The Last of Us 2: We need to talk about video game stories

The Last of Us 2: We need to talk about video game stories
The Last of Us 2 Part 2 is the game of the year 2020. I won't say that, the rest will say that. The latest work by Naughty Dog was praised by the trade press and loved by many fans for the story and the blockbuster-like production Not only resonated with the gaming community, but was also discussed up and down in non-specialist publications. Here and there there was talk of a masterpiece and everyone agrees: The title sets a new standard for storytelling in video games.

In our editorial team, too, The Last of Us 2 (now buy 44.44 €) excellent. So I feel a little bad when I say: The storytelling in The Last of Us is a decisive reason for me why video games as a narrative medium rarely come close to films or books.

How in Hollywood

In itself, I think it's great that such prestige single-player titles still exist, as Sony has developed for its own consoles. Regardless of whether it's God of War, Uncharted or The Last of Us, the Playstation exclusives focus on a solo campaign that tells a story, and not on loot boxes, microtransactions and competitive gameplay. Still, I could roll my eyes if I was told that these titles alone are the benchmark for interactive storytelling and the strongest arguments that video games like films, comics or books can be art and should be taken seriously as a medium.

For me this means in plain language that video games only qualify for a serious discourse if they tell their story in the way we are used to from Hollywood films. With exciting set pieces and dialogue scenes between the characters, which in most cases we cannot even influence, but which supposedly ensure great immersion.

Now, that's not to say that this type of storytelling in video games is categorically bad. For example, in the Witcher franchise or in the God of War games mentioned above, cut scenes and dialogues are used effectively and efficiently to create context and atmosphere that add important elements to the gameplay.

That's why I believe but not that in a supposedly primitive roguelike like The Binding of Isaac or an atmospheric dungeon crawler like Dark Souls, storytelling at least as valuable cannot happen. Isaac tells his story through Bible themes and power-ups, Dark Souls about the game world, its art design and its legends.

The best video games for me are those where narrative and gameplay go hand in hand and each other inform and supplement. And this is exactly where Last of Us 2 lags far behind for me.

"Not Lenny !!!"

The Last of Us Part 2 Source: A phenomenon that is often cited as a point of criticism of video games and which I also want to briefly discuss is ludonarrative dissonance. This describes a logical or emotional gap between gameplay and plot, which has a negative effect on the audience's access to the story and can cause involuntary comedy.

Naughty Dogs Uncharted is often cited as a prime example: Nathan Drake is a lovable joker in cutscenes who teases Sully and Elena as if they were on a humorous hiking excursion, but in the shoot-out sequences he distributes headshots in cold blood and knocks silly slogans. This creates a dissonance in the audience between Nathan, the faithful hero and Nathan, the genocidal psychopath.

Drake's supposed double life never really bothered me. And that's for the sole reason that all elements in Uncharted - the humor, the staging and the action-packed gameplay - seem like one piece. The obvious role model Indiana Jones also mashes Nazi heads in aircraft turbines for our entertainment. Because the world of Uncharted is not a believable, serious world, but only serves as the backdrop for a roller coaster ride inspired by 1970s adventure blockbusters, I am not even aware of this dissonance most of the time. And even if it does, it doesn't interfere with my fun.

The Last of Us 2 is different: The story of Naughty Dogs Prestige Baby wants to be taken seriously and give me as a player the feeling of being with the enemies I am as the main character Ellie processes into Swiss cheese, it is actually about people who have feelings and dreams and friends and dogs and before the apocalypse certainly always paid their taxes well.

This feeling is supposed to be achieved, among other things, by the fact that characters who come across the remains of Ellie's victims shout out their names. For me, however, the yelling had the opposite effect. I felt like the infamous South Park quote "Oh my god you killed Kenny!" Every time. reminded me and sometimes found it hard to keep from laughing.

That Ellie goes to work in the stealth and shooter sequences with a sadism that would make the Hellraiser proud is ensured in the cutscenes, in which she laconically hits the guitar strings or turtles with her friend namely for a certain dissonance.

I'm sorry

Spec Ops: The Line Source: 2k Games To develop a third-person stealth shooter that denounces violence and himself Serving the tropes and gameplay conventions of the genre at the same time is quite possible - just remember the fantastic military shooter Spec Ops: The Line - but also extremely heavy. And The Last of Us 2 messed up the landing. The work's statement that we should condemn Ellie's brutal acts is a bit hypocritical when the camera seems to enjoy them so much at the same time and the game wallows at every opportunity, how nihilistic and anti-social the world of The Last of Us and its residents are.

The brilliant thing about Spec Ops: The Line is not that the game's statement is "People kill badly, maybe?", But that the game is critical of the medium deals and criticizes series like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor in particular for creating black and white scenarios where there are none in the real world. The shooter genre is accused of showing war and creating parallels to real conflicts through the design of opponents and mission locations, but ignoring the geopolitical and psychological context in order to make shooting fun out of it without a guilty conscience. The Last of Us 2, on the other hand, serves impressively staged, cinematic violence in the form of mainstream gameplay and then wants to hold up the moral index finger to us in a striking way when we have fun. As a result, the story's message ends up about as accurately as the criticism of superhero stories in Zack Snyder's tribute adaptation of Watchmen.

A game for adults

In connection with titles like The Last of Us it is often said that video games are "finally growing up". A nod to the medium's relatively old age and the fact that games have long been considered the hobby of children, teenagers, and immature adults. And although these are of course still part of the target group, similar to comic books, there has long been a rethink in the game industry and in society.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon Source: PC Games But only because a game is explicit directed at an adult audience, that doesn't mean for me that it is also an adult. Sex and violence can be just as childish as any other subject. And seriousness is by no means synonymous with meaning. Funny stories for children sometimes contain as profound truths as serious drama for adults.

The Last of Us 2 is by no means an adult work, just because it contains violence and is as humorless as the German customs. Are the ambitions of Game Director Neil Druckmann's team to create a mature work that can compete with the best representatives of the medium worthy of recognition? Absolutely. Is The Last of Us 2 the video game equivalent of the great classics in literature or cinema? Bitch, please.

When I think of adult stories in games, numerous other examples come to mind, some of which are far less serious. So Yakuza: Like A Dragon gives homelessness a face, Disco Elysium shows the perversion of political ideals, Fallout: New Vegas confronts us with numerous philosophical decisions, NieR has quite a few ideas about human nature and Papers Please and Tyranny make us servants of an authoritarian Regime of horror. Even in the cuddly Stardew Valley, a character's alcoholism is themed and treated in a surprisingly adult way.

We shouldn't point to The Last of Us or its sequel if we're looking for an example of video games as a potent storytelling tool, but above all to those games that highlight the specifics of the medium and are not ashamed of them To be entertainment software.

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