Why The Last Of Us video game is still better than the TV series – Reader’s Feature


The superior The Last Of Us? (pic: Sony)

A reader refutes the idea that The Last Of Us TV show is better than the game and argues its interactivity is what makes it more engaging.

Video games have evolved a lot since the first experiments began to appear in the early 1950s. While retro style games are still being enjoyed today, many are now closer to being story-driven, interactive movies. But with the release of HBO’s The Last Of Us TV series, some have decried video games altogether, as an effective storytelling medium. The series’ success, they argue, proves how easily their attempts at storytelling are outdone by linear media.

HBO’s show is certainly a fine series, that fleshes out many of the game’s characters and plotlines. But video games offer something that movies or TV shows can’t; games are not merely windows through which we watch stories but are doorways to a vicarious experience that you are a tangible part of.

As a moviegoer or TV watcher, you feel emotions through observation; but as a gamer, you are an active participant. You develop empathy by taking on a character. The Last Of Us creative director Neil Druckmann noted that, in his game, people played differently depending on the character they were controlling: either the strong, heavily built Joel, or the small 14-year-old Ellie.

Even though the game doesn’t become more or less difficult depending on which character you play – the mechanics remain the exactly same – according to Druckmann gamers still ‘change how they play because they’re seeing themselves as this this teenage girl that doesn’t have the stature of this large man’.

In other words, an empathetic connection occurs between the gamer and the character. A good game draws you into the character’s mind, makes you feel their emotions, like a dream in which you are someone else and, for a short time, in your imagination if not in reality, you become that person. Our moral responses to the decisions we make in that digital, vicarious life cause us to reflect and learn from our choices, and to alter our real-world behaviour and worldviews.

There is a saying in fiction: good writers show, don’t tell. But in the video game industry the principle is ‘do, don’t show’. In other words, game developers don’t show cinematics of a character’s struggle: they let the gamer experience it for themselves.

Catharina Bøhler, CEO of Serepta Studios, puts it like this: ‘Games are a way to teach you about consequences, to make you take responsibility. Games allow you to explore deep subjects and emotions … Where a documentary about someone suffering can evoke sympathy, a good game can create empathy because you are there … Distancing yourself becomes more difficult because it is your responsibility to drive the game.’

At the end of The Last Of Us Part 2 your dogged pursuit for vengeance sees you lose everything: your family, your friends, your community, and even your own humanity. I played this game during lockdown when my new, noisy neighbours decided to bang, scream, and blare my life into unendurable misery.

What prevented me from getting revenge, from fighting heavy metal with heavy metal, was having lived as (not observed) Ellie during her conquest for revenge, and experienced (not watched) for myself the corrosive effects that revenge has on a person’s soul. As a result, I did not make the same mistake Ellie made. A TV series adaptation may have also communicated this life lesson, but far less viscerally or effectively.

While a good movie is better than a bad game, let us not shun The Last Of Us game for being the popular new kid on the block. It is the game, not the series, which we can recommend to our friends not merely as passive entertainment but as an active, liveable experience.

By reader Stephen

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at [email protected] or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

MORE : The Last Of Us Part 3 isn’t happening unless there’s a ‘compelling story’ says Naughty Dog

MORE : The Last Of Us actor Bella Ramsey has only just started playing the game

MORE : The Last Of Us 3 may never happen as Naughty Dog rule out Uncharted 5

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