My Second-Grader is Brainwashed by Zelda

A mom discovers that it takes a short time for video games to take over her son's imagination.

He’s only entering the second grade, and my son’s brain is already fried.

That is, he has discovered video games. My son, who in his younger years checked out book after book from the library on penguins, birds of prey and marine life, in addition to his fascination with the solar system and even eyeballs, has suddenly abandoned all reasonable conversation.

I could even handle the obsession with Lightning McQueen and Hot Wheels, and though I tried hard not to roll my eyes when he started talking nonstop Star Wars and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it was mostly interesting conversation.

We don’t even have a Wii or anything cool like that. My son is hooked on old-school Zelda, specifically the Ocarina of Time. His ridiculous concern with all things Zelda is so
bad that we had to ban all video game-related conversation at the dinner table just to get a break.

One low moment for my son was when, on the first day of summer vacation, he hit the hard reality of hearing me tell him that, no, summer did not mean endless video games. Just like during the school year, Link would have to make his appearance for a limited time on the weekend.

Maybe it’s because my siblings and I didn’t have much use for video games, beyond an initial fascination with Frogger when Atari was coming out. Or maybe it’s because my mom kicked us out the back door when we woke up and let us back in at dinnertime during summer vacation. My parents were serious about keeping us in the backyard: we even had an outdoor drinking fountain.

I know that some studies say that kids who play video games can increase their skills with problem-solving, decision-making and hand-eye coordination. But I am good at ignoring some studies. I ignore them because my in-home research panel has revealed that when video games are going too long, my kids’ eyes become bloodshot and everyone gets irritable. Especially me, from tripping over the cords snaking across my living room.

I know moms who wouldn’t dream of letting their kids play in the backyard without a parent outside, but allow unlimited television and video game time. I think turning off the games to send kids outside is good for them. It staves off the risk of developing obesity, which is more likely than whatever we fear might happen if they play outside by themselves.

Unstructured play with supervision from afar is also crucial, in my opinion, for strengthening of sibling relationships and allowing their imaginations to run wild.

I love the things I hear about when I am not in the backyard with my kids. Last year, I saw from the window that my two oldest kids were digging holes by the swing set. When I asked them about it later, their response was, “We’re digging little outhouses for the birds so they will stop going potty on the swing set.”

The in-home research panel thinks that was a good problem-solving exercise.

And I can’t write about video games without addressing the elements that just aren’t appropriate for kids. Even reasonably tame Zelda has a couple of ethereal characters that seem sexual in an indefinable way. Some video games not only incorporate scantily-clad female characters but also unnecessary violence. And we call this playing.

Right now much of my son’s backyard play involves a plastic sword and shield, which tells me that he is pretending to be Link even when he is not playing Zelda. But from my kitchen window where I fold laundry and supervise, I can see a healthy boy fighting an epic battle in his imagination. And I am sure he will try to tell me all about it at dinner.

Gage Cameron June 21, 2012 at 03:28 PM
So my obsession with Zelda is so bad it led to a 4.7 GPA and varsity cross country and track. Yep corosponses exactly with what this mother said.
Hart June 21, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Me too, my appreciation for Zelda left me with a 4.0 weighted and 5.67 unweighted GPA, got me into and loving music (going so far as to be nominated for the all East Coast jazz ensemble. Note that I started out PLAYING ZELDA SONGS on trumpet), and helped me make MANY other friends who loved Zelda as well. Definitely ruined my life
Kurt C June 21, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Zelda is a game that is based on constant thinking, so the game does help with problem solving, hand/eye coordination, etc. It is also a child friendly game, like all of Nintendos' first party franchises, Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, F Zero, Metroid, Super Smash Bros. etc. Nintendo makes games so the whole family can enjoy, not just the hardcore gamer. This article is ridiculous and Zelda from the NES all they way up to the Wii are great games. Games that are supposed to be enjoyed with friends and family.
Ashley Anderson June 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
4.7 GPA and you can't spell 'corresponds?' Doubtful. Maybe that time playing video games should have gone into spelling and vocabulary.
Ashley Anderson June 21, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I think the point of this article is about video games in general conflicting with time playing outside and academics, not a war against Zelda. It's a parenting decision and as a parent, video games should be monitored and limited.
Joe Smith June 21, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Ok first let me tell my story. I was never a sports kid. I was born like that. My parents tried to make me do sports, but it never sparked with me. Then, I was introduced to video games at age 3, starting with my all-time-favorite, Ocarina of Time. All I can say is that Zelda has made me who I am today. From that introduction, I have fallen in love with video games. It is only through video games that I have friends. Trust me, he will still find interest in all of that stuff. I don't game 24/7, even though I could if I wanted to. I spend a lot of time messing around on stupid games like Universe Sandbox, where you can change our solar system and increase the size of the sun, planets, or just add planets or stars as you wish. Gaming has given me countless friends, and without gaming, I would be that weird kid who does nothing all day and have no friends! I am now in high school, and my grades couldn't be better. I take all honors classes and ace them without trying. Full access to video games and the internet didn't fry my brain. Instead, it made my curiosity about the world and the universe significantly larger and my imagination as big as it can be. Currently, I plan on going into a career that is video-game related, because I know so much about it already and it has just been a dream of mine all my life. Trust me making a video game is not easy whatsoever. Also if he wanted to become a doctor, video games will make him better at that!
Joe Smith June 21, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Now I will give you more stuff about Zelda and video games and how it has made me smarter. It has made me love puzzle-solving, a key aspects in the game. Everywhere I go I see things as a puzzle to solve. I love solving Rubik's Cubes. Another few games to make your brain work while having fun is Portal and Portal 2. Anyway video games have not made me fat, as most people would think. I am very in-shape. I don't play any sports, but I am social and I get outside and swim and play little games of baseball with my family a lot. I am not saying that he should only play video games and nothing else, but do not look at it as a negative. Liking things like Star Wars and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is normal for kids his age. I still love Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Trust me, nerds and geeks aren't outcasts in today's society. There are so many geeky people out there and his interests in these things will bring him many friends, and maybe a geeky wife someday too! Games like World of Warcraft actually have a better success rate at bringing couples together than dating sites! Yes, video games nowadays are a little too violent, even for my tastes. There are still great games out there without all this unnecessary violence! Games like Call of Duty have no interest in me, and I actually hate Call of Duty and its fanbase. If you want your son to play fun and child friendly games, I recommend Nintendo 100%! You don't have to be interested in video games, just don't push him away from it.
Kurt Grohl June 21, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Your wrong lady, Zelda is a game made for everyone. It is a game that everyone can enjoy. I started playing Zelda with my father when he got a 64 and Ocarina of Time when I was 8. Both of us enjoyed it so much, we had a blast. The fact that a "mother" wants to complain about her child playing Zelda is beyond me. He could be playing Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, Darksiders, etc. But no, he is playing Zelda and you want to complain. If you are so worried about your son playing Zelda, then instead of complaining about a game online to warp others minds, spend time with him. I bet if you played Zelda with him, he would love it, it would make his day. Children love video games, but as he gets older, he will realize that there are other things to do as I have. Now, the suggestive females you speak of in the game, the Gerudo, live in a hot desert. It is also a game set in a rural period, so for the females to expose their stomach isn't uncommon. It is portrayed in Disney's movie Aladdin and you aren't complaining about that...Parents take of from someone who has played Zelda with there father and has beat every Zelda game, of is not as bad as what this "mother" is making it out to be. Her "at home studies" are false and easily disproven by people like myself and scientific studies."
Joe Smith June 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM
If you don't want to read my two long comments, just read Kurt C's. He summed it up pretty well.
Joe Smith June 21, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I completely agree with you. Although I do envy you for having someone to play Zelda with. I never had anyone who loved Zelda like I do until I met a few people this year when I started high school. I also didn't know she was talking about the Gerudo when she stated the "sexual" stuff. Really? They are fine, and your son would see lesser dressed women if he was outside playing than inside with Zelda!
Nathan Ryan June 21, 2012 at 07:12 PM
As a father who has a son the same age, I could understand the concern for more activity rather than stationary tv/movie/videogaming. My 2nd grader is also very curious about the world! He has gone so far as to tell me he does not want to checkout traditional "fiction" books (he received a copy of a Jack Sparrow adventure book geared for his age group), rather preferring to read, on his own, non-fiction. My wife and I whole-heartedly support his preference. However, through his social interactions with is school friends, he has come to love Bakugan, Ninjago, and video games. My wife and I strongly encourage more physical activity, not because it staves off obesity, but because he is a naturally active kid! We are lucky enough to have the new Wii. We also have several games that encourage, and REQUIRE, physical activity in order to play. Rather than acting as an immovable object (banning talk of, or disallowing certain activities), my wife and I get involved with our son's interests. That allows us to experience his joy and wonder from his level, but it also allows us to help direct his enthusiasm at more age-appropriate means. My wife is tremendously more conservative in that realm than I am. However, we both encourage our kids you use and explore with their imaginations in all aspects, be it playing outside, or playing video games. Be creative and play *with* your kids. It is tremendously more rewarding than just hearing the stories -- you get to experience them too!
Brendan Nelson June 21, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Excuse me, Ms. or Mrs. Ashley Anderson? I mean no offense, but that was a rude thing to say when you responded to Gage Cameron's comment. I make spelling errors quite frequently. That does not mean that I have impaired spelling skills. In fact, in many cases, Video Games in general have helped me improve my spelling much more than any spelling classes or studying could have, because of the large amount of reading required. Once again, no offense. -A 12 year old Brony.
Sahasrahla Iwata June 21, 2012 at 08:06 PM
This article is ridiculous- Sure, I can understand what this lady is trying to say, but saying it has fried her child's mind is BS. My parents have tried to get me into sports and other outdoor activities. It never worked. I am not like the majority of my peers, as in I am a gamer. Zelda is my favorite gaming series of all time, and it has done nothing but help me through my childhood/teenage years. Zelda has helped me make tons and tons of friends, it has carried me out of depression at times, it has literally helped me get a job, and it has changed my life forever in such a positive way. I agree that you should limit your child's gaming at a young age, and encourage playing outdoors, but not force. Also- your comment on sexual characters in OCARINA OF TIME? WTF. I am guessing you are offended by dresses... Or that women have breasts- they are not overly shown- this is Nintendo, not RockStar- and not wanting to hear your child's interests at the dinner table? Wow, your nice. Banning Zelda talk, but not Wimpy Kid talk? Wimpy Kid is more dangerous then Zelda. I feel it is worth mentioning that I excel in school, with straight A's in all of my classes, including my honors and AP classes. May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce,
Robert June 21, 2012 at 11:40 PM
The Zelda series requries the player to employ critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to overcome the myriad of obstacles and intriguing puzzles which arise throughout the game. Your son is fortunate to have such a venue in which to not only develop, but also exercise such cognitive abilities. Have you thought that maybe your son discusses Zelda because it represents the most challenging and/or enjoyable part of his day? Your son is not going to discuss geopolitics or the economic ramifications of the Federal Reserve System. If he discusses Zelda, or any other game for that matter, it means that he wants to share with you -- his parent -- what is important to him; if that is Zelda, then so be it. The 'problem' with your son stems not from Zelda, but rather poor parenting.
Joe Smith June 22, 2012 at 01:46 AM
I have been told I have a large vocabulary by my high school teachers. Little do they know, I learned 95% of these large words from playing video games, and about 50% of the words from video games are from Zelda.
Summer Stevens June 22, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I have to say without Zelda I wouldn't know where I'd be. It's graphics and fantastic story arks led me into writing and art. Now I'm a painter and an author, and Zelda inspired almost all of it. In addition it helped me discover what I love, and it's a very problem/puzel solving game. I think it's great your young boy is into old school games and ocarina of time is a classic. It inspired me to look into new things and if anything has expanded my mind. I doubt it fried your child's mind and just because he has found something new doesn't mean his past interests are gone. He has just added to them and expanded his mind to more things. I'm sorry if your child doesn't like to go outdoors because of it, but some people aren't outdoor type. Also of all the games out there nintendo ones such as zelda and mario are some of the best for younger minds; opposed to call of duty, and grand theft auto. With all due respect I think just because you don't personally do it or enjoy an activity you shouldn't take it from your child who does. Long live the triforce!
Summer Stevens June 22, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Oh one more thing Zelda IS FAR FROM INAPPROPRIATE! There are no revealing outfits, no suggestive dialog (as I writer the dialog often is well written for the character and time period the games are pretending to take place in. I have to admire the character design and build too.) there is no guns or blood and no killing. Also just future advise this is in no way an attack on you but I think when you write something you must research and study it. It seems to me although your son may tell you about it you have little knowledge of the multi-billion dollars franchiese of video games or nintendo or even zelda itself in particular. Please don't say or act out of ignorance to no fault of your own, know the subject your writing about inside and out.
Nicholas Alexander Jabbour June 22, 2012 at 12:49 PM
All I can say is that my parents had similarly ridiculous boundaries and superstitions about video games, and it actually became a self-fulfilling prophecy of the video game addiction they were so desperately afraid of. When i was little, my parents set a limit where I could only play 20 minutes each on Friday and Saturday (which is ridiculous, since you can't even get from one save point to the next in many games with such little time). This continued from when I first played video games at age 5, up until I was 15 or 16. Over the course of that decade, they tried to crush the supposed "addiction" I had as hard as possible. Every tiny slipup or mistake I made was an excuse to ground me from gaming, anytime I mentioned video games when not playing them or showed enjoyment while playing was a sign of "addiction", and games were the scapegoat for any minuscule behavior they disapproved of. Here's the scary part... as the years went on, I actually BECAME addicted because their boundaries were so strict. My controlling parents did everything they could to choke video games out of me, that it only made me obsessed. I was hardly allowed to play, and I had to alter my behavior around them just to "keep them happy." Then, 1 day, my parents decided I was a "lost cause" and stopped caring. And guess what? Over the next month, I calmed down and became stable. And I started playing in a disciplined manner, only about an hour or so a day. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.
Nicholas Alexander Jabbour June 22, 2012 at 01:30 PM
"May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce." ...And may the that Triforce grant COURAGE to find a woman of WISDOM and together destroy the POWER of evil in the world! :-D
Johannes Offenjor June 23, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Right, I'm not going to leave a long drawn out comment about how this article is BS and how, quite frankly, stupid the mother is for thinking this. Instead, I'm going to give you some ideas of how PROUD you should be of your son. I am 13. A VAST majority of my vocabulary came from ZELDA! It is a long game, and frankly you should be EXTREMELY proud of your son if he is only in the second grade and can play through an entire zelda game WITHOUT help. OoT isn't an easy game! I think you really need to wise up and stop him reading stuff life Wimpy Kid! Frankly, If this kid can cope with long zelda games he is likely far more intelligent than his grade 2 peers and you need to stop being so... well.... stupid! Video games are an OUTLET for imagination! Let the kid have his fun! Maybe if he was close to an important exam and MUCH older, but 2nd grade!?! Honestly, this is ridiculous!


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