Why Are All My Parents Dead?

The tutorial, the opening scene, the first chapter, there's usually two kinds: confusing high-octane action or a calm domestic scene. In the latter, you may meet the main character's parents, who are often very neutral yet caring. In many BioWare games, the player never meets their character's parents, if they're even alive, depending on the background and history you choose for them; in the most recent installment of their "Mass Effect" series -- spoilers -- your character's father sacrifices himself at the end of the tutorial. In one of the opening musical numbers of Disney's "Frozen", Anna and Elsa's parents' ship capsizes in a stormy wave. Don't even get me started on the "Harry Potter" series.

The media we consume daily can serve as an escape from the intricacies and responsibilities of our lives. However, some consume movies or games because they crave a realistic story. There's a pattern I've observed that might please some of those in the former category, but irk those in the latter: where are your damn parents?

Yeah, you're probably not opening a book hoping to find a carbon copy of your own folks staring back at you, but many creators are discounting the enormous effect parents have on their children's lives, for better or for worse. At the risk of sounding cliche: without your parents, you would not exist. Only recently have I really been able to understand the complex characters of each of my parents, both before and after I took up 95% of their respective lives. Finding out that they are imperfect human beings can arguably be the worst part of becoming an adult yourself, but doing so feels like some kind of rite of initiation. Being able to write that kind of complicated dynamic is imperative to storytelling. We're all about giving a character a compelling motivation, and few things are more compelling than the way you were raised.

Is killing off or writing out a character's parents an easy out, or is it a way to let the audience come up with their own interpretation of the story given to them? Are the truly escapist video games the ones that let you shed the more conventional, less sexy relationships, or is it the other way around?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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