Paige FTW: The Death Of The Mother

The trope of father and child, alone in the wilderness, is not uncommon these days: Joel and Ellie of The Last of Us, battling through the zombie apocalypse to find catharsis based on lies; Logan’s reinterpretation of Wolverine and X-23 as unwilling father and daughter; and now God of War brings Kratos into the vein of unwilling fatherhood with Atreus.

It is not a concept without merit. The gruff, hardened warrior is forced to reconcile his yen for carnage and violence with a need for empathy and kindness. Compared to the usual macho lone wolf protagonist that dominates most games — Agent 47, Adam Jensen, Marcus Fenix — this is … nice. It helps that most of these wards are hardened killers (if still damaged and sensitive) in their own rights, so irate gamers won’t grumble at having to babysit a la Resident Evil 4.

Yet, almost inevitably, the mother figure is absent. She gives the hero an impetus, usually through her untimely death, to continue the journey. She represents an idealized kind of love and sacrifice. But she is never a physical presence.

It is, in the wake of God of War, a noticeable void.

Games with female protagonists rarely saddle her with a child to nurture. Stories about women feature her on her own, fighting to carve out a place of independence. Lara Croft moves unsaddled by love or family. Aloy of Horizon: Zero Dawn has no family or ties to speak of. Even Bayonetta’s brush with motherhood was … strangely, just an encounter with her younger herself.

Where is the story of the woman warrior who fights to protect her family? It seems paradoxically sexist that a woman has to prove herself strong, while a man, already strong, has to prove that he is kind.