Watch This! Final Fantasy XIV:Dad of Light

While I was preparing for last week’s sidequest about video game movies (check it out on our episodes page if you haven’t already!), I came to a stunning realization: there are a lot of video game adaptations out there! Even though I argued fiercely in the podcast against putting video games on film, I do still have some sympathy for Emma’s point that the genre just needs a major overhaul. So, in the spirit of fairness and critical exploration, I’m starting a new blog series…

Watch This!

I’ll be reviewing and analyzing video game appearances in other forms of media. Hopefully, these case studies will point Emma and I toward a more satisfying conclusion to our debate than just a technical knockout.

Just kidding, I totally crushed her.

My inaugural subject: the spectacularly titled Netflix original series

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light

I admit, I was a little biased picking this show. Yes, it’s a new release, and yes, it’s about a video game series that we talked about on the podcast. But even more than that, I wanted my first blog topic to prove Emma spectacularly wrong. I wanted an adaptation that would crash and burn. Come on, the show is called DAD. OF. LIGHT. It was like two days away from being titled DADDY of Light. Do titles get much more ridiculous than that? It feels like a name I would make up as a joke, and clearly, I don’t have a knack for titles (I name every new content feature on here {Verb} This!).

The show follows Akio (Yudai Chiba), a young man who is obsessed with Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix’s MMORPG entry in the blockbuster anthology series. When his father (Ren Osugi) suddenly quits his job for no apparent reason, Akio decides to try to bond with him secretly in this online world. Netflix categorizes it as “inspirational,” so I was prepared for some extreme cheesiness. Still, the whole series, an import from Japan based on a true story, runs a compact three hours, so I was willing to invest the time to watch the whole thing, even if that cheese turned out to be incredibly stinky.

Cringeworthy title, or genius marketing ploy? Both?

And yet…something about Dad of Light started to tug at my heartstrings even during the flashback opening sequence. Maybe it was the memories of playing video games with my own dad late at night as a kid, but I started grinning when little Akio caught his father trying out Final Fantasy while the rest of the family was sleeping.

The matching PJs may have also played a role. So cute!

As an occasional viewer of anime, I was expecting a fun title sequence. I should have known it would fall victim to the Netflix curse of credits which are cool to watch once, but should probably be skipped on future viewings.

Forgettable, but the perfect length for grabbing snacks from the kitchen.

Flash-forward to the present. Well, sort of; it’s 2014. Akio is now a young man working as a copier sales rep (glamorous!) and living with his parents. After decades of working at the same company and rising through the ranks, his dad has *gasp* quit his job! Neither Akio nor his mom (Mako Ishino) have any idea why. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t they just ask him? Well, I’ll let Akio’s FFXIV avatar Maidy answer that question:

Okay, talking isn’t an option. Time for Plan B.

As you can see from the picture above, Dad of Light isn’t just a live-action soap opera. It’s also part machinima. For those unfamiliar with the term, as I was until I looked it up a few minutes ago, a machinima is “the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production” (thanks Wikipedia!). Basically, it’s a video game which has been used as a virtual film set.

Full disclosure: I have never played Final Fantasy XIV. You don’t need to be familiar with the game to understand Dad of Light. I cannot emphasize this enough, as I’m sure the title will scare away a lot of non-gamers. I’ve seen some talk online about how the in-game portions feature some anachronisms, as the game has been updated since 2014. Personally, I was fascinated by the machinima, mostly because I spent a lot of time wondering exactly how they created it.

Now comes the awkward, clunky exposition. Why exactly don’t Akio and his father talk much anymore?

Ah yes. “That time.” Do tell us more.

Look, I know it’s based on a true story, and I know plenty of families just don’t talk to each other very much. But I’m really supposed to believe that Akio and his dad haven’t talked regularly for a decade because he didn’t want to play video games one time? It made me roll my eyes, which is not where you want to be when I’m deciding whether to stick with your show past the first episode.

Fortunately, once we’d gotten the requisite Sad Backstory out of the way, things rapidly became more entertaining. Akio decides to buy his dad a PS4 as a “retirement present” so that he can rekindle his love of Final Fantasy. Which leads to this gut-punch of a line:


I have a tendency to turn the things I love into work. In some ways, this is a great thing. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? But in other ways, it sucks! Perfectionist workaholics of the world, if you’ve figured out a way to have hobbies which you genuinely use to relax, not to add something else to your to-do list, let me know in the comments.

That was a digression, but I think it gets at something important which I enjoy about Dad of Light. The show invites you to a stroll down memory lane. Perhaps it’s a little emotionally manipulative, but it’s a joy to remember my gaming experiences, and watch the characters live versions of them.

That said, there are some fictionalized events that I simply cannot tolerate. Namely, that DAD PICKS A NAME RIGHT AWAY? WHO DOES THAT? Emma and I have discussed this on the podcast, and I thought that it was a universal struggle to name your character in a game. Do you pick a variation of your own name? Some kind of pun? A completely random moniker? I have a hard enough time when I’m choosing a name for games where I’m the only person who will see my choice. I would probably have to spend a day mulling over my nickname for a MMORPG like FFXIV. But our titular dad comes up with a name in ten seconds flat. Heck, he comes up with a second name on the spot when Akio tells him the first one is no good! How am I supposed to suspend my disbelief? It’s unreasonable.

Still, it sets up a pretty great visual punchline.

Indy Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arcade

Kids have made the argument for years that video games improve hand-eye coordination. Well, I can tell you that they certainly give you a reflex to grab a controller when you see a battle scene! It literally felt like I had been looking at my phone during a cut scene, and then was late getting back into the action. My heart started beating faster. These in-game sequences are a pretty clever tool, folks.

All in all, this was a solid, if not exceptional, first episode. I’d be curious to hear a non-gamer’s take on the pilot. I enjoyed it from a nerdy perspective even though I know very little about Final Fantasy, but I wonder how much of that translates to someone with none of these shared experiences. I’m excited to see where Dad of Light journeys now that we’ve got the tutorial out of the way. I’m ready to do some more exploring in this world.

Thanks for checking out this new blog series! I’ll be posting more about Dad of Light, but also leave suggestions in the comments for other movies, TV shows, plays, books, etc. that I should add to the queue!

PS- Chocobo sighting in the closing credits!


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