Spoilers for Vetra’s companion quest in Mass Effect: Andromeda
Did Vetra’s quest. Called that it was Sid from the get go, but that’s ok, cuz I kinda liked the quest. The whole security camera thing was a neat touch. This is two loyalty missions I’ve done, and both have had good gameplay twists. I didn’t think this one was as flat out fun as Liam’s, but still. Nice, well constructed level.
But more themes than ol’ Liam.
I told everyone the sister was brave and doing the right thing, which, I reckon, will encourage her to charge into danger and get killed and break Vetra’s heart and I regretted it instantly. And while we could go back to hope and bravery and stuff, this made me think on something else:
We are parents, yes? Yes. I, like many parents, do not generally encourage my kids to do crazy things. And yet I find myself, in games, to cheer or actively encourage behavior in young people (or young turians) that would give me fits of anxiety and/or rage if my own kids did it. Were Sid one of my kids, I would say “The hell are you thinking????”
I first noticed this in Gone Home. I should NOT have thought that was a happy ending, the kids running off together. If my kid did that, I would not be happy. And yet, there I was, cheering them on.
You don’t have many chances in games to “parent,” as we have talked about the perils and pitfalls of putting kids (or even young people) in games in the first place, but when I do have such chances, I do the exact opposite of what I would do in real life. So do you!
One of the many things about games that make them awesome is that they provide a chance for introspection that no other genre does, the chance to say “Why did I DO that?” Other art forms don’t let you do, but games let you do, and they MAKE you question why. Why am I doing this with parenting in games? Is it a chance to be a “bad” parent? Or, if my game parenting isn’t “bad” parenting, am I being a “bad” parent in real life? The hell is “bad” parenting, anyway?
We’ll start there. Get some good theme for Friday. And, with the kids home today for things, parenting is on my mind.
Hm. I think one thing is, these are not OUR kids. It’s easy to encourage OTHER PEOPLES’ kids to live their dreams, take bold risks, go on daring adventures, or whatever. Even in real life it’s way more likely I’d think “OK, Butch Jr. wants to take up cage fighting, not my thing but if it makes him happy,” while you’d think “I’ll put a cage IN YOUR ROOM and lock you in it for the next five years, young man.”
And I’m much more likely to tell O’Jr. “no way dude, you are not playing football, it’s bad for your brain,” while you might think “hey, football, could be worse, knock yourself out perhaps literally.”
(Although of course we would both actually say “you should talk to your parents,” rather than “definitely go do that thing your parents hate!” because we are not sworn enemies.)
We evaluate the risks to other peoples’ children differently than to our own, not because of logic, but because we fear our own children’s pain more. I am also totally fine with other people taking risks I’m not interested in taking myself, because I fear getting hurt (or losing money, or whatever) in a way that I don’t fear them getting hurt. It’s easier to see how the benefits of something like cage fighting (fame! fortune! … exercise!) could be worth the risks to someone who isn’t us or our own kid. I mean…not my thing, but whatever!
Should we consider every child as carefully as if we were that child’s parents? Sure, in an ideal world where every child is my child and I love my neighbor as myself, I would not be OK with anyone or anyone’s kid taking any foolish risk. No playing football or exploring other galaxies for anyone! But in this world at the moment, we tend to care more about ourselves and the people we know than about strangers, and people in games are fundamentally not ourselves or someone we know even though we pretend very entertainingly that they are, so it’s easy to encourage them to do whatever dangerous thing they want. Or, you know, to take incredibly stupid risks ourselves.
We’re parents, but we’re not SID’s parents, so I don’t think it’s that odd that we didn’t play the game as if we were. I think the interesting part is when the character is well-drawn enough that you start to feel you do know them and care about them, as when you worry about Sid getting killed and breaking Vetra’s heart. We meet Sid as an individual, and we don’t really know her at that point, but we know Vetra, and we want her to be happy.
So it’s easy to tell Sid “that was brave, well done”…because it’s true. Even though it’s also true that it was very dangerous and she could have been killed and if we were her parent/older sister who raised her, we would have seen it very differently. So maybe the interesting thing you’re getting at is not that we didn’t feel like Sid’s parents, but that we didn’t respond to Vetra as FELLOW parents?
The way I might think to myself “cage fighting, no biggie, and Butch Jr. would be great at it,” but actually say “you should talk to your parents,” maybe we should have thought to ourselves “well done, that was brave,” but actually said “you should talk to your sister”?
I think part of the issue there is that the dialogue options didn’t really lend themselves to that. If I recall correctly, it was basically either “that was brave,” or “that was stupid.” I didn’t WANT to be mean to Sid by telling her she was stupid (she WAS bravely trying to help people), so I picked brave. If there’d been an option that was explicitly “you should talk to your sister”…? I don’t know.
We also, in the case of Gone Home, may tend to identify more with the kids than with the parents (although we get interesting information about all of them, we hear the kid talking, and we never hear the parents’ voices). It would have been possible for that game to have emphasized the voice of the parents, or one of the parents, and we could have wound up indeed feeling that this was not a happy ending: as one of the parents, that story is about how I didn’t understand/support my kid and she ran off somewhere with (what I feel is) an inappropriate lover, and I’m barely in touch with my other kid who came home unwelcomed to an empty house, and basically I’ve failed as a parent. (Although I may have succeeded in rekindling my relationship with my spouse, which is something.)
I don’t think it’s a failure in us to take the game’s story the way it’s most obviously presented and to identify with the character(s) most clearly given to us to identify with, even though it’s also worthwhile and good bloggage to consider it from other angles too.
Very true, our own kids are different. Though, at times, friends have come to me for advice about what to do with their kids (not you, you’d ignore my advice anyway, with your track record) and I haven’t said “Let them free! The circus sounds fun!” You know, I try to give advice that I think is right and would work for my kids.
We are not sworn enemies. And, frankly, I’d agree with you about the football. (Now you’re going to sign him up for it just because you NEVER listen to me.)
Though, Hmm. While I’m with you about the risks other parent/kids take aren’t ours to interfere with (ie, I’m not going to go down the street to the football playing kid’s house and, out of the blue, be all “Have you SEEN the data on CTE?” That would be weird), but when ASKED “Should my kid play football?” I wouldn’t have any problem saying “fuck no.”
And the game IS asking us for “advice,” in a way. But…there wasn’t an explicit “listen to your sister” option, but there was no doubt that Vetra thought it was stupid, so the dialog options might have well have been “Reinforce what Vetra is saying” or “Don’t.” I mean, when Vetra spends the whole damn level saying “Sid is so stupid,” you don’t really need a “talk to your sister” option to know if you’re agreeing or disagreeing. If O’Jr comes to me and says “So I was thinking of voting for Trump,” I don’t have to ask if it’s ok to say “You know? I think your mom might not like that.” And I would know it would piss you off if I said “Good plan! Here’s a hat!” .
Good point on who we identify with. We know Vetra (the “parent,” though I know she’s the sister, but whatever) FAR better than we know Sid, where we know the kid in Gone Home. That is so. And we tend to side, in life, with who we know better. I mean, true in our own relationships. Lordy knows I do not tell Mrs. McP to do what her parents say. That would be awful. So that’s me siding with a “kid,” I suppose, because I know Mrs. McP better and care about her more.
But what’s really bugging me is that, for you and me both, we tend to do, in games, what we tend to do in life (aside from, you know, the murdery stuff). We DON’T try to hurt people’s feelings, we almost ALWAYS take the good option, we TRY to get people to like us. We don’t LIKE being assholes and we LIKE being good. Our characters, when given choices, tend to resemble our own. We aren’t the kind of people who play games to be something else, the people who are all “Well, I can’t be a complete bastard in real life, so I’ll do it in games.” Games that ENCOURAGE that (Postal, Duke Nukem, etc.) turn our stomachs. We play games as we act in life.
So it’s weird, to me, that my reaction to parent stuff tends NOT to match how I am in real life. There’s a dissonance, there, an inconsistency (HA!). And to have that happen in the thing that most defines me (“What do you do?” “I’m a stay at home DAD”) is interesting. Odd.
It’s true, the dialogue options were pretty much “Vetra is right” or “Sid is right,” even if not explicit. And since we know Vetra and like Vetra, you’d think we’d be all immediately “Vetra is right, kid, stop being stupid.”
And yet we weren’t. Even though it was the sound option both as parents who wouldn’t want our own kids messing around with murderous outlaws (even while trying to do good and save people), and as fellow parents who want to support a friend.
I think…I think it was about exactly what Sid was doing. Because yes, she WAS taking big risks, but she was also being a good person. She wasn’t just taking stupid risks for the hell of it, and she wasn’t getting involved with dangerous outlaws on their side, helping them steal stuff and hurt people.
If that had been the case, absolutely I would have said “Vetra’s right, you’re an idiot.” But Sid was trying (somewhat successfully, although only because we intervened) to help people who needed help. Going to your apt description of the character we try to play in games, she’s trying to be that person. So I think my “that was brave” was to encourage this goodness.
The same way (you’re right) I would absolutely tell Butch Jr. “you should definitely not rob a convenience store, that is a terrible idea,” even though he’s not my personal kid and so the stupid riskiness isn’t as immediately my concern as it would be if O’Jr. were thinking about the same thing, but might say “that was really brave” if he had dived into a rushing river to save another kid or something.
Even though diving into a river is very risky, and if he asked me about it in advance I would say “no, it’s too dangerous, I’ll go instead”–it was still brave, and from good motivations, and so I would praise him MAYBE even if you were standing right there telling him he was an idiot and should never have taken that risk. (Which maybe you wouldn’t even be doing, because of how much this context matters. Sometimes risk is worth it. Especially if it was one of his brothers he was saving.)
Although I would try to play the middle, like “your dad is totally right, that was incredibly dangerous and you should normally never ever dive into a rushing river…but you were very brave to go help.”
Thinking more about it, I feel like that’s the dialogue option that was missing. The context of WHAT Sid was actually doing, and whether it was worth doing. Because some dangerous things are worth doing, and some are not, and we can’t really talk clearly about how much we’d support other peoples’ kids’ risky behavior without knowing the actual behavior.
So football and cage fighting, no. Trump voting BITE YOUR TONGUE SIR. Training for a wilderness rescue service? It’s worthy work. I’d as soon you weren’t risking your life, but I can respect your courage in doing it.
Right! This is not something we’d do, and we rarely do something we wouldn’t do in a game. Save for the murdery stuff. And, in my case, winding up with the redhead and not the BHBEBB in TW3. No offense to redheads.
And Sid was being brave….do you think it had something to do with the fact that Vetra is, shall we say, not exactly moral? We say that we’d support the other parents we know, but we, and any friends that would ask us for advice, are good people. We are never in a situation where the kid is being BETTER than the parent on any moral level, as we tend to surround ourselves with moral people. That said, Vetra, who is morally colorful, WAS giving good advice. So…hmm.
As for it mattering WHAT dagerous stuff they’re doing… Heh. Your kids are young enough that you haven’t been on that particular merry go round. I remember, when Junior was in second grade, he decked, I mean DECKED a kid in school. Why? Because the kid he decked was bullying a littler kid. So it was all “Hey you can’t do that…but great job! But don’t do it again…but maybe do it again because it was right…but really you can’t do that at school….” and on and on.
Here’s another wrinkle: In the QTE, did you shoot? I shot.
I think I did not shoot. Didn’t want to risk Sid getting hurt. I was all hopeful, “maybe we can talk this down,” etc. (not that this ever works–but we play the person we imagine we’d try to be in real life!)
But remind me again the precise circumstances of this QTE…I’ve done two shoot/don’t shoot QTEs since, so I want to make sure I’m remembering this one correctly.
Also, yeah, that’s what the game dialogue needs! The round and round option.
“Good for you, although you should totally not have been doing that on principle, but it was still very noble, but don’t do it again, unless there’s a really really good reason…”
This was the “bad guy holding Sid in one hand, a grenade in the other” deal. And shooting was interesting because it took agency from BOTH Sid and Vetra. Here’s a thing between parent/child, and we DID intervene. We did say “I don’t care what either of you want, I’m shooting.”
Which is ALSO something we’d never do in real life. We’d say “I may have opinions, but this is between y’all.”
Right, yeah. I didn’t shoot, although less because agency and more because “what if the grenade falls to the ground and explodes.”
So perhaps more practical in that instance than because I was bothering about what either of them wanted. But yeah, if I had been thinking about it, definitely “you two sort this out, I’ll be over here.”
Yeah, I should’ve considered that. So what happened if you didn’t shoot?
Because (and this is themey) I shot, the grenade DID drop, and it was VETRA who rushed forward, grabbed it, threw it and saved everyone. Not Sid, not Ryder. In the end, Sid wasn’t able to get HERSELF out of anything. Without Vetra, she IS dead.
Was that different for you?
If you don’t shoot, the villain throws the grenade at you and everyone dodges without taking damage and she lets Sid go and runs off. Then there’s a brief exchange of fire and she dies.
So it was different in that it wasn’t that themey since no one had to make any daring move to grab the grenade–we just all ducked or something in the cutscene.
Hmm. Except you didn’t have the metaphor of Vetra saving everyone, and Sid in particular.
See? We should be different more often! Comparisons!
Yeah, there was no particular moment where Vetra, or anyone else, saved everyone. It was more “oh, let’s all start shooting at this bad guy as usual” and so we jointly saved the day in that we won.
So maybe that’s more in keeping with the whole idea of supporting Sid as a grown up on equal-ish footing with the rest of the group…YOU should definitely have done the “don’t be stupid” dialogue, but see, it made perfect sense for me to praise her bravery, because in my world we were all in it together. Sort of. Or something.
Hey, it’s theme.
It is theme!
And it’s keeping with a pattern of Mass Effect: So much of the great stuff is in the loyalty quests. Yes, there’s more in the main story than we’re used to, but there was more theme here than usual, and more fun in Liam’s than usual.
Can’t wait to do Drack’s.
And, to bring us around to Derailment Friday….I do all the QTEs in the hope I’ll get laid. Ya never know. “She’s got a grenade!” “Who cares? Wanna bang?”
“Yes, I want a bang, that’s why I brought this grenade!”
We did better than 20 minutes today, though! Way to go us! Good bloggage!
Tonight I hunt the archon. Oh wait! No I don’t! I check out the Turian ark!
Tonight I return to the conservatory. I didn’t play last night, so nothing. But it’s on my list!
And maybe, if I have time, the last architect. It’s going to be all remnants all the time for me.
You go look for the ark! I think we’ll get some interesting bloggage out of that as well. There was another choice there of the kind that makes you think “I totally did the wrong thing…probably…I don’t know, damn it!”
Good stuff. We’ll discuss.
This game is good at making you second guess yourself. That’s cool.
I tell you man, you want to fuck up a remnant, electric gun.
Though the range on the thing isn’t great. Good thing the drone has an electric gun. And missiles.
I do really enjoy the drone. It’s nice to have an extra body there, firing at Kevin. The thing about the architect battles is they go on so long (or maybe it takes enough damage?) that it goes away, and you have to remember to summon it from the Elemental Plane of Drones again.
Or turn it on, whatever.
Ah, see, I turn it off between fights, so it comes back unharmed. It has hit points, too. That’s when it disappears.
Oh, I turn it off when not fighting too, but the architect battles are long enough that it runs out of hit points and I have to bring it back into the same combat. That rarely happens in other fights (so far).
Told you you’d love the drone.
I’m surprised you’re not flirting with it.
Wait, you can do that?!
Just kidding. I know you can’t. If you could, I would be.
Still…it was in the room there, with me and Peebee that time…who knows?
Dude, that is just plain wrong, even on a Friday.
We started so well.
I regret nothing.