Humans are social creatures by nature, striving to further meaningful interactions regardless of whether they’re in person or behind a screen. Video games allow us the ability to simulate these real-world relationships and experience firsthand sentiments from a third person point of view. The variety of storylines available to players parallel familiar bonds meant to resonate deep within their hearts and minds.
Boy. Our bond is forever
Essentially, games like the newly released God of War, which feature infamous god-slaying Kratos and his son Atreus, are successful due to the heavy emotional investments carried by fans. In other words, emotionally driven characters with profound narratives will often establish lifelong enthusiasts because they mimic intimate connections in the physical world. Kratos once had a family, but wrongfully suffered the loss of his loved ones because of unjust actions and emerged driven by the passion to avenge those closest to him. In this new release, we empathize with the struggles of a man who lost everything he valued and fought to gain his identity as a father once again. For longtime fans, experiencing the tender moments and chemistry between father and son was especially rewarding, even during times when Kratos doesn’t truly know how to comfort his son he makes his best effort to. This authentic dialogue may trigger moments of nostalgia for players with their own families.
Like father, like daughter?
A family doesn’t have to be blood-related. A family can be symbolic or adoptive. In Last of Us, the relationship between Joel and Ellie develops into something that isn’t just two people brought together by the playfulness of fate, but rather two survivors that experience hardships together, which in turn strengthens their emotional connection. Those situations bring them closer together and cultivate a father and daughter bond. As their story begins, they felt apathetic about having to journey together, but as they dragged along having to face adversity in a post apocalyptic world, they realized that they needed each other.
Whenever we, as the players, see either Joel or Ellie get injured in some sort of way, it brings a sense of impending doom. Questions start swirling in our minds — can Ellie survive without Joel? Can Joel continue his journey without having anything to live for? All these questions (& more) are asked knowing that they mean a lot to each other. Just as the characters in the game form a bond with one another, we also form a bond with them due to the emotional odyssey the players and characters are sharing together. I’m sure a father in Joel’s shoes would do anything to prevent harm to an adoptive daughter after losing his first one. It’s his dedication to protecting Ellie that is most likely to strike a cord in players hearts. Probably one of the main reasons why it is considered one of the best games for the last generation of consoles.
The family relationship doesn’t have to be solely focused on parents and kids, as we see in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. For those who don’t know the backstory of the game, Brothers is the story about two kids who need to find a magical medicine to help cure their father’s illness. Utilizing each of the controller’s joysticks, a player is able to control each brother allowing different angles to solves problems and continue through the game. In some cases, the older brother is able to lift his younger brother to be able to reach places that are inaccessible, and in others, players will need the older brother’s strength to pull levers. It tells the enduring story of brothers supporting each other and overcoming obstacles that are impossible with their individual abilities, in order to help their dad.
Having a younger brother myself I know how important sibling relationships are — how these types of relationships make you feel close to one another. Playing some parts of the game reminded me of that relationship. Especially during moments at the end of the game, when the younger brother copies many of the actions previously done by the older brother to be able to get back home. It shows the younger brother following in the footsteps of his role model, a feeling I know oh so well.
Anything for her
For fans of the Walking Dead, we all know how the Rick and Carl father/son duo is reasonably important to the series. During survival situations, family are the people you count on, and might be one of the few things that keep you sane. However, the Walking Dead relationship I’m talking about is the one in TellTale’s game, The Walking Dead: A TellTale Series. I’ve interacted with countless fans of this game, and the dynamic between the main character Lee, and the little girl known as Clementine (a.k.a the most badass little girl in the Walking Dead universe) always strikes a conversation. It seems to be everybody’s favorite feature.
As I progressed through the game’s story, I noticed how most of my choices always considered protecting Clem, despite some of them involving the deaths of other characters. Because of the way our brains are wired, Clem automatically becomes the most important character that must be protected at all costs. She becomes less of a supporting character and more like your own kid — as you’re trying maneuver life and death scenarios with her in mind. With that mechanic of looking after Clem, and trying to teach her how to live in this new reality, it allows the player to become more emotionally invested into the game.
Whether in the game, or outside of it, family has always been a large part of the video game industry. It’s the thing that involves us, and keeps us attached to many of the characters. Personally, I believe what makes a game a success is the lasting imprint it leaves in your head, the one that keeps you thinking about it all day, or even months and years after you’ve played it. The best way to do that is through the characters; characters that become a part of your own family by the end of story — the ones that you’ll never forget because of the adventures you’ve been on. Together.