I’ve said this many times already, so I’ll give the cliff notes version here: I grew up in the 90’s and I dealt with being bullied for my physical appearance, the way I talked, the way I dressed, and my choice of hobby. As much as people love to praise the 90’s, there were still many an issue with being a kid during that age, such as publicly saying you liked video games. It was the era of “Video games will rot your brain!” or “You like video games!? Nerd!” Admitting to liking video games was the equivalent of saying you’re a loser. Once one person finds out you like loser stuff, the rest of the class does too, and your fate is sealed.

To continue making myself sound like a loser, I was that kid who willingly chose to go to summer school in elementary school. That sounds utterly blasphemous to practically everyone I’m sure, but summer school in my school district was pretty cool. The mornings were filled with various activities like making cool crafts or going to our nearby high school to swim in the big kids’ pool. Afternoons, on the other hand, were exactly what you expected from a traditional summer school. Go to a class, do a few math or English courses, read some books, call it a day. It was all remedial stuff of course, since summer school is made for the kids who were falling behind, so it was a cakewalk for myself.

One day during our afternoon recess, I overheard some kids talking about something unexpected: Ocarina of Time. Curious, I walked over to try and eavesdrop, as I was pretty sure I was the only kid in Kansas who knew the Zelda series existed. My ears perked up, however, as one of them was lamenting that they couldn’t beat the Water Temple. They had found it far too difficult and had been stuck on it for a while. At this moment I realized then that I had a chance to talk to them. I could beat the Water Temple! Maybe I could help them out! But my brain quickly reminded me that time I had heard kids talking about Pokémon and tried to talk to them about it, but got pushed aside because my loser status was so well known. Association with me meant your social life went in the toilet, so to speak.

But I welled up as much courage as I could and ignored those thoughts and walked up to them. “Are you guys talking about the Water Temple from Ocarina of Time?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Ah, well, I-I know how to beat that temple. Um, I could help you out if you want…”

He was pretty ecstatic at this which was the last reaction I expected. He ended up letting me borrow his copy of the game and just having me beat the dungeon for him. This was, to me, the equivalent of someone giving me a holy artifact, and I made it a point to take great care of it, making doubly sure it was secure in my bookbag. When I arrived at home I immediately began on my new project of helping out this new possible friend. There was something magical about seeing another kid’s save file on a different game. The idea that they’d been playing the same game as me and for possibly the same amount of hours was not a responsibility I took lightly. I made sure not to do anything extra outside of beating the Water Temple, which is where the game loaded in on their file saving me the trouble of having to get there. I couldn’t sully the game by doing more than was asked of me because they might miss out on the great experience! If you haven’t figured it out by now, yes, I was a very strange child.

I’d like to say my first completion of the Water Temple was a battle of wits with me against the game, but real life isn’t always that grandiose. I had a strategy guide that I followed to the T and beat it that way. For this project, I just followed the guide exactly since I didn’t know where they’d left off, and beat it decently quickly. Hey, they didn’t need to know I had a strategy guide! I had to keep the guise of being the cool kid who could beat the Water Temple, and revealing that would compromise my image!

I returned the game to him proudly and to my surprise, he was pretty thrilled about it. He and his group of friends were actually pretty cool about the whole thing, and I had the chance to really fit in with a group of kids for the first time. This was one of the moments that really made my love for my hobby feel worthwhile. More than that, I was able to help someone out, and that made the whole experience far better for me. Since this was just summer school, the likelihood that we’d ever see again after this was pretty small, and I only vaguely remember who they were or exactly what was said. However, I’ll never forget the time that being able to beat the Water Temple made me, in the eyes of these children at least, a cool kid.