Kids are a lot of fun. I love the nieces and nephews I have in my life, but having kids of my own has never held any appeal. Sometimes though, I wonder if I have made a mistake by choosing this path in life, until the powers that be give me a subtle reminder that I have made the right choice and should stick to it for my, and all children’s wellbeing.
A few weeks ago, right after the release of the new Red Dead Redemption game, I went over to my oldest friend, Zac’s house to play the game with him. We had been roommates when the first game came out years ago and played it constantly together, so it felt like tradition to do the same for the second one.
It was late enough into that evening, that I assumed both his young daughters would be in bed and asleep by the time I arrived. When I walked in the front door, his youngest, Opal, a very observant, very blunt four-year-old was sitting on the couch next to him, wide awake as he was playing the game.
The game can be violent depending on the choices you make, so I knew before I even sat down, that Zac was running around doing the PG type activities the game offered—hunting animals, gathering herbs, getting a haircut, grooming his horse—so that he could still play, rather than having to sit in Opal’s room waiting for her to hopefully fall asleep.
This went on for about ten minutes before Zac came across a computer-controlled character (NPC) that are littered around the virtual world to allow you to render aid of some sort and raise your reputation in the game. Being a good guy in the game yields certain perks—I think—to your character, that some people valued. So there are a lot of these types of situations in the game.
Zac, seeing the opportunity to be a good parent and show his daughter the value of doing good deeds, tells her to watch closely as he rides up to the NPC in need… Unfortunately, not all the NPCs in the game are in need of help. Some are assholes that want to rob or kill you. Guess which ones this was…
Opal had taken a stronger interest in the game than I’d have expected most four-year-olds to take, mostly because Zac had named his horse after her. So naturally she had associated the horse to herself and was made to feel like she was actually in the video game. I was about to say kids are dumb here, but then remember spending an hour customizing the way an in game character looked, years ago so that it looked like me.
Anyway, when Zac stopped to try and help the NPC he says, “lets make this quick,” and turns out to be a horse thief that shoves him off the horse, hops on it, and starts to ride away, it was pretty funny from my point of view to see the exact same expression of horror on both his and Opal’s face. They were just for drastically different reasons.
I assume Opal was seeing this as her being stolen by a stranger, right in front of her dad. That has to be terrifying for a small child. Zac however, was struggling with what to do in this situation. He had two options: one, let the horse be stolen and try and explain to Opal that it was just a game and he could reset it and start over with the horse still being there, or two, he could shoot the guy in the back as he rode off and get the horse back.
In the two seconds this all took place, I didn’t really think it through when I turned to Opal and told her not to worry, Daddy can just shoot the guy in the back and get the horse back. Which is exactly what Zac did. At that point he didn’t really have much of a choice.
As Zac shot the guy in the back, Opal raised her hands in a triumphant cheer, as the horse came to a stop and the guy slumped forward and fell off the horse, dead.
Zac was really torn on whether he did the right thing as a parent or not. As the “uncle” I had no issues at all and turned to fist bump Opal and said, “no one screws with Opal, right?”
“Right,” she said and bumped her little fist to mine.
Looking up at Zac, he just shook his head, “you’d make a terrible parent.”
“I’d always get the horse back though.”