Post-apocalyptic settings in media are popular nowadays. The destruction o
human civilization has been envisioned in many different ways, ranging fro
aliens to zombie-viruses, from self-inflicted nuclear destruction to an all
destroying meteor slamming into our planet. The Last of Us picks a variation o
the 'virus nearly wipes out human life as we know it' scenario, choosing th
Cordyceps fungus and applying it to human brains instead of ants.
Interestingly, we live in an age in which we're apparently enlightened enough t
start reflecting on the possibilities of how our species could come to thei
end. Calling playthroughs of videogames with post-apocalyptic scener
'reflection' might be a bit of a stretch, but developers nonetheless plung
into a reflective activity, crafting situations in which players (otherwis
known as 'mass society') can start feeling what it's like living in a lonesom
world full of threats.
Even if a playthrough of The Last of Us cannot properly be called reflection
perhaps it can act as an encouragement to initiate such an activity. It may b
fun to *play* in (ultimately unrealistic) virtual post-apocalyptic lifeworlds
but to physically inhabit such a world or ones similar to it - no matter ho
hard it is to truly imagine the human condition under those circumstances
surely has to be awful.
Idealism appears to be a foul word these days, but though defeatism is one o
its enemies, it still seems that good ideas - combined with bare truths
ultimately have to steer our global village through the 21st century. The Las
of Us could, if only on a relatively small scale, inspire people to star
reflecting on more realistic scenarios for the late 21st century. We have
great responsibility - both on an individual and collective level - to leave th
world as a better place for our lineage (any reasonable person at least has the *intention* to do so), and one can seriously question if we're doing enough
facing what seems to have been turned into a 'liability' by some.
There's more to wealth than just economic growth (ecological pollution equal
'growth', since the cleaning up of wastes equates generating jobs), there's mor
to politics than just politicians talking (depending on how extreme a viewpoin
the one end of a political spectrum takes, the closer 'moderate' parties can ge
to these extreme viewpoints without it being noticed by most people; a dangerou
development that requires citizens to become more politically involved). Eve
though I certainly hope that you as my reader don't agree with everything I say
this foreword has been written first and foremost to present the game you'r
about to play in a light that is pretty much absent from the videogame industry.
Games are 'supposed to be' fun and entertaining, they 'shouldn't contain to
much realistic political themes' but mere caricatures of real policies instead
so the argument goes. I would instead argue that narrating videogames
especially as they rapidly replace literature and a wide diversity of othe
cultural activities and phenomena, are *exactly* the right place to sketch real
world problems, existential and ecological problematique, and that developer
have a socio-cultural responsibility to actively explore those themes that ar
underrepresented in our current Western social consciousness.
A developer's refusal to do so (in the case of videogames strongly driven b
narrative) would be an insult to the intelligence of any adult gamer. Argument
'considering the current market' reflect the hidden hollow ideology of man
mainstream developers; the argument essentially states that 'companies ar
paying attention to what gamers want, isn't that great?' That's the world upsid
down; one should create something great in order to attract a (new) audience
not create something because it is conforms to the expectations of a market! Th
latter means the creator doesn't have ideas of their own but 'fortunately' doe
know which existing ideas are popular under the currently dominant gamer ag
(and gender) demographic. I'd say that if you don't have any ideas of your own
you have no place in any creative industry. Year after year, new 'blockbuste
titles' replace their mindless predecessors, whose stories have been lon
forgotten, just as the majority of identical 'new' stories will be forgotten.
But there's hope still for intelligent 'adult' (18+) gamers. It seems that wit
the aging of 'older generations' of gamers, a new 'adult' market is slowl
opening up, of which developers are only slowly becoming aware. While
promising thought for the future, it remains foolish should an entire segment o
the gaming industry's market (women included) be put away in the freezer fo
twenty years; after a few years, most of it will be rotten.
For the time being we'll have to take our individual responsibility to mov
beyond videogame narratives and explore the most urgent societal themes all b
ourselves, or perhaps with a little help from our friends of the declinin
literary world. As such, hopefully The Last of Us manages to inspire beyon
being a mere captivating experience.