The following post contains spoilers for Papo & Yo.
Video games are often criticized as being childish and obsessed with power fantasies. It’s an understandable sentiment. Whether it is an uninspired cartoonish aesthetic or a simplistic plot in which a 90-pound weakling becomes the master of the universe, many games come off as immature. In games in which kids are the main characters, it’s easy to find a combination of these two tropes: shallow child characters that somehow manage to get caught up in a grand conflict in which they become the hero. It’s a fun daydream, but not especially representative of the real challenges that youths face.
Papo & Yo got me thinking about the topic of children in games, largely because its child-protagonist has modest abilities and its story is grounded in reality. Quico is the main character, but he’s not the world’s savior. He makes use of unique abilities, but he is by no means invulnerable to harm nor totally in control of his situation. Quico’s journey of personal growth serves as a metaphor for the private battles that people face every day, rather than a literal war for control of the universe.