Statistics show that the majority of gamers sit within the 25-35 age bracket and as such many people who grew up playing their favorite games are now having kids of their own. Never has there been so many gamer parents, yet there’s a severe lack of games tackling the nitty-gritty of what it takes and means to be a parent. Here are four games that capture the trials and tribulations of being a parent.
That Dragon, Cancer
For all the gratification of seeing your flesh and blood transform from flailing infant to an independent adult, being a parent is a testing affair and no game quite portrays the harrowing realities of this than That Dragon, Cancer. The game depicts the slow, relentless path towards death of a child diagnosed with terminal cancer through the eyes of his doting parents. From diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment to the child’s passing, each step is colored with mini-games, audio recordings, interactions, and parental musings. That Dragon, Cancer is a raw, emotive experience and a frank portrayal of the grief of losing a child from the parents point of view.
As a puppet master simulator, The Sims is known for the freedom it grants players to tinker with the lives of their chosen virtual Sim, including life-affirming events such as embarking on a fruitful career, building a dream home, and of course rearing a child. Though simplified in the form of personality stats and traits, how well a player cares for their growing child has an implication on their disposition and characteristics as an adult, as is very much the case in the real world. In true The Sims style, how players approach this is up to them. Neglect is a viable play style, not without its consequences though including a visit from social services if taken to extremes, while feeding, washing, teaching, and playing alongside a child has tangible positive results later on. Should a player embark on the moral route, then their parent Sims are in for a roller coaster ride of mayhem and sleepless nights.
The Novelist explores another facet of parenthood by catapulting players in the role of a novelist juggling his professional writing career, his marriage, and relationship with his son. Acting as a ghost within the family’s summer home, discovering memories, and through a series of choices that affect the protagonist, players intervene to shape how he maintains his work-life balance. Opt to spend a few more hours writing, and time with his son suffers with clear consequences. Interestingly, rather than being an omniscient onlooker, the player can be discovered and part of the game is not letting the family find there’s a specter in the house. In a world where professional considerations are becoming increasingly pervasive, The Novelist is a faithful and introspective foray into what it means to be a modern parent.
God of War
Albeit, stretched to the extremes of a mythological, overbearingly violent world brimming with equally fearsome banshees, cyclops, and trolls, God of War is a compelling analysis of the role of the parent as guardian and protector. Beyond providing a volley of arrows in the majority of fights and the target of the now iconic uttering of ‘Boy’ from Kratos, Atreus is a central narrative device when kidnapped by Baldur. Kratos transforms into the protective parent, intent on saving his son at all costs, only for him to berate Atreus when saving him. A classic parent move; tough love. The bond develops and blossoms throughout and the game is all the richer for it. Regardless of the setting, people, and era, the experience of parenting inevitably reverts back to the same truths.