How The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Changed My Life

This story is this week’s winner our Heart of the Revolution competition. For their contribution, GameRevolution Forum user The_bad_who won a copy of Tacoma from our GR goodie bag. Head on over to our forums to win next week’s prize!

I was pretty much born with a controller in my hands. I always say that being born in 1985 automatically makes me a Mario baby. My parents were not rich folks, but they saw how I always stopped in front of the TVs displaying Super Mario Bros. in the electrical stores even at a young age.

One fateful Christmas, I received an NES with the classic Super Mario Bros / Duck Hunt compilation, along with the zapper peripheral. I spent countless hours playing those, not knowing what to actually do until I got better with practice. I didn’t have any other games and none of my friends had an NES to let me borrow theirs, so I kept playing Mario Bros and Duck Hunt until I ultimately lost interest in them. One day, on the school bus, a kid told me about a game called The Legend Of Zelda. I had no idea what it was, but he let me borrow it for the evening. I did not like it.

You see, I did not speak a word of English back then. I’m a French-speaking guy from Montreal, Québec, and English was not spoken anywhere near me. For sure, looking at it now, the original Zelda really does not require much reading, but it felt like such a huge obstacle back then. No other games required me to understand the context of what I was doing back then.

My parents had to skip buying me the SNES as their financial situation did not improve much and it was A LOT more expensive in Canada. So again, no Final Fantasy 3, Earthbound, Zelda: Link To The Past etc. My best friend had one, but we would only play games like Mortal Kombat, Star Fox, Mario World and such; games in which you learned to play by playing rather than reading

Then came a revolution in my life: the Nintendo 64. I was blown away after playing Super Mario 64 for the first time. I just couldn’t fathom what was before my eyes. I quickly started saving up for one. I was mowing lawns and raking leaves at my neighbor’s house to get money to buy the console, games, and subscription to Nintendo Power. Life was good. Then I read about that game, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That same feeling I had after playing Mario 64 came back just by looking at the pictures on the magazine’s glossy pages. I wanted this game. No, I NEEDED this game.

I got it for Christmas the same year. The golden cartridge was beautiful, but I popped it into my newly acquired N64 and… I couldn’t understand a thing! Who’s that fairy? Who’s that green girl? Why is Link a small boy? I immediately went to my dad for help. He sat down with me, translating every single line of dialogue as I made my way through the dungeons.

It worked for a while, but one day, when school and work resumed he just couldn’t sit down with me every time I wanted to play. I was devastated. Seeing me like this, my dad told me: “Try to figure out what they say, and then come see me or write down the words that you don’t know.” So I did. Little by little, question by question, I finished the game without him, getting stuck sometimes because I did not know where to go, but with a sense of pride I had never felt before.

Year after year, game by game, I slowly learned English, discovering it through all sorts of scenarios and experiences, through the N64 and, later, the PS2. I played so many games, learned so much through them all that I ended up being one of the best students in my English classes, even being asked if my parents were speaking it when I was a kid. I always proudly said: “No, I just played a lot of video games!”. Needless to say, not everyone believed me.

Now, almost 20 years later, I can say that the Ocarina of Time was not only one of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had, but it also completely changed my life. It taught me a new language that has since opened a lot of doors for me, even now at age 32, but it also taught me to persevere and always keep trying, and that nothing can’t be done by trying, failing, and then trying again. It showed me that confidence in myself can make me achieve what seems impossible at first, and to always trust my instincts when I reach an obstacle and know that I’ll overcome it.

Some years ago, my dad was playing Candy Crush on his tablet. I realized that he didn’t quite understand it. I told him that he was not playing right, and he replied: “I’ve been playing this game for months, I know how to play!” After arguing for a bit, I popped up the tutorial and read it to him. I was translating a part of the game to him that he did not understand at first! After this, I considered how sometimes life truly does come full circle. Life is good.