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.

Inventory Time: Metal Gear Solid’s PAL Key

The Metal Gear Solid is a bizarre series. Personally I’m a fan of it, I like the ridiculous and the over the top, and so the MGS franchise suits me well. Of all the crazy MGS stuff, and trust me if you haven’t tried the series, there’s a lot of bonkers stuff, one item in particular has perplexed me for decades, that item is the PAL key. The PAL key or the Permissive Acton Link key is an emergency disc that is used to activate or deactivate nuclear weapons. That’s all fine and good but it’s the actual disc and how to use it that I want to talk about today. Obviously this is going to contain spoilers for Metal Gear Sold but nothing too spoilery. If a memory card reading, gas mask wearing, levitating psycho hasn’t persuaded you to play the MGS series then my mild spoiler shouldn’t turn you away for good. With that, let’s talk about PAL, pal!

palkeyred

Towards the end of Metal Gear Solid you discover that the enemy, Liquid, has started the activation process for the nuclear weapons. Not good news. So you, as Solid Snake must deactivate the nukes. Previous plans have failed but you discover the emergency option, the PAL key. In an emergency, 3 discs of data can be input into 3 computers to either activate nuclear weapons or disarm nuclear weapons. These keys are one use and if you mess up the input order or input the same disc by mistake then you’re all out of luck. As Eminem said, ‘You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow nukes’. Pretty sure that was it or close enough anyway, clearly he wrote that rap whilst playing Metal Gear Solid. So Solid Snake checks his infinite pockets and wouldn’t you know it, he only has one PAL key. He gets on his walkie-talkie to his urine soaked scientist buddy Otacon and has a bit of a moan about only having one key. Otacon explains that that PAL key is a 3 in one key. It’s designed with a special Shaped Memory Alloy which allows the key to transform shape so that different discs within the key are readable by a disc scanner. I believe that’s correct, the MGS series is confusing. When in doubt, nano-machines did it. For those who are reading and don’t know what nano-machines are to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, they’re whatever you want them to be. It’s that bit from The Simpsons where Professor Frink asks a really specific question to Lucy Lawless about an episode of Xena where a really specific detail was wrong. And then she responds with this:

Simpsons wizards

Just replace wizard with nano-machines and you’re an expert on the Metal Gear Solid experience. Again, I must reiterate, I love the series for reasons like that.

Back to my PAL! So, this disc can transform and needs to transform for it to be used properly. How do you transform it? I hear you ask. Simple really, by severe changes in temperature. And by severe I mean Sweaty Betty or Chilly Willy. Rubbing the disc in your hands isn’t going to heat it enough and to cool it you can’t just seductively rub ice cubes on it like it’s Kim Basinger. Extreme temperatures are needed to get those 2 states and the 3rd state is just room temperate so that isn’t a problem. To get the key to cool enough you need to head to a freezer area of the facility and wait in that area for the PAL key to cool enough. Once it does, the icon for the item will change to a blue disc and you can then use it on the suitable computer. To increase the temperature of the disc sufficiently, you have to take Solid Snake to a furnace area and have him wait till the disc heats up. Once the disc is heated up, you must make your way back to the computers and input the disc into the correct disc drive. Sound like fun to do in a video game? Of course it is, everyone loves backtracking!

So where is my issue with this? Well, the existence of the PAL key is for emergencies. A trip to a freezer and then a furnace, does not sound like an emergency that is swift, and speed is usually what emergencies require. It’s not like a scientist can pop this PAL key into a microwave to heat it up. Have you ever put food in a microwave that had a small piece of aluminium foil attached to it? I have and I might as well have got the sparklers out and set up a bonfire. Then there is the case of the journey to and from the freezer and furnace. Solid Snake is a clone of Big Boss, the greatest soldier of all time. A high mark for fitness and stamina is required to earn that title. Him running to and from in a timely fashion I can accept. But a regular person? Unless they’ve got Usain Bolt in a lab coat, I don’t think they’re getting those discs anywhere sprightly. An average Joe scientist will be doing a run for 2 minutes, then with winded breath that becomes a jog for another 2 minutes and then a brisk power walk to the freezer. That doesn’t include the trip back or the furnace expedition. BOOM the nukes have detonated and the super mutants are being born.

Giant mechs that roar like a Bionicle T-Rex? Sure, I’ll bite. CD’s that require a hot water bottle and a slushie nearby? Yeah, OK Kojima, where are you hiding the glue? Anyway that’s my shower thought for the day. More than likely I’ll be returning to the MGS series in the future for Inventory Time but in the meantime feel free to check out my thoughts on The Legend Of Zelda’s Iron Boots. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Take it easy.