What is there to say about my father and I? Lots, I suppose. Son of a war veteran, he spent a lot of his time being shuffled around the country as military brat, never staying in one place for too long. In the '80s, he was in Florida, trying to break the high scores on all the arcade machines. My parents met when my mother disconnected the Ms. Pac-Man cabinet so he would stop playing and give the kids behind him a turn.

I exist because of Ms. Pac-Man. What a thing.


We’re both men with ridiculous names. He’s Javy Rudolph Gwaltney the Third. I’m The Fourth. I often find myself telling strangers and new acquaintances that there won’t be a Fifth. I come from a line of men who have fought in wars, who developed chess software, who provided for the people they loved. My father wanted to settle down in a small town and build a stationary life for his family.

I want the world and I’ll have it, one word at a time.

Noctis Lucis Caelum. It’s easy to make fun of you, sad rich boy with a ludicrous name. Always riding in the backseat. Always pouting. Always whining. Always. Privileged. Surrounded by people he loves. About to marry a lovely woman. Can’t you just be happy?

But there’s something more there, isn’t there? A throne taken away from you. Father slain. All you have left is a car, some friends, and a shadow looming over you. You feel the weight of destiny on you. You can do great things. That’s what you’ve been told all your life and now you have to prove it. Earn your legacy.

Dad and I, we hardly ever see eye to eye on things. He believes there’s a man in the sky who ushered the world into being and that this man’s son will save those who believe in him from fire and agony. I see the void stretched over the entirety of existence with people trying to make something out of nothing and find love and meaning in one another. He pans for gold in rivers and shoots pistols at the range for fun. Me? I’m good with a book and a recliner. We haven’t talked politics in over a decade, which is for the best.

Differences aside, the man’s always been good to me. I remember being very young and telling him that I wanted to be a writer, and there was this look in his eyes like "oh son, no, anything but that." And then he told me it was a very hard business, writing, and that most people don’t do well with it but that he had my back if that’s what I really wanted.

And he did. I never paid a dime for college. He helped with bills when times were rough. He yelled in joy over the phone when I told him I was writing for Playboy. I’ve known a lot of men who spent their time trying to shape their sons to become modern version of themselves. Men who wanted their boys to grow up to be religious people who raised a family in the same town, who went to work at financial offices or ran businesses out of their homes, who never dared risk traveling beyond the borders of their own state. These are men who wanted a legacy in its most selfish, horrifying form: they wanted to see themselves continue in another vessel.

Dad could have easily been that sort of person, could have told me there was only one way to be in life and enforced that. Instead, he encouraged me to become the person I wanted to be. He told me to take glimpses at the world that existed beyond the city limits, bought for me controversial books that I wanted to read, let me embrace my own interests instead of trying to make me love his.

It took me years to realize that was a gift.

Marcus Fenix just wanted what was best for his son. Boy never listened, went and got himself in heap of familiar, bloody trouble. Should have known that was gonna happen—insubordination, it’s in the blood, after all. Now he has to pull JD’s ass out of the fire.

But hey, that’s what fathers are for, right?

In a way, my father doomed me to all of this: this whole video game business. He was really into it when I was a child. We spent hours playing Warcraft 2, X-Wing, DOOM, the works. Eventually his interest in games waned as they became more complicated. Mine didn’t. I dove headlong into video games. I bought subscriptions to PC Gamer, Gamepro, and Game Informer (oh hi there).

My dad bought us a gaming PC in 1998. I remember spending an entire summer helping him build a bathroom just so I could earn enough money for both Half-Life and Half-life Opposing Force. Over dinner I would talk his head off about planning starship battles in Homeworld or going back in time in The Journeyman Project. I talked sci-fi specifically because it was the one constant he and I have and will always have: a love for imagining what’s out there, what monsters and hopes sit on the far reaches of our comprehension.

During the late '90s my mother was working on getting her nursing degree. This meant that the weekends were basically me, my brother, and my father sitting in our living room and feasting on pizza as we watched Laserdiscs of Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Mortal Kombat, Twister (look, he really liked watching that CGI cow fly by, ok?).

The things that would eventually become the corner stone of my professional life were born here in these moments, with men slamming triangles of cheese and meat into their mouth and guzzling soda while the post-apocalypse played out in a startling number of ways on a dusty television set well into the night.

This is where I come from.