For those who know me, Naughty Dog’s video game The Last of Us is one of my many favourites. Why? Its story has no bounds, no limits to what can be discovered and what cannot be discovered, depending on who plays it and what their intentions are.
To those who haven’t played The Last of Us (TLOU), it would seem like a typical zombie game where you fight to survive, overwhelmed with ‘unnecessary’ graphic violence. I defend the game in the sense that the ‘lack of sensitivity’ towards topics makes it more real, and therefore the violence and blood is completely necessary. It depicts how much a person is willing to survive, and the strength of humanity in a ‘less humane’ world. Every scene from TLOU captures some part of the apocalyptic scenario we have been exposed to within Hollywood, as well as more. It’s a multi-narrative within one singular, linear narrative, which is explored through two or more perspectives.
The best thing about TLOU is that it makes things real – unlike films and television shows, there is no over dramatization of anything that happens. People die, but we do not linger on the death. If someone were to shoot another, they do not blast their bullets and waste them for the effect of a ‘crazed’ victory. We discover everything as they are, and the best thing about half the things that happen is that it is not told. Every good story writer knows that the best thing to do is to insinuate and let the audience make the connection themselves rather than straight up blatantly saying what was going on.
For example, an author could write “He shot her in the head, and she died”. This is bad writing – if a person was shot in the head, it would be obvious that the person would be dead. What they should be writing, is “He took the shot, and her limp body slid to the ground”, thus stating what happened in a more descriptive manner.
One of the most common things we look at in zombie movies are the actions of the military and political leaders. Within the opening scenes of the game, we can see the world deteriorate of its humanity, where a militant comes across a fleeing man and his daughter and is ordered to eliminate them. The military, who in our world, is meant to be protecting us, crumbles to become those who determine who lives and who dies.
We also look at the stragglers, who in TLOU are our main characters, and how they work to survive, but we have never been exposed to the other kinds of groups that there realistically can be. We have never been exposed to groups who undertake ‘Survival of the Fittest’, or the traditional hierarchy where men go and hunt while the women and children stay to repopulate the earth, or even the ‘Freedom Fighters’ who try and militize themselves against the military, in one narrative. Every situation that can be explored is explored, including game-play wise – there is in fact a scene where the world is literally upside down.
It’s not even just the physical aspects that TLOU explores either. It is the emotional problems we are facing in this current day and age that are confronted as well, only this time in an apocalyptic point-of-view. There is attempted rape, murder of the innocent, suicide, pedophilia, family division, even same-sex relationships. Not all aspects are negative however; there are times where we see kids play and friends make jokes, and the good times do still exist – heck, people even still settle down and get married, watch movies on the technology that they can manage to bring back to life. It is this balance that TLOU attempts which makes it an amazing experience, particularly since they add little bits and pieces of interaction which makes the characters more human – you understand their fears and talents, what they like to eat, what they joke about, and more importantly, their history – albeit, many of these things are only revealed if you’re willing to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny the game allows.
Every aspect of this game and the people who spent their time and efforts creative it has earned my respect. Gustavo Santaolalla strung together brilliant yet emotive pieces which only heightened the beauty of this game and created a soundtrack which illustrated a narrative itself. The animators all worked brilliantly to provide such captivating movie-like scenes and environments that the game really does not need to be adapted into a movie. Less I forgot the research that was actually done prior to the game’s creation to base the infection off something real. I just… *sighs dreamily* amazing.
And like every great narrative, The Last of Us prompts you to think bigger afterwards, and I will restrain myself from commenting on such in case you haven’t played it, but feel free to comment below and discuss what you learned from it if you did, and I will gladly reply!
My god, and all this is purely from the first game. I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog has prepared for us in Part II.