Awhile ago, Iíd read an article outlining how games are beginning to target older audiences, in an effort to appeal to the finally-aging fan base of our favorite medium. It was an interesting read, and one that wasnít unexpected, but still struck a chord with me.
Recently though, I was surprised to realize that many of the games Iíd been becoming enraptured with embodied this idea. Now, I have no children, nor am I personally sure Iím ever going to, but I was surprised to see just how strongly these appeal to me.
Iíve never been one to shy away from having an emotional reaction to a good story, so when I say that dad movies always manage to affect me, understand that they usually hit hard. Big Fish, Field of Dreams, etc... these movies always hit home. Strangely enough though, itís the role reversal found in the games Iíve been playing thatís having the same effect.
It started with Red Dead Redemption. Minor spoilers here, nothing too major, but if youíd rather, just skip down after the image. The game took awhile to grip me, but after it did, I was hooked. I really got into Johnís story, his hunt for these men, his desire to protect his family, it became personal. At the end, after all is said and done, the time you get to spend with your son really got to me. It was a fantastic reward, getting to spend time doing mundane things with your child after all the violence and madness. My dad can bullet-time kill your dad.
Fast forward to a month or two ago, when I finally stumbled into The Walking Dead. Going in, I knew nothing about this game. The first episode was good, mind you, but the real beauty didnít occur to me until sometime a bit later. Iím talking, of course, about Clementine. For what itís worth, Iíve never encountered a child character more compelling or better realized in a game.
I think it was sometime around chapter 3 that it suddenly hit me that I wasnít making decisions that benefitted my character most or that were the usual choices Iíd make in a game... I was making the choices that I felt were best for Clem. Both Lee and Clemís relationship and watching Kenny fight to keep his family safe really impacted me on a personal level. The moment Clem admitted to putting a bug on Duckís pillow with that mischievous grin, I knew I would do anything to make sure she made it through that game. Out of context, this picture is sketchy as hell.
Dishonored, which Iím currently playing through, is another game which has a strong father theme. It makes the player question his actions, whether he wants to seek out and realize his revenge for the terrible things done to him or whether he can forgive and let go of these grievances in hopes of not destroying the city that his young ward is meant to inherit. While I donít think Dishonored is particularly well written, the idea is there and it is something I canít help but keep in mind as the Ďchoke a foolí and the Ďstab a foolí options pop up on my screen. Hit-Girl seems to be collecting screwed up father figures.
I like this trend. I never expected I would, but I like games that put me into this protector sort of position. It feels more real and feels far more emotionally gripping than saving the world or a kingdom or just getting revenge. It forces me to think outside the box. In Far Cry 3, my choices are Ďshoot someone with a rifle from far awayí, Ďsic a bear on peopleí or Ďstab people in the throatí. While an absurdly fun game (emphasis on absurdly fun), these are personal, selfish choices. They donít matter in the long run. Being forced to decide whatís best for another, to weigh my actions according to someone elseís standards... that provides a strong, memorable obstacle for me. I will always remember sweating in front of my monitor, hands frozen on the keyboard, as Clementine looked up at me, patiently awaiting my answer to an absolutely gut-wrenching question. Well thank goodness there arenít any children around to see this.
How about the rest of you? Do you feel the same way? What moments in games do you remember affecting you due to itís effect not on you or your avatar, but another character?
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