Top Ten Tuesday 22

My Top Ten Dads in Gaming

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

Many narratives in gaming involve playing the role of the prodigal son, with your dad being the villain, your Obi-Wan type mentor, or the untimely death that haunts you and sends you on your quest of bloodthirsty vengeance. As gamers have grown up, however, we see an increasing amount of stories where the player is put in the shoes of the father and experiences profound loss (can't seem to shake the whole bloodthirsty vengeance thing) or a strong desire to protect your family (which, uh, probably involves lots of killing).

With Father's Day just around the corner I've taken the time to list My Top Ten Dads in Gaming. Not all of them might be exact biological fathers, but they are unquestionably the father figures in their respective games, and it's their strong love for their family that earns them a place on this list.

You can check out my Mother's Day Top Ten Moms here.

Note: Major story SPOILERS below.


My Top Ten Dads


10) James (Fallout 3)

Weirdly enough, James is also a candidate for a Top Ten Worst Dads list! After all, he seemingly abandons his child in order to persue his own dangerous scientific project, and the son/daughter (you) spends a large chunk of the main quest hunting him down and picking up the pieces. The early game does establish him as a loving father in a very clever tutorial where you actually start off as a toddler as a form of character creation. The few dialogue scenes you get with James later on reveal him to be very passionate about creating a better world for not only the post-apocalyptic D.C. wasteland you live in, but to make sure you have a better life in general. But let's be honest: he makes the list because he's voiced by Liam Neeson and after the Taken films, who doesn't want him as a dad?


9) Kaim Argonar (Lost Odyssey)

An immortal warrior from another world, Kaim is saddled with seeing everyone he loved and hated die out while he lives on with increasingly troubled memories. At the end of Disc 1, Kaim inadvertently meets his dying daughter, now older than he is, in a very emotional scene (mostly because her kids are there as well). Kaim then adopts said grandchildren, who happen to be spunky and very capable fighters, on his quest, surely also putting him into a Top Ten Grandfathers list! Lirium gets to see her dad one last time, and also has the reassurance that her children will be cared for.


8) Cyan (Final Fantasy VI)

Cyan is definitely a product of the whole profound loss aspect of being a father - he loses his wife and young child when the villainous Kefka poisons an entire castle, killing all its inhabitants. This coupled with chasing after the ghosts of his family aboard the Phantom Train (which carries the deceased to the after life) puts Cyan into a deep guilt-racked depression for much of the first half of the game. Later when exploring the ruins of Doma Castle the player encounters some demon type enemies that cause you to explore inside Cyan's mind, ultimately casting off his guilt and restoring his humanity (partly by bringing up more happy memoires like when he taught his son how to use a sword). Throughout the game Cyan also grows increasingly attached to the literally raised-by-wolves feral child Gau, taking a very fatherly, protective role over him.

Destructoid has a wonderful article analyzing Cyan's backstory up to the heart-breaking moment on the Phantom Train.


7) Augustus (Psychonauts)

Though sadly unnamed (had to look up a wiki) and only appearing at the climax at the end of the game, young Psi Cadet Razputin's father plays an important role in Raz's psyche, and most notably in the final dungeon and boss battle. Raz has a lot of hang-ups with his dad, believing him to be borderline psychologically abusive in his hatred and fear of psychics and his desire to steer Raz away from practicing his powers. Since the final dungeon involves exploring part of Raz's own psyche, his father appears as a demented, taunting figure and even a boss battle in itself. At the end however, Raz's real father appears in Raz's mind and reveals the truth - that he's also a psychic, and he only discouraged his son to protect him and so he'd learn to properly train his powers. Plus, being a circus level acrobat did come in super handy throughout the game. Raz's dad merges his psychic energy with his son in order to defeat the big bad boss, and afterward they get a proper reunion. Guess father knows best.


6) Maxim (Lufia 2)

Pretty much everything I said about Selan (#3 in Top Ten Moms) can be attributed to Maxim as well. Player control reverts back to main character Maxim after the big boss has been defeated and it's he who makes the ultimate decision at the end to sacrifice his life to protect the world and his infant son, after his wife's already given hers. A bittersweet ending that nonetheless is full of hope.


5) Thane Krios (Mass Effect 2)

One of my favorite father and son storylines is the Sins of the Father, and the father doing everything he can to make sure his son doesn't make the same mistakes or live the same life. Not only does this let the father (typically the player or a party member) still be a badass, but also gives him the emotional bond and good fatherly instinct to protect his son from living the same dark path. Mass Effect 2 is basically nothing but exploring your character's lives and backstories, but thankfully they're all fascinating. Thane, one of the most feared (and of course, quietly philosophical) assassins in the galaxy finds out his troubled son is attempting to walk the same path, and enlists Commander Shepard to help stop him. Either by talking him down or doing the deed yourself you can prevent the son from taking the first step into a dark road. Sure, if he was a better dad the son probably wouldn't have a desire to kill for money anyway, but on the other hand Thane does it to support his family and his obligation to the Hanar that rescued them from their dying world. Cat's in the cradle indeed.


4) King Graham (King's Quest series, specifically V)

The original family man, much of the King's Quest series revolves around Graham's rise to becoming King of Daventry, finding a wife, raising a family, rescuing said family, and generally being an important father figure throughout the series. After the first two games Graham takes a backseat while his kids have their own adventures, until the fifth game when his whole family his kidnapped, and Graham must put on his adventuring cap once again. Like the film Air Force One, we love it when a man can be both a strong leader and also a loving and protective family man. King Graham is the Harrison Ford of video games.


3) Lee Everett (The Walking Dead)

Lee's backstory is slowly pieced together throughout the first couple episodes of The Walking Dead, and it's revealed that he caught his wife cheating with a notable politician, ultimately murdering him in a fit of passionate rage. On his way to jail the whole zombie apocalypse thing happens, essentially giving Lee a giant second chance at life.

Lee manages to redeem himself quite well when he finds a young girl surviving in a treehouse with missing parents and a zombified baby sitter in the house. Throughout their journey together, Lee and Clementine grow close and the game smartly allows lots of downtime to build up the emotional bond between them, like Lee teaching Clem how to shoot, and giving her a haircut to help protect her from being grabbed. Even when they meet up with other survivors, Lee's priority is always toward protecting and helping Clementine, though all of the individual dialogue and decisions are completely up to the player. When it comes to the gut-wrenching end, all that Lee has taught Clementine comes bubbling up to the surface, and you really get to witness her grow into a strong and independent person.


2) John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)

Like Lee, John is another member of my Top Ten Fallen Heroes to be a great dad on this list. Like Thane, he walks a dark path but is a devout family man and wishes his son not follow in his footsteps. Unlike the incredibly famous modern day open world series Grand Theft Auto, John is actually a good man trying to get away from his outlaw past, even to the point of turning down various prostitutes or honest relationships to stay true to his wife. His overall goal is to finish up the blackmail by federal agents to hunt down the former members of his posse, all so he can live a life of peace with his wife and son. But such peace proves unobtainable, and ultimately his past catches up with him. Rockstar brilliantly gives us a tease of peaceful family life near the end, with some great family moments, but ultimately ends in self-sacrifice to make sure his family is left alone.

Unfortunately, this may be a case where the father fails, as player control goes to a grown up teenage Jack Marston, the son, who's first mission is to avenge his father's death. Still, can't blame a man for trying to do the right thing, and I wish Rockstar's games had more likable protagonists like John Marston.


1) Eli Vance (Half-Life 2)

Despite Half-Life 2 being a nearly ten year old game at the time of this writing, I just recently played and completed it for the first time a few weeks ago as part of my Rogue's Adventures playthroughs of my backlog. I don't really have a good excuse as I've always been a PC Gamer and certainly no stranger to First Person Shooters. I've never been a fan of Horror games, but HL2 is much more action oriented, with only a single level that really evokes survival-horror.

The point is, playing HL2 as a fully functioning adult with a family allows me to really appreciate how great the writing and characters are - specifically the awesome heroine Alyx Vance and her loving father Eli. Through the limited time that you get to take a breath and enjoy some dialogue and characters, Eli and Alyx make the world come alive, and much of the plot of the second half of the game revolves around Gordon and Alyx's ongoing rescue mission for her captured father. At every opportunity their strong feelings for each other are apparent, and it's incredibly refreshing that Eli is not a gun-slinging super badass, but merely a good-hearted scientist and a loving father.


Wrap Up

It's interesting that about half the games on this list also appear on my Top Ten Moms list: Final Fantasy VI, Lost Odyssey, Lufia 2, Mass Effect 2, and the King's Quest series. This leads me to believe that a lot of great moms and dads really translate into great family moments in video gaming, and that many Role Playing Games are great at writing family dynamics and emotions.

Fathers have never been a rarity in games, unlike moms...or women in general. But actual positive, well-written father figures are still a rare standout to any great game. Hopefully as gaming matures we see more of these awesome character interactions, emotional moments, and father-son bonding. Little boy blue and the man and the moon...