My jaw dropped and my eyes welled up with tears. I couldn’t believe it; he was dead. After all the searching, the fighting, the endless days and nights just to find him — just for him to die in front of me. It wasn’t fair! This can’t be happening!

I hit pause on the game and sat back to catch my breath. Fallout 3 had been such an awesome video game so far: intriguing storyline, fascinating characters, player-friendly gameplay. It definitely earned the right to be called 2008’s “Game of the Year.”

But this recent plot development kicked me in the gut. I had to take a moment to sort myself out before moving on.

You see, the game begins the moment your character is born. Literally. Your father is holding you and talking to you in the very first scene. It’s an emotional moment, one filled with so much joy for the characters. However, as the scene closes, you hear the mother starting to pass away on the table.

Your character then flashes forward through scenes of your life; in each, your father is there, loving and molding you into a strong young man. It’s only a video game, but you start to develop a strong bond with this digital character.

Finally, you wake up one day to find your father has left your city, and the leaders of the area are trying to find you to kill you. With the help of a friend, you escape into the world and begin the search to find your father.

After hours and hours of playing, I finally found him — my father. It was a pivotal moment in the game and, to be honest, it was emotional for me. Something about this reunion touched me. What made it better was that my father would join me for the rest of the mission and game!

And that’s when it happened.

The mission was interrupted by an enemy army, and my father sacrificed himself so I could get away and save myself and a group of people helping us.

And that’s where I paused again. Not necessarily because I didn’t see this coming, but because I felt like I had actually lost a close mentor. I couldn’t figure out why this man’s digital death bothered me so much. It’s just a video game after all. What was the big deal?

Then I took a moment to reflect on the fallen character’s role — he was my father. He was a good father, a loving father, a strong father, a kind father. He was the very model of an ideal father.

This fictional father was who I always wanted my real-life father to be.

My gut-check made me realize that I was not just upset about my fictional father dying. I had to face the reality of a flawed relationship with my real-life father. I had to accept that he isn’t perfect and our relationship has had more rough patches than smooth sailings.

I took a moment to separate reality from fiction before continuing my playthrough of Fallout 3. I decided not to hold my real-life father to the expectations of a fictional father created to be perfect. And I decided to remember that I already have a perfect Father in heaven.

And then I decided to take out as many enemies in the game as possible to avenge my fictional father’s death.

Have you ever compared your real-life father to a fictional father? Do you take any solace in a heavenly Father, or does the pain of your real-life father feel too great?

* Photo courtesy barneymoss, Creative Commons.

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