The world is a cruel place for a number of reasons and life isn't fair for most. Some people use entertainment mediums such as films and video games to escape the ugly truths that life holds for us and that is especially the case for the late Gabe Marcelo.
Gabe Marcelo was a 27-year-old who suffered from a congenital heart defect (CHD) which left him with a single ventricle and a piece missing from the middle of his heart. The defect is typically treatable, but sadly for Gabe, things were not that simple. Gabe endured a handful of surgeries throughout his life starting before he even turned three years old.
Most people have 100% oxygen in their blood, but in high school young Gabe had only 92% and the number continued to rapidly drop as time went on. Eventually, the percentage was in the 60s rendering Gabe breathless just by sitting.
"He did not get enough oxygen to his body to have energy," said his mother, "and as a young child would 'spend' his energy and get fussy because his body just could not manage. He would go out in the backyard and not be able to get back inside because he was tired."
Gabe did find an escape, though, despite his inability to go explore the real world.
"Gaming was all the more important for the ways in which it could bring such happiness, fun, and beauty," said his mother in an interview with Waypoint. "There were characters he loved, and challenges that his very smart mind needed. It was distraction from the physical discomfort and pain."
Gabe fell in love with games when he witnessed his brother playing games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda and his love for these games continued into adulthood. Last year, Gabe wanted to attend the popular gaming event PAX Prime despite his terrible condition. The reason he wanted to go? To play Nintendo's highly anticipated title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Gabe and his family only planned to stay at the event for a day so he wouldn't get too fatigued but Gabe powered through and stayed the whole four days!
Sadly, Nintendo didn't bring Breath of the Wild to PAX Prime but Gabe's mother was determined to make Gabe's wish come true. She could tell the very idea of him being able to stay strong enough to eventually play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was what was keeping him alive.
"I called Nintendo on the phone and spoke to some really nice people who gave me an address to write to regarding 'donations,'" she told Waypoint. "I did not get any reply. I sent it again about a month later. Still nothing."
After Gabe's family made a post online, the internet rallied together to gain the attention of Nintendo and it actually worked! Nintendo reached out to the Marcelo family and invited them to Seatle where Gabe got to sit down and play an early version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for about 30 minutes. Nintendo employees gathered around to watch him play and cheer him on, giving him that heroic feeling that Link possesses in The Legend of Zelda games.
"He was, in that game, what he was not in life," his mother said. "I could go out walking and Gabe could not join me. When I did, I thought about the fact that he could not get the benefit of fresh cool air and the freedom of just walking in our wooded neighborhood. When I saw the Zelda game, I realized that this was the wonderful world he wanted."
Two days after the Nintendo Switch event on January 12th where the price of the new console was revealed and the release date for the long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was also shown alongside a new trailer, Gabe Marcelo passed away.
"The night before he died, he called me into his room," she said. "He wanted me to see the two-minute trailer he had downloaded. He teared up as the colors and sounds and snippets of action were coming across the screen. At the end, it said, 'coming 3-3-17.' He looked at me and said, 'I'm going to make it!' I really have to think about how happy he was, and not that he did not make it. I did remind him, that night, that he had already played Zelda… and yet I knew what he meant."
Despite his passing, Gabe's family members still has a positive outlook on things.
"Someone mentioned that when I play Breath of the Wild, I won't be alone," Gabe's brother said. "Gabe will be my Navi, helping to guide me through the game the whole time. I really love that thought."
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild releases on Wii U and Nintendo Switch on March 3rd, 2017. Many of us will surely be thinking of Gabe and his touching story when we play through the game.