Swedish Dads

by Xian Xian


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Catchy start on an important topic but sadly incomplete, August 20, 2022

Paid parental leave in Sweden has led to a change in parenting methods. Many fathers are now considered as "Stay-At-Home" dads, a concept that is rather novel in places like the U.S. In this game you are a father named Björn. The game begins in your kitchen where you are drinking juice and thinking about yourself as a parent. Note: This game came out in 2016. No doubt the landscape of childcare has evolved (for better or worse) since then.

The gameplay is shaped by your choice of perceiving the world with either a realist perspective or an optimist perspective that offer two separate paths. I liked how the game presents two simple but clearcut ways of experimenting with the story. Unfortunately, both paths end abruptly with the realist path being slightly longer.

Optimist path
In this first path Björn is reflecting on when he first met his wife Agatha at an office, thinking about how attractive she was. Then he moves on to when they bought their first house which has started to feel like a home. Suddenly (Spoiler - click to show) the game interjects with "WHAT COULD BE ANY BETTER THAN THAT?!" Then the credits appear. This path does nothing towards portraying the subject of paid parental leave. It is just feels like a brief fantasy trip.

Realist path
At least this path does briefly look at paid parental leave. It covers Björn’s daily routine with his daughter Abby. His wife, Agatha, works in finance in another area. He drives Abby to school tries to complete basic tasks such as grocery shopping. Before paid parental leave he worked in a nut processing factory. Because the factory is not particularly exciting, he decides to apply for a new job. (Spoiler - click to show) Unfortunately, the game randomly ends with him thinking about different types of nuts without further exploring the topics of childcare.

The game describes itself as being about "Swedish fathers with a lot of time on their hands," which we never learn about. In both the optimist and realist paths the game never breaks down how fathers commit themselves to childcare or how they manage their free time, especially over longer time periods than the ones shown in the game. For instance, how have societal factors influenced fathers’ role in childcare that resulted in the wave of stay-at-home dads? At least the realist route skims the surface of the subject. It mentions grocery shopping and applying for jobs but discussion of the subject ends before it can begin. I was not expecting a vast Twine piece that covered every aspect of paid parental leave. But when I saw the game, I thought it would have gone into greater detail.

The visual design is one of the strong points in this game. It features beautiful gradient backgrounds with large glowing text that is easy to read and creates a nicely stylized effect. The glowing text is subtle without being hard to read. The optimist and realist paths each have a unique gradient background that was aesthetically pleasing. If this were a blog, I would upload a screenshot of the background. Since that is not possible you will have to play the game to see them for yourself.

Final thoughts
Despite its incompleteness there are two reasons why I would recommend the game: A, it has information on parental paid leave in Sweden at the end of the game and B, shows some nice examples of gradient backgrounds used in Twine. This too is mentioned at the end.

Even though I have multiple criticisms about the game I am glad that the author chose this topic because parenting is always a relevant topic. Based on my experience (other players may feel otherwise) with interactive fiction I have encountered more games about motherhood than about fatherhood, and I think that this game is a nice addition to the mix.

(Note: If you click on the link to the article in the credits page, you may be hit with a paywall. But if you type in the name of the article "In Sweden, Men Can Have It All" into a search engine you will still find some interesting and relevant material on the subject.)

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