means that there’s still parts of Hyrule for her left to explore. I just have hope that she will finally save the princess before the sequel comes out.