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Over the years there have been many video game narratives that not only impress us, but also push boundaries and really show us what it means to tell a “good” story. These games give us a rich world to explore through a character with an equally rich backstory and adventure to play through.
One of these games is none other than the new God of War game released earlier this year. This game managed to breathe new life into an old franchise while simultaneously telling an amazing story that will be remembered for years to come. This (among other things) is what allowed God of War to receive the game of the year award at The Game Awards 2018, which got me looking back on the game and it’s story.
God of War did a lot right. Great combat, memorable characters, visually stunning graphics. However, the best thing by far was the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Being a father myself I can’t help but feel a certain attachment to these kinds of stories. They’re all over the place, and more than a few of these narratives end up winning a ton of awards. With that being said, not all of them tell the same father-son story. Some are a celebration between a man and his kin, others are a reminder of the mistakes made by said man. So here’s a list of a few good and a few not so good dads worth talking about.
Warning: There are Spoilers from here on, for games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Bioshock Infinite, God of War, and The Last of Us. If you have not played these games yet, or do not wish to be spoiled, do not read any further.
Like I said before, the best part of God of War was the father-son relationship between the old, stubborn, more timid Kratos and his naive son, Atreus. Without giving any spoilers, the game has you and your son trekking through the world of Nordic mythology to scatter the ashes of their mother (and wife) to fulfill her dying wish. Though this journey, they both not only grow as individuals, but as a family. Despite all of the bloodshed, it’s a surprisingly warm-hearted story that sheds a new light on Kratos and earns him a spot on the good list.
Bad: Kratos (again)
I know I just talked all about how Kratos is a great dad and deserves praise for it, but it is kind of hard to ignore the past of a man who is literally wearing his dead family’s ashes as a skin pigment. Before he became the reluctant hero with a killer beard, Kratos was busy killing the entire Greek mythology with a goatee and a grimace only a mother could love. Instead of being something he regrets and hid away, he embraced the use of Spartan rage and the Blades of Chaos to do unspeakable things to good and evil alike.
This rage of course all started from a little trick played on him by Ares. Well, it’s less of a trick and more of disguising Kratos’ family so that he would butcher them, but you get the picture. Whether it was on accident or not, being too blind with bloodlust to realize that you just murdered your family is not very fatherly like. He may be good now, but he was definitely a bad dad.
Being a father figure in the post-apocalypse isn’t easy. One minute you’re sitting back, enjoying the sight of mother nature and exotic wildlife, the next you’re defending the only cure for one gnarly fungus infection from a band of ravenous clickers. Joel, the main protagonist of The Last of Us, has to deal with this and more as he escorts the clicker bite immune Ellie to a firefly facility so they can finally develop a cure for this disease.
After a long and treacherous journey full of action and suspense, an attached Joel has a choice to make. Either let Ellie die so a cure can be produced and end this nightmare, or watch the world burn while he spends the rest of his days with the only person he’s ever cared about since his daughter died. Based on the sequel that was announced not too long ago, I’m sure you can guess which one he picked. It may not have been for the greater good, but it’s a choice any true father would make.
Bad: Booker DeWitt
Crazy alternate realities and themes of the many-worlds-interpretation aside, Bioshock Infinite is a story about a father facing the consequences of his actions. Towards the end of the game, it is revealed that Zachary Comstock and Booker DeWitt are actually the same person from different universes. Comstock became born again through baptism, and Booker refused it altogether. Now we could talk all about the terrible things Comstock did and how bad of a guy he is, but he was the villain.
That’s kind of the point. Booker on the other hand, our so called hero of the game, drank and gambled his way into quite a large debt. How did he manage to pay this you ask? By selling his own newborn daughter to some shady guy on the street. He may have tried to change his mind at the end, but it was no use. His kid is gone for good and it’s all his fault. Have fun living with that guilt Booker.
Good: John Marston
After the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, an argument could be made for John being a “bad” dad. In his younger years, he spent his time running with the Van Der Linde Gang and all but ignored his fatherly duties. He even denounced his son and ran away for a year when he thought it wasn’t his. But in the epilogue, we see John transform from the naive kid playing tough guy to actually becoming a real father who cares for his family.
He puts the gun-slinging life behind him and picks up an honest profession to keep him and his loved ones safe. Now we all know he wasn’t able to put it behind him for long, being forced to kill his old gang members by the government and all. If Jack was willing to track down his father’s killer and exact revenge all those years later, then John must’ve done something right along the way.
Bad: Arthur Morgan
Speaking of Red Dead 2, it was definitely one the best games of this generation by far. This game really made you feel like you were in the wild west, and the story is one of the best in gaming period. The games’ protagonist, Arthur Morgan, is no slouch either. His top notch dialogue mixed with his voice actor’s excellent delivery made Arthur a video game character worth talking about. Just how much do we really know about him? Yeah he robbed and killed, but he was a decent enough guy right? Well, based off some hidden dialogue, I’d beg to differ.
Towards the end of game, if you talk to Rainsfall or the nun, you end up finding out that Arthur was once a father himself. You don’t get much of an explanation other than he knocked up a younger woman and would periodically visit and send money to them. One day he went to visit only to find out they were slaughtered over a few bucks. Now if that doesn’t sound like a deadbeat dad paying child support then I don’t know what does. Now I’m okay with all the murdering and terrorizing, but neglecting your fatherly duties is where I draw the line. Shame on you Arthur.
Now I personally believe that being a bad dad isn’t an option. I just can’t see myself ever being that kind of father towards my son and would never wish it on anyone. Then again that’s kind of the beauty of gaming. They might not always be pretty, but they allow us to view the lives and perspectives other people and experience a story in a way we might not have been able to before. I may not not always agree with the message, but I certainly hope that good and bad dad stories in video games aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
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