What's going one everyone?
This will be the first in a new series of blog posts, titled "What I Learned." These posts won't necessarily be education related, but more about what I and potentially others have personally learned from playing a number of impactful video games. What better way to start than with the namesake of Hey Listen Games, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time?
I got this game by accident. My sixth birthday was approaching and I told my aunt I wanted this fighting game I remembered playing at some point earlier in my life (I now know that the game was Mortal Kombat). She gave me the money to go buy the game and when I got to the store I still didn't know the name, but thought an employee could help me. When I asked about a "fighting game", employee showed meThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Looking back on it, OoT had just released a couple of months before and they probably thought this must be this game I was looking for since it was currently the hottest thing around. Cue to me starting up the game and realizing that this was not in fact what I was hoping for. It was so much better.
I can still visualize myself in my parents basement the first time we (my brother and I) booted the game up. The music still rings in my ears as I think about the opening title screen. This was clearly a far cry from the brutal bloody fighting game I had wanted, but it seemed really cool. I had never even heard of the Zelda franchise at this point so I didn't really know what to expect. I certainly didn't realize that I was about to start one of the greatest games ever made. This game is what really got me into games. Before Ocarina of Time, I really just played Mario and other fun multiplayer games like GoldenEye 007 which came out a year before. A full on fantasy/adventure game was not something I had tried before and it is now my favorite genre. Zelda still holds up to this day as my favorite franchise of any medium.
Let's get to the point of this post. What did I learn from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Let's start with why this website is called Hey Listen Games.
In many of the Zelda games you are accompanied by some sort of companion who is meant to help Link (you) on your journey. In Ocarina of Time this comes in the form of a little fairy named Navi. Whenever Navi wants your attention she shouts "Hey! Listen!" This has sort of become a meme over time because of how frequently this happens in the game. Playing it today, it can seem kind of annoying to have this high pitched voice calling out for you constantly. This game was massive for its time, especially for a six year old. My older brother, who I played this with, was eight, but it wasn't like either of us were exceptionally good at figuring things out yet. I loved when Navi called out because there was a very good chance we were lost and needed help finding our next destination. The Internet was still in its infancy and we didn't have a guide book so it was just my brother and myself. We had nowhere to look for help. Navi, while annoying by today's standards, was an exceptional guide for us. A teacher if you will. I sometimes wonder how many times I've said something similar to "Hey! Listen!" in my classroom. Teaching children to actively listen can be challenging. This game engrained it in me that I had to listen carefully because I didn't want to miss something important and get lost (that happened a lot).
An added benefit is the game doesn't have full voice acting. The story and dialogue is told through text forcing me to read. My parents used to force me to read every day and I absolutely hated it. Obviously you should still make your kids read, but remember that there are various ways to go about getting kids interested in reading. I have one student in particular who hates reading anything I give him in class, but will happily read video game guides online. The Zelda franchise is interesting in that all in game dialogue is told through text. They only just recently added voice acting in their Breath of the Wild cutscenes. For Ocarina of Time, I had to read everything; dialogue, signs, maps, notes, letters, etc. Besides the books that my parents and teachers forced me to read, a big contributor of fostering my literacy was video games and comics; one of the reasons why I incorporate both into my teaching.
"Open World" is one of the more popular video game genre these days. You are basically plopped into a world and given a lot of freedom about where you want to go. There is usually a story that guides your direction somewhat, but you can just explore most of the map whenever you want. You are not obligated to follow the main story at all times. Ocarina of Time toyed with this concept before Open World was even a genre. After the opening segment of this game you enter Hyrule Field, and the game just opens up. There was a sense of freedom that no other game really ever offered before this. The grandness of this game was almost too much for me to handle alone. It actually forced me to do something that I try to teach my students every day. I needed to collaborate with others.
My older brother and I fought a lot when we were younger. Hanging out together did not always come naturally. However, it did when were were playing video games. Being the younger brother, I was often relegated to Player 2 or just watching in background. But, I was always able to give my input in order to help him progress in the story. We basically shared the same save file for Ocarina of Time. We had to work together if we had any hope of beating the game. I even had to sneak printing off guides from GameFAQs behind my dad's back (I wonder if he ever figured out it was my brother and me eating up all the printer ink). We would both talk about the game with our friends at school. I even remember bringing my
copy of the game to a friends house because he told me his older brother was able to beat the Forest Temple, which my brother and I were really struggling with. There were whole communities of kids built around just trying to figure out how to get through games like Ocarina of Time. It was a type of collaboration, in person and online, that I had never experienced before. Video game communities still thrive online, but every new game comes with a full guide on a number of websites. I never actually need to seek out help from others anymore. If I'm lost in a game, I am just a couple of clicks away from reading about where I need to go next. The technology of 1998, while magical for the time, forced me to collaborate with others. Even though the game wasn't multiplayer, there was still this multiplayer aspect to it that doesn't really exist with single player games anymore.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is always brought up whenever there is a conversation around greatest, or most influential games ever made. Ocarina of Time changed video games as medium. It fostered a generation of gamers who still buy every new iteration of the franchise because of the impact this game had on them. It was the first time a video game really made me want to embark on some grand adventure to save the world. This game made me a gamer- which is a part of my identity that has impacted every facet of my life up to the creation of this very site. Hopefully it will at one point be re-released on modern platforms so a wider audience can play. I haven't taught with this game in one of my classes yet, but I eagerly await the day I find a way to incorporate it into my curriculum.
Thanks for reading,