Funny To A Point – 10 Fatherly Lessons From Kratos
After a rough first go, Kratos is taking a second stab at being a father in the newest God of War. While his parenting efforts are a marked improvement over the tremendously low bar he set for himself in the original trilogy, many of the lessons Kratos passes on to his son, Atreus, still leave a lot to be desired.
I started playing the new God of War last week, and while I didn't make enough progress to join our Game Club discussion, I am enjoying it a lot more than any of the previous titles in the series. The focus on thoughtful storytelling and character development makes it a much more compelling adventure to me – as does having the ax equivalent of Thor's hammer that I can instantly recall after hurling it at enemies, crates, and pretty much anything else that catches my eye. Seriously, why don't more games have magic axes? It's amazing!
But just because Sony Santa Monica has penned a remarkable story centering on Kratos' father/son relationship with Atreus doesn't mean he's a good dad. Not that there's any reason to believe he would be – he's killed like a hundred gods, for crying out loud! I mean, maybe you could explain killing one god, but when you're as deep into double digits as Kratos is, you probably ain't winning any custody battles in the future.
Anyhow, I was instantly intrigued by the prospect of analyzing Kratos' actions in God of War not just as the kick-ass god slayer he's always been, but also as a single parent trying to impart some important life lessons to his son. Suffice it to say, it didn't take long to realize that our brooding protagonist won't be receiving a "World's #1 Dad" shirt anytime soon.
Parents take note: Here are 10 life lessons from Kratos that you probably super shouldn't pass on to your kids.
Lesson #1: Stealing From The Dead? Totally Cool!
Virtually all parents set out to teach their kids the importance of sharing, but that lesson usually involves a participant who is A) willing, and B) alive. Otherwise, it's not so much sharing as it is GRAVE ROBBING.
Kratos seems entirely indifferent to that distinction. The first time Atreus sees his dad shove the lid off a coffin and rifle through the corpse's belongings, he utters "What?!" in understandable disbelief. To which Kratos grumbles, "He can no longer use it. We can."
While that's technically true, it's still a pretty bleak outlook on life to be imparting on your impressionable tween. And you can't even use the "desperate times" argument, because the loot in question was a couple hundred hacksilver, which is the Norse equivalent of pocket change. Way to be a role model, Kratos...
Lesson #2: Apologies Are For Losers
Another universal lesson for young kids is learning to say you're sorry when you make a mistake. In Atreus' case, that "mistake" was...not murdering a magic deer successfully during a father-son hunting trip. After getting chewed out by Kratos for missing the majestic creature with his arrow, Atreus apologizes, only to be told, "Don't be sorry. Be better."
Self-improvement is certainly a worthy goal, but you'd think Kratos of all people would recognize the value of acknowledging one's mistakes. He's got one or two biggies himself in his past...
Lesson #3: Don't Listen To Mom
"Listen to your mother," is a go-to refrain for most dads, but Kratos isn't one to defer to the judgement of others (again, the whole god-killing thing...). When the duo tracks the scared-and-probably-1,000-year-old-super deer to some nearby ruins, Atreus pauses.
"He went in the old temple," Atreus says. "But mom told me never to go in there."
Kratos' reply? "We do what we please, boy. No excuses."
Yeah, GREAT guiding principle for a 10-year-old kid. And while Kratos' advice is a moot point in Atreus' case, it is a bit of a retroactive F.U. to his former wife. Also, what if "what he pleases" is being a good boy who listens to his mom? What then, Kratos?!
Lesson #4: Unabashed Hypocrisy
You can chalk up a lot of Kratos' unnecessarily stern behavior to him being a hard-ass – but you can't explain away his hypocrisy quite so easily. When Kratos finally takes down a giant troll that attacks them during their hunting expedition, Atreus lunges at the felled beast and begins slicing it with his knife, while yelling that he isn't afraid. Kratos eventually stops Atreus, and then somberly declares that he's not ready for the adventure ahead.
Excuse me?! Isn't that the point of the whole freaking series? Losing his temper is literally all Kratos has ever done! I mean, he once ripped a dude's head off and then used it as a lantern for the rest of the damn game! A LANTERN! And now he's suddenly all "inside voices"?
You could argue that Kratos' admonishment is more about Atreus losing focus than his actual anger, but that doesn't really fly either – the way I play God of War, Kratos is flailing and flinging himself all over the battlefield with virtually no control whatsoever. Atreus' outburst was a chip off the old block as far as I'm concerned.
Lesson #5: Know When To Shaddup
And the time to shut up is apparently ALL THE TIME. Seriously, if I had a hacksilver for every time Kratos responded to one of Atreus' musings with "Stop talking, boy," I wouldn't have to rob dead people anymore!
That said, it is nice to finally have a protagonist that shares my disdain for small talk with chatty NPCs. Or people in general for that matter. It might not be the best lesson for a young and inquisitive child, but it might come in handy with co-workers...
Lesson #6: Pick Up Your Toys!
One of the optional objectives in God of War is for Kratos to find sets of hidden collectibles, the first of which happens to be carved toys. In a rare display of good parenting, Kratos traipses all over the forest looking for them, effectively teaching Atreus the importance of picking up your toys when you're done playing.
I was surprised – I would've pegged Kratos as the type of dad who would hide them and then tell Atreus that a draugr stole them because that's what happens when you leave your toys out in the yard. Or the type of dad who swears up a storm when he steps on the antlers of your wooden deer in the middle of the night. Either way.
Now that I think of it, though, Kratos does sell all of the collectibles in the game to the dwarven blacksmiths, who are basically the Norse equivalent of Pawn America. So maybe he's still a lousy dad after all.
Lesson #7: How To Handle Uninvited Guests
A note to any Norse census takers out there: Don't just show up on Kratos' doorstep and start asking a bunch of questions. To his credit, Kratos tried to prevent Atreus from seeing how he handles the mysterious visitor that shows up at their house – but that's kind of hard when you also throw them through the house.
On the bright side, I guess Kratos did effectively teach Atreus not to talk to strangers...and to drop a mountain on them when they don't take a hint.
Lesson #8: Human Empathy – Or, Ya Know, The Complete Opposite
After Kratos' less-than-friendly encounter with the stranger, Atreus somberly asks his dad if he's had to kill humans before. Kratos replies that they "do what we must to survive." When Atreus points out that the other humans are also just trying to survive, Kratos gives his pièce de résistance of fatherly advice:
"Close your heart to it... Close your heart to their desperation. Close your heart to their suffering. Do not allow yourself to feel for them..."
So let's see: Do whatever you want, don't say sorry, and blind yourself to the suffering you cause in others. Got it. Guys, I'm seriously starting to wonder if Kratos is a good role model for children...
Lesson #9: An Utter Disdain For Pottery
Seriously, if 6th grade art class taught me anything, it's that clay pots aren't easy to make! Especially way back whenever this game takes place; it's not like you could just stroll down to Dick Blick and buy a hunk of clay and one of those electric spinning wheels that I can't see without immediately thinking of Ghost. It must have been a HUGE pain in the butt to make a giant clay pot – and yet Kratos can't seem to walk 10 feet without smashing one. Let's hope Atreus doesn't have a budding interest in ceramics; something tells me that career discussion wouldn't go well. Aaaand that's all I got.
Lesson #10: Patience!
I finally figured out one good lesson Kratos teaches Atreus, even if it is a bit of a stretch. Kratos doesn't strike me as a particularly patient guy, but the way I'm playing God of War, Atreus will grow up to have the composure of a saint. All he wants to do is get up the damn mountain, but he's constantly being stymied by my Kratos' obsessive need to check out every nook and cranny of the world, and relentlessly backtrack every time we reach a fork in the road. Atreus' ultimate test of patience came the other night when I fell asleep while playing, leaving Kratos to stare at a tree for two straight hours. I woke up to Atreus muttering some idle dialogue, like "What are we doing?" or "I think we need to go this way," or "Maybe you should go to bed." Come to think of it, that last one was probably my wife. Either way, Atreus clearly hasn't learned his lesson yet. Be silent, BOY!
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