Pam's Blog

Posted on Jun 13th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Pam)
Posted under video, analysis

With the recent release of God of War, I got to thinking about how many recent mainstream games have had you playing a father figure... and how few games let you play a as a mother. I go over a few examples of playable mothers, then expand the scope out to non-playable mother characters and the categories they tend to fall into in games.

Warning: If you're fussy about character spoilers, I talk about the fates of mothers in about 40 different games in this video. I don't think I've given away anything too shocking or unexpected though.

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Check out Legacy of the Wizard for the NES. The entire family is playable including Mom and Daughter with each character having a unique ability and role for the family necessary to finish the game. The grand parents are even included as the save and password features and the family pet is playable also.

Simpsons Arcade put's Marge in equal footing with the rest of her family.

There are playable mothers in series like Fire Emblem, but they are not typically the lead characters.

And no mention of Cooking Mama!! For Shame!

Just some more that I thought of while watching your video. I'm in total agreement with you that it's hugely underrepresented and the dead mom trope needs to be re-evaluated. It's been nice to see more female lead games popping up, but I'm totally open to play some awesome moms too!
Wow, that is weird.  Almost like a parallel of those 60's and 70's (and 80's I guess) sitcoms where the mother/wife was dead.  I am ready for a change.  Have a game featuring a mother going through thick or thin to protect her family in a dire situation?  I'd buy that.  Heck, I'd start playing modern games again if dev houses made a games like that.

I think a lot of peoples in games are marginalized.  Personally, I'd love to see a game where a Christian is not portrayed as a lunatic or an ignoramus as well.  Not giving up hope, but more than a little tired of current tropes and stereotypes (across the board).
I think the answer to the main question has a lot to do with Patriarchy. That is the simplest explanation. Traditional roles have changed a lot over the past few decades, but we haven't moved completely on, from the "old" generation and the way many families are still defined.

I grew up in a household, where the sole breadwinner was my dad, and my mom stayed at home and got things done around the house. That's not to say that my mother is a meek woman that only would vacuum or cook meals. In fact, when my parents owned a farm and my dad was out logging, my mom would still have to maintain the farm by running equipment, and trying to do mechanical maintenance on said equipment. With all that said, my mother was still small 5'2" and not overly strong.

I guess my point is, I relate to fathers and mothers in video games, much the same way as the parents who raised me. While my mother was quite capable of adventures, she (like many other mothers) was content to stay home and let my dad assume the brunt of the "adventure".

But what about Samus? She was the surrogate mother for a bouncing baby Metroid! LOL Wink

In all seriousness, this is a great look at the topic of mothers in video games. It's strange that we haven't seen more. I'm glad you mentioned Bayonetta, because her character definitely grew quite a bit in the first game, watching over herself, well before she even knew it was her, which nicely set up her relationship dynamic with Loki in the second game. It would be nice to see more of that in games. You mentioned the universality of male experiences, and while I think there's some truth to that, I feel like a lot of the hyper-masculine male figures in games don't necessarily do men any more favors than women, other than sheer representation, because it presents a lot of dominant male figures, or father figures, as fairly standard tropes. They become cardboard cutouts, just to fill the space for a character, and the player is to project upon that character a sense of themselves as much as to take in the given narrative. That being said, the overall lack of moms in games, or the overused trope of the dead or monster mom (which I didn't realize was so prevalent) is something that is telling.

Part of my wonders if there's a large contingent, at least among Western developers, of design staff that either grew up without a strong father figure, or with a crappy father figure, and all these strong dad types in video games are those folks projecting their own need to fill that void with a game character. Or, that because a lot of young designers are dads (or becoming dads), they're extrapolating those experiences (real or perceived) and formulating plot points and game experiences around them. I would be very curious to know how many devs came from single-mother homes, deadbeat dad homes, foster care, etc. I understand that correlation does not equal causation, but it would be interesting to see, nonetheless.

Anyway, great video, Pam! I'm not a fan of jump cuts, as a rule, but the way you used them for comedic effect was perfect, and the kind of thing that makes good sense in editing this kind of video. Bravo to you for good work in editing this all together so nicely.
Hey, thanks for watching and for the comments everyone!

@Crabmaster2000: I will look into Legacy of the Wizard, I'm not familiar with that one. I didn't tend to take arcade games, or anything that has only the faintest hint of a story or character development into account when thinking about moms in games. From my point of view, replacing Marge with Mo or Smithers wouldn't any difference to the Simpsons arcade game, other than they would have gotten something other than a vacuum for a weapon.

@bombatomba: I agree, gaming's tendency to present certain groups in the same (negative) way is a problem for many groups.

@EngineerMike: Patriarchy is always the culprit Tongue

@MetalFRO: So many people brought up Samus. I have gotten a lot of comments suggesting women who are 'mothers' to aliens, or animals. Or females that aren't human. Someone (who has since deleted their comment) suggested I was cherry-picking my samples by not including the 1982 arcade game Kangaroo as an example of a  playable mother in games. It feels like people are really reaching to say that moms are represented well in games.

I think there are a lot of reasons people are more likely to make games about dads. You suggestion of projecting is sound. But I also often hear that people 'write what they know' as an excuse for why we see some kinds of characters much more than others.

Also, I'm glad you liked the editing, this episode was a lot more work than most of my videos.

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