Video games of any kind were verboten in my house. I managed to sneak Jet and Castle Wolfenstein onto the computer every now and then because it had no hard drive to install anything on. I want you to imagine a 1983 vector-rendered flight simulator on an 80x16 LCD. Eventually my father relented somewhat; I was actually allowed to purchase Wizardry IV with my own money and, wonder of wonders, was eventually gifted a copy of Falcon A.T. at the age of fourteen but by and large, notional flight simulators were my whole gaming experience until seventeen or eighteen or so when I'd head over to a friend's house and play Pilotwings or EVO until dawn on weekends.
This is probably why I hate Dark Souls - I dealt with futility early and often and no thanks. And you'd think I'd love the escapism of Zelda but the original Zelda struck me as a crappy version of Gauntlet and Gauntlet was a quarter-munching monstrosity. I didn't even really notice video games again until my wife and I were inexplicably gifted a Wii by her parents and I got her a copy of Skyward Sword. Which was super-fun. Except for the lack of damage bars. And the lazy fact that you had to kill bosses two, three and four times for some fucking reason (like Nintendo cheaping out on boss battles).
I recognize the puzzles of Zelda as substantially better for my kid than, say, Roblox or Pokemon. She's picked up Pokemon Violet and I hate it, but she's got a friend who plays so at least it's collaborative. But I also recognize Zelda as substantially worse than Minecraft, wherein she's actively learning coding through Redstone. Would I rather my kid play Zelda than Warcraft? Mos Def. Zelda over Starcraft? mmmm....
I think the author is correct in assessing Zelda as a real turning point in games. Bruce Sterling makes the point in Islands in the Net that Reagan-era video gaming is a bleak and apocalyptic existence in which you struggle against extinction until you are overbalanced and annihilated, no exceptions. But this part troubles me:
I adored the original “Legend of Zelda” because it made the rural Midwestern world I grew up in feel enigmatic, even mildly dangerous. My daughter is growing up in Los Angeles, in the Hollywood Hills, otherwise known as the Land Without Yards and Sidewalks. She can’t walk outside our front door to play without putting herself immediately in the path of some Porsche Cayenne doing 40 in a 15. Games such as “Breath of the Wild” and “Tears of the Kingdom” might be the closest approximation she has for the sort of unstructured play I took for granted as a kid. I’m not here to lionize the era I grew up in, much less the region, but there’s something to be said for an impossibly elaborate sandbox world that’s filled with peril and secrets but also doubles as a place for a kid like my daughter to be a goal-less weirdo and goof.
I think it's great that "physics" is making a return in play but I also worry that "real physics" is turning into a privilege thing. We signed my kid up for a week of running around in the woods making fire with sticks and pretending to hunt with a bow and arrow. It's $110 a day.