Parental Advisory: A Parent’s Love

So the homie @RealGoesRight gave me this topic to write about. We were discussing how The Last Of Us and The Walking Dead were both essentially centered around a father/daughter type of relationship. I initially wanted to compare those relationships, being that neither of these men were actually the parent of the daughter figure in their respective games. Then I thought of Heavy Rain and the relationship between Ethan and Jason. And I decided to take another route. So today I would like to touch on how playing these games made me feel as a parent. And my partners and I would love to hear about your experiences with these games as well. I’m curious as to whether or not one’s experience was changed by being or not being a parent. Let’s start with Heavy Rain.

I’ll Press X For Jason Forever

For those who haven’t played Heavy Rain, the game is centered around Ethan. His son was killed early in the game in a car accident, and his other son Jason gets kidnapped. You have to complete 5 trials to get the information of his whereabouts. Each trial will test just how far you are willing to go for your son. I don’t want to describe them just in case some of you plan to play it down the road. But they are definitely a lot to handle. The thing about Heavy Rain is I really do believe that whether or not you have kids will directly affect how you play. I saw this first hand in my household. While I was busy jumping through every hoop to save Jason, my close friend was playing in a much more carefree manner. He was making choices based on how they affected HIM. He didn’t want to do things that could hurt Ethan. Conversely, I didn’t want to do anything that could hurt Jason. I could care less about Ethan. So I ran headfirst into every challenge and completed 4 out of 5. The one I chose not to do involved murder. And believe me it took a LONG time to decide not to kill that man to save my “son.” I just gambled on 4 outta 5 being sufficient and won. Meanwhile, my friend only completed 2 of the trials. And one was the murder, for shame. Anyway, the next 2 games are a little different since the relationships aren’t biological.

My Darling Clementine

The Walking Dead casts you as Lee, a good guy in a bad situation. Early in the game you meet Clementine, a young orphan girl who doesn’t know she’s an orphan yet. You can’t very well tell her the truth in these dire circumstances, so you offer to help her “find her parents.” What follows is an expertly written tale about how life would be during the zombie apocalypse. This game differs from the other two in one important way. Your words and actions directly affect Clementine. As such, the game forces you to think like a parent, even though your character isn’t one at all. It’s pretty cool, and in my case it definitely made me play a certain way. Clementine’s wants and needs came first before the rest of the crew, even in situations where I personally felt it wasn’t the right play. And the few times I went against her wishes, the goodwill I built up throughout the game earned me the benefit of the doubt. It’s a  testament to Telltale Games writing ability that I could care for Clementine so much even though Lee had no ties to her. I didn’t need him to really be her parent to treat the relationship as if he was. Again, I’m not sure if I would feel the same sans children. And that’s the interesting part to me.

The Daughter I Never Wanted

The Last Of Us is a unique situation. It stars Joel, who was a father but watched his daughter die in his arms after a failed city escape. 20 years later, he is forced into a situation where he has to transport a young girl named Ellie across the country. In comparison, Ethan had to save his child and Lee had to protect someone else’s. Joel not only had to protect Ellie, but he had to deal with the loss of his own daughter. The relationship started off horribly, with Joel treating Ellie like an unwanted burden for almost half of the game. But along the way, Joel starts to truly care for Ellie as his own. And by the finale, he is literally ready to do anything to save her life. This game was hard for me to play admittedly as a parent. First of all, I don’t ever want to be forced to imagine living without  my kids. Second, I don’t want to imagine being forced to take care of someone else’s kids. Third, watching a kid get treated the way Ellie did by an adult sucked. I totally understood, but it still sucked. I wanted Joel to like Ellie so desperately, and when he finally warmed up to her I felt like I made that happen. By the end when he was hell bent on doing anything for her, I was wondering why he didn’t feel like that sooner as someone who previously had a child.

All Grown Up

We’re all excited for the future of gaming. That’s why we’re here. But as a mature gamer and parent, I have admittedly thought of my family more when it comes to gaming. Don’t get it twisted, I still have plenty of games that I enjoy alone. But playing with my kids is a factor. And playing games that speak to my life is also a factor. These 3 games allowed me to think about how I would handle certain situations that placed my children, or any children, in danger. In all 3 cases I had the option to not care very much. To half-ass things and hope for the best. But I didn’t. And that’s not because I’m a completionist (made up word alert) or a trophy whore. It’s because I care. I’m not trying to make it seem like everyone should feel how I feel, or play how I play. That’s the beauty of these games. They allow you to silently express yourself and see the results of your thinking. I hope and pray that the next gen continues to deliver these types of experiences. Not just involving parental themes, but all types of themes that are under represented in gaming. I’ll see you next time. Happy gaming!

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