TV and film are full of bad dads, but games are doing better

“[On TV] if there is a dad in the home, he is an idiot. It must have reflected our own discomfort with dads being competent,” said Hanna Rosin on a panel about the future of fatherhood this weekend at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “You put a dad in front of his kid, and the dad gives the worst advice. You put a dad in front of a toaster and he burns the house down.”

Alexis Madrigal echoed the refrain: “As a new dad, I’ve often been struck with horror at dads I see on TV. On the small screen, dads are dolts, dads are idiots.” And while there was certainly some bright spots in advertising this year, most notably this Dove Men+Care ad, the exceptions were exactly that: exceptions.

Ironically, games are one place that generally avoid the stereotype of the bumbling pop. It’s done this chiefly by ignorance—that is, simply ignoring that they exist. That’s certainly better than carrying the baggage of generations of gender inequity, I suppose, but it is one bright spot of progressiveness in a medium that struggles to keep its values in stride with public opinion. At our first Two5sixBroken Age game designer Tim Schafer reflected that one of the chief inspirations for Vella was his own daughter, who asked why she couldn’t find characters to play.

Our own Jess Joho reflected on the “dadification” of videogames through the emergence of characters like Lee from The Walking Dead and Joel from The Last of Us. And while other mediums generally focus on fathers of young children, games are leading the way in showing fatherhood as a lifelong activity, one dotted with the pains of sacrifice, as Jess wrote:

Don’t get me wrong; dadification has done great things for videogames, for us. But I know we have to leave him to make our own decisions and mistakes. As fathers, we failed—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Like real fatherhood, no matter what choices you made or how hard you fought, innocence would always be lost. 

Even though many of the images of fatherhood are via surogates, that’s good news, believe it or not. And if Rosin is looking for more examples of fathers of significance, games would be a good place to start.