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Note: Minor spoiler for content in The Last of Us

Butch:

No, I didn’t finish TLOU. And probably won’t tonight, but tomorrow looks good.

That being said….

Usually, around now, that is, when I’m about to wrap a game up, I’m hesitant to do so. I usually find endings to be bittersweet. I like knowing the ending, but I don’t like thinking that I won’t see/be these characters or this world again, at least not until a sequel comes out in a few years.

I say usually because I don’t really feel that way about TLOU. I’m not hanging on, savoring the last precious few bits. I’m not finishing it because Jr. had Halloween parties and I’m tired. But when I do get to it (probably tomorrow) there’s no real bittersweet taste.

So why? Is it just cuz I’m hyped for Dragon Age Inquisition? Is it bad game design, in that I don’t want more? Is it good game design in that it is going out at just the right time in terms of me not wanting more but not feeling like its a slog?

Feminina:

I was so ready to be done with TLOU, more because I just couldn’t handle any more gloom than because I didn’t like the game. Bittersweet only works if there’s been a substantial amount of sweet along the way, you know?

Maybe they were trying for sweet with the giraffes, but it was way too late in the game. At this point in the game, for me, you know Joel and Ellie, you respect them, maybe you like them, but you don’t want to hang out with them because you don’t want to spend any more time in their depressing world.

The game was too good at what it did to make me want to linger.

Butch:

This is true, this is true. Very little sweet. Even the giraffes really weren’t, as the end of that (as discussed) really emphasized that it was OVER, the sweet. OVER.

But still: Lara’s island wasn’t exactly a laugh riot, and I found myself thinking I’d miss that game. I don’t think I’ll miss this game.

Feminina:

I really think there’s something to their whole “end of human life” thing that’s extra depressing. (For some mysterious reason!)

You’re right, it’s not that we were imagining Lara wanting to come back on her next vacation or anything, but however dreadful that island got, the worst that was going to happen was that they were all going to die. (And the Sun Queen was going to take over Sam’s body and potentially try to rule the world, I suppose, but that was always a far, far distant threat.) Which is plenty bad for them, yes, but however much we like Lara and her companions, their dying is not a tragedy on the level of, say, the extinction of the human race.

In TLOU, the worst that can happen (and that IS in fact happening all around us in the game) is that every person in the world is going to die in the probably-near future. I just feel somehow grimmer about living with that fact, than about being afraid (even very afraid!) that I personally, as Lara, am going to die.

The Solarii and the Hunters share a lot of similar features, including a kind of grim hopelessness, but in the end, the hopelessness of the Solarii is the hopelessness of people who know the world is going on without them, somewhere, and who are angry and sad and frustrated that they’re missing out–torn away from their family and friends and everything they know. And however bizarre and repellent their methods, what they’re trying to do is get back to that world.

The hopelessness of the hunters, on the other hand, is the hopelessness of people who know that the world is not going anywhere, that there’s nothing to miss out on, and there never will be. They have nothing to try to get ‘back’ to, nothing to do but survive one day after another waiting for the food or the ammunition to run out, or the infected to get through. It’s DIRE, man.

Butch:

This is so. I mean, even in “end of the world is coming” games, the end of the world ain’t happening. The archdemon was going down, no matter how many tries it took. But in TLOU, yeah, things aren’t on the upswing. Even in games like Fallout, yeah, things didn’t go well, but hey? Project Purity, the Strip, things are turning around! Not so much in TLOU.

I really can’t think of any drearier game. Hopeless, I guess. Which in and of itself is cool. I mean, a world you, as a player, can’t save. Aren’t games about saving the world? Hmm. Cuz I don’t think Ellie and Joel are going to save anything, here. Immunity or no. I just do not see a happy ending.

Feminina:

Yeah, in most games you actually manage to save some significant portion of the world. Here, the long trek through landscapes infested with infected and murderers and cannibals has served mostly to convince us that a significant portion of the world is already lost, and what remains feels almost beyond saving. Or, maybe, not even worth saving.

Remember how well the giraffes were doing without humans. Maybe the whole point is that humans are approaching our well-deserved and unlamented end.

The last of us. Here we are, living out our remaining days. Some of us turn to preying on our fellow victims, with varying degrees of literalism (from killing them for their shoes, to actually eating their flesh). Some of us try to create a functioning community NOT built on murder. Some of us try to keep our kid brother safe and civilized. Some of us do actually try to save the world, to the small extent that we can.

Maybe the game asks us, how would you choose to spend your time, in these circumstances?

My answer: very, very drunk.

Butch:

When you put it that way, no wonder I won’t miss this.

Still, nice little touch on the whole hero saves the world thing. I mean, when a game says “Save the world,” you’re pretty much supposed to assume it’s worth saving. Here, the game sorta did tell you to save the world (I mean, that’s what we’re led to believe Ellie can do), but you really are sorta ambivalent about it.

I’m rooting for the giraffes.

Feminina:

I hear in the sequel, you play a giraffe.

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