Why The Last Of Us Became An Obsession

MOTHERF*CKING SPOILERS GUYS, SPOILERS. Well…kinda.

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…seriously. If you haven’t played The Last of Us or haven’t finished it, wait here, go play it, and then come back.

We good? Great. (It should be noted that this is not a review of the game, just my opinions from watching)

I’ve never been great at any type of game that required me to be good at aiming. So, my original intent was not to actually play this game. However, my husband picked this up soon after we re-acquired a PS3, and I became almost immediately engrossed as the first images of the game came on the screen. The start screen captivated me with its subtle details and realism, I was impressed by this alone and decided that I’d at least settle down on the La-Z-Boy to watch the beginning.

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Before we go much farther, I want to put this out there. I am not the kind of female that cries at every little thing. I’m pretty stubborn about things like that in fact, and it takes a LOT to make tears well up from within my being. The Last of Us made me cry. Not once. Not twice. Three times.

A game made you cry? YES.

I’ve been captivated by visuals. By story-line. By one character or another. By theme. All of these things have drawn me into other games before, but never has a game EVER dragged me along by my hearstrings the way that Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us did. Holy shit.

The first 20 minutes of the game give you everything you will be experiencing in regards to the emotionally draining roller coaster you are embarking on. My husband and I both sat on the couch, jaws dropped with tears rolling down our faces. I mean, seriously, how do you start a game like that? There’s not much to hope for, but therein lies the strength of the character you play as for the majority of the game. Joel doesn’t punk out, while so many of us would have.

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Joel’s strength becomes a barrier over the years, as clearly seen in his interaction with Ellie as they begin their journey together. He refuses to talk about what happened to his daughter or offer much information about himself. Regardless, Ellie’s devotion to Joel shines so brightly as she cares for him after a devastating injury. In an act of heroism, she runs to draw attention away from an injured Joel, who soon musters the strength to climb to his feet and do what he’s done for so long – protect Ellie.

When Joel finds her, after she has escaped multiple horrifying situations, this scene made me cry the most. Their expressions. The visuals.

“Come here, baby girl.”

That. Line. I welled up at the beauty of Joel finally opening up and expressing his care for her. The embrace that followed was like a stab to my heart. I’ve never felt so emotionally attached to a character from a freaking video game. But this…this had become more than a game.

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As the end of the game approached, I feared for the worst. Would the game end the way it began? Would Joel lose the most important thing to him at that moment while holding them in his arms? I was relieved, proud, ecstatic, and drained all in the same moment.

Now, as I’ve said before, I have appreciated many games for their artistic concepts and visual appeal. On some level, I would probably call video games in themselves “art” because it does take time to craft a world in which players immerse themselves in. But, The Last of Us…this game in every way, to me, is art. The start screen pulled me in. And all it features is a windowsill with gently flowing curtains. I became attached to these characters so quickly, and I felt as though I were there.

I’ve read that some people felt that Joel’s actions in the end were selfish and the question remained who really was the bad guy, but personally, I feel that there was no question. Through his eyes, losing his world to save what was left of the world was too heavy a cross to bear. Would I protect my son, even if it meant that hundreds might die? As a parent, I can tell you that you’d have to pry him from my dead arms.

As you fight off Infected, there is a constant of Joel always protecting Ellie and looking out for her. For a few scenes, I just closed my eyes and listened to the music. It was beautiful and sad, hopeful yet fearful. I wonder if this is all meant to represent what is going on in Joel’s head. A dark and dismal world surrounds him but that hope that he clings to, Ellie, drives him and yet scares him. What if he loses her like he lost his daughter? What if one day, she is no longer there? Its a lovely and solemn feeling that hangs heavy throughout the game.

In short, Naughty Dog did something I’ve never seen in a game, with its realism in both visuals and emotional attachment. I applaud them, because it is difficult to get me to sit and watch a game being played. And who knows, I may even give the game a shot myself. That is, if I feel that my heart can take a figurative beating again.

Have you played? What did you think?

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10 thoughts on “Why The Last Of Us Became An Obsession

  1. I happened on your blog by accident and just had to say that I agree with you 100%. I’m a 32 year old man who almost never tears up at stories. But this one? This one got me good. It’s absolutely my favorite game of all time. I’ve never ever declared any game to be that in all my years of playing games. I remember reading an article before the release date that declared The Last Of Us to be the Citizen Kane moment for video games. After finishing the campaign, I know what they mean. Great article, btw.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I became so emotionally attached to this game that i found myself thinking about it at work, i was having trouble sleeping at night because i was thinking about it, and after i finished it i couldn’t stop thinking about what Joel and Ellie had been through together. Also, another scene that had me welling up was when Ellie was petting the giraffe.

  3. I agree about the needing help personally. I remember staying up til 6am playing, just because I couldn’t stop. I finally took a break when the above mentioned scene was talked about, right after Ellie kills David and Joel opens up to her like a parent. It wrecked me. When I finally did sleep I couldn’t help but see images of men trying to harm these characters that I loved. That’s the sign of a great story, one that I will remember for all time. Thank you for sharing Kae.

  4. Yes, yes, yes. There are good videogames and bad videogames, and there are occasionally great videogames. But “The Last of Us” is beyond a simple great videogame. It is, as you said, art. I realize that this what I’m about to say is neither new or unique, but never in my 43 years of life have I ever felt so emotionally-invested in videogame characters or stories. Stories (whether in books, movies, games, etc.) are generally either plot-driven or character-driven. The former can be interesting but rarely moving. Character-driven stories, however, have the ability to delve much deeper into the human condition. Sadly, videogames that have stories (unlike arcade games like Tetris) have almost always tended to emphasize elements such as graphics and game mechanics or even plot over character depth. Now, I haven’t played every game ever published, so I can’t say that this is absolutely the case, but I have played many, many games and have never seen anything close to the kind of presentation of “The Last of Us”. And it takes a lot of different elements to make it work as it does in this game: writing, voice acting, direction, artwork, graphics, music, etc. I won’t say that the kind of attachment people feel to these characters wouldn’t be as strong if any of these elements were lacking, but it sure didn’t hurt to have such quality for all of them. There are more than a few survival horror games out there, but this is the only one that I’ve ever played that made me feel true fear. I’m not talking about being startled by a well-executed jump scare; I mean fear over what was going to happen in the story…to these people. And maybe the scariest part of the whole game was in the very beginning, as Joel’s daughter Sara wakes up to the phone ringing; her uncle is frantic and needs her dad — then the line goes dead. She looks for her dad, but the house is empty. The TV in her dad’s room is on and tuned into the news, which is reporting the emerging crisis. Then the broadcast abruptly cuts out. There are explosions in the distance. You can see several police cars speed by with lights on and sirens blaring through a window. A dog is barking non-stop. I found this terrifying. Nothing had really even happened yet — there were no zombies in sight, no zombies screaming, nothing really even suggested that Sara was in any kind of immediate danger. Yet in the opening moments of this game, I found it to be scarier than any other game I’ve ever played. It seems like most horror movies fail in this regard; it is so often the things we DON’T see or hear that are the scariest, and only then when we actually care about the characters. There’s one more thing I’d like to mention, but it’s a spoiler so fair warning. The little scene towards the end when Ellie and Joel see the giraffes — it’s a short encounter and not central to the story at all, but it is such a touching moment…one that shows that despite the horror that seems to dominate the world at that point in time, there is still beauty and joy. I had fallen in love with this game long before that, but that scene really resonated with me and just proved how much the developers were striving to make something unique. My only complaint about this game was that there isn’t more. I’m concerned that they may try to make a sequel instead of just letting the story be finished. Time will tell, I guess.

    • Agreed. My husband and I discussed the possibility of a sequel, and we were torn about it. I agree that as the current story goes in this present time, it needs to be left alone. We tossed around the idea of the sequel being 10 years later, Ellie as an adult, finding out that Joel lied to her, and her actions from there. Maybe she’s had a kid. Who knows. I wouldn’t be heartbroken if nothing else came from it, though, because it was beautiful on its own and doesn’t need anything else!

      • {SPOILERS}
        As you said in one of your comments earlier that this game will still be talked about almost a year later, it is so true that I’m a living example 🙂 After just playing the new Left Behind DLC, I am again flabbergasted on how emotionally involved I could ever be towards a video game; and TLoU has done it three-fold. I was already aware of how great Naughty Dog is at creating epic stories like the Uncharted series, but never has a game pulled me in so much that I felt I was actually there and never wanted to leave. Every character is so believable and never is there a dull moment between dialogue. Never have I also felt so much love for a character like I do towards Ellie– as I mentioned before, I actually began to feel as if I was in Joel’s shoes and started realizing the love and admiration towards Ellie was becoming so real that I myself would also do anything it took to keep her safe. Many people criticize Joel for what he did at the end (or what I did, being the control), but thats just it, I kept telling myself I would probably do the same thing. This is what this game does to you; it makes you actually question yourself even when you have no control over the outcome. I too have an obsession with this game– mainly because I have never felt this great awe-inspiring story that actually pulls you into it with such realism. This is when I start questioning, should the story be continued now that I’ve seen some backstory to Ellie and her past?

        To answer your last comment (@Kae), I think it’s been well-apparent that at the end when Joel straight up lies to Ellie she is actually well-aware that he is lying to her and she can actually see how broken he has become due to his past. She understands that he would have done what he did over-and-over again (not actually knowing he killed Marlene) with no change or remorse and she accepts that. In saying that, I now am 100% positive that the story needs to continue. Naughty Dog is great at making the gamer fill in the blanks if you will when it comes to subtle dialogue. However, this story is just too great not to conclude in some manner. It’s almost necessary that we see how the future will turn out with these two characters……perhaps pick up years later when Ellie is somewhat older and has the ability to make choices herself without Joel’s constant regard for her safety (almost being the Lara Croft of her age). If the story persists and again Naughty Dog makes you fill in the gaps, then we can assume the two were headed to Tommy’s camp at the end. The continuance for the story would be perfect at this juncture……considering the fact that Joel told Tommy that Ellie is immune to some extent, some questions would have to be answered when he shows up with Ellie. Also, if Joel wants to maintain this deception he gave Ellie in that no cure was being pursued, then something would have to strive the two to survive even further. In my honest obsession too and overall love for this game, I almost need a sequel just to catch up on the characters again. Of course I can see how this wouldn’t dive well with Naughty Dog, but then again I’ve been surprised before:)

        When I here and see people concluding that this is just another run-in-the-mill survival zombie apocalypse that should be overlooked, I say to them that they are missing the point of the game and need to get past the gameplay factor and get more involved with the characters. Before this is a game it is actually a brilliant story and should acquire all your emotions to the fullest before you sink your teeth into it.

        Sorry for the rambling, just wanted to put my 2cents in for such an amazing work of art that should not be missed.

  5. There needs to be a sequel! I finished the game yesterday along with the dlc, and I’m now obsessed and want to stay obsessed. Hands down the best game i have ever played. I even had a dream last night I was fighting off infected with a group but got bitten and kept it a secret and my will power alone slowed down the infection to an eventual stop and I sort of became this half infected half human thing where only my whole right arm was infected but I was still in control. Anyway… haha I was actually hurting when the game ended, I don’t see why they can’t make a sequel, iv read that it’s a 50/50 chance the decision is up to them but if I was the creator god damn! I would totally make the sequel maybe about the future when Ellie’s older and is very capable of protecting herself and Joel teaches her how to swim and play guitar like they said they would! I’m definitely going to replay the game after some time, I just want to always remember it and never get bored of it. COME ON SEQUEL!

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