Look what the doctor found in my wife
For those that aren't sure what they are looking at the above is an ultrasound image of a foetus. Yes, an actual human is growing inside my lovely wife. Whether you find the idea to be weird or wonderful it's a bit of a shocker and I am finding it a bit unreal that I will soon be labelled as 'father.' This wasn't unplanned but it has happened rather quickly and I am struggling to get a mental grip on the realities of the situation. Many turn to books or films for advice and guidance but as a man who loves videogames I am turning to my gaming library for assistance. It turns out I probably shouldn't have!
The closest comparison that springs to mind is the escort mission and it must be the nearest gameplay type to my current situation. Sadly I reckon gamers aren't particularly nurturing because I am pretty sure that when you see one coming you roll your eyes in exasperation as much as I do. Remember Ashley from Resident Evil 4? Instead of climbing a tree or waiting on a ledge when trouble shuffled into view she would just stand there while zombie dogs bit her face off. Then when you went to check on her she would accuse you of looking up her skirt. What a cheek! But she wasn't the worse. At least Ashley had the sense to duck when you pointed a gun at her, how about the human sheep from Dead Rising? I remember taking a swing at a big horde of zombies when one fool put himself in the way. I can only assume he was some zombie rights activist but his reward for such kind behaviour was getting his head stoved in with a sledgehammer. Unlike real life you can reload a game but with a frustrating escort mission you might not want to.
But there is one exception. In Ico I genuinely wanted to save the girl and despite her frailty the game somehow fostered a bond between me and my fragile ward. It would have been nice if she had swung a stick or something every so often but then again Sheva in Resident Evil 5 had a gun and she spent most of the time pumping ammo into the sky so it's probably not worth the effort. I'll stick with Ico then.
So it seems there is some hope and on continued reflection even the unfriendliest of games have a protective element. In Call of Duty or Battlefield there are usually a few NPCs under your wing that charge with you into action. Naturally there are the fodder that get themselves shot to tatters in the first 10 seconds but Private A. Smith or Lieutenant B. Shootman aren't my concern. I am talking about mustachioed he-man Captain Price or fearless lunatic Private Haggard. Men who stand side-by-side with us as we battle whichever group are on the hate-list at Activision HQ that week. Should these men take a bullet we would be there to patch them up and send them back into the fray. The problem is that they don't. These are super-soldiers that can take an RPG to the chest and just run it off. You are a delicate meatbag that they are taking along for the ride but should you fall that's it. They move on and you don't. It's a one-way love.
OK so maybe trying to find the caring side to Call of Duty is a bit ambitious but there are characters in games that are specifically identified by their role as father, characters like Max Payne or Kratos. Actually they are not the best examples of model parents either but they loved their offspring (to death in Kratos's case) and they can teach me what NOT to do. At least now I know that I shouldn't involve myself in organised crime and when in a brutal, frenzied rage, don't go straight home. Valuable life lessons there. But of course I am forgetting about the best gaming daddy of all, Octodad. He is not the biological parent (obviously) but he is still a caring provider to his kids. By not being an octopus I am already one step ahead. Things are looking up.
In fact there is an example of an entire genre where protection and development are at it's very core, the tower defense game. Think about it. You are put in charge of a vulnerable and defenseless ...... well, something and must protect it from external forces hell bent on it's destruction. You are it's champion and protector and through your wisdom and patience you must take your delicate core from weak and new to strong, experienced and sophisticated. An example to us all.
Of course there are plenty more examples of games that require looking after someone or something but they all have their drawbacks as parent trainers. Bioshock had Big Daddies but they let their kids turn into junkies, Pikmin had the little leaf creatures that you gently tended but only so you could lob them at bug-eyed plant monsters and Lost In blue put you in the care of a lost and frightened girl far from home who sadly was just too boring to live for. But these are no good. It's the loving triforce of Ico, Octodad and Desktop Defence that I am interested in and developers need to take notice, mash them all together, market them to nervous fathers-to-be and then take my money. I just need a catchy name before setting up my Kickstarter account. Any ideas?