Gaming With My Girlfriend: The Last of the Us

I play a lot of games and my girlfriend, Wanda, does not. I play games and she tends to play with her phone next to me on the couch, but she has been supportive of my endeavors with this site and is always willing to fix the numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes in my articles. Below will be a set of casual reviews, opinions and general stories about us playing games together. So, if you’re looking towards playing something with your significant other or looking into playing something new for yourself, let us regale you with our co-op adventures. Beware, some of these will include spoilers.

Despite having a ridiculously large backlog of games I want to play and there being a bunch of amazing looking new games on the horizon, sometimes you just gotta scratch that nostalgia itch. Nostalgia might seem like too strong of a word for a game that I played just a couple years ago, but The Last of Us was a surprisingly good game. Having accepted the fact that my original PlayStation 3 copy will never return from the person I lent it to not long after beating it, I purchased The Last of Us Remastered when it was on sale for dirt cheap because I don’t think I could fully appreciate a game that operates at the height of the PlayStation 3’s processing power without the slight upgrade that came with games in the early part of the PlayStation 4’s existence. Wanda and I enjoyed watching The Walking Dead together, despite the show’s inconsistent and diminishing quality, deviation from the graphic novel and their tendency to milk plotlines long after the well has dried up, so The Last of Us seemed like something we can enjoy the story together.

In the opening sequence of The Last of Us we immediately identified with the family scenario as exactly how things would be if we had children. Wanda would have abandoned me long ago to raise the little one on my own which I would somehow lead to being gunned down by a special forces unit during some apocalyptic scenario. As I discussed this as a possible outcome for our future children we plan to never have she agreed with it being highly plausible. As we progress forward in the game and see Joel as a grizzled angry old man we are soon introduced to Ellie, a fourteen-year-old girl who is exceptionally gifted in irritating Joel, which causes Wanda to draw more comparisons between the similarities between the bearded protagonist and myself.

As we progress through the game we both enjoy the story and character development, her experiencing it for the first time and me thinking fondly on the first time I played through it back in 2014. Naturally during the game the inevitable comparisons to The Walking Dead came up, and tended to agree the explanation of having the “zombies” be the result of a Cordyceps fungal mutation seem more plausible than corpses simply coming back to life, though both do require a generous amount of suspension of disbelief. A commonality we appreciated about both series was how the collapse of civilization and a legion of zombie monsters was really just to provide a setting and the main focus was on what people did to survive and the relationships that formed in these environments. Watching Ellie start out off as an annoying burden to an adopted daughter to Joel throughout the game made for an emotionally-compelling journey, and the amount of uninfected that needed to be killed served as commentary that no matter how horrible the situation in the world as a whole becomes people will continue to find a way to be enemies with each other.

The Lakeside Resort was one of the segments that stuck out. After the events at the university, there was a role reversal where Joel was incapacitated and we were now in control of Ellie. Up to this point Joel had been handling the bulk of the battle duties but now Ellie was thrust into a situation where she had to take charge of her own survival. Lacking the age and brawn of Joel seemed like it would put her at a disadvantage, but she adapted quickly at being able to take care of the people that were coming after her. Replaying this level increased my anticipation for The Last of Us Part II. In the trailer we see how Ellie has became a certified badass on the battlefield and this part of the The Last of Us shows the signs of her potential to do so.

It should come as a surprise to no one familiar with The Last of Us that we enjoyed the sequence with the giraffe. The encounter with the giraffes seems like such a random occurrence in what is essentially a zombie apocalypse game, but this scene was possibly the most memorable moment from 2013. The entire dynamic of the game shifted, the music changed to something beautiful and relaxing but because of the tension that existed up to this point also brought a sense of dread as Ellie ran ahead calling for Joel to come see something, with the player wondering what sort of calamity she stumbled upon now. Watching the two see the zoo animals now roaming free showed a rare moment of peace in the world. Ellie watched the creatures with a sense of childlike innocence and wonder. I imagine Joel was thinking about moments like this with his daughter that he will never have with again, but also realizing that either because of or in spite of the events that led them here Ellie now fills that role in his life. Protecting her was his job when they started this journey together and now their bond has become something much greater.

The ending of The Last of Us is wonderful and infuriating for the same reasons. I won’t spoil it for those that didn’t play it, but those that have likely had several discussions about the decision made at the conclusion and the impact it had on everyone involved. Questions like what was the best ethical decision came up, along with debates over the pros and cons of either choice. More interesting is the question of what choice would the player have made in real life and how much faith did they have in whether or not they could trust that the “right” choice was really the correct one. As a storytelling medium video games have come a long way since their early days and The Last of Us remains one of the finer examples of how effective video game storytelling can be.

To read more tales with Chris and Wanda or some of our other writer’s special gals, be sure to check out the full Gaming with my Girlfriend library.