You sacrifice the few to save the many.
That’s kind of shitty.
I thought my gaming days were over. I guess not.
I first got into gaming with Metal Gear Solid. It had a great story that owed nothing to most films. I still remember the words “Goodbye, Mr. President” mumbled bellow Revolver Ocelot’s bushy moustache. It was cinematic, despite its poor graphics. I loved the way I could advance the game in different ways. I could choose to kill everyone I encountered or slip by them unnoticed. I usually chose killing since society frowns upon shooting and choking people to death in real life. Damn you, society!
In my teen years I played a lot. I stayed at home, remote in hand. Avoiding the sun and eating chips. Making everything in my complexion ready for the pimples, zits and blackheads that were soon to come. Spyro, Bandicoot, Mario, Sonic and all the other jumping and running fellas. All Tekken games, Dead or Alive and similar fighting gmes. Most of the Final Fantasy games. Gran Turismo, Lara Croft, and… my memory fails me, but those were just a sample of a very long list that brought me many hand calluses. In more than one way.
Eventually I got sucked into the world of online gaming. Playing online takes the excitement of defeating an opponent to the next level. It’s a virtual way of saying “I’ve got a bigger penis than you” (posting that as a Facebook status eventually gets tiresome). If you do it as a team, it’s a collective “We’ve got bigger penises.” Even the girls join in on the chant.
This ruined me for games. Online gaming is to offline gaming what TV shows are to movies. They provide immediate reward. I found myself skipping completely the offline mode and going online, the same way most times I prefer watching a TV show over a movie. Instant small pleasure vs. Bigger delayed pleasure. The first one almost always wins.
The last of Us is the first game I play in a long time that doesn’t end with me bragging about my accomplishments or complaining about lag. No other game compelled me enough to spend 50€ (or 150$ if you’re from the USA). This one did. The game keeps the best features of The Walking Dead and leaves out the bad ones. It is set in a zombie riddled post-apocalyptic world. The characters have do their best to survive and encounter danger at every corner or other surface for that matter. Joel is the equivalent of Rick and Ellie is what Carl should have been. They are faced with moral dilemmas and personal pain. In the backdrop there are beautiful landscapes and abandoned or destroyed cities. Some of it reminds me of The Last Man on Earth. What The Last of Us keeps out is the bad writing.
Joel is a no-nonsense guy. We know him 20 years before the action of the game takes places which makes it easier to understand him. He’s a wearied man, trying to stay alive by instinct more than anything else. Instinct will eventually wear-off, and Ellie seems to be the reason he lacks to keep alive. She is smart and funny. She has the appropriate cuss word ready in her pocket and she’ll give you the finger faster than you can say “…”. Imagine Juno in a Zombie apocalypse, a few years younger. The anticipation of their interaction makes the rest of the game seem undeservedly lackluster. There’s one particular scene in a car involving a magazine, naked men and stuck together pages that makes me crack a smile as I remember it.
I paused the game to write this.
I was here:
“You sacrifice the few to save the many”, said Joel.
“That’s kind of shitty”, said Ellie.
Joel is clearly utilitarian. He follows the tradition of Jeremy Bentham, usually applied to any post-apocalyptic scenario. He understands any action that creates the greatest good for the greatest number. Ellie is a precocious Kantian. Facing the remains of a massacre, with wisdom beyond her teens she proffers this wise statement “That’s kind of shitty.” She means to say that you should act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. Killing is categorically wrong, no matter which positive consequences emanate from it. Nice thinking for a 14 year old.
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: