On Father’s Day, we celebrate and honor those men who have invested in us and taught us how to be good people. They may be our actual father or simply an older man who taught us strong biblical values. In recent years, the theme of fatherhood has become increasingly prevalent in video games. From fantasy adventure games like God of War to dystopian zombie-shooters like The Last of Us, the question of what it means to be a good father can be found in many different types of video games. There is a lot that video game fathers can teach us about what it means to be a good father. These are the fathers in video games that we have found to be compelling and strong role models for fatherhood. Note that there are SPOLIERS for the games listed below, so read at your own discretion.
Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt)
Not all men become biological fathers, but they can still fill that role in a person’s life. This truth is exemplified in Geralt of Rivia, who inadvertently takes on the role of a father for Ciri, a young woman with incredible powers. As a witcher, Geralt is a mutated monster-hunter who is unable to have children. While Geralt has a tough exterior and a violent profession, his interactions with Ciri reveal a man who cares deeply for his loved ones. The narrative of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt peels back Geralt’s layers by contrasting him with other characters in the game.
Geralt is directly contrasted with both the Bloody Baron and the Emperor of Nilfgaard as a father figure. Through their vices, both of these characters point to Geralt’s own weaknesses and demonstrate why he is a good father. In his quest to find Ciri, Geralt interacts with the Bloody Baron, who at first just seems to be a boisterous noble with a drinking problem. However, Geralt slowly uncovers that the Bloody Baron is a violent drunk whose abusive behavior caused both his wife and daughter to abandon him. While Geralt is not a drunk or abusive, he is like the Baron in that he often acts out of anger and, left unchecked, has the potential to cause great harm to his loved ones. Depending on the player’s decisions, the Bloody Baron’s guilt drives him to either go on a quest for redemption or to take his own life.
In my first playthrough of The Witcher III, I found the Bloody Baron’s storyline to be emotional and poignant due to its realistic depiction of abuse and alcoholism. What strikes me about the Bloody Baron the most is that when Geralt confronts him on his abusive behavior, the Baron tries to defend it, blaming his wife and claiming that she pushed him to the edge so that abuse was the only way to keep stability in his home. This is sadly accurate to the kind of reasoning abusers use in real life to try to justify their actions. In spite of his terrible actions, I still found the Baron to be somewhat sympathetic due to his desire to reconcile with his daughter. Ultimately, the Baron is neither a hero nor a villain, but a broken man who needs to heal the wounds he has inflicted upon his family.
The other father figure that is contrasted with Geralt is the Emperor of Nilfgaard, Ciri’s biological father. Emperor Emyr represents the opposite extreme from the Bloody Baron’s vices. Whereas the Bloody Baron is completly dominated by his emotions, the Emperor is completely detatched from his. He is a pragmatic man who sees everyone in terms of how they can advance his own political power. He contracts Geralt to bring Ciri back to Nilfgaard not out of love for his daughter, but out of a desire to ensure his bloodline remains in control of the Nilfgaardian Empire. Despite the Emperor being Ciri’s “true father”, it is Geralt who shows greater care and compassion for her as a person. Geralt is similar to the Emperor of Nilfgaard in that he too can become dethatched from his emotions. As a witcher, Geralt’s emotions are suppressed by the mutagens he takes. All the other witchers Geralt interacts with don’t appear to have any sort of familial relationships with anyone save for the other members of their clan.
While few men become powerful enough to rule whole nations, that doesn’t stop many fathers from attempting to dominate the lives of their children. Some men will try to vicariously live the life they want through their children by forcing them down a certain career path or hobby. In our workaholic society, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that success for a child means being successful in the world. It is entirely possible for a young man or woman to become successful from a worldly standpoint while being spiritually and morally bankrupt. More than continuing our legacy or brining honor to our family name, we should desire our children to become upstanding followers of Christ.
What makes Geralt a great father is not his physical strength, but his desire to raise Ciri to be strong and a person with strong morals. Geralt is not abusive like the Bloody Baron nor is he controlling like the Emperor. Rather, Geralt teaches Ciri self-control while also letting her make her own decisions. As a man who hopes to be both a husband and a father, I hope to instill biblical values in my child while also letting them choose their own path in life. At the end of the day, being a good father means being a good man who looks to the Lord for guidance in how he raises his child.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)
Alfred Pennyworth (Batman: The Telltale Series)
When I think of the word “father”, it brings to mind images of protection, deepening bonds, and a source of wisdom. Many wonderful fathers that have made the deepest impact in both real life and fiction are not biological in nature, and one of these examples is Alfred Pennyworth from Batman: The Telltale Series. Actually, any iteration of this loyal butler would be worth mentioning, but this particular take on this character really cements how much of a father figure he is to Bruce Wayne.
Batman: The Telltale Series works as many Telltale games do by offering the player many dialogue choices that can branch into different outcomes for both Batman and his allies/foes. Alfred is one of the most important relationships Bruce has in the game, serving as confidante, servant, and foster father. There’s even a point in the game where the player has the choice of admitting to Alfred’s face that they see Alfred as their father, as he had to raise Bruce since his parents were murdered. A confession like that cements feelings of protectiveness between both the player and Alfred. The game is not kind to Bruce and his allies, and Alfred especially gets the short end of the stick several times. If the appropriate choices are made by the player, Alfred can even take permanent bodily harm, something that the player as to live with in the remaining episodes.
Still, Alfred is loyal through and through. He thinks of how he can continue to serve Bruce as not only a loyal servant, but someone who he sees as his son and needs to protect. Still, even familial loyalty can only continue for so long when the war against evil seems to be never-ending. There will come a time where the player makes a decision that will affect the dynamic between Batman and Alfred permanently. Even so, I felt a connection to this version of Alfred that cements his place in the Bat Mythos more strongly than most other iterations. He’s always been a supporting character in the Bat Family, but one that they could not survive without, and certainly the one that Bruce needs the most.
Jecht (Final Fantasy X)
My favorite video game characters always tend to be ones who experience moments in their lives that I can relate to my own. From my favorite Final Fantasy of all time comes my favorite character, and father, Jecht. I’ve played half the series, and know a good bit of the rest, so I can almost surely speak of the parental figures and their mark on the main characters, or the story. But when it comes to Final Fantasy X, a game that I make a priority to know inside and out, I know well just what Jecht does for the story, for Tidus, and even for dads.
For those that don’t know, let’s sum up his character and his actions. A star blitzball player who knows just how good he is, he casts a big shadow over his son, Tidus. He disappears from Dream Zanarkand, either pulled out by some unknown plothole or having ventured too far out from the dream bubble cast over the sea near Besaid. He’s put in prison, set free by Braska, and charged as a Guardian alongside Auron. The best boys bro trio goes along the pilgrimage, teaching Jecht everything about Spira. He comes to terms with never going home, but leaves messages for his son in the event Tidus ever gets to come to Spira. He Becomes the final aeon, believing the lie. But after Auron dies, Braska dies, and the Calm comes to Spira; before Jecht can lose his mind to Yu Yevon, he figures everything out, and brings his son from the Dream Zanarkand Yu Yevon keeps up, in the hopes that his boy can right the centuries wrong done.
Jecht is a braggadocious man, a drunk, a hothead, and a bad dad. We see that Tidus is taunted by him in his dreams, and in his abilities as a blitzball player. Slowly Tidus steps out of the shadow as he walks farther along in his journey with Yuna and the others. We, us and Tidus, don’t see the entire transformation of Jecht’s character, save the highlights. In each Jecht Sphere, we see him change: he gives encourages Tidus in his gruff manner, he quits drinking because of he recognizes the major consequences of his actions, he develops a bond with Auron and Braska, and he finally cares about something more than himself by becoming the final aeon. And when it all comes to bear, just before we begin our fight with him, we see him reconciling with Tidus. Tidus even high-fives him in the end.
It brings tears to my eyes when Tidus can finally say to his old man, “I hate you,” and oh, how the tears gush as Jecht softly chuckles and replies, “I know, I know.”
As a kid, I thought my dad was perfect, and his word was law. It took me a long time to reconcile that not all his decisions were great, and that there were things he could have done better. My dad went on his own journey, and at times physically or emotionally left us. So that moment for Tidus was cathartic for me. By the time I realized my dad was as human as the rest of us, it was far beyond the point of saying, “I hate you” and battling him in his super form. Instead, I gave Him the same grace God gave me, and chose to enjoy the rest of my years with a dad who tries to be better, and is better.
King Rhoam (The Legend of Zelda Series)
I love the Zelda series. The puzzles, exploration, music, and lore just speak to me on a level that few other franchises have managed to do. And yet, one of my biggest gripes with the series has been a lack of actual character development. I’ve loved what little we get, especially in titles like Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker, but even then, most of the development involves side characters. When it comes to Link and Zelda themselves, most of the time we get little to nothing. For crying out loud, for the longest time, Ganon himself had more character than the actual heroes of the franchise.
Then along came Breath of the Wild, and while it’s certainly no To Kill a Mockingbird, it brought a level of character depth and development that the series hadn’t seen up to that point. One major surprise and treat was getting a look at the royal family of Hyrule beyond just the titular princess. One of the first characters you meet in the game is an old man who gives you a strange quest to begin your journey. That old man turns out to be none other than King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule. And yes, that is his full name.
If you really want a look at the inner life of the Hylian royalty, though, then you’ll need to turn to Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The story here is much more in-depth, but for a brief synopsis, the kingdom of Hyrule is facing destruction by a growing Calamity. The kingdom’s best bet for salvation is for Princess Zelda to awaken an ancestral connection with the goddess Hylia in order to stave off the Calamity. Zelda, however, seems to think that technology is the way, choosing to spend her time studying ancient Sheikah technology and how it could be applied to their battle. Her father, King Rhoam, sees this study as a waste of time that could be better spent pursuing her connection with Hylia.
For most of the game, King Rhoam comes across as cold, even cruel. During Zelda’s childhood, he takes Terrako, her adorable mini-Guardian companion, from his daughter, feeling the tiny Guardian has become a distraction from her royal duties. It’s easy to write him off as simply a heartless authoritarian, concerned more with duty than love. He refuses to see his daughter’s ideas for the future as viable, punishing her for straying off the path he has envisioned for her.
At one point in Age of Calamity, King Rhoam finds himself cornered by a troop of Guardians. He sends Zelda and Link away as he faces his certain death. For a while in the game, it appears that he has truly been killed by the Calamity. However, later in the story, we find that he survived. How? A Sheikah energy shield that Zelda had given him. It’s at this point that the king realizes that his actions toward Zelda were cruel and uncalled for. As he himself puts it, “while I accused [Zelda] of evading [her] duty…in truth, perhaps I was guilty of the same.”
Through all of his decisions, even the bad ones, King Rhoam’s love for his kingdom and his daughter is evident. Though he expresses it through gruff commands at first, through the end of the story, you see that his desire was always for his daughter to have the best life, and to fulfill the destiny that awaited her as a daughter of the Hylian royal family. What’s more, he openly admits his mistakes and turns around, choosing to let Zelda fight off the darkness in the way she sees best.
Additionally, in these final cutscenes, we see that King Rhoam is indeed in touch with his emotions, something that, for the longest time, “strong male characters” were not allowed to do. His stern nature and gruff attitude do not take away from his heart for his family. It mirrors the love of Christ, reaching out, sometimes in ways we would not choose ourselves, to lead us on a path of peace and righteousness. And while King Rhoam did have to repent of his decisions, something our Lord does not have to do, his willingness to admit his wrongs and allow Zelda to go her own way shows a humility that I think many of us could stand to emulate in our own lives.
King Rhoam, like all fathers, is far from perfect. He makes mistakes and hurts the people he loves. But in all of that, he never wavers from a desire to love and protect the people that mean so much to him. Even after years of reigning, his heart is tender, mirroring the tenderness of our Savior. And when he does realize his mistakes, he doesn’t cover for them with machismo and bravado. He admits them, and, with a humble heart, allows his daughter to make her own decisions. And by the end of the story, King Rhoam and Zelda, as a team, work to build the kingdom of Hyrule into the greatest kingdom it can be.