How to Train Your Boomer: How Dragon Age Connected Me and My Dad
My parents didn't really understand what I did. “Content” they say, “you… create content?” I write about games and stream on Twitch and act and do VO, juggling multiple jobs at once in the vague but powerful hope of owning a house one day. But since I haven’t ever been mentioned directly on The Colbert Report or 9 News Denver, it didn’t seem real to them. However, I love my family and my job(s) so I keep trying to tell them about all the hats I wear. It gets wearisome directing them to various YouTube links when they, as my mom puts it, “don’t trust online stuff” so I was a little nervous to explain, once again, my work in “The Content Mines” when they announced they were coming for a visit.
What to do when my parents come to town? L.A. offers myriad parent friendly activities for day time, sure. Go ogle the rich and the rich natural beauty in Malibu. Take in a museum or stroll through Griffith Park. Eat at one of the thousands of incredible restaurants. But then it gets to be 8:30. And I draw a blank. Should I take them binge drinking and then raid a taco truck for delectable late night burritos? To my lasting shame, my parents are lightweights, or as we call them in the gaming business “One Pint Pollys”. (We don’t really call them that.) Should I take them to see a live band? Not great for the hearing-aid wearing crowd. Maybe dancing at one of the world class clubs the City of Angels has to offer? Nay. They want no part of my late night lifestyle. They don’t even smoke weed.
What to do post-dinner with the parents? Sitting and talking is…fine for other families. But we are repressed, Euro-American stock and we thrive, nay, require, an activity to anchor our time around. It was always a quandary and there’s only so much Catan you can play. But everything changed one fateful night when my dad uttered words I never thought I’d hear from him: “I sure wish someone would teach me how to play video games.”
A side note: why not ask directly, “Caro, can you teach me how to play video games?” But this is not Our Way. Asking something of another would be considered needy or presumptuous, so better to indirectly, vaguely ask the universe for whatever it is you need, in hopes that someone might overhear and offer it. (A side note to the side note: this is not the best way to communicate.)
In my childhood, I gamed a respectable amount. Back then, my dad had no interest in the idea that my Sims were living, having children, and dying. He didn’t care that I had harnessed the power of the gods in Age of Mythology. Dinner table talk was only about what I’d done in school that day or what my brother’s punishment would be for breaking curfew and biking across town at midnight to see his girlfriend.
So I was thrilled when he asked to play. I decided to start him on something breathtaking, but familiar. Red Dead Redemption 2.
The game looks exactly like where my parents had settled to raise a family. The western part of the map is a lot like the snowy Rockies where we would go snowboarding and skiing. Strawberry is basically Colorado Springs. And the plains of Valentine are damn near exactly what Weld County, where I grew up in Eastern Colorado, looks like.
He struggled through the slow but beautiful opening act slash tutorial of Red Dead Redemption 2 before putting down the controller and saying, “I want to be an elf.” My jaw dropped. My father, who I had harbored a resentment towards ever since he involuntarily laughed at the ending of Return of the King, wanted to be an elf. Re-watching Return of the King (as I have done dozens of times), I can see how a grown ass man would chuckle. But as a kid, weeping openly as Frodo gives one last, small smile before boarding the last Grey Ship to leave middle earth, I thought, “Dad, this is somber business and you should take it seriously.”
Now he wanted to be an elf. What elf game could I show him? Skyrim, the sweet succor of all true hearted gamers? Witcher 3, where he couldn’t be an elf per se, but could totes bone one? I’ve sat through enough R rated movies with my folks to know how awkward those steamy Geralt brothel scenes would be for us all. Then it hit me, Dragon Age: Inquisition.
So I booted up the game and watched my father’s eyes light up with wonder as he designed an elvish mage character that looked more than a little like Domhnall Gleeson. Yes, he spent some time with the camera angled bizarrely at a birds eye view. Yes, he ran around in circles for a little bit. But didn’t we all when we were new to controlling a character’s movement and a game’s camera at the same time? We ooh’d and ahh’d as my pops took town one npc after another and discovered that he, like all of us who game, was in fact The Chosen One.
The next night, when he asked, directly this time, “I want to play the elf again,” I knew he had caught gamer fever. I felt proud and excited that he finally understood what kept me glued to my couch and/or gaming chair for hours on end. He felt the thrill of the glorious, sticky, npc blood soaked, neurological feedback loop that makes gaming fun. He finally understood What It Is I Do.
I’m still trying to find a good deal on a PlayStation 5 to get him for his birthday.