I know in my circle of friends Barret of FF7 is somewhat a running joke.  He is 1997 Japan’s idea of African Americans.  Stereotypes saturate his dialogue and just about every aspect of the character without being full-blown racist.

Wait a second.  Not full-blown racist?

Barret2

Well… now that, that’s fixed.  You’re welcome Internet.

Barret is nearly the most one-dimensional character in the Final Fantasy franchise.  His saving grace is Marlene, his adoptive daughter.  Between bouts of thuggish brutality and a fisticuffs fixes everything approach to problems, we get his motivation.  The goddamn world needs to be saved for Marlene – to do that he is constantly leaving and neglecting her.

Something unexpected has happened to me now that I’m all old and have a kid.  I identify with Barret.  Writing a book and working some trite leadership role in a bookstore hardly compare to saving the world.

I want to bribe a doctor to diagnose me with Tourette’s in order to justify the amount of swearing I do.  I’m constantly angry these days.

The things I need to do to provide for my kid often keep me from spending time with him – or worse leave me too fatigued to be all the father I want to be.

In Barret’s flashback he’s not the angry big black guy yet.  It takes a good deal of tragedy to pull that out of him.  Add the pressures of fatherhood in a world that’s about to be destroyed by a fucking meteor, and well, I get it.

The greatest flaw in Barret as a character is the writing.  His story just isn’t told well through the dialogue.  I had to have some extra life experience to identify with him.

Good writing allows for anyone to sympathize with characters.  Enter Sazh Katzroy; the better written Barret.  The stereotypes have been removed, though the foundations remain the same.  A gun dude with a kid.  As the story progresses Sazh Katzroy turns out to be the most developed and interesting character of FFXIII.  His plot is downright moving.  It’s a damn shame that FFXIII is such a piece of shit to play.

Then there’s the Walking Dead comic, TV series, and game.  Of them… only one has a sincere father-child relationship.  The comic is filled with too much camp to find a resonating relationship.  (Similar camp keeps Barret’s drive obfuscated – he’s just so busy being a caricature that I can’t feel anything substantial without reaching for it).  The melodrama of the series and constant pro-gun rhetoric of AMC’s The Walking Dead keep me from looking for depth.  (Editor’s Note:  That’s not to say I’m not entertained by it).

That brings us to The Walking Dead by Telltale Games.  Lee’s relationship with Clementine is the fulcrum upon which all success of the story balances.  There are secondary and tertiary relationships that enhance the experience but the focus never drifts.  During my playthrough of The Walking Dead I found myself pausing or quitting the game to worry about my mortality and my son.

No zombie thing has ever triggered such deep thoughts in me.  Realizing that I can’t always protect him and that I won’t be around forever depressed me.  Contemplating what lengths I would go to – not just imagining a zombie world – in the real world for him.  Where does my morality blur in his name?  I see a twenty dollar bill on the floor.  A year ago I would unquestionably hand it in to whatever place of business or chase down the person that may have dropped it.  Now, I’d pick it up and think about how much it could help with diapers.

It’s rare that a horror anything evokes psychological terror in me.  Most of the time it’s the general shock of a quick reveal or loud noise.  Nothing permanent or resonating.  The great success of The Walking Dead (the video game) is that it made me feel pure thanatophobia on a personal level that I could translate into reality.

Being a dad has unlocked another layer for me to experience in stories and video games. Great storytelling evokes emotions in anyone regardless of barriers (racial or no – whether you have a kid or not).

But the real moral of this story is that video game dads are awesome when the writing is awesome.  And you should play The Walking Dead before Telltale begins to release the next season – you can ignore 400 days.