In the past couple of months there's been a phrase that haunts me. It reverberates in my dreams and my darkest nightmares. It's the first words I hear when I arrive home from work. It's the first words I hear when being woken up at 530am on a still-dark Saturday morning.
"Daddee. DADDEE. Can I play YOUR game."
My game means Zelda: Breath of the Wild. More specifically it means my 140 hour deep play through of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The one where I had hundreds of arrows, all the powerups and a melange of high powered weaponry.
Key word here: 'had'.
Friends, my four year old son is single-handedly ruining my Zelda game.
A few details before I go into precisely how my son is ruining my Zelda game. A few answers to questions I suspect you might ask.
Firstly why is my son playing Zelda? I dunno. It just happened and now it keeps happening. Secondly, why is playing my game and not his own game? Simple answer: I've got all the cool power-ups and the cool weapons. His chances of actually inching his way through and earning those rewards at four years old are at monkeys writing Shakespeare odds at this point.
Thirdly, why do I keep letting this happen?
Love, ladies and Gentlemen. Love.
Love is awaking at 7.30am, seeing your 50 strong collection of Guardian Arrows reduced to three, and summoning the courage to not savagely strangle your own flesh and blood in a fit of righteous rage.
Children are a joy people. An absolute joy.
This is how I know my son has been fucking with my Zelda game.
Every. Goddamn. Time.
The Gerudo mask. It's the first thing he changes. It doesn't matter if he's in the desert, the forest or the snow. The conditions don't matter. The boots and the body change, the face remains the same.
Gerudo mask. Every damn time.
"Daddy it makes him look like a Ninja."
My son is obsessed with Ninjas. Last night my wife decorated his bedroom ceiling in those glow in the dark stars. She spent hours getting it just right. We lay him in his bed, turned the light on and awaited amazement. A heart warming parent/son moment was incoming. My tear ducts were ready.
A pause. We wait.
"Mummy, do you have any glow in the dark ninjas?"
Bye Bye Arrows
The next step is the arrows. I always check the arrows.
Before my son discovered Zelda I had near infinite supply of every arrow in the game. I had about 200 regular arrows and around 50 of every other type. I had 50+ Guardian arrows which are super rare and super expensive.
I'll never forget what I woke up to the day after I showed my son how to use the bow and arrow:
No. Dear God no.
Later he admitted he used all my Guardian Arrows shooting at Bokoblins. The weakest enemies in the game.
After he used up all my Guardian arrows, he got to work on the rest.
Last weekend I loaded up my game.
Yep. Every single arrow.
And The Weapons...
Dear God the weapons.
Towards the endgame of Breath of the Wild and beyond, most players build up quite the arsenal of weaponry. It makes sense. Endgame weapons take longer to break, and you'll almost certainly have the Master Sword at that point, which regenerates. It makes sense to use the Master Sword till it's out of energy and use the other weapons until the timer ticks over and the Master Sword is available again.
But that doesn't work when you have a kid with a rudimentary understanding of how numbers work. He doesn't care that my Claymore does plus 60 damage. To him there's no difference between that weapon and the rusty traveller's sword he picked up.
This is where I was at pre-four-year-old wrecking ball.
This is where I'm at right now.
My son is literally replaced my Guardian Swords++ with a SOUP LADLE.
A fucking soup ladle people.
My son has learned to navigate Zelda's menu system to the point where he can literally throw away all my good shit in order to pick up every piece of trash he finds. I'm almost impressed.
Don't Save Me
Zelda's save system is pretty good. It allows you to track back your last six or seven saves, but it doesn't go back further that that. That's fine, but in my current situation it's a living, breathing nightmare from which I will never wake.
Some context. I finished Breath of the Wild a long time ago. I'm in the process of milking every last drop from this game. I have around 10 shrines left to find and conquer. Breath of the Wild has a huge map and these things are a complete bastard to find.
So here's what my son does: he turns on the game. He doesn't load the most recent save. Oh no. He scrolls through the saves and finds the one with the coolest image — usually a save near Death Mountain with lava and shit cause my son loves lava.
He then proceeds to overwrite the last six saves by jaunting all over the map on his merry way, firing Guardian arrows and accumulating soup ladles.
What does this mean? This means that I will quite regularly lose my last two hours of gameplay and when you're in the process of meticulously making your way through the map looking for shit that is incredibly, incredibly frustrating.
What Shrine did I do last? Where was that Shrine? Do I have to do it again?
Quite often the answer to all those questions is: "I don't know".
That's how my son plays video games. The little dude lives on the edge. I laugh every time I see this photo.
Do I want my son to stop playing? Do I want to deprive him of this pleasure? Of course not. I love that he's playing Zelda. I love that I'm sharing this video game with him. I love that Breath of the Wild is such a well designed game that both he and I can enjoy it in completely opposite ways.
But losing all of your Guardian arrows in a random Bokoblin fight. Finding a soup ladle where your Guardian Sword used to be?
Yeah, that's less nice.
Don't have kids.
This story was originally published in July 2017