Video Game High School: Parents Just Don't Understand
It's Parents Day at VGHS, and oh my God it's the most depressing thing I've ever seen. I don't know why I'm surprised. I made a list of all the orphaned characters in the Final Fantasy series once and it got so sad I had to go outside and sit in a field of dandelions for a while. Video games are hard on parents.
At VGHS, it's not much better, and I think that the show did a really brilliant thing with this episode. Sit tight, it'll take awhile but we'll get there.
The last time we saw Brian D's mom she was in a trance even as her son became world famous and was on his way to VGHS. Ted's father is already notoriously horrible. It turns out that Ted has been giving him $5,000 a month because his dad lied about what child support meant. Then of course there's Jenny's type-A mother, who cares almost nothing for her daughter outside of her achievements in her footsteps.
Right off the bat you realize, "Oh my God, nobody has any type of loving home structure at all. No wonder everyone is made of posturing one-liners and works their insecurities out through first-person shooters.
Amid all this is Ken Swann, played with wonderful quirky warmth by John Ennis. He's come to visit Ki, but his real reason is to take her out of school on the premise she isn't learning enough. Ki is a design prodigy, and is probably the smartest on campus. Yet her father feels that she's being degraded by exposure to other kids, while Ki feels more at home than ever because of her friendships.
It's truly wonderful to see a loving family relationship in the show, even as you silently hate Ken for not realizing that his daughter needs to grow. That's why the payoff is so amazing. He does realize it, but he was worried that her sheltered upbringing might have stunted her a bit. It's only when she stands up for herself that he warmly embraces her and allows her to stay.
It draws this wonderful contrast, and actually gives the whole show a new dimension that speaks not only to the characters, but video game culture in general.
The generation that this speaks to has probably grown up in more single parent homes than any other in the last hundred years. It's almost certain that both parents worked. This is not me dropping in a "return to traditional values" line of bullshit, I promise, but it does remind me a lot of when I was growing up.
Video games matter so much for this generation because they were fantasies you controlled. You beat the boss, you rescued the princess, you saved the world. In a time when kids are more out from under supervision and guidance than ever before we naturally retreated to these safe zones with rules and boundaries that allowed us both narrative and familiarity.