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Addison’s sign obsession in Tears of the Kingdom is a little too real

Whoa! Unforgivable!

A funny-looking character strains to hold up a sign bearing the face of a burly boss in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

What’s with Addison? You know, the sign guy in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom — you’ve surely met him already. He’s a lanky, pin-headed dude with a dorky bowl cut, sweating to hold up an advertising sign. You probably saw him first in the Hyrule Castle Town Ruins, but wherever you go in Hyrule, Addison got there first. He’s on an epic quest of his own — only in Addison’s case, it’s not saving the princess, it’s sucking up to his boss.

Addison’s boss is Hudson, president of Hudson Construction. Like Bolson in Breath of the Wild, Hudson will help you build a house later in the game, but from the moment you arrive in Hyrule, you’ll feel his presence. After the Upheaval, Hudson is generously sponsoring the rebuilding of the kingdom by leaving caches of building materials everywhere (which you can use to turn into weird vehicles or Korok torture devices to your heart’s content). And Hudson wants everyone to know about his generosity, so he’s sent Addison out there to erect a sign with his face on it next to almost every cache.

Addison is one of my favorite characters in Tears of the Kingdom, for several reasons. He’s absurd and funny, and he’s the pretext for some simple, fun little physics puzzles. If he lets go of the sign, it’ll fall over, so it’s up to Link to prop it up with a glued-together Ultrahand assembly before Addison can lash it in place. Every sign is a different shape, which presents a different challenge, but also serves as a clue for how to solve it. The puzzles are lovely little palate-cleansers that break up Link’s travels, without getting as elaborate or messy as helping a lost Korok get back to his friend.

Addison’s refreshing in another way, too. He’s a reminder that Zelda games, as fantastical and mechanically ornate as they are, are also about real life.

Addison, talking to Link, looks pleased next to a badly propped up sign. “Take this with my thanks,” he says Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

The Zelda series has long been Nintendo’s foremost outlet for saying something about the world we live in. Majora’s Mask, which has an entire clockwork soap-opera ticking away at is center, is the most famous example. But think of any Zelda town and you’ll find memorable examples of the petty jealousies, sad dreams, and quirky peccadilloes of the townsfolk. Remember Skyward Sword’s preening meathead, Groose? Or Ingo, the put-upon employee at Ocarina of Time’s Lon Lon Ranch, who sells his lazy boss Talon out to Ganondorf? The series is scattered with dozens of these little dramas that poke fun at everyday human vanities.

Addison and his signs are a classic example of Zelda’s pocket-sized satire. He’s an overeager, hapless worker, exploited by the hubris of his boss. The image of him straining to hold up the huge, imbalanced sign couldn’t be more pointed. Hudson can’t do a good deed without using it as a vehicle for self-promotion — you’ve got to think he has political ambitions — but Addison, so desperate to please, shares some blame for his own humiliation. There’s surely a specific dig intended at sycophantic Japanese workplace culture here, but anyone can relate.

It’s a tart little vignette, perfectly reinforced by the puzzle gameplay. The contraptions you come up with to prop up the sign are invariably huge, wasteful, and elaborate; Addison’s eventual fix, meanwhile, is sloppy and looks like it won’t last two minutes. The two of you step back and admire your handiwork — all that over-engineered effort in the name of nothing but corporate vanity. Then, it’s on to the next one. In Hyrule, the world has ended, a chasm has opened, and the sky is literally falling — but life, and work, go on.