Mother’s Day: A Look At Mums/Carers Of Video Games

Today is Mother’s day in the UK or Mum’s day as I prefer, the word mother doesn’t sound right to me, sounds very formal. To celebrate I thought I’d list a few video game characters who stood out to me as great mums in video games or filled the mum/carer role well. It was originally going to be all mums but I thought of some who deserved a mention over certain mums and so this list is a bit all over but I believe they deserve a mention. And so here are some of my favourite ‘mum’ roles in games.

Link’s Grandma (TLOZ: The Wind Waker)

This small dear breaks my heart every time I play Wind Waker. She’s so lovely and she doesn’t deserve what she goes through! Not only does she have her granddaughter kidnapped by a scary giant bird and taken away from the island, but she also has to see her grandson leave for the dangerous world to go and save her. Within 24 hours her whole life is in shambles. She has no idea if she’ll ever see her grand-kids again and all she can do on the island is wait. Wait and wait. Link and his sister, Aryll, could return in a day, a month, a year or even never. In fact, when you do return to the island, the island residents tell you that you grandma has barely been out of the house and she’s worried sick. When you go and see her she is weary and restless in her sleep. She’s not even aware you’re in the room she is so exhausted. And what she mumbles really tugs on my heartstrings:

grandma

That isn’t fair Grandma! You told me to go, don’t guilt trip me now. Thankfully though if you use a fairy in a bottle it helps give Grandma a bit of vitality and seeing Link safe reassures her that he can save Aryll and that he’ll be fine. After helping Grandma she’ll have a big batch of soup ready for whenever you return, which you can store with your empty bottles. Not only that! But Grandma will send a letter to you with all the rupees she has. She gives everything to her Grandkids and she deserves some in this post. Hell, I think she deserves to go on the next adventure with Link! Her, Link, King of Red Lions and the open seas. What wacky adventures they’ll get up to!

Mom (Pokemon Red/Blue Specifically)

‘Mum, I’m 10 years old now and that scientist round the corner just gave me this gadget and told me to go look at all these strange creatures for him. He said there’s a lot of these pocket monsters that he wants to study but for some reason he expects me to do it for him. Then he gave me a lizard with fire leaking out of its tail, it’s pretty cool. He also asked what gender I am.

‘Is this like a school expedition with a group of you or are you getting paid at least?’

‘No, just me and he hasn’t mentioned anything about paying me. I’ve got this wicked flame salamander so I figured I’d just beat up other peoples monsters and take some of their money.’

‘OK then, well I’ll phone your school and let them know you won’t be back for a while. Take care and make sure you feed that iguana.’

I know the Pokemon world is very different to ours, unfortunately. But if I tried to leave for an adventure like that, it would at least 6 hours of negotiations! How far I’m allowed to travel, which people I can and can’t talk to, promises to call home every other day etc and at least a suitcase full of clothing. The Mum in Pokemon Red/Blue basically just says that she thought this day might come and she can’t stop you from leaving. No guilt trip or tears. She knows adventure is out there and there are hundreds of goofy looking critters to cram into balls! I respect that level of not getting in the way of her son/daughter’s dreams.

Pokemon mum
Wow, don’t sound too upset mum, jeez! Can’t wait to rent out my bedroom or turn it into your arts and crafts studio.

Sarah Sisulart (Lost Odyssey)

This list is turning into Grandma’s Day but I can’t justify taking Sarah off the list. She is the carer for Cooke and Mack, her grandkids who she never met until this game. She’s an immortal being who lost her husband and upon finding out her daughter had passed, entered into a depression state, completely isolating herself from the world. On your travels as Kaim, along with Cooke, Mack and others, you end up reuniting with Sarah and upon discovering her grandkids, Sarah realises she has a new goal in life and joins the crew on their quest to save the world from evil and to look after her grandkids along the way.

Sarah.Sisulart

I spoke about Lost Odyssey in my blog post about the lack of marriage in gaming and a big reason why Sarah is here is just because the idea of going off on magical adventures with your mum, grandmum or carer is a wonderful idea to me. It sounds like great fun and a brilliant bonding experience. Sure it’s dangerous but if you’re going on a dangerous quest anyway, why not with family, as long as they are capable. Sarah is also just such a caring person to Cooke and Mack. She had never met them before, had spent the past few decades in isolation in a deep depressive state and had lost her memories like the other immortals had in Lost Odyssey. And yet, she was straight there when she realised who these children were. Fully accepting and embracing them as her grandkids, Sarah’s compassion was a much needed component in their lives and she delivers that in spades.

Isaac’s Mom (The Binding of Isaac)

Ahahahahahahah! No, she is an awful mum and an awful character in general. She deserves a mention though as a warning to not to be like her. I won’t get into it much but she basically hears voices telling her to kill her son, Isaac, and she tried to do that very thing. Kind and endearing, she is not.

Isaac mom

The Boss (Metal Gear Solid 3)

The Boss is one of those characters I don’t particularly like to discuss much. Not because I don’t think she’s a great character, as I think she is one of the greatest video game characters ever created. The problem is that she has a very important role in Metal Gear Solid 3 which when talked about, is major spoilers. I know Metal Gear Solid 3 is over a decade old but for those who haven’t played it, I highly recommend you do that or even just look up on Youtube what makes The Boss so amazing. My words won’t do it justice as Metal Gear Solid 3 is a high point to me in storytelling in gaming. The Metal Gear Solid series is over the top and cheesy at times but I think the overall theme, settings and plot of Metal Gear Solid 3 is nothing short of premium quality. For those who have played it, you probably understand why I’ve put her on this list.

the-boss-mgs3

For those that don’t know about The Boss’s significance to MGS3, I’ll just speak about her relationship with the main character, Naked Snake. The Boss is Naked Snake’s mentor. She is described as the greatest soldier. At the very start of Metal Gear Solid 3, she defects and joins the enemy side. After that, you don’t really see The Boss but The Boss is mentioned constantly in conversation with Naked Snake’s support team. Not only that, but the times when Naked Snake does see her, even if they don’t speak, you can see Snake’s adoration for her. This could be misconstrued as a lovers look but I don’t believe that is the case. He respects and admires her, Snake is who he is because of her and her teachings. I’m going to end it there because I do think it’s hard to convey the dynamic between them in a few paragraphs. MGS3 is hours long and a lot of that is exposition, cutscenes and radio chatter. I would only do it an injustice to boil it down here.

Yoshi (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island)

Okay, hear me out on this one. Yes……it’s a dinosaur. I’m aware of that. But a dinosaur deserves recognition too. There’s no Dinosaur Day! I mean there is, according to Google it’s June 1st but we don’t celebrate it. Nearly every day seems to have some random holiday or celebration assigned to it. Now, we could discuss the Yoshi species gender habits or if the Yoshi in this game is THE Yoshi as this game is a prequel to the Mario timeline we all know. But for all intents and purposes we’re going to say that this is THE Yoshi and is generally regarded as a ‘he’ although this is still up for some debate according to some websites.

At the start of the game, Yoshi’s Island, Kamek attacks a stork carrying 2 babies to their parents. Kamek swipes one but the other baby plummets to the ocean below. Luckily the baby lands on an island. More specifically, it lands on Yoshi’s back on his home island. Now, we’re talking about a dinosaur here. A friendly dinosaur but a dinosaur nevertheless. We’ve seen and controlled Yoshi and used his majestically long tongue to devour all matters of flora and fauna. There was no other creature around to see the baby land on Yoshi. No witnesses. Not only that, this baby nearly broke the poor dino’s back!

Yoshi
Walking along, minding his own business and then WHAM! Terminal velocity baby to the hump.

So rather than wolfing down this innocent child, Yoshi decides to check the blanket that the baby was wrapped up in and inside he finds a map. After going back to his base to show the other Yoshi’s his meal, I mean…..new friend, the Yoshi’s discover that Baby Mario can sense his kidnapped brother, Baby Luigi. With that knowledge, the Yoshi’s decide to reunite the two and set off on an adventure across the island. How beautifully innocent and kind is Yoshi! This is his home but even he knows the dangers that lurk across the land and yet, his sole goal becomes to care for Baby Mario, save Baby Luigi and reunite them with their parents. He has no obligation to do so but Yoshi becomes the carer and protector of Baby Mario. Whenever Baby Mario gets knocked off Yoshi and starts to bawl his eyes out, Yoshi always grabs him and secures him to the safety of his back. And instantly, Baby Mario stops crying because he feels safe and loved by this wonderful creature.

Again, the Yoshi in this game is probably THE Yoshi and male but to me he is a guardian to Baby Mario, and even to Baby Luigi if only for a brief period. He is a dinosaur and so is an ‘it’ but an ‘it’ deserving to be praised for what it did. But let me know your thoughts on these choices and if you can think of any stand outs then let me know in the comments. Looking back on my 2 decades of gaming I honestly couldn’t think of many mums in video games so I’m intrigued to hear ones I’ve missed or forgotten. Thank you for reading and to any mum’s who read this on Mother’s day, I hope you have a great day and get spoilt.

Marriage In Gaming And The Lack Thereof

I am married! Officially off the market and happy to be so. Currently on last day of honeymoon and been craving to write and so I thought I’d talk about what’s been on my mind predominantly the past month, marriage. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with my day. I’m talking about marriage in gaming.

When I decided to write about this topic I started to think over my 1/4 of a century gaming knowledge and I quickly realised how little marriage is in games. Considering marriage has been around for seemingly ever and is a tradition across most of the world, it sure doesn’t come across that way in video games. I can understand this to an extent though. Game publishers want the player to feel a connection to their protagonist or to want to play as a fantastical protagonist. Marcus Fenix from the Gears Of War series doesn’t look like an average gamer but the boulder in armour appeals to that fantasy element. Who doesn’t love pretending to be a badass? Marriage would only hold that fantasy back. Then there is the classic, regular person finds out they are the chosen one or falls into a situation where they save the world. I would be lying to say that I haven’t daydreamed about that in work now and then. Commitments like marriage, a job and family would also lessen that fantasy. Not saying I wouldn’t like that to be an element in games, but from a publisher stand point I understand. The average age of gamers is rising but I don’t think I’m far wrong in saying that the majority of game revenue is from the teenager to early 20’s demographic. As I’ve been ageing my game buying has decreased, as have my friends spending habits too. In my early 20’s I bought games willy-nilly but there is a reason I had more money and free time back then. I was devoid of commitments and any commitments I had were minor compared to today.  So I understand publishers aiming for that larger revenue.

As I said though, the age of the average gamer is rising and so I believe it’s time we see this being reflected in games. Not in all games it’d be a good way to distinguish your game from the crowd. Games like Mass Effect where you get a template character and a choose your own backstory section would bode well to have a marriage life option included. A checkbox that allows you to include a married life package or even create your spouse and children in a character creator. It would allow players to a wider range of character depth and for those that have a family, it’s nice to be able to experience that in a fictitious setting too. It doesn’t even have to be anything major in that marriage package. Could just be a home on a distant planet that you can visit now and again and have supper with the family. Or emails that you receive now and then about young Jimmy being bullied at his new school. In today’s games where we have an overabundance of things to do on the map, a little subplot about married life shouldn’t be hard to implement. The ability to play Commander Shepard as a family war hero rather than the swinging bachelor war hero would be a welcome change to some games. Is it necessary in all games? Absolutely not, stories function better at times if the protagonist is single and ready to mingle but in games where that doesn’t matter, a choice would be a welcome one.

Most games where marriage is a component, the marriage aspect is usually a story point. FFX and FFXV both have key plots that revolve around a marriage. The original Gears Of War trilogy has Dom’s personal mission of trying to find his wife Maria. Uncharted 4 has Nathan Drake struggling to adapt to a stable married life instead of his daring and dangerous past. While I enjoyed each of these, they are generally end goals or things to push the story in the right direction. Dom’s search is the exception there but it’s never the main story thread. There can be hours before Dom pipes up about his wife and even though I enjoyed that plot, it is a sub plot. What I want is a more natural married life situation. I want it to be there and to have meaning to the whole story or a majority of it. It doesn’t have to be the main focus but it should be there and not just something that dips in and out to add stakes or to propel a story beat. Even though those things are fine to do in games as well, I just would like to see it more fleshed out. When I was thinking about games that I’ve played that featured well done couples, I really struggled to remember any. There is one that I instantly remembered and one that I remembered really appreciating when I played it and that was Lost Odyssey.

lost odyssey

Lost Odyssey was a JRPG that came out on the Xbox 360 in 2008. It centres on Kaim, a member of the Immortals, a race of….well immortal beings. For some reason the Immortals lose their memories and what follows is a quest to recover Kaim’s memories and to save the land from disaster. Not a wholly original plot but what makes it for me is the introduction of the rest of the party. Specifically Sarah, Cooke and Mack. Sarah is also an Immortal who has lost her memory but it is revealed that Kaim and Sarah are husband and wife. Not only that but Mack and Cooke are Kaim and Sarah’s grandchildren. For the majority of the game, these 4 are together, traversing this world and trying to prevent disaster from happening. How often can you think of a game where husband and wife are a team in combat situations? How often are the children or grandchildren of these people involved? Not only are they an integral part of the combat and its mechanics but also the story. The kids and Sarah aren’t just chucked in for a bit of drama or aren’t the driving force at the start of the story. They all go on an adventure together as a family and I’ve hardly seen that in games. There are quite a few games where it’s brothers off on a mission together so why not couples? There is room to do a lot of creative things with marriage in gaming and not for it to be a basic mechanic in Fable 2 or some subplot to overcome. And while I don’t want those mechanics to disappear, I think it’s time we start seeing more representations of married, family or couples life in gaming.

Who knows, maybe I’m just high on married life. It’s only been a week since the day. Ask me how I feel about this in a year’s time. Maybe by then I’d vote to keep reality and fantasy as far from each other as possible. But until then, let me know your opinion and if you can think of any well done couple/marriage elements in gaming, feel free to share them as I’m quite interested in seeing more examples. Take it easy.