Gaming as a Father

So, really aside from the Tuesday and Thursday posts, this blog is going to probably be a little more sparse. Partially because, well, I only want to write when I actually have something to say, and, partially because, if you’ve been reading The Nugget Chronicles, you know that I’ve recently transitioned to being home all of the time with my daughter. This is an incredibly rewarding choice, but it means that computer time is definitely limited to whenever she’s taking a nap, and even that is kind of a crap shoot.

That being said, there are a couple of games that came out over the course of 2013 that really resonated. And, truth be told, both of these games came out when Nugget was still hanging out, doing her pre-being-born growing. However, I made a point of getting through both of these games relatively quickly (which is a rarity for me… as I’m currently still plodding my way through Final Fantasy XIII-2), because, well, I wasn’t sure if I’d get much of a chance to play them after Nugget was born. See, there’s just something about playing a fairly violent video game in the general vicinity of a small, impressionable person that is kind of off-putting (it’s one of the reasons why I also don’t play video games around my short friends). Little did I know when I started the games that they would resonate much more deeply than I had anticipated. Clearly, the stories had something to do with that, but it was really the way the characters were allowed to interact that hit home. Those two games are Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us.

Now, to talk about why Bioshock Infinite resonated, it’s impossible to avoid spoilers. That being said, come on, people. The game’s almost a year old, and we’re encroaching on the next (last) piece of DLC. For those few people with an interest in the game but haven’t played it to completion, I’m going to ruin the surprise for you. See, you’re playing as Booker DeWitt, and you’re getting help from a woman named Elizabeth. Near the end of the game, you discover that Elizabeth, the most helpful escort in the history of video game escort missions, is actually Booker’s daughter. When that point was reached for gamers far and wide, you could practically hear the screeching of brakes being applied as millions of Booker/Elizabeth slash-fictions suddenly became a lot worse (and, for some writers, a few probably became better). For me, it struck home because, well, I was about to have a daughter. The whole fear of losing your child (or, in this case, “voluntarily” giving them up) filled me with dread even before I’d ever met Nugget, and seeing how Booker dealt with it hit home. Mind you, if I was ever in a similar situation, I’d like to think that I’d deal with it better. When the game reaches it’s conclusion, the father/daughter connection really hits home, as Booker is willing to sacrifice everything he is to try and save Elizabeth from any pain, both in the past and the future. Finishing Bioshock Infinite made me immediately go and hug my wife, and made we want to hug my daughter, even though I still had months to wait.

And, almost as soon as I had finished processing my thoughts and feelings regarding Bioshock Infinite, I picked up The Last of Us. Hey, look, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a story of survival, against the odds. There’s scrounging and fighting and stuff to do to allow your character, Joel, the best chances to make it in this world. Oh, and there’s a connection to an amazingly strong female character, who, along the way, becomes a surrogate daughter for Joel.

Yup. Waiting for my daughter to be born, I basically engulfed myself in two different games about fathers making their way in the world to save their daughters.

Now, in The Last of Us, Ellie isn’t Joel’s actual daughter. In fact, before they start on their voyage together, they’d never met. However, when the virus breaks out, turning the planet into a walking mushroom colony, Joel loses his actual daughter while trying to escape. This clearly haunts him, as the next time we see Joel, he’s a shell of his former self. We don’t know all of the other things that affected him, but it’s very apparent that losing his daughter has made him take a much more cynical look at the world, and he just isn’t really prepared to let anyone get close. Even when he first meets Ellie, it’s clear that he’s only taking her along because it’s a job. Over time, Ellie grows on him (because, seriously, how can she not? The jokes alone are worth getting to know this kid), and, by the end of everything, we’re again seeing a man willing to sacrifice everything to protect his “daughter”. The parental protection instinct is strong, and it’s clear that the writers for both games understood that desire to ensure the safety of family that exists.

While these father/daughter exchanges are truly powerful, and they show the sacrifices willingly made by the male characters, if it hadn’t been for the fact that Elizabeth and Ellie were both such strong characters in their own rights, they whole thing would have come off as being hokey. In fact, it can be argued that it didn’t matter that either Elizabeth or Ellie were women. Neither character needs to rely on being a “girl” to help them out of situations, and the game developers clearly wanted to show that both women are perfectly capable, which is a nice breath of fresh air, especially when compared to characters like Ashley from Resident Evil 4. Elizabeth is kept locked away until Booker breaks her free, not because she can’t get herself out, but because there seems to be little point when she knows far more of the truth about the world she’s living in. Ellie is no less capable of surviving than a boy would be in her shoes, as the only thing that really sets her apart from Joel as far as skills go are things that are learned over time. The characters could have been written as being male, without any real changes made to the story, which is key. Too often the media makes women foils, or props, and doesn’t seem willing to accept that they are simply people. The man doesn’t have to always be the hero, and the woman doesn’t always have to be the damsel in distress. While the father/daughter connection is struck upon in both games, it isn’t a stretch to say that a father/son relationship would be just as fulfilling.

I haven’t revisited either game since Nugget was born, with the exception of a little time in Bioshock Infinite‘s DLC, but I know that I’ll go back some day. Truth be told, that day may not come until I feel that Nugget can actually glean something from the story. After all, while I know that she’s got a multitude of strong women in her life, I think it’s important for her to see strong women in the media, as well, and ones that are not simply there to portray the “feminine perspective”.

I only hope that more games like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us come out, with strongly written characters and well-crafted storylines. It’s certainly better than when I was a kid, trying to get a plumber through pipes to go and save a princess who was always in another castle, and who could have walked five feet over to get the ax and free herself.

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One thought on “Gaming as a Father

  1. interesting post, i just wanted to say I am a fan and to keep it up

    check out my blog as well, I love to be controversial with my topics.

    Thanks for the interesting material

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