You know, sometimes it’s not easy being a dad. There aren’t really a lot of stories in modern popular culture about good fathers, and the world of video games is no exception. Everybody knows the ESRB stat about how the average age of gamers is around 34, yet very few titles provide an honest portrayal of what it’s really all about. There is however one game in which you play as a father, a good one. Hell, a fantastic one! That game is Dead Rising 2, and that father’s name is Mr. Chuck Greene.
A lot of people prefer Frank West from the original Dead Rising. I get it, but I disagree. Frank is funny and kind of a prick in that roguish yet loveable Han Solo-ish way, but ultimately Dead Rising suffers because there isn’t any emotional connection to him. It’s particularly resonant in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record in which you are able to play pretty much the exact same scenario, but as Frank. It’s fun for a little while and a nice throwback to the original, but something is clearly missing. That ‘something’ is the emotional investment the player has to Chuck and it’s not because he’s an awesome, badass character (although he absolutely is), but because he himself has an emotional investment in Katey, his young daughter.
Katey was bitten and infected by a zombie prior to the events of Dead Rising 2. This means that one of Chuck’s primary goals throughout is to find Zombrex medicine and give her a dose every morning. Chuck puts himself through an unbelievable amount of abuse and danger just to keep his daughter alive. Consider; he’s not even necessarily looking for a cure for Katey. He’s looking for a stopgap treatment that will keep her going for another 24 hours. Chuck competes in Terror is Reality, runs from one end of the complex to another multiple times, fights against psychopaths and thousands of zombies, and works to uncover the larger conspiracy of the outbreak in Fortune City for one reason: To save his daughter.
To be honest, a big part of what makes Dead Rising 2 so fun is that you can do all kinds of crazy stuff and dress up in any kind of costume, and it is a bit of a mood-breaking moment to see Chuck sharing a tender moment with Katey while wearing, say, biker chaps and high heels. Still, the fact that their relationship is played completely straight in the midst of such an insane game does ground the story in a way that its predecessor doesn’t even remotely approach. Sure, you can run around and completely ignore the story if you want (and in fact it’s pretty much the way you need to play it the first time through), but the clock never stops ticking and there will always be consequences.
In many ways, Dead Rising 2 is a brilliantly immersive parenting simulator. It gives you a strict timeframe in which you need to accomplish a list of critical tasks, and then piles on a bunch more tasks causing you to make tough decisions about what is best for your child versus what you want to do. Don’t get me wrong; parenthood is an amazing and worthwhile experience…but it can be hard. In this day and age it’s all about time management, multitasking, and finding pockets of time to take it easy and recharge, and this game is no different. Kind of like finding time to read a book or play a video game, this game definitely makes it worth your while and necessary to explore and discover the hilarious possibilities of what it offers. The thing is, if you’re going to do that then you had better make sure you’ve gone and picked up some Zombrex (or milk, diapers, etc.) beforehand.
There’s no instruction manual for raising kids, and it’s just about the toughest job there is in the world. It’s all about sacrifice, selflessness, and unconditional love. There’s a lot of talk about video games ‘growing up’, and I think what can facilitate that transition is by letting characters grow up as well. We’ve done it to death; playing as a lone-wolf soldier or a 17 year old who’s trying to save the world. Screw the world; there’s nothing more poignant and emotionally meaningful than desperately trying to save your child. Chuck understands that which is what makes him such a fantastic character.
Now go give your dad a hug and tell him you love him.