I have probably already mentioned this before, but Jeremy Parish is one of my favorite video game writers/historians. I add “historian” to that description because his knowledge of video game history (particularly console/Japanese video game history) is deep.
Lately he’s been doing these “Anatomy of a Game” posts and recently he started examining The Legend of Zelda for the NES. He hasn’t finished the series yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying all of these articles.
The Legend of Zelda is probably the most important contributor to me becoming a “gamer”. I had played many games before then (I owned a ET cartridge for the Atari 2600, people) but I have vivid memories of hours spent playing Zelda. My exploration of Hyrule actually mirrored those formative years of growing up for me. We moved to a new city the year I turned twelve years old. I went from going to schools in the not-exactly-the-pinnacle-of-education Cleveland City School District to the relatively successful schools in the peaceful suburb of North Royalton. At the start of the seventh grade I didn’t have any friends and video games served to fill that vacancy for a while.
I was playing The Legend of Zelda and, quite honestly, I was pretty lost. Not making a lot of progress in the game nor in the game of life. I happened to bring my fold out map of Hyrule to school one day and a girl in my class noticed that I was studying it before class started. She took it from me and started drawing on it. Horrified, I asked her what she was doing. “Just helping you out,” she replied. She proceeded to mark out places where bombs would open new caves, bushes would reveal secret passageways and where I should go first. She didn’t reveal everything (I honestly don’t know how she had memorized as much of the map as she did), just like the game. Her hints and suggestions gently guided me on the path to discovering things for myself. My eyes had been opened to the possibilities.
I don’t know how many times I actually finished The Legend of Zelda, but I will never forget the sense of wonder I experienced exploring that world. Jeremy’s posts have definitely stirred those emotions almost twenty fives years later.
(You can see all his Anatomy of a Game links here.)