Last night I had my eyes opened by a little girl living through a character in a video game. It sounds strange, but it was one of the most touching moments of my life and it drove home just how important it is that we, in games, put effort into including and representing everyone.
My daughter is two and had a sore stomach. I was getting in late and my wife and I were talking finances about an upcoming opportunity when we heard her crying. I’m a sucker for tears and she’s a very sweet little girl. So, my wife and I wrapped up and I gave my daughter some medicine but she couldn’t sleep. I brought her downstairs with me and, to distract her, let her calm down and relax a bit, I gave her a choice – watch TV with me or play a game together. Unsurprisingly, she chose the game.
My PS4 is a well loved piece of hardware. I’ve never owned a PlayStation before now – being mainly in the Nintendo camp (hush, I know) and a PC gamer – but it’s seen a lot of use since I bought it last year. I don’t really have many games suitable for small children, so I scrolled down through my library looking for something she might like. That’s when I found it.
Child of Light.
As soon as she saw it, before the game was even loaded, her eyes were locked on the screen. She looked at me and I asked her if she wanted to play a game about a little girl. She squealed and nearly shouted ‘Yes!’.
Being a turn-based combat RPG, it’s not generally the sort of game that holds a small child’s attention, save maybe for the beautiful art, but for the better part of 40 minutes my two-year old was rapt. She often doesn’t watch movies or TV for long, always having a new adventure to find, but she was so enthralled by the magical little girl on the monitor in front of her, she couldn’t look away – save to quickly glance at me and point, breathlessly.
Repeating ‘Little girl!’, ‘Like me!’ over and over, I was nearly in tears. My daughter likes games. She likes explosions (thanks Vlambeer!) and she likes games with fighting (often cheering ‘FIGHT!’ when she sees one in-game), but last night she loved a game about a little girl that could fly, adventure and battle back the darkness. A little girl that she saw herself in. A little girl that let her explore a world as herself. That cemented in me, as a creator and a father, the absolute need to include everyone we can in our games. If my daughter, who is white and born to a family that is financially stable and lives in a first-world country, was so thrilled to see herself in a game, how could this affect someone who may not have that identity, stability or privilege?
When it was time to turn the game off, she was disappointed. The little girl was gone away and she had to face the harsh reality of going back to bed. I promised her that we would play again, and that we would make that our special game – the one we play together. She agreed right away, with only a little pout and gave me a hug. It was one of the best moments of my life, and it was thanks to someone making a little girl a hero. Giving her a sword and letting her show her bravery – showing other little girls what they can be.
Even if it’s just before bedtime.