I recently came across a deal on Groupon for a digital copy of The Last of Us on PS4 for $20 that I generously shared on our Facebook page. This got me thinking about it and all the other games I’ve played since completing it. Out of all the games I’ve played, The Last of Us has made more of an impression and stuck with me more than any other game. And why wouldn’t it? It’s got a great story, visceral combat, and tense gameplay, but that could be used to describe a dozen games or so, including the Uncharted franchise from the same developer. So why has this one hit me so hard?
*This will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t played it stop reading and seriously go play this game*
The Last of Us was first released when my first daughter was seven months old and at that time her personality was shining through full force. I quickly realized that she would have me wrapped around her little finger for the rest of my life. Cut to the first ten minutes of the game when you start off as Joel’s daughter Sarah searching your house trying to find out what happened to your dad, when news of a pandemic first breaks out. After a brief altercation, you leave with Joel and your uncle in a truck and attempt to leave town as fast as possible. Things quickly take a turn and you’re left to run on foot with Joel when you are stopped by a nervous soldier trying to prevent people from leaving the area, then BAM! You’re left to bleed out while Joel, given life with a brilliant emotional performance by Troy Baker, holds you as the life drains away. That was the first time I think I ever had tears in my eyes when playing a game. I instantly connected with Joel when given control over him in the future, not just as a character but as a father and as a man.
The rest of The Last of Us isn’t so much about a man doing a job in a dangerous world but about a father whose life was torn from him and trying so hard to replace what’s lost. When Joel meets Ellie he see’s her as just another job but slowly starts to see bits of Sarah. Joel views Ellie and his relationship with her as a second chance at having his baby girl back. Joel sacrifices friends, his soul and even the world just to reclaim what he lost. And let’s be honest, what parent can’t relate to that? What parent, given the circumstances, wouldn’t go through hell and back for their child. As a parent to two amazing little girls now, and looking back at this game, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have done anything different. That’s why this game connected with me and still resonates so strongly with me even months after I completed it. To be able to create that type of emotional response and connection to a digital character is amazing, and as a parent, I get it. Would I have felt the same way about this game if I didn’t have any kids or perhaps if I had boys instead? I don’t know. All I know is that this game will forever speak to me as a parent about loss and sacrifice and the importance of holding my kids close. If you have played and experienced the scene I mentioned above, let us know in the comments how did it make you feel? Do you know of any other video games that could possibly elicit the same response? We’d love to know!