Fatherhood isn’t the shortcut to emotional complexity games wish it was

This year’s E3 was a river of dads, and I am unhappy about it. (I did wonder briefly about the appropriate collective noun for dads: a Wickes, a Touchline, or, for us kids of divorce, an Absence? Just kidding, Dad – and I hope Spain is treating you well).

Clearly there are no unresolved emotional issues at play here – so what’s my problem? As an actual dad myself with real children I am not against dads, as a group. They are Fine, if solitude isn’t an option. But given their baggage and patriarchal demagoguery, do they belong as a pronounced theme in games as diverse as God Of War, Dishonored 2 and Death Stranding? This is what I am skeptical about, and why I think we should ask these dads the same questions we should regularly ask all dads: What are you doing? Why are you here? And why do you all look so tired?

Regis Lucis Caelum 113 has a very good answer to this last question. The father of Final Fantasy 15’s playable hero Noctis, and the anxious star of its associated animated feature, Kingslaive, dear Lucis has got the usual set of worries – he’s protector of a magical kingdom, his son is supposed to be saving the world but is actually on a road trip that looks like a remake of The Hangover featuring catalogue models, and he’s ageing at an accelerated rate because he’s using his life energy to maintain a force field generated by a supernatural crystal (that’s why he’s tired, kids. That’s why daddy is tired). He’s waylaid by responsibility, faced with impossible problems, and, on the big screen, he’s played by that poignantly crumpled embodiment of doomed care, Sean Bean. He is, as far as this list goes, a pretty regular, blue jeans and TalkSport kinda dad.