Bayek’s motivation in Assassin’s Creed: Origins gets revealed early on: he seeks revenge for the death of his young son. He’s not alone among video game protagonists in wanting revenge. Samus Aran lost her parents; Joel Last-Of-Us lost his daughter; Mario Mario lost multiple girlfriends to multiple muscle-bound monsters. Somehow, though, Bayek has kept his sense of playfulness, even as he carries his grief with him.
Bayek likes to goof around. He jokes with his wife Aya about whether or not he is “meant to kneel.” When his childhood rival makes insinuations about Aya, Bayek jokes about kicking him (later, after some drinks, he does). When Bayek is alone, he comes up with crocodile rhymes. Most often, Bayek’s light-hearted side comes out when he’s playing with children.
One of the game’s early quests, “Ambush at the Temple,” sounds like it’ll require Bayek to do some typical bad-ass assassinating. Instead, this “ambush” involves four children playing hide-and-seek in a temple. Before the quest begins, Bayek takes a quiet moment to place some flowers into a temple pool. When he spots the children hiding nearby, he laughs and shakes his head. Moments later, as the kids pounce on him, Bayek plays along and pretends he never saw them: “Vanquished by a gang of ruffians, silent as ghosts!” He then jokingly yells that he’s “dangerous” and they scatter, screaming with glee as they find their hiding spots.
Bayek runs into many children in Origins. There’s even a young merchant who looks no older than his son; Bayek is surprised by the boy’s age but doesn’t talk down to him, instead complimenting him for being so “well-travelled.” The inclusion of so many young characters helps underscore the tragedy of Bayek’s loss. In flashbacks, Bayek remembers quiet moments with his son, and in the present day, he gets a handful of opportunities to serve as a father figure to other children. But his own child is dead, and that makes even these joyful present-day interactions feel bittersweet.
If Bayek avoided every child and remained stone-faced throughout the game, his grief would still be felt. But that isn’t always how grief looks. Bayek still jokes around with his friends and peers, and he stops and talks to the children he sees, capturing what few moments of joy he can. The game doesn’t have to remind us outright that he’s thinking of his son. It’s always there in the background.