Daddy COTG 2: When You’re Away

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I’m playing Final Fantasy XV with my 9 year old daughter, and I’m not allowed to progress the story if she’s not there. The game exists now as a kind of waiting station, a virtual bench in a virtual park where I can sit for a while doing not very much of anything. Thankfully, Final Fantasy XV is a Japanese RPG, so it’s the perfect place to just hang around.

When I play Final Fantasy XV, with my daughter at school or at her mum’s, I play it without any real forward impetus. I can’t reveal any story – I don’t want my girl to miss it.

See, she already loves those four cool dudes in their fancy car. Her favourite is Prompto, because he’s funny and, as she puts it, “so dramatic”. He also takes a lot of photos, and it’s a real treat to go through his photo reel at the end of every in-world day, debating over which photos we should save to our album.

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A few nights ago we disagreed over my daughter’s insistence that we save a photo of a guy called Dave, an early game NPC of no real importance. She thought it was hilarious that Prompto had taken a photo of this guy, and was determined that we keep it. I simply didn’t want Dave in our photo album forever. It would be too weird. How would we explain it?

“This is Dave. He hunts stuff. No, I have no idea what his surname is. No, I don’t particularly like him.”

Of course, she won the debate, and a big close-up of Dave is now in the history books alongside all those action-packed photos of our cool buddies smacking giant wolf-beasts across the nut with swords.

So what do I do when I play Final Fantasy XV without moving forward? Well, I do some hunts. There are characters you can pick up hunt quests from. Do that, and you simply need to travel across the map to find the roaming beasts, and then smack them on the head and chin. You come back home with your bounty, and you level up. That sounds fair enough, right? But there aren’t too many of these hunt quests in the initial area, and once you’ve done them you have to find something else to do.

There’s always the opportunity to just wander around, battering the hell out of whatever unsuspecting monsters you come across for no reason at all. That can sustain you for a good while, and it makes your character stronger too. This, I suppose, is pretty similar to what they call “grinding” – when you spend hours just wandering about smacking things to make yourself a better hero. But is it really grinding when you’re doing it just for something to do? It’s more like going for a walk and tidying up the mess while you’re out there, really. It’s just taking out the trash. That’s how I feel, anyway. There’s no goal in it for me. I just don’t want to be doing anything too exciting while my girl’s not here.

I drive too. There’s this big car in Final Fantasy XV, and you can drive it along these dusty highways while listening to music. And I have spent a lot of time just doing this. I make a cup of tea, drive my car out of the petrol station, and then just go as far as I can before a roadblock stops me. Sometimes, I turn back when things start to look a bit interesting, in case something happens that my daughter misses out on. I slam the car into reverse and head back into known territory, where it’s safe.

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The radio in the car is fantastic. You can buy tapes from the little shops that have the soundtrack of old Final Fantasy games, and you can drive along while listening to these. It’s a real treat. I might not be able to progress my fifteenth adventure, but I can certainly reminisce about my fourth, sixth, ninth, while cruising with my buds.

Sometimes I don’t even do the driving. I’m happy to let Ignis drive, and I sit in the back of the car, listening to music and drinking my tea. It lets me think about my life, both in-game and real-world, and it takes me back to my GTA: Vice City days, when I pretty much just used to park on the beach and listen to Self Control by Laura Branigan.

What else do I do? Well, I stand on rocks. I like to find a good big rock out in the desert, and I’ll stand my character Noctis on that rock and rotate the camera until it looks really beautiful. There are some gorgeous skies in Final Fantasy XV, and it’s nice to just stare at them sometimes. But then, if it ever gets too beautiful out there, I start to feel guilty that my wee one isn’t there to see how beautiful it is. That’s when I sprint back to my car and drive off to find a fight.

I don’t want you to think for one second that I haven’t noticed the parallel between my play of Final Fantasy XV when my daughter isn’t around and my real life – as a father who misses his daughter when she’s away. My life is a good one, and beautiful and exciting things happen to me when I least expect them, as blessed as I am. There is no grind. I travel life’s road with the best of people. I have love, and I’m happy. But there’s never a turn on that road when I don’t think about my little adventurer.

She’s the editor of this site, and so she will read this, and I think it’s good for her to know that when these beautiful and exciting things happen to me when she’s not around I truly wish that she’d been there with me to enjoy them. I love her very much. I love you very much, boss.

But Final Fantasy XV isn’t like life. In Final Fantasy XV, I can make sure you never miss a single thing. The story can wait until you’re right beside me, and we’ll see it through together.

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