Electron Dance
3Apr/12Off

Parenting Is Not an Escort Mission

In a personal essay, Jenn Frank used 90s simulation Creatures to talk about her disconnection from motherhood – both physical and mental. It's worth your time if you haven't read it already and I'm not here to rip into her article – but I do want to pick up on one point.

There's an implication nestled in the final lines that her experience with Creatures tells her what she would be like as a mother. And zing! went my abstraction alarm.

The Abstraction, Take Two

I've written before about the problem of game abstractions that convert complex situations into simpler, bite-sized symbols but at that time I was weighing in on how gamifying real warfare was a dangerous thing. Abstractions in games are essential but, you know, sometimes every designer in the world gets attached to the same bloody abstraction.

Film and literature have managed to explore all of the different aspects of parenthood but, so far, games have achieved very little other than parenthood as an escort mission. That's all children are – something to get injured, blown up, lost, murdered or kidnapped. Their single purpose, in the frightening universe of games, are to be helpless.

In the widely panned Amy, the entire game is an escort mission. Ethan's storyline in Heavy Rain is primarily concerned with the failure to protect one's own children. In the Splinter Cell saaaaaaga, Sam Fisher has a daughter called Sarah and in the first game she's simply wallpaper to demonstrate what an upstanding all-American guy her dad is; later in the series, she represents parental failure as Sam "fails" to protect her from harm.

Austin Breed went a little further with A Mother In Festerwood that I discussed last year, and depicts the escort mission as a balancing act. What do you choose? Smother or foster independence? Still, your son will almost definitely get killed in that game, so I'm not sure it's as nuanced as I'd like.

I struggle to think of examples of parenting in games that aren't escort missions. There is an absolute gold minefield of complex topics that games could start exploring.

Wake Up and Smell The Poopucchino

The day after your first child is born is a special day. It's a day when you are suddenly expected to go from zero to hero. Here you are, take care of this small, ugly fleshling that communicates in binary: crying and not crying. (Don't worry, the ugly will soon shed to reveal a literally exploitative level of cuteness.)

Game idea #1: Hilarity ensues as the player struggles to interpret the baby's demands. Is the nappy full? Is the baby hungry? Is the baby hot? Is the baby tired? Good luck! Co-op option available!

But the truth is, you're tethered to this child now. I'm not crazy when I say the escort mission analogy is back-to-front. It's more like they are escorting you.

Game idea #2: Reverse escort. Can you escape your child to get the household chores done? That dirty laundry ain't gonna clean itself!

Hey, how about trying to do something as a couple. I mean, apart from watching television or play bedroom golf (as if you had the energy, ha ha). You'll need to negotiate with other parents, possibly friends or the grandparents, to get some special time and keep your marriage/partnership fresh.

Game idea #3: Organise a baby-sitting co-op that doesn't fall into the “recession” trap of the Capital Hill Babysitting Cooperative. Learn about the economics of money supply at the same time! Hardcore mode DLC - go go single parent!

There's a lot of sleep deprivation, which gets better over time but will continue to be a problem for several years. It's not just because you get woken up in the middle of the night. If you want to get grown-up things done it can be tricky to find private time when the children are up and about. So, gradually, you find yourself borrowing more and more from what used to be sleep time.

Game idea #4: Finding time to... ah, hang on... increpare's nightmarish The Terrible Whiteness of Appalachian Nights does have a sort of stab at sleep deprivation but then goes all WTF NSFW OMFG. Go have a gander but for the love of God it is not safe for work. And, I warn you, it is not safe for the children. Just like this article.

Never ever play Electron Dance's review of Fotonica... in front of children

That Was The Easy Stuff

Okay, we've grabbed all the low-hanging fruit. What about thorny issues, moral dilemmas? Let's see the studio audience come up with some game design implementations for this shit.

Life/Life Balance. There's a constant tug-of-war between devotion to your child and finding time for yourself. It's unhealthy to dedicate 100% of your time to children. For one, a parent with their own interests is an interesting parent. But more seriously, it'll eat away at your soul and not having a life will make you an irritable gorilla. Plus, ponder the so-called “game over” condition. One day, the children'll move out. And leave you with a big black gaping sucking vacuum hole of empty in your life. Prepare for this day!

Game idea #5: Bugger. I think Richard Hofmeier sort of covered some of this with Melanie in Cart Life. But you can do better, game designers!

Tough Love. A parent simply cannot let a child do exactly what he or she wants. The simplest example is the bedtime cry. Some children find bedtime traumatic and the natural response is to rush in and hug those tears away. But that creates... a dependency. They can't have you forever. At some point you've got to walk away and let them cry. “Tough love” is a serious hurdle for all parents – because it's about finding the right sweet spot between being soft and being harsh. When you're a bit tired, well-intended notions of tough love can easily turn into venting anger.

Game idea #6: Find strategies to defuse tantrums and reduce their frequency. Watch out for creating hazardous dependencies! Give children chocolate every time they were upset but now they cry whenever they demand chocolate? Oops! The great thing about this game is that there's so little feedback! It's impossible to tell if your decisions are making an impact or not. Do you stay the course or try something else?

Accepting Things Go Wrong. Children go through phases and bad moods. You're never sure if these mood swings are your fault. Then you notice you're yelling at them fifty times a day and, let's be honest, you're the grown-up. We all know it's not easy dealing with someone this irrational but these things happen. They are normal. Things go wrong. Just fix it.

Game idea #7: Umm, errm... thinking...

Teaching Shame. You're going to have to explain why they can't just take their underwear off anywhere they feel like. That it's not good manners to belch in public. When you signed up to be a parent, no one told you it was your job to take their innocence and turn it into shame.

Game idea #8: Umm... chase your child running around in their underwear? Fuck, that sounds like the kind of bad game idea that would get you in court.

The Urge To Stay Alive. The most surprising thing I noticed after about two years of being a parent is the strong urge to not be dead. It's not that I was casual about life previously but definitely some sort of critical mental switch had flipped and even a little hypochondria kicked in. I can't die. I can't do that to my wife and my children. I can't let that happen.

Game idea #9: Passage on steroids. Play as a father who then dies and then switch to be the widowed mother to experience life alone. And after all the heartache it turns out to be just a bad dream. Sweet Jesus. At least I hope it does.

Enough

So what have we learned? We have learned that parenthood is a lot more messy and multi-dimensional than being an eighteen-year-long escort mission.

I'm sure there are games out there which have done interesting things with parenting, no doubt half of them in the interactive fiction space. Write in the comments if there are some titles I'm ignorant of... or simply forgot about in my fevered typing madness.

You know, maybe I'm just getting this all out of proportion. Oh, what's this? Rock Paper Shotgun posted a video today! Of a game about a “relationship between a mother and her children”. Well--

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Posted by Joel Goodwin

Electron Dance Highlights

Comments (27) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Joel, you’ve played Jeff Lait’s “Fatherhood” rogue-like, right?
    http://www.zincland.com/7drl/fatherhood/

    My favorite game on the topic!

    Most of Jeff’s games are brilliant, btw. I still need to try his most recent one…

  2. I’m not going to argue it explored it particularly deeply, but Heavy Rain had a few non-”escort” things in it, like leaving you stuck with a baby whose mom attempted suicide, which you then have to briefly take care of, mostly by trying to get it to go to sleep. Actually I think overall this inclusion of more “mundane” aspects of several parts of life was an interesting aspect of the game. Another (non-parenthood) example that comes to mind is having to bandage a wound, something that in most games is either omitted, or is just an implied power of medics, activated by one button and not shown in any detail (or shown in a completely magical transferring-life-force way).

  3. Gregory Weir’s Passing the Ball had a very nice take on teaching your children things.

    Adam Cadre’s Photopia had some relevant scenes, too, if I remember correctly.

    All in all, though, most games are too disconnected from the realities of life and too focused on the adolescent fantasies of geekdom to be able to deal with such material. After all, thanks to the logic of identity politics and tribalism, the only frame of reference most game designers have is other games.

  4. I’ve had this link open in my browser for a while now and I’m going to spam it. Jenny Holzer is great, although she doesn’t really have much to do with games. Though someone should find a way to change that.

    But what you have to play is Jason Rohrer’s Gravitation. You know how the mechanics of “Passage” were not very compelling? Yes, there were decisions to be made about how to explore the maze if you wanted to maximize your score, but no one cares about maximizing their score in “Passage.” Well, “Gravitation” has several interesting mechanics, is something you can actually imagine wanting to score points in, and makes a statement that’s directly relevant to this post in a way that I will not explain to you. You have to play it.

    Unmanned by Molleindustria and Jim Munroe also has some good stuff about parenting. It’s maybe sort of like #8 except the PC is so flawed that it’s hard to tell? Speaking of flawed PCs, there’s The Baron by Victor Gijsbers (interactive fiction, and again, spoilers would be spoily). Besides Jonas’s suggestion of Photopia there’s another IF game or two I can think of (last year’s Sentencing Mr Liddell is one). Though I tend to agree with Jonas that most games don’t even try to deal with this.

    I’ve had an idea for an IF game about parenthood kicking around for a while. It begins with the PC trying to wait for her child to fall completely asleep so she can leave the room. The walkthrough begins with thirty consecutive “wait” commands.

  5. Also, “a healthy 30-year-old woman is only 20% likely to become pregnant, if she is even trying”? What in a who now? That has to be per month.

  6. I’m willing to bet that there’s a good example of this made out of the

    “Imagine carrying a radioactive baby in a pitch black environment, your baby would act as a torch. Rocking the baby intensifies the glow etc”

    Molydeux tweet. I would know if I could run flash at 5 frames a second. Are you going to give any coverage on molyjam? Pick out any good games?

    Weak, I know, but matt stole my example (Gravitation) from me. Speaking of which, does anyone know why the child disappears at a certain point in the game? That was the question that always stuck with me. Though, the best answer I’ve thought of involves dropping a star on the left-most side.

  7. God damn it, mwm, spoiler-tag that! I wanted HM to experience that moment for himself.

  8. All I can say is that both kids and games are generally loud… there must be a game mechanic in there somewhere.

  9. Ah, reply cue!

    I was mentioning Alter Ego in Previous Monster Thread and didn’t follow up for fear of becoming swallowed. It has relevance here, however.

    Alter Ego is a life simulator on the Commodore 64 which goes from birth to death, although as in life the significant stuff seems pretty front-loaded. It was designed by psychologist Dr Peter Favaro to be a mixture of the everyday and the unusual, and has situations based on the real experience of an enormous range of people culled from face-to-face interviews.

    You experience the whole span of life as child-and-parent, making decisions that affect you health, knowledge, social skills and family relations. It is the ultimate Meierist game in fact, literally a series of interesting decisions with no tedious wandering around.

    For me it gave a real insight when I became a parent into accepting the child’s point of view, and to reflect on my own childhood. As a game it features a child as protagonist for much of the time and represents them with a complexity of character modern games would kill for.

    I Heartily Recommend playing it – apart from being a valuable experience it’s also great from a writing viewpoint – a marvel of conjouring your own narrative from deliberately sparse description.

    There’s an online version, but I much prefer to play an emulated C64 version.

    Oh, it’s also unique in having separate Male and Female versions.

  10. Jesus, Twitter went a bit crazy last night after I posted this.

    @Doug: I have not even heard of Fatherhood, at least I don’t think so. I shall give it a spin when I have a moment. Jeff Lait appears to be off my radar. Please stand by. Re-calibrating radar.

    @Mark Nelson: While I was writing this, I knew that I was being a little unfair to non-PC-game-I’ve-never-played Heavy Rain, because it offered a few other parenting mini-games. I will give Heavy Rain it’s due, it does actually try to capture more of the spectrum, even if it’s only to drive home the emotional anguish of its escort missions.

    @Jonas: Yes, good one! I have played Passing the Ball before and, if I’m not mistaken, I think I picked it up via your site a loooong time back. You are right, Photopia does too, although it bounces around somewhat and is less about parenting and more about building up a picture of a character, even if it’s only to drive home the emotional anguish of its significant event. And, of course, I gave it a sharp kick in the opening of the Fotonica video. I’m sure IF has done stuff like this many times.

    Incidentally, I was trying to wedge in a paragraph along the lines of “why is it like this? is it because most developers are either on death marches or are young and childless?” but I couldn’t find a way of putting it without (a) jarring with the rest of the essay and (b) coming across as knee-jerk offensive.

    @Matt W: Fear not, I played Gravitation some time back. It wasn’t my kind of thing and didn’t wield the same power Passage held over me (which was about mortality and loss for me). Then again, I played it before I was a parent, but I don’t think it would have a different effect on me now.

    I didn’t groove with Unmanned so much but you’re right, there is a thoughtful parenting segment in there. Gameplay-wise it carries the dilemma of how to impress your kids while simultaneously keeping them engaged, although I found the shooter element unfairly hard. Then again, I think it’s trying to pose bigger questions about FPS war simulators as a bad type of cultural education, indoctrination almost.

    Thirty consecutive “wait” commands would most definitely place you in the notgames camp.

    Stats from wikipedia suggest, out of women at the age of 30, 75% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year and 91% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years. People are much more likely to get pregnant than not, but it often takes time. And effort. Trouble is, the longer it takes, the more it really does become an effort…

    @mwm: I’m not a Molydeux follower but that one is hilarious. I’m not a jam coverer, or even covered with jam. So many jams and so many games (Molyjam, last I heard, had yielded over 250 games) and I just don’t have the time for that. I’m desperately trying to get two new Electron Dance series off the ground. You’ll know in a few weeks whether I’ve succeeded =) Plus, I’m also following owVideogames and freeindiegam.es which are spamming me with free titles.

    From memory, my take on Gravitation is work/life balance. Spend too much time away from your child and you’ll lose the relationship. But I may be misremembering the mechanics.

    @gnome of indiegames.com: I should add that idea to the article =)

    @CdrJameson: I have a C64 emulator lying around on my hard drive somewhere. I never had a C64 but I knew friends that did. I spent hours trying to set it up just to play Staff of Karnath but, in the end, couldn’t bring myself to play it more than ten minutes. I did a quick Google search for Alter Ego and although I found it I couldn’t understand why it had been important to you in the previous thread. Thank you for coming back to clarify! You’ve made me curious. (Totally separate point, CdrJameson; if I’d been able to find Paul Woakes last year I would’ve begged him for an interview for Where We Came From. But he’s sort of disappeared off the face of the Earth.)

  11. I also played Gravitation before I was a parent (and again since), so I don’t think it’s that its impact depends on being a parent. (Which is good.) I agree with your take on it and Unmanned. (With a lot of Unmanned it was getting to me that you have to mouse over to the left half of the screen to choose dialogue, but in that segment I though it was intentional.)

    OK, so it’s all good, mwm, sorry I was snappy. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to do with dropping a star; I think it’s that after a certain amount of time (which I think changes depending on what else you do) the child will disappear the next time he’s off the screen. Once toward the end of the game I was playing with him around the magic moment and wandered off the screen and, poof. I’ve also checked that if you just play with him the whole game and never let him out of your sight he stays there the whole time, and you get no points. This puts me in the Jenn Frank school of videogame parenting.

    About my vaporware game idea; maybe you could do a stealth-game thingy about trying to get out of the room without making a noise.

  12. Fantastic work, HM, and a great link to Jenn Frank’s article also. That was quite well-written.

    Personally I’m afraid of children (and spiders). I don’t know how to work them. I’m afraid I’ll break them. Also when they get a little older and learn how to speak, I can’t understand them. All of this is going to be a problem as my brother and his wife just had their first baby and apparently I’m expected to carry out certain Uncling duties, which Marcus made clear are not limited to fun stuff like introducing her to the joys of tequila.

    Though they haven’t hit the mark yet, it says something about how far games have come as a medium that so many readers can suggest potential non-escort parent simulations. Mostly indie work, but then, that’s where most of the innovation is too.

  13. Octodad! Have you played Octodad? I haven’t played Octodad, though I guess it’s out on Mac now so I have no excuse.

  14. @matt: I thought the shooting game in Unmanned was a bit unfair because I found it quite difficult to move the target fast enough; as soon as one enemy started to appear, the cross-hairs seemed too sluggish to take out the soldier/insurgent/whatev before they fired on me. I felt like I had to predict where soldiers appeared – at the very least, keep circling the cross-hairs around the game area. I take that it might have been deliberate, which means it potentially falls into the category that was complained about in last week’s comments – of games that try to force you down a path via rules which encourages some players to bitch about the rules rather than embrace the game’s pocket reality (which is exactly what I’m doing here).

    I haven’t played Octodad, but good catch!

    @Steerpike: I think some of us come ready-made for children, and others, like yourself and I, aren’t. Mrs. HM and I tried to have rational, logical discussions about the consequences of having children. Except that it was a discussion that could have no neat, rational, logical conclusion and just went around… and around… and around. The clock was ticking. We couldn’t wait forever. So we said let’s do it, almost on a whim; it just seemed unfathomable to remain… ignorant, I guess, of what having a family and children was all about. Because it’s a huge lifestyle change, right? I wanted to know. I wanted to be able to have a conversation about parenthood and children from a perspective of raw experience.

    So children, in the HM household, are mutant experiments that have broken out of their cages. And this is how I learnt to overcome my fear of children. It has not helped with my fear of spiders.

    Uncling, well, that’s just like a loan where the bank pays you interest for taking out their money.

    Incidentally, no one has called out this article yet for complaining about how hard it is to have children, with videogames being mere paint. Apparently mothers should shut their moaning mouths about parenting but fathers have no such ban.

  15. I don’t mean to take you to task (too much) for the final thought in the comment above, but there are indeed those games that go far in helping us reify certain complicated concepts or feelings. Creatures has a system that is intricate enough, I think, to crystallize certain thoughts and feelings I’d had — which, in turn, helped me [the writer of that thingie] to make them less abstract for myself, rather than the opposite. I hope this makes sense? But in the end, whether Creatures is a “starting point” or just a “backdrop” is really only up to you as reader, so there is also that. (It is hard, too, to not get into abstractions and generalities in the space of only 2000 words, and probably “videogames” and “column writing” share the same dangers of oversimplification and iconography.)

    I guess this is all neither here nor there. It would be nice to see better representations of parenthood in games, and your ideas are really exciting! Videogames needs so many more lenses, and it would be beneficial — even courageous! — for a game designer to tackle parenthood from a different experiential direction.

    Also, the Octodad recommendation is bang-on, and also-also, you might really like Creatures! (Boy, I sure sound like a shill. But it’s true!)

  16. Oop — do you mean “the article on this page” or the other article? Oops, oops. (My reflexive thought was that Creatures was only window dressing for my article on parenthood/not-parenthood, which, see, it kind of is! See? Argh.)

    But the meaning in my comment is the same, I guess: video games give us a way to think about things, but they can also be so utterly formative. So it’s important to talk about how games choose to talk about complicated things — things like parenthood! — because, yeah, reducing the idea of parenting to something as simple as an “escort mission” is potentially so destructive. Your thoughts on subtler game mechanics are rad, and I for one would play your video game(s).

  17. Hi Jenn. When I wrote “this article … complaining about how hard it is to have children…” I meant my own not yours, I’m just doing my usual self-deprecatory thing! And I linking at the comment end to what I consider an outrageous suggestion that because other people have things harder, you have no right to discuss what’s difficult about your own life. And plenty of my words here dig a bit into my own life via videogames – or is it into videogames via my own life? Sometimes I’m not sure.

    My girlfriend at the time did have Creatures back in the 90s but she never quite got into it. I do remember that we managed to teach the Norns aggression and they went round slapping each other which I dare say was probably a mistake. I was more focused on “traditional” gaming forms at the time and Creatures felt too much of a “diversion” from that at the time. I would probably approach it more seriously nowadays.

  18. Ah the obligatory cross-post! Writing so much about games really does make me yearn to return to a bit of game making but there’s simply no time left over in the day. Our two Norns are pretty time-greedy.

  19. Ha! OK, now we are playing “phone tag.” Argh, never mind, and apologies for the misconstruction!

    But what you typed *did* ping with me because, absolutely, it is often hard to make sense of where the game stops and life picks up. One always informs the other. And I think it’s important for us, as players, to use our own experiential datasets to make reverse-sense of games. (My old editor won’t permit the use of the word “mimesis,” ever, but I think it applies here.) So although games paint with much broader strokes, I would not apologize for using them as “paint”! Games are a good way to fill in the gaps, and conversely, “life” is a good way to think about the sizable gaps in game concepts. Oh, gosh, I think now I’m making no sense at all.

    Moving right along…! I think it might be even harder to play Creatures now? In some ways? At the game’s outset it was always a little bit of a trudge but, for my own part at least, now the learning curve feels much more shallow, and slower, than I thought it was when I was a teenager. I think with age I’ve become impatient. Hmm.

  20. Jenn, it sounds like Creatures would be a great example for the previous post about games that leaked out into your life!

    I thought of another game-concept here — the interactive fiction IntroComp game “Bedtime Story,” where you play a father returning from a business trip and telling your child a story that your wife has started. You give commands to the protagonist of the story rather than playing as the PC, if that makes any sense, but your child provides some of the necessary constraint on your actions and a way of moving things along, in that he can reject your commands and make up new stuff in response. As an intro it just has one short puzzle in it, and it also has some dubious gender politics (you give the protagonist a sword, telling your son that “This is a boy’s story now”), but the mechanism is nice.

    Another mechanic I thought of: There are all those parenting books out there with tips on what to do. And they all contradict each other and/or are completely incoherent, like that one game where there’s a tip to get a silk bag from the graveyard duck.

  21. I know you could have kids in some/all of the Harvest Moon games. It’s been a while, but I feel like there was some way you could go wrong as a parent, and raise a son who would resent you and move away from the farm in one/some of the games. I don’t think there was much nuance to it, but at least it’s another perspective.

    (Sorry to be so vague and uncertain. I tried to search the Internet for more information, but I only found Harvest Moon fan-fiction.)

  22. I was gonna say what matt w said: Jenn’s testimonial is a good answer to the question posed in Less Cause, More Effect.

    Though I really liked this piece, for the second time I read something in ED that created expectations in me that were not fulfilled. You started by saying: parenting is not an escort mission: it’s much more. And then you said a bunch of other hard, bad stuff. I was hoping for the good part. I mean, people don’t have kids because they want to sleep less and trying to prevent a living creature from dying. I guess videogames will keep failing in representing parenthood to a good extent is they don’t at least try to recreate something that, in some weird way, resembles love. And though that RPS video is a very funny example of an escort game, the chicken babies are so cute, I would feel at least a little bad about something bad happening to them in a game. We might get attached even to virtual creatures, like Jenn’s norns. I never played Creature, but what seems good about that game is that we do stuff not just because the game challenges us to not let them norns die, but because I just like being around them, and doing stuff with them. You forgot that #10.

    I would definitely like to give a shot at a game toying with such concepts, but my line of ideas-to-be-worked-with is already too big. And I just rememberd my first game was a tamagotschi-like thing.

  23. A little more abstract, but from what you are describing as games, From Dust makes a particularly good parenting simulation. Sure, you play a god but so much of what you do and want to do is curtailed by the little people you have to look after. You love them one minute and then are infuriated by them in the next. To them you seem all powerful but you spend half your time trying to make sure they don’t fall over while attempting to balance everything else out in your eco-system. If the horrible DRM has finally gone, I would recommend giving the game a spin.

  24. Sorry I am really fecking busy at the moment. More busy than I was supposed to be.

    @Jenn – I don’t know if it’s age that makes us impatient or the age that makes us impatient. And being a grown-up has all sorts of time challenges. I don’t want to live in a world where instant gratification in the only buzz going around, but I’m not sure if the ever-tightening electronic vines strangling our lives and increasing desperation to make ends meet will permit for anything else. Ah. That’s a little more cynical than I intended.

    @matt – I know, I should’ve grabbed Jenn for last week. And maybe you should keep all those game ideas to yourself so you can pour them all into a single game! A game based on parenting books is an absolutely incredible idea. My head exploded with ideas as soon as you dropped it in. Those parenting books are a god damn nightmare. Brilliant, if I had a gold star, it would go to you for that idea.

    @Jake – I’m completely ignorant of a lot of titles in console world. Part of me just assumed there wouldn’t be any interesting parenting mechanics in there but, of course, there’s Heavy Rain to begin with.

    @BC – Thanks for the heads-up BC. From your description, it does sound a bit escorty though.

    @Nicolau – Only two articles in two years! Fabulous. That’s a win in my book. You’re wrong and right. You’re wrong in the sense I was looking at alternative mechanical challenges that came from parenting, which I approached from the angle of adversity, rather than just “save/shepherd your children”. But you’re right in the sense they all interpret children as challenge, that they are burden.

    When I set out on this mission against escort missions, I thought no game had really nailed down the parental complex. You love them. You despair of them. You want more life. You aspire to make their lives better. You want a lie in. But you don’t want them to spend their day waiting for Daddy to wake up. It’s a knot of contradictions that is difficult to impart. You can set out experiences, side by side, but none of these in isolation really cover the parenthood. I’m sure there are some people who are genuinely ecstatic as parents for every single days of their lives but the truth for most is something more difficult to explain. I doubt this feeling, this thing I want to see in a game, can be expressed in a single mechanic. It would require an all-round experience with competing goals and also appropriate rewards that are a world away from cloying cutscenes (e.g. Photopia does get this right, and you’re also right about “wanting to be around the norns”).

    (Disclaimer- I haven’t touched some of the games mentioned in the comments.)

  25. Hey, if you (or anyone else) ever wants to grab an idea of mine feel free. I think my medium is vaporware; I have much more fun thinking this stuff up than I ever would trying to implement it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go set up the crowdsourcing document for the pacifist roguelike about election canvassing.

    (Disclaimer: I do have some potentially implementable ideas for text games, which I’m going to work on when I can make the time, which may be in 2015.)

  26. I have another! Below is a link to my review of “You, Me, and the Cubes,” a WiiWare puzzle game which manages to tap into all my worst fears about having a child.

    https://sites.google.com/site/hotlavy/all-articles/you-me-and-the-cubes—blood-on-my-hands-in-an-unknown-metaphors

  27. @matt w: You sound like Pippin Barr who admitted he liked making games more than playing them.

    @Jake: Oh my God that game sounds horrible, you know, in good way. I think I’d have to feel it myself to see if the parenthood metaphor actually works, especially as your “children” can fall in love. In a sense it sounds escort mission derivative: when you fail, people die. Fortunately I do not have the Wii and cannot experience the true dread of that game.