Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Parents Just Dont Understand That They Need To Be Dead

at 2:13 AM

The Kirby with a Thousand Faces is a pretentious column that takes a goose approved gander at how storytelling in gaming is done well or poorly. In this edition I am going to talk at you about a group that we all despise--Orphans.

The first thing I think of when I hear Orphans is them being beaten by social workers with the stockings filled with coal that they got for Christmas. The next thing I think of is the largely forgettable early PS2 release, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery and then my mind wanders to whether Orphen was the name of the vaguely anime protagonist and whether or not he was an orphan. After a long and meandering ride on my train of thought, eventually we get an idea I can post about on a video game blog: why a disproportionate number of video game characters have no parents.
Apparently it is based on a series called Sorcerous Stabber Orphen. Maybe Orphen is the dragon? Or is it the Sorcerous Stabber? Puzzles within Puzzles.
A less professional amateur gaming blogger would write an article about how not inserting parents into the story allows for a greater immersive, or as blogger's autocorrect tells me, immersible, experience [editor's note: I think Ezio means "submersible"]. The relationship betwixt parent and child is strong and complex, and makes it hard for games to duplicate without sounding hollow and false. Not to mention that the father-son, mother-son, Octodad-son relationships take so many forms that any one  of them is going to only fit a minority of the lives of gamers, making it harder for them to insert themselves into the protagonist's greaves. So occasionally you get generic parents like Crono's mom in Chrono Trigger or the single moms that raise Pokemon masters, but not a terrible amount outside of that. Writing good character dynamics is hard, that is why games avoid it--pretty obvious stuff. 

However, as a daring anonymous and pseudonymous blogger, I propose that orphans are so prevalent because they are better candidates to be heroes. Heroes are figures outside of society who come into society and solve its problems by going along a pretty standard path of hero-ing which Joseph Campbell calls the monomyth.

Orphans are figures inherently outside of society. They do not have the shared experience of growing up with parents who love them and educate them and introduce them to the community to be accepted. They are marginalized from birth and can only look on as outsiders and be pitied. 

Since this is a video game blog, let us look at some examples from video games. In Final Fantasy III (not VI), the four onion knights are orphans. They wake up and hear a voice from some crystals and are told to go on a quest to save the world from darkness. They are able to abandon their lives in the starting village and go across the world because they had nothing tying them down. Do you think some random farmer in that same village is able to do that? Heckz no. He has to work from sunrise to sunset in the fields to feed his family who are probably just going to die from a rat bite or shit-filled drinking water anyway. To pick up and leave not only abandons them, but puts pressure on the community to give charity to the "loved" ones that the farmer left behind. The Onion Knights actually make the community a better place by leaving because they are no longer part of the welfare system. 

In addition, as outsiders, orphans are not tied down by the rules that constrain the rest of society. For example, in Secret of Mana, the very not parents-having protagonist pulls the Sword of Mana out of its resting place because he did not know he was not supposed to. The villagers and the Elder scream at him for doing so because removing the sword made the village vulnerable to attacks by underground preying mantises and the ever deadly rabites. Even though the power of the sword had faded to the point that it could not really protect the village, the townsfolk were so stuck in their ways that they believed removing the sword was just cause to banish Orphan-face. Society had forced them into inaction and only the outsider was able to work and solve the problems at their core. He grabbed the rusty sword and presumably destroyed the fortress or whatever happened at the end of that ungodly boring game. Seriously, who makes the battle system in an action rpg 90% about waiting to hit things? Regardless, he solved problems by working outside of the system.

In the innovative sequel you can hit the attack button more than once without consequences. Or you can listen to this neat reboot of a Final Fantasy Mystic Quest tune. Or both!

Most heroes struggle to accept their call to action and often refuse it. Orphans differ because they have less holding them back in beginning their journey and have a greater ability to act once on their quest. They are commonly featured as protagonists because an unwilling protagonist contradicts the sentiment of the player, whose very turning on of the game strongly suggests that he does want to go on a quest to save the world. An orphan can turn into a hero easily, just as the player wishes he could. Thus, their ubiquity is predicated on their higher quality of their heroism over normal kids instead of the presumed reason of orphans being simpler for game developers to write into the story.

...My entire argument is based around the stereotypes that everyone hates orphans and that orphans are basically sociopaths because they are not able to process how society operates because they are outside of it. But to be fair, gamers largely seem to be sociopaths hated by everyone else, so maybe game developers portrayed orphans as fitting these stereotypes to increase the player's ability to put himself in the place of the protagonist. See? Prejudice is not that bad after all (says the white guy).


  1. My favorite part about Orphen is the smaller letters that spell "Orphen" right above the main title. Check it out!

  2. spoiler alert: this was the one decent idea ezio had for this column and will not write another post for it.