So, The Last of Us has been out for a week now. That’s seven days. Since we got the game as a gift to our dad on Father’s Day, it’s been the most played game in the house the whole week. But because I was busy writing and stifling my coughs from bronchitis and trying not to die at my computer desk, I couldn’t play as much as I would have liked. And because I had the brilliant idea of setting up shop in the lounge where all the gaming gets done, I had a pretty big problem – avoiding spoilers for the game. As a gamer and someone who has looked forward to this particular game for over a year, I absolutely wanted to avoid spoilers at all costs.
The Last of Us is a brilliant game. I wouldn’t call it a “Citizen Kane” type of moment, but it definitely shows us a different side to Naughty Dog’s story telling, one we’ve never experienced before. I’ve never played any game where I felt a real emotional connection to the characters. I may have been depressed and emotionally unstable when [SPOILER] Dumbledore died at the end of Half-Blood Prince [SPOILER], but this was different. I feel an emotional connection to Joel and Ellie and I like watching the partnership between these two unlikely friends grow throughout the game. I’ve never seen character development like that in any AAA title, if you discount the JRPG genre and Spec Ops: The Line.
To that end, I was determined to not spoil the game’s story or the ending. I didn’t even watch the first hour of gameplay that popped up on Youtube and my brother and myself resolved to not download the demo even though we were pretty certain of buying the game on or just after launch. I watched the beginning on father’s day with our dad. He was the first to play it and I was blown away just by the beginning of it.
I spent the first two days walking around the house with my eyes elsewhere. I turned my back to the TV when walking past it and made a point of sticking my finger in my left ear whenever someone said something. I later figured that this wasn’t a good idea, so I then found my hearing aid, took out the batteries and now walk around with it turned off. It mostly mutes the sound, but I find that I can still hear the gunshots and screaming.
My next attempt to avoid spoilers was to wear a hoodie over my head whemever I walked into the kitchen, the lounge or sat down at my desk. This worked quite well, despite the emo Asassin look. I could look at my family if they needed something, but I could easily block the TV from view just with a head tilt. I did the dishes with my head bent down so far that I could have been sleeping with my chin on my chest. I walked like a crab to avoid any accidental slips and I even went to bed reasonably early.
But even then, it wasn’t enough. My case has a reflective front and I can see the TV reflections quite clearly. After this annoyed me to the bursting point, I stuck a piece of paper over the offending glossy piece of plastic, kept calm and carried on. I’ve avoided reading anything more than bottom lines and review scores, I haven’t gone into any forum threads, I resist the urge to highlight text hidden by spoiler tags and I avoid talking to my family to the point where I’ve basically blended in to the furniture. I believe this game is worth filling the checks for the socially inept, nerdy and withdrawn gamer stereotype.
The point to all this, really, is to not spoil the story of what may be the best game I’ve ever played beyond the point I’ve gotten in it. I have, of course, seen movies and games before that share the same elements (right down to character placements and personalities). I will buy anything Naughty Dog makes. I loved Crash Bandicoot, I loved Jak and Daxter, I supremely enjoyed Uncharted and this game just takes the cake. Sony promised gamers back in 2006 that the console would bring experiences that would invoke emotion and endear you to the characters in the stories you’re going through.
It took them seven years to get it just right, but that’s okay. Progressing up to a game that can give me chills when I whip out a gun and pouint it at a NPC is pretty badass. The psychology behind it and behind Joel’s growth is both simple and complex at the same time.
I also enjoyed Bioshock 1 & 2 for its moral choices and making you reevaluate things in your own life while contemplating saving or killing the Little Sisters, but this game does more than that. When you’re a man like Joel who’s practically lost everything and forced to defend himself against hordes of corpses, how does that change you as a person? Hannibal Lecter was nice and had manners, but he was a killer no matter which way you slice it. No-one addresses Nathan Drake in the context of being a serial killer, but that’s somewhat true considering the number of caps he pops into bad guys.
I hate spoilers and I try to avoid them for things I really care about, like this game. I want to be completely unaware of what’s coming and have no expectations aside from the game being good enough to earn a place in the record books.
I will be playing The Last of Us this weekend. It might be the first game to leave me with my jaw on the floor. It might even make me cry, but that’s okay. I have avoided all the spoilers up until now and I will enjoy the hell out of it. I’ll also be the better man and not spoil it for you either. [REDACTED] dies anyway, but would you want to know that? Nah, I didn’t think so.
Spoilers are bad, and if you spoil the story for someone else, you should feel bad! That’s why it’s today’s Oldie But Goodie. Have a happy gaming weekend, NAGlings!