Even as a child, I was a goofy romantic with a penchant for storytelling. I remember I would forever be conjuring up fantastic scenarios, fictional allies and terrible enemies; babbling on to myself excitedly as I dashed around with a toy sword or laser gun, swooshing and pew-pew-pewing to my heart’s content. No universe was left unvisited.
As I grew a little older and my imagination turned inward, I would find myself pondering on things more than other kids my own age seemed to. I couldn’t just watch a film or read a book — I would become completely absorbed by them. I’d spend hours thinking about the characters and what might have made them the way they were; their motivations and their fears. Looking back, I think it was this period of my life that inspired my love of writing and nurtured my desire to conjure complex beings from imagination alone and share them with the world.
My hobbies were changing around this time too; books and films were becoming secondary to videogames — suddenly the breadth of fictional universes and stories available to me were interactive, with characters I could direct through their highs and lows until they were victorious or defeated. It was exhilarating and I’ll admit I was hooked early on.
I remember to this day, one of my earliest character infatuations in videogames was the mysterious fellow known as ‘Flute Boy’ from A Link to the Past.
Playing the game as a youngster, I tried to rush through — not taking the time to talk to all the NPCs and missing some of the ins-and-outs — I struggled to understand how certain elements slotted together. There were a great many intrigues in the game, but the one that I find the most memorable is stumbling into the Haunted Grove and seeing the animals gathered around that ocarina playing boy, and watching him fade away and scatter his companions as I approached.
With my mind, as active as it was, how could I not fall in love with the mystifying child of this woods?
When I finally saw out his story; easing him to his slumber, retrieving the flute and the boy’s pet bird, I enjoyed how much a simple quest made me care about a pair of pixelated characters using only a smattering of dialogue. Looking back now, I think I took for granted how wonderfully poignant Flute Boy’s backstory really was.
A boy, hearing of a magnificent treasure able to grant wishes, leaves home and heads to the mountains in search of adventure. He eventually wanders into a mysterious other world, and the boy, unable to return, leaves behind a father who misses him terribly without ever truly knowing what happened to him. Eventually, a precious keepsake returns to the father and he understands and accepts that his son was lost in pursuit of his dreams.
Whilst not a father myself, I can see the parallels in true-life parenthood.
Children will dream their dreams and go off in search of them — some succeeding and others falling short. They will potentially begin to drift away as their lives become more complicated and other factors take precedence — they move for their career and start their own family and you might not see them for some time. Years can pass into obscurity but the sight of one small memento — a photo, an old toy, a favourite song or film — brings it everything back; hopes, dreams and all. You share the memory with friends and other loved ones, remembering the adventure that your child went on in search of their dreams. You can be proud of that, I think.
Thanks for everything, Papa Bear – I love you. And you too, Flute Boy.