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.

About the Author

  • I wasn’t really drawn to father figures growing up. Rather, I was in desperate need of big-brother figures and mentors. My father was a good dad — he loved me and told me so, he worked hard, he was affectionate, tried to spend as much quality time with me and my brother as possible, and always said he was proud of me — but he was always pretty aloof. I don’t remember any big problems in the first twelve years of my life, but as I grew older, my dad seemed unable to connect with me, have a deep conversation, be vulnerable in any way, talk to me realistically, or lead me into adulthood or manhood. He had always been like that, even when I was a kid, but kids don’t need deep connection and vulnerability like teenagers and adults do. So, he was there and he was a good dad, but I was left lacking some serious stuff that I needed to make it into adulthood. And I craved that stuff from other men, older brother figures, and mentors. As I grew up, I guess I didn’t see that my dad mattered much except to provide a roof over my head, but by then I was already trying to move out. When I came to terms with the reality of my father’s weakness and our lack of depth in relationship, I started seeing God as my true Father more than my own biological father was.

    • I know Kevin that we haven’t known each other that long or that well, but yes, that “desperate need of big-brother figures and mentors” is what I longed for as well. Circumstances just never really gave me the chance for such relationships to take root. They were there for a moment and then they were gone. As far my dad is concerned, well, based on other posts I think you got the picture there. With God the Father, there is hardly a comparison.

      • A lot of people say that our earthly fathers are supposed to model for us what our heavenly Father is like, but it’s true most fathers never can, and once we know God as our Father, there is hardly a comparison.

    • I’m in the exact same boat as you Kevin. I had a good relationship with my dad growing up, probably the same level as yours with your dad. But I was an only child and growing up I never connected well with the other boys and have longed for years for a brother or brother figure. And wouldn’t you know, those unmet needs and longings began to morph into SSA.

  • Hey Dean! I am terrible with gaming, but I have had many similar experiences with literature and movies. My dad was a lot like the father in Christmas Story though he was not nearly as jolly or healthy, and I was never aware of any thigh lamp. Most recently I envied the relationship between father and son in Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and In Shadow. And yes, I do take great solace in our heavenly Father, who is so different. I, of course, repeated some of the mistakes my father made, so extending grace was not so difficult over time. “loving and molding you into a fine young man” was a line that really struck me. It didn’t really happen for me, but my heavenly Father is doing it now.

  • I can really relate to the longing for a fictional father that is different than my real father. I also relate to what Kevin said below being in “desperate need of big-brother figures and mentors.” My father was definitely a good father and has always provided for us financially but hasn’t always been affectionate or vulnerable with me and didn’t show emotions growing up. I hope to be able to see Jesus and his fatherly qualities and experience our true Father with deep connection, love, care and compassion toward me.

  • Fortunately for me, I have been “re-fathered” by my Heavenly Father, although my relationship with my earthly Dad was not nearly as turbulent in my 30s as it was in my younger years, and until he passed, we actually got along OK for a few years. Although I knew my Dad loved me, and he would actually sometimes say so, it made my younger years difficult as it became apparent to me which direction I was going, and may have also been painfully obvious to my parents, although I don’t know that for sure, and they never said so beyond the fact that they disagreed with me on the direction I had supposedly “chosen,” and we just eventually had to agree to disagree and not be disagreeable about it. By the time I was 27 and came out fully [I later went back into the closet and decided on trying the EXODUS route, which of course didn’t work] they accepted me a tad begrudgingly, even allowing me and my then-partner to visit them and sleep together on their sleeper sofa in the living room of their home when they returned to the region where they grew up.
    I was extremely fortunate, I know, and I thank God every day for the fact that I did not get taken advantage of by a pedophile who could have seen how lonely I felt without a strong father figure or a brother to bond with. While the LGBTQ crowd says there’s no credence to the claims by the conversion therapy mentality of not having a good strong father figure to bond with, I would politely disagree. I believe a boy needs a man to bring him into manhood and affirm the budding manhood in him, in a myriad of ways, lest the boy not feel “welcomed” into the world of men. Gratefully, I was welcomed into that world through both a Christian men’s community here in Southern California, and the Warriors. They have openly welcomed me and made me feel I am “a part of,” and never “apart from,” as well as a couple of different 12-step programs [for different reasons/compulsive behaviors].
    Summarily, the journey has been a bit rocky at times, yet the last few years have been rewarding for me, as I find a path to healing, and a “family” of sorts, yet also am being allowed space to have doubts, question my faith and move forward into a new understanding of where I want to go with my faith, or as some in progressive Christianity term as “de-constructing, then re-constructing [or NEW construction].” I am currently looking at whether I want to continue attending any church, at all, as my trust of other Christians is now [pretty-much] TOTALLY SHATTERED, and it’s difficult – if not TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE] – to trust others, Christian or not. I am unable to say what that’s going to look like in a year or two or certainly not five years from now, as I simply don’t know. I may stay in a church, or go on to concentrate on other communities, such as the Warriors. I simply don’t know at this point, and don’t wish to even try to guess. “Whatever will be, will be,” I suspect, which is what I told the pastor of the last church I left, a couple of years ago. I am trying to get into this new one, but am having one helluva problem “connecting,” and simply am taking this – literally – one step at a time.
    Life is a journey. All I can do is continue through it and hope my journey finds those I need, as I need them. So far, it hasn’t been altogether “that” bad, although it has been far from ideal. Gratefully, now, I have the love and understanding that the love of my Heavenly Father is what I need, and what I longed for, all along. My earthly “Dad” was an imperfect man, fully human, and fully capable of making the same mistakes I do, and his Dad did, yet the direction I NOW need to look for that fathering I lacked is heavenward, regardless of how it looks to others, and know the Father’s love I sought in my boyhood, my teenaged years, and in my younger adulthood Indeed, for me, I cannot ask for more [Ephesians 3:20-21]. Those two verses in the Bible have been my Recovery verses and have guided me through the last years of recovery programs, since I first stepped into OA in the fall of 1988, through SCA starting in 1993, then SAA, and finally SA, and Christian SA [Celebrate Recovery] in the early 2000s. May my brothers in and out of the church world and the recovery programs find the peace they seek.

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