It was March of 1992. Not a particularly cold winter in Calgary, Alberta, but I remember wearing a thin spring jacket the afternoon of my fourth birthday party. Family flew in from across Canada to celebrate the birthday I share with my sister, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the year prior. My uncle Eric brought something new with him this time. Something I’d never seen before — a funny looking black and grey box that plugged into your TV and let you control what showed up. It was a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was instantly hooked. We threw in Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers (as I was a huge fan of the show at the time) before moving on to Super Mario Bros. This one pulled me in even more than Chip ‘n Dale did. After unsuccessfully challenging my uncle to a few competitions of “who can get farther”, he told me he had just bought a new game and hadn’t even tried it yet. This one was special. The grey game cartridges I had just thought were the most beautiful things on the planet may as well have been garbage compared to the shiny gold one he had just unboxed. We put the cartridge in, turned on the system, and then this happened:
My uncle read the intro story to me, described each item, and we dove in together. We played for hours, only going to bed once my mom forced me to. The next day was my actual birthday party and my mom put the game away, ordering I spend time with my pre-school friends. My mom still has a home movie stored away somewhere of me sneaking out of the playroom, plugging the NES back in, and firing up more Zelda. We finally got to present time and after opening everything else I didn’t have a gift from my uncle Eric. I asked him why he didn’t get me anything and he just pointed to the NES and said “I gave it to you last night”.
The Legend of Zelda was the first game I got hooked on and I haven’t put it down for over 23 years. Any time I get bored and can’t figure out what I want to do, I’ll throw on one of the games in the series I haven’t played in a while — I own them all excluding those monstrous CD-i abominations — and explore the worlds within. I’ve sold all my old consoles I had growing up but made sure to keep all the Nintendo ones just so I could be sure to have each generation’s Zelda games at my disposal whenever I got that itch. There’s something about Hyrule that just pulls me back in, no matter how many times I’ve played them. I got my first (and so far only) tattoo in 2011 — the Royal Crest of Hyrule — spanning from one shoulder blade to the other. My 4-year old daughter picked up her first Master Sword this past summer in The Wind Waker HD, and I’ve never been more proud as a father.
I honestly don’t know where my life would be right now if it weren’t for that first taste of Zelda back in 1992. I’m a gamer because of it, which got me into computer science classes in High School and eventually led to pursuing coding as a full-time career. It’s shaped my entire life in the best possible way. If I could only play one franchise of games for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t even think twice about answering “The Legend of Zelda”. The newest console entry being delayed is unfortunate, but that just means I get a little more time between now and its release date to go back to some old favorites. Maybe I’ll invite my uncle Eric over (we live in the same city now) for a nostalgia-fueled weekend and thank him again for the best gift I’ve ever received.