Do you know what the best thing about being and adult is? Everything. There’s vodka, staying up past 10pm, money, casual sex, partying the entire weekend, and then at some point in many people’s lives genetics kick in. Most adults decide they want children and suddenly they don’t have much money, they can’t party at all, and their sex lives stereotypically vanish. On the plus side they do have small humans of their very own who are the best thing that ever happened to them, and they’re quite happy to tell you this at every opportunity in person, on Facebook, and all over Instagram. Awww, kids, ain’t they grand?
No. No they are not. They are annoying as hell, always wanting something, inserting themselves into farm machinery, or demanding a puppy, and I’ve lost count the number of times someone has had to pull out of a multiplayer game as a child is demanding their attention. If that’s the sort of thing that makes you happy then fine, but it’s not for me. I like going out, I like have a two seater Audi convertible with no space for a baby seat, and I like going on holidays to decent hotels without a single screaming child running round the pool.
The video game industry is now way past its fortieth birthday, so its well into the “Well, maybe we should start thinking about children” phase, which is utterly horrifying. As developers have grown up and become parents themselves, they’ve decided the one thing video games now need are children. Why is this? Personally I think it’s just to subject everyone else to the tedious parental duties that they have to perform every day. If they have to be up at 6am to make sure little Jimmy has his sports kit packed and his lunch is prepared, then every gamer is going to have to endure an escort mission where their in-game child wanders into danger at every junction.
One game is guilty of this more than any other, the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. You cannot go more than five minutes with Clementine landing herself in a garage filled with zombies. Then she cries and you need to comfort her. Ugh. I lost track of the amount of times I deliberately let her get eaten, but the stupid game progress any further without her. To top it all, after hours of rescuing Clementine and her stupid hat, [spoiler alert from 2012] you end up dying anyway and it’s her fault. Thanks kid.
The characters and AI are much better these days, and we can thankfully put escorting Emma Emmerich in Metal Gear Solid 2 or having to rescue the President’s daughter in Resident Evil 4 behind us – when they’re not being remastered, anyway – but the same plot points still crop up.
And then there’s the times where games make you actually play as the kid. Uncharted 3 and 4 both let you play as a young Nathan Drake. It was rubbish. Utterly tedious, clambering about and being cheerful, not once picking up an Uzi and killing some bad guys.
Given the reviews that landed this morning, you probably know where this is going. Kratos has a kid, and of all the characters in the gaming world, he is the least suited to be a father, but because the developers now have kids, Kratos must have one as well. Why he couldn’t have been paired up with a partner, a wife, an equal, is beyond me, and instead you’re lumbered with someone you have to admonish and teach life lessons to, and will still land you in danger time and time again. Let’s give him a sodding kid instead, so we can all enjoy some quality father-son bonding.
Of course, Kratos has been a father before, but that was long time ago, and didn’t exactly end too well. It was back before he became a rage-fuelled hate badger and ripped the heads off various gods, slaughtered innocent civilians, and boffed his way through a series of scantily clad vixens without so much as buying them pizza after. He doesn’t deserve redemption and a child, he deserves to be sent to his room for being a very naughty boy.
He’s totally unsuited to parenthood, can you imagine the conversations Kratos and Atreus will have? “Dad, why are you covered in white ash?” “Oh, that’s just my previous family, I killed them all and now wear their cremated remains as eye shadow.”
There is one studio to blame for all this: Naughty Dog. The Last of Us is a masterpiece, and I loved it because they got the kid right. Ellie is a not a wallflower, she’s strong and independent, she’s holding a gun on the cover of the game, and Joel treats her like an adult from the very beginning. Most importantly, she doesn’t run headlong into a wave of clickers every five seconds. It feels like other studios have seen what Naughty Dog managed to achieve and decided to shove kids in games that don’t need them to try and replicate the success of The Last of Us. So far they have all failed.
It’s ridiculous that studios think that after a hard day at work, people are going to come home, get countless sprogs fed, washed and put in to bed, and then still want to fire up their console to spend the next few hours babysitting a digital child. How is that even fun? It’s not. Stop it.
One game that got kids right was Skyrim.If you do adopt some small humans they stay at your home and don’t get in the way, they’re always pleased to see you, and if you get bored of them you can feed them to a dragon.
Where will it end? Will Lara Croft go tomb raiding with a papoose strapped to her soldiers? Will Master Chief hang up his suit of armour and do the school run instead? What if Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine finally got together and had some mini masters of unlocking? You may be scoffing at these ridiculous notions, but I’ll just remind you once again that Kratos has a son. If that can happen then Little Lara is just a single development meeting away.
UPDATE: Arrrgh! From an interview with Crystal Dynamics Brand Director, Karl Stewart, in 2012.
Some of our soul-searching was about [asking] how we bring Lara to life in a way we’ve never done before. She’s had a personality, but not anything like what we show now with that emotion and intensity. We added a little girl at one stage. She was going to be a companion, a way to show Lara in a different light