You know those dreams that you have as a young child that travel with you all of the way into adulthood? For me, that was having a family. Life took me on a different journey than what I expected, and I have found myself raising that family in a different country than I had anticipated. Life might look different to what I had first imagined, but there is one thing that has developed exactly as I had always hoped that it would, and that is my six-year-old daughter Poppy’s love of video games.
Poppy has grown up with parents who love video games and so it seems quite natural that she would also take a vested interest in them. Over the years, she has begun to play more and more games somewhat independently, and this has significantly increased as her ability to read has improved. With the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Poppy became really interested in watching my husband and me as we played. From there, she wanted to play the game herself. We did not own a copy (three is too many, right?) that she could play simultaneously, and so we offered her The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which she gladly accepted. From there, Poppy’s time in Hyrule began.
For those who are fortunate enough to know or have met Poppy, you will know that she is quite the character. As time goes on, she has become increasingly hilarious and quick-witted. Traits that magically blend into how she plays video games, making it a very enjoyable experience to be a backseat gamer to a six-year-old.
No Chicken is Safe When Poppy Plays The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
When I first started watching Poppy play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She had no idea what she was doing, would become increasingly frustrated, and needed to be shown how to do the most basic of tasks. In fact, it took her close to two weeks just to leave The Great Plateau. I would wonder why she wanted to continue to play a game that was obviously frustrating her as opposed to some of the more accessible games in her library.
One day though, and for no apparent reason, everything clicked for her. It went from being a struggle watching her play to being an absolute riot. Poppy began to explore the world around her, self-inserting herself as Link and constructing her own storyline. Each character would have their own backstory, and somehow, she would remember these and continue them between play sessions. She knew the basic premise of the plot and would talk about having to defeat Ganon, but she was invested in playing the game in her own way unique way. There was no rush to continue the story, to complete shrines, and to save the day. She was just having fun. I was rather humbled as I cannot remember the last time I played something just for fun without a single desire to actually work towards a goal; be that a trophy, leveling, story progression, or something else. None of that mattered to her, and it was fun!
Well, maybe she did have one small goal in mind, and that was ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION.
Poppy’s favorite thing to do in BoTW was and continues to be absolutely terrorizing the local residents in Kakariko Village. You’re about to see a great exodus as everyone races to move out of the village. Chickens, which she affectionally referred to as ‘chickels’ had the most unfortunate experience of all. I watched as she rounded up every chickel in Kakariko Village and would hide them in someone’s house. She would wait until a resident was asleep, run into the house, and throw a chickel at them, waking them from their peaceful slumber. She threw them into the fire, into the water, and off the ledge. I have to say that a significant portion of her current game time is made up of discovering new ways to harass the chickels. Until now, I had no idea that a mere six-year-old could single-handedly be the cause of changing the chickens’ IUCN Red List evaluation to Critically Endangered. Chicken meat prices are about to soar across Hyrule.
“WAKE UP! Special chickel delivery!”—Poppy, 2023
Poppy also really enjoyed buying new armor, as well as creating and cooking questionable recipes. She would go into the shops, look at the value of an item, and sell literally everything that she owned to buy them. It didn’t matter what it was. There was no item hoarding or saving items for later. She was really living in the moment, and she needed that carrot now! She would sell whatever she had in her inventory and go out to find more objects to sell if she was still short.
Once done, she would don her new armor with pride and try to cook meals that would often turn out to be less than desirable, cackling at Link as he ate the disgusting substance.
Eat this disgusting food Link! Eat it! Yum, yum, yum!”—Poppy, 2023
One thing that I did notice whilst watching her play was the fact that she was able to collect Korok Seeds with relative ease. She would notice that there was a puzzle or a rock formation that wasn’t complete and complete it herself. This was really great to see as a parent. I have always known her as intelligent, but being able to watch her demonstrate her cognitive ability in real time was both interesting and made me proud! Honestly, I think she might be better at collecting those little guys than I am! Not only that but seeing Poppy demonstrate her ability to be patient was rather surprising. Crouching down and hiding from wild horses and then attempting to tame them over and over again without giving up. Maybe these skills can transfer over to her real life! Ha!
The whole experience of watching her play provided me with a fresh perspective on gaming. It was something that I did not know that I needed and that I am grateful for. Over time, the way that I played games has changed. It became more job-like as opposed to recreational. Instead of taking my time without a care in the world, I would be chugging through the game to get to the end and ticking off those achievements like it was the most boring grocery list in the world. I don’t know when that changed, but I think a mix of self-inflicted deadlines, being time-poor, and previously being heavily invested in trophy hunting was the cause. Probably the latter more than anything! You don’t want to know the effort I put in for those PlayStation 3 SingStar trophies.
So, I am very thankful to be able to sit here and watch my six-year-old play video games with her fresh eyes. Her absolute joy as she spends five hours in a row absolutely terrorizing the Kakariko Village locals without a care in the world. She knows Zelda needs help, and she wants to be the hero. But she also knows there’s a woman who has been growing plum trees her whole life who is her next target in her never-ending shenanigans.