Reflection on the Last of Us part 2 with Interactive Media perspective (spoilers)

It is kind of weird that I really want to write about the Last of Us Part 2. The original game — the last of us was the best game that I ever played so far and the ways in which it makes people immerse into the story and develop attachments the main character was so effective, probably because of the well-written story. People are pretty mad for the last of us part 2, mostly because of the ways that game unfolds the story. This article will have some spoilers.

I thought it was brilliant. It is a provocation that forces us to re-think about a game as a medium of storytelling.

In the last of us part 2, they were able to show the other side of the story is potentially the most brutal way — gamers need to play as a villain who killed the most beloved character. It is the frustration that players have to develop on their own hands. I do not think the game developers did an effective job in making viewers attached to Abby — I am not sure even if they wanted to. It was more like — “Okay, I see why you are doing this — you want me to understand Abby’s perspective, but I won’t buy it.” the whole time. However, it is the gamer that needs to NOT die in the same apocalyptic world. It is the gamer that needs to fear the height and to surveil the area to survive. A player is like a zombie whose soul is “trapped in there without any control of their body” — as Sam said in the Last of Us Part 1. They truly become someone who has to kill not to be killed (or more precisely to move forward in the story). More agile and nimble Ellie in the first half of the game became a threat when she was confronted as a boss that dodges attacks. Tommy, who used to teach Ellie how to shoot is a sniper who knows what he is doing. It is the most effective way to convey the story that Joel was the villain to the Fireflies as the gamers get to experience how strong Ellie and Tommy are from the other side.

Suppose for a moment that the Last of Us Part 2 was a film (or 20 hr long TV series). There have been shitty sequels. The ways that those make viewers mad is fundamentally different from what happened in the Last of Us Part 2. Let’s say Han Solo dies in the first 10 mins, and the extent to which a viewer can have an attachment to a killer would be limited. Probably you would need a separate movie to make it work — like Joker or Warm Bodies with a clean slate. Therefore, filmmakers wouldn’t take the risk as they would not have an effective (and efficient) method to do so. If it was a film, viewers could simply say I don’t get it and leave it. However, in the game, gamers do not have a choice; the story is linear, but its operation is interactive. They can hate the story, but they are not provided with an opportunity to become indifferent about it. They still need to pay attention to it, respond to threats, and scavenge items for a character that they hate. This is the beauty of the Last of Us Part 2. The game makers exploited the interactivity of the media in the most brutal way to convey the message. In the apocalyptic world from which the message comes from, people do not have a choice.

The Last of Us part 2 revealed the power of the game in its provocation of rage, madness, and suffocating emotion in the most effective way. This ironically proves the power of the media — the emotion does not quickly fade away; it makes you keep thinking about it, and makes you want to understand the choices that Ellie made. It provokes dialogue, controversy, and discussion, and it is evidence that the game is likely to be a masterpiece in retrospect.

These intense responses from the community can be, again, attributed to the success of the original game (part 1); without the attachment that people developed over the game to Joel and Ellie, people would have not been so mad. An interesting thing is that even after violating viewers’ anticipation in an undeserved way, the last of us part 2 demonstrated the power of the game that can keep people playing for 20 more hours. Would you have watched it even if it was a TV show?

Some thoughts on the story itself.

It is not that I do not see any flaws in the plot at all. I wish Abby could have known everyone’s death, Nora, Jordan, etc, and figure out Ellie’s presence earlier. Abby going thorough Saraphite’s site even when she realizes people who came back from Jackson would have helped why Abby let Ellie go to the theater and did not want to fight with Ellie at the beach. In addition, In Abby’s section, there were probably too many flashbacks so that it was somewhat confusing to realize the timepoint of what I am watching. Too many Aquarium scenes. Also, Tommy not dying from the gunshot, and still wanting revenge at the Farmhouse was somewhat less convincing.

Lastly, here’s my defense on ending, which is another reason why people got so mad; I think it was not about revenge, it was an emotional burden that Ellie could not clear on Joel. Although she tried and would have if they had enough time, Ellie could not have an opportunity to forgive Joel in person, left him unforgiven. While final battle, Ellie should have seen Joel in Abby, her trying to do anything to protect Lev. Ellie forgives Joel by letting Abby leave.