If you run away from him, he runs towards you. His steps make a noise like 'teeter-teeter-teeter'. A noise you might recognise from any cartoon.
If you walk towards him? He bumps straight into you. With a BOING. He looks up. He just wants your attention. He only wants to talk to you, to play with you.
The first thing you notice: a large, comically large strand of snot swaying from his nose. He tries his very best to sniff it all up, but eventually it slinks back down, all the way past his chin. No matter how he tries, that snot is permanent. It will never leave.
Meet Zill, that's his name according to canon, but you most likely know him better as ‘Booger Boy’.
Booger Boy might be my favourite Nintendo character ever made.
Booger Boy features in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. He lives on Outset Island. He runs around endlessly with his brother, who carries a stick. You make Booger Boy's acquaintance within minutes. He is, essentially, part of a tutorial, designed in its own subtle way, to teach you how to ‘speak’ in Wind Waker. He runs towards you and, unless you are actively trying to avoid him, he will stand before you an eager beaver, begging you to push ‘A’. Talk to me! Look at me!
Push the ‘A’ button.
“So… what are you doin’?”
I don’t remember the first time I saw Booger Boy. But I remember the second time. My second playthrough. My girlfriend at the time – grabbing the controller.
“LOOK AT THIS GUY.”
She kept running into him.
“OH MY GOD! HE’S THE CUTEST!”
Over and over and over and over again.
I was frustrated. Why was this so interesting? Why was my girlfriend deriving so much goofy joy from this? Charging headlong into this snot-face kid.
It was only when I started to look — to really look – that it all started to make sense to me. The design of it, the genius of it.
Booger Boy. He’s small. A younger brother. As an elder sibling I could instantly relate. I had a younger brother who — at four years old, when I was seven — would copy everything I did. When I left for school he would pick up a nearby bag and try to follow me. My parents thought this was hilarious.
I was less enamoured. STOP COPYING ME. STOP FOLLOWING ME.
“MUM, HE WON’T STOP!”
“He’s only learning, he just loves his big brother”.
Booger Boy is the little brother we all had. He’s the little cousin following you everywhere, copying every move you make. He’s only learning. He just loves you.
There’s something vulnerable about those boogers. Why does Booger Boy have boogers? That goddamn snot. It’s so… out there. Such a definitive piece of design. Only a company like Nintendo, only a game like Wind Waker, could get away with these boogers: could’ve imagined it, approved it, animated it.
Booger Boy has boogers because kids have boogers. And kids don’t know what to do with boogers. Kids have boogers hanging from their nose at all times. It is known. My best friend in the world; we met for the first time when we were five. I don’t remember the meeting but he does. His recollection: “you had bogeys all over your face and you didn’t give a fuck”.
Of course I didn’t. How was I supposed to know what to do with bogeys? Such a unique portal to memories, to childhood. The kid with boogers swinging from their nose, blowing on the breeze unwiped. I think about that idea. How weird it is. To capture everything precious about being young and innocent in one carefree swinging piece of snot. That’s what Wind Waker does.
Now I have a son. He has an older cousin that he runs after, copies, looks up to. The other day there I was flipping through photographs of them playing together. I remember the day clearly. My son was dressed up as an elephant for some reason, his cousin was pretending to be a dinosaur. A Stegosaurus. He had clothes pegs stuck to his back – “spikes” according to him.
He had around 20 of them stuck to his back, stomping around on all fours with deafening roars.
“RAH! RAH! RAAAWWWWR!”
Two second later, a tinny echo: my son.
He had clothes pegs on too. Much less. He only had the dexterity to attach two or three to his elephant costume, but he was trying really, really hard.
Streaming from his nose: a comically large strand of boogers, swaying carelessly in the breeze.