It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Your gut is heavy with leftovers, your vision blurs from the accumulated eye crust of countless naps. You find yourself wishing to engage in the greatest of all American holiday traditions: watching a sport you don’t usually care about while drifting in and out of sleep. Sports, though, are old hat. Bloodsports are where it’s at. That in mind, allow me to welcome you to... THE FATHERDOME.
The Fatherdome is the centerpiece of this week’s episode of Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast. Inside, video game dads duke it out to see who is the least bad at being a dad. Spoiler: They are all bad. Elsewhere in the episode, Ash, Fahey, and I talk about found families in games—that is, families made of up people or characters who are not actually related, who’ve gotten us through times when regular family let us down, or when we couldn’t spend time with our blood relatives (all of 2020, for example). Lastly, we discuss gaming traditions within our own families, including Ash being forced to repeatedly repackage all her gaming consoles after she used them when she was a kid. Why, Ash’s mom? Why couldn’t you just let your daughter game?
Get the MP3 here, and check out an excerpt below.
Nathan: I would like to welcome you all to THE FATHERDOME. The Fatherdome is a place where several dads enter, and several dads also leave, but they leave a little bit sadder about the general state of how people perceive them. Because we’re going to talk about how bad they are at being dads, and being dads is their whole thing, so if they find out they’re bad at that, what’s left?
With that said, I’d like to introduce you to your first dad of the evening, the very obvious pick: Kratos. Is he a good dad or a bad dad?
Ash: He’s a terrible father. Both times. I think he kind of gets it right the second time, but the first time? Not great!
Fahey: Was it his fault the first time?
Ash: Yes? Because he kinda killed his family?
Nathan: Even with extenuating circumstances in mind, if you kill your family, I think you immediately become a bad dad. I don’t think there’s really any way around it.
Ash: Then there’s the heartbreaking scene that only happens in the PSP game where you find your daughter in the Elysian fields, and you’re like “Oh my god, my daughter. I want to be with you forever. I’ll never leave you again.” But then you realize if you don’t leave her, the world will end. So you have to leave her, but she doesn’t want to leave you behind, so you have to kind of, like, pull her off your leg.
Nathan: That’s so fucked!
Ash: Yeah, it’s a little fucked up. And then you save the world and whatever, and everything’s fine. But as far as I know, you never see his family again.
Nathan: Until he gets a son. A son he calls “boy.”
Ash: You know what? I’m OK with that, actually, because I headcanon Kratos as Black, which is very easy to do when you know who his voice actors are. Calling your child “boy,” that’s a very Black thing to do. So this scans for me.
Nathan: Let’s move onto another very obvious father. We’re gonna get into some weirder ones later, but for now, let’s hit the big ones. Joel from The Last of Us. Is he a good dad or a bad dad?
Fahey: I mean, he doesn’t have enough time, does he?
Nathan: Alright, so yeah, the opening of The Last of Us has his biological daughter die, but the whole point of The Last of Us is that Ellie ends up becoming his daughter, more or less. So what I’m asking about is his fathering of Ellie. Is he a good dad in that regard or a bad one?
Fahey: Unfortunately, I can’t say, because I lost The Last of Us after his first daughter died. I was like “He’s just gonna replace his daughter now? Screw this.”
Nathan: Go on down to the daughter shop, pick up a new daughter.
Ash: It really depends on what you feel like is criteria for a good or bad father. I personally do not like his character. Well actually, I liked him very much up until the last possible moment of The Last of Us 1—the moment where he’s like “You know what? Fuck everyone and any possible idea of potentially saving us from this killer disease that’s turning everybody into fungus people. I’m just gonna save this girl because she’s my daughter, and I didn’t save her the first time, so I have to make up for it and doom the entire world.” If you’re coming at it purely from a “She’s my daughter” standpoint, he’s a great dad, but if you’re coming at it from the idea of unselfishness, he’s not a good dad.
Nathan: And at that point, what lesson are you teaching your own kid if you’re like “Yeah, the whole goal of everything you do should ultimately be to protect people close to you and fuck everyone else.” That’s an awful lesson.
Ash: Another thing I think The Last of Us 2 gets at very well despite me not liking that game was the fact that Ellie was pissed because she did not get a chance to make that decision herself. And yeah, from that perspective, that’s bad fathering. You should be able to let your kids make those kinds of life-changing decisions for themselves, and he took that agency from her.
Fahey: I’ll keep that in mind when my kids have to decide between—
Nathan: When they contain the cure for a zombie virus fungus plague?
Fahey: Yeah. Luckily I have two.
Ash: You’ve got a backup.
Nathan: Well then yeah, you’re fine. You’re set. You don’t need to worry. Alright, next dad: Soldier 76 from Overwatch.
Ash: He’s a dad?
Nathan: He is a dad in spirit. The community has deemed him dad. Most of them call him “Dad 76.”
Fahey: Some call him Daddy 76.
For all that and many more dads, check out the episode. New episodes drop every Friday, and don’t forget to like and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher. Also if you feel so inclined, leave a review, and you can always drop us a line at email@example.com if you have questions or suggest a topic. If you want to yell at us directly, you can reach us on Twitter: Ash is @adashtra, Fahey is @UncleFahey, and Nathan is @Vahn16. See you next week!