A man takes the bus home from work with a deep sigh. He, like everyone else on the bus, wears drab clothes. He watches the landscape through the window, but that only inspires another sigh. He looks exhausted. He comes home just in time to say goodnight to his wife, then pours himself a glass of tap water. An abandoned panda toy in the hallway talks about a child he hasn’t seen all day.
This is not a public information film about the mental health crisis, but an Australian advertisement for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Titled “Rediscover Your Sense of Adventure”, the ad finally shows the man picking up the game and playing it at home at night, mastering Link’s new Fuse ability to make himself a raft that won’t capsize. Small victories! Soon he’s fighting Bokoblins on the bus, using his Switch in handheld mode, and feeling better about himself. He looks out the window, and this time he seems to be seeing the view for the first time. This time, it inspires a hopeful smile – and another, but happy, sigh.
There are many things that make this commercial remarkable: Its calm, thoughtful, almost melancholic tone; the empathetic performance of the actor (Gareth Reeves, who is currently playing Harry Potter in the Melbourne production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child); the unprecedented realism with which it depicts someone actually playing a game (sitting still and mumbling inaudibly); and its appeal to the overlooked-yet-powerful gaming demographic of extremely tired dads (we’re legion).
The ad builds on the nostalgic appeal of the Zelda and Nintendo brands as refuge from a world of adult drudgery. But instead of treating gaming and the console as mere escapism, the ad cleverly shows how this hobby enriches the experience of the real-world man as well (in harmony with the Switch’s portability in a way that suits the brand). Even beyond that, the ad is bold (if a little flippant) in how it positions video gaming as beneficial for mental health – an aid to depression rather than a symptom of it. , like Thor’s. Fortnite funky in Avengers: Endgame.
Turns out the ad has some touching real-life inspiration. As discovered by australiathe team that made the ad based it on a Japanese Amazon reviews for breath of the wild. Kotaku includes a rough Google translation of the review, in which the author laments the relentless work of his salaried existence, wanting to see mountains on the way to work. He buys a Switch on impulse, and the freedom to breath of the wild reminds him of his youth spent playing mario 64 And Final Fantasy 7. When the Amazon reviewer sees the mountains again on his ride, he thinks “I can climb it” instead of feeling angry, and he is moved to tears.
Don’t get carried away – Nintendo Australia is just the latest in a long, long line of advertisers claiming their products can make you happy. But it is nevertheless a real step forward for advertising games. And as an extremely tired dad (albeit one who loves his job and isn’t depressed by beautiful views), I look forward to Friday as much as anyone.