We hear a lot about games that speak to social justice. Games that have strong narratives. Games that give strong women a chance to play hero. Games that have feels. Games as real as our own experiences and yet as fantastical as our dreams.
When we hear about these games, they are usually just that — games, plural. A game here, a game there. Singular visions of a singular ambition. Short interludes of meaning. Tidbits of a greater state of being that games could share, and that we could share with them.
When we find these games, it is usually because we have stumbled on them. Or this or that person has alerted us. They are indie, they are hidden and they are small voices shouting big things into a large room filled with our well-meaning friends, who are deaf to those voices, because they would rather shoot zombies.
The Last of Us is a gentle ruse. A trick of light. It whispers in your ear while it's yelling in your face. When you play it, you can't help but be exposed to ideas bigger than you might understand.
The Last of Us is on this list because it says those things we need to hear and it speaks to those friends who would rather shoot zombies. It's an art game masquerading as a AAA shooter. It's a statement game masquerading as an action adventure. It's a game about a girl who becomes a woman, masquerading as a game about a man who becomes her savior.
The Last of Us is a gentle ruse. A trick of light. It whispers in your ear while it's yelling in your face. When you play it, you can't help but be exposed to ideas bigger than you might understand, and if they stick ... then maybe something magical will happen.
The Last of Us earned a lot of praise this year because of its technology and acting and production values, all of which are fantastic. All of which should give anyone else making video games that aspire to this level of greatness cold, miserable sweats. But that's not what makes The Last of Us great, merely what makes it palatable.
The Last of Us is genuinely a very pretty game. But pretty fades. The Last of Us will be remembered not because of what it did, but because of what it made you feel. There aren't enough of those.