The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Nintendo’s newest entry in a franchise that started in 1986. In this chapter, Link wakes to find himself in a high-tech sleep chamber with no memories of his past. The player learns that Link was asleep for 100 years after a failed battle with Calamity Ganon. As a result, Link must now complete this fight in order to save Hyrule. The player gets to explore a massive open-world video game full of adventure, monsters, and puzzles. Because the game encourages experimentation and exploration, each player can shape the story according to their own pace and skills. The game received an E10+ rating for fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, and use of alcohol. While we find Breath of the Wild‘s content largely inoffensive, younger children may find parts of the game too difficult to complete alone. As always, we suggest parents sit down and play along with their kids.
Getting started and then maintaining attention and effort to tasks.
Breath of the Wild provides ample opportunity for a variety of focus thinking skills. The game is comprised primarily of quests: main, shrine, and side quests. The player discovers these quests by talking to people found all over Hyrule. However, it is up to the player to actually track down and complete the quest elements. This provides great practice for the task initiation thinking skill. Without initiating the quests, the player will never move the game forward. The variety of tasks also provides the perfect opportunity to practice sustaining attention on short-term tasks (many side and shrine quests fall under this category), sustaining attention on long-term tasks (the main quests must always be kept in mind even while on the side quests), and shifting attention between tasks (there are times when the player must move back and forth between multiple quests in order to complete them). Failure to practice any of these focus thinking skills will slow and even halt the progress of the player. Finally, Breath of the Wild also gives chances to ignore external distractions every minute of game play. Even though there are quests that guide a player through the storyline, there are also distracting monsters and treasure chests all over Hyrule. It is common to stumble across two or three more side quests while working on the first. If a player doesn't ignore these external directions, they will wind up with a large list of quests and none of them completed. Story progress will slow, weapons will break without being replaced, and Link's armor and materials will never get stronger.
Adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and expectations.
Flexibility thinking skills are a vital part of Breath of the Wild, and are especially noticeable in shrine quests. In order to accomplish shrine quests, the player will first have to find the shrines. This takes a variety of techniques, from simply stumbling upon them, to being led to them by in-game characters, to solving riddles to make them appear. Once the player has entered a shrine they will face different puzzles and fights. Every one of the 120 different shrines requires a different approach. If the player is not flexible by adapting to the new set of obstacles and trying new things, they will not be able to complete the shrines. Without the shrines, the player cannot gain more stamina, more hearts, or better armor and weapons. Of course, the many different monsters, potion recipes, and non-shrine quests also require a player to continue to use their flexibility thinking skills or fail the game.
Arranging and coordinating materials in order to complete a task.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also uses the cognitive thinking skill of organization. At the beginning of the game, Link has a set number of spaces for his weapons, bows, and shields. Each weapon has different strengths, magical attributes, and durability. When the player has used up all of a weapon's durability, the weapon breaks. The player has the opportunity to expand the number of spaces eventually, but until then, the player's success can be linked directly to how well they organize their weapons, bows, and shields. Keeping a weak item rather than dropping it and picking up a stronger one could cause the player to have a weapon break in the middle of the fight or to run out of weapons all together. The same holds true for bows and shields.
Developing a systematic approach for setting and achieving goals.
Planning skills are another important part of Breath of the Wild. The player needs a long-term plan for how to conquer the main quests. It's important to know which order they will complete the quests, what items they will need to complete them, and how to get the needed items. There is some flexibility to what must be included in the plan, but the existence of a plan is most definitely required in order to beat the main quests. The player will also need to create a short-term plan every time they decide to go after a side quest or main quest.
Understanding our own actions, thoughts and feelings.
With the open world and flexible order for completing quests, Breath of the Wild allows plenty of chances for the player to get self-awareness practice that spans the subskills of self-assessment, reflection, social awareness, and empathy. Players must analyze Link and his materials, weapons, and armor, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses as a player. They must determine if Link has the proper materials, weapons, armor, and shields, but also whether they are a better fighting from a distance or in close-quarters, or if they have a chance at defeating a difficult monster.
Additionally, Breath of the Wild adheres to the traditional RPG aspect of questing. Of course, there is an epic overarching storyline, but along the way there are small jobs from ordinary people that call Link into service, too. Part of what makes Link a legend in his own right is that he does for others. This emphasis on being an everyday hero is excellent social awareness practice, teaching your child the importance of being a citizen of the world.
Managing our actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Self-control may not be an obvious thinking skill in this game, but it is definitely necessary. More and more difficult monsters and puzzles will require the player to use control in managing anger and frustration. The less the player engages in other thinking skills, such as planning and organization, the more likely they are to be frustrated. If the player doesn't keep this frustration under control, they are likely to give up the game. At the very least, they will be unable to complete that specific challenge or even fail to advance in the game as a whole. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also has plenty of chances for a player to exhibit impulse control. The first time a character finds a monster, shrine, or treasure chest, or the first time that they hear of a side quest, is not always the best time to complete it. They may already be in the middle of an important quest, or they may need different materials. If they impulsively chase after whatever new thing they have stumbled across, the player will fail to complete their original quest. This could even keep the player from beating the main quests and, consequently, the game.
Being efficient and aware of our use of time and effort.
While not all of the quests have specific time requirements, there are many side quests and shrines that have time components to them. These will require the player to use various amounts of time management skills, both with keeping pace and the cognitive skill of estimating time and meeting deadlines. Some quests will have a literal timer that the player has to maintain awareness of. A few have a varying "timer" based on how strong Link's armor is and how many hearts or how much stamina Link has when the player attempts the quest. The only way a player can beat these quests is by being efficient with his supplies and movements, and by looking for materials and potions that can increase Link's efficiency.
Recalling and retaining information in our minds while working.
With so many quests, puzzles, and riddles to be found all over Hyrule, the player will practice the cognitive thinking skill of working memory every time they play. One quest requires the player to gather 30 bundles of wood. Another requires three specific ingredients for a special meal. Being able to follow the directions and remember what they are searching for will save the player time and effort. In a big world like Breath of the Wild, which is twelve times bigger than The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, players can loose ten and twenty minutes every time they have to go back and forth between two locations. It's not fun having to do this because of simple forgetfulness or an inability to follow directions.
Finally, it is important to note that there is a lot of reading and reading comprehension skills used to successfully play Breath of the Wild. Every skill learned, every person met, and every quest triggered, will require the player to read. A large number of these interactions will also have clues to how to answer the riddles and solve the quests, making reading comprehension important. There are also classic riddles that require the player to read between the lines in order to solve them. If a player's reading skills are not up to the level of the game, they will need support from a stronger reader to beat the game. Even a strong reader might need help unraveling some of the riddles. This, however, provides the perfect opportunity for a parent to get involved along with their child.
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