Week In Gaming: The Sad Dad Fad

Week In Gaming Aug 1st

Video games tend to get themselves stuck in ruts every now and again. In the 90s, it was cutesy anthropomorphic animals with names, the 2000s brought us wave after wave of generic war-based brown shooters, and now, when games are more advanced and more capable than ever, we have… sad dads.

The Sad Dad Is Sad

Sad dads is one of my pet peeves. At first, the video game 'sad dad' character was a novel and creative thing, exploring (presumably) the new generation of video game designers' feelings upon having their first child, and how that could be applied to the typical game world of zombies and hellscapes. You have people like Joel in The Last of Us, Liam Neeson in Fallout 3, and Ethan in Heavy Rain - all dads, or at least father figures, and all sad, mostly because they have to care for children and they aren't doing such a great job.

Dads are a fairly simple premise that most people can relate to, so it's easy to see why sad dads are used as a cheap shortcut to feels. But yeah, okay, we get it now. The burden of being the game's protagonist and usually having to save the world is made even weightier by having to care for a young, innocent and impressionable kid. Can we stop with the sad dads now?

Life Is Strange but better with gal pals

Life is Strange has dads, and those dads come together to form one of the pillars that holds up the plot (no spoilers here, don't worry). But Life is Strange focuses on a relatively new, and thankfully much more interesting relationship - that between two childhood, female friends. Female friendship isn't explored too much in games, either because developers are reluctant to have female protagonists or because they themselves have little experience of being a woman with other female friends.

Then again, it's not something seen too much in the media either - without becoming some kind of sexy scenario (because, duh, didn't you know all girls learn to kiss at sleepovers, in between all the pillow fighting and giggling?).

Life is Strange explores teenage friendship in an honest, raw and mundane way, mixing in the sci-fi element of time-rewinding with more down-to-earth and relatable elements like taking the rap when your friend gets caught smoking by her step-dad. Like any game that doesn't feature a big meat-dude slicing up monsters with a gun-knife, it's received a lot of flak, and has been criticised (by idiots) for pandering. Ugh, can you even imagine wanting to make games that appeal to people? You might accidentally make money that way.

Life is Strange is already four episodes in, and what began as an admittedly dull premise (go around, talk to people, rewind, repeat) has turned into a gripping and, most importantly, different way to look at humanity through the lens of gaming. Sad dads is over, I say. Let's have more gal pals instead.