I knew becoming the father of twin boys would impact the amount of time I had to play video games. I didn't realise it would also affect the way I perceive them. As I played through the early hours of Namco Bandai's Tales of Graces F I came to a startling realization: I'm not merely 'me with kids'; I'm a father now.
I've always considered myself somewhat of a stubborn, rebellious child, seeking out my own particular brand of adventure to the dismay of parents and peers that have perfected the art of not getting into trouble. I'm impulsive to a fault, mainly because over the years I've realised that if I spend too much time worrying about consequences I'd get stuck in swirling eddy of doubt. So I charge in and worry about the consequences later.
And yes, I cling to my childhood ferociously. I collect toys (and I take them out of the box). I have a large library of animated films that I tell myself are for the children, who at this point are more concerned with the tasty DVD cases than their content. I eat multicolored breakfast cereal while feeding them plain whitish-grey baby porridge for breakfast.
Asbel Lhant, the main character of Tales of Graces F, begins the game as the sort of character I should be able to relate with. Destined to become the Baron of Lhant, the master of the outer edges of the Windor Kingdom, Asbel would much rather explore the land than rule over it.
Incredibly minor spoilers head.
Asbel (my wife pronounces it ass-bell) spends the beginning of the game getting into trouble with his father, Baron Aston Lhant. From the moment you gain control over Asbel he's actively going against his father's wishes. He travels to a dangerous area alone. Confined to his quarters he sneaks and gets caught up in a life-or-death battle. His father witnesses the fight and grounds him, forbidding him to travel to the capital city of Windor with the rest of the family.
Of course he goes anyway.
This childish rebellion is something I would have cheered a year ago. I would have been right there with Asbel. I might have shouted "Nuts to you, old man!" in response to Aston's many attempts to discipline his unruly child.
I never thought I would change so quickly.
Instead of sticking my tongue out at the screen, I feel anxious as Asbel defies his father left and right. I'm no longer thinking about what the character I am playing feels. I'm wondering what Lord Aston is going through back at home. Perhaps he's opening the door to his child's room and finding it empty, his heart instantly gripped with the desperate fear that so often manifests as anger in the eyes of youth.
"Asbel," I want to say, "He's only looking after your best interests. He doesn't want to see you get hurt. It's his job. He cares about you."
It was during these moments that I finally understood how my own parents felt. When they'd open the door to my bedroom at 3AM and find nothing but an open window, curtains dancing mockingly in the breeze. When they'd sit up and wait for me to come home hours after curfew. When, in my thoughtless defiance, I screamed horrible things at the people whose only concern was making sure I had no concerns of my own.
This shift in my perception isn't a bad thing. It's made me appreciate Tales of Graces F in an entirely new way.
Asbel eventually grows up, as evidenced by the fact that the game's cover doesn't portray him as an impetuous young brat. The older me might have been disappointed by that wild youth's transformation into a responsible adult.
Now I can't help but feel a little proud.