The Last of Us, I

Remember when people finally started thinking maybe Roger Ebert was full of shit was when he said video games weren’t art (or something to that effect). Did he recant later? I’m not Googling. It’s very sad for me personally, as someone who grew up with Ebert in my hometown, the roosters didn’t come for his endless bad takes. Some of his bad takes, of course, were good reviews of bad movies for technical reasons. Now, as Ebert couldn’t understand game mechanics, so they couldn’t be an art form. There could be no artistry in them. So says he, champion of Temple of Doom, Watchmen, and… The Phantom Menace. Where it was best, of course, was when Ebert dismissed technical artistry in other films. I’ll bet he didn’t give The Thing ★★★★. Still not Googling. I’m so confident.

Anyway, playing “The Last of Us”—not really sure how I’m going to format game titles, as this impromptu post is going to be delaying a “Discovery” post—but the beginning of “Last of Us”—I’ve gotten to where they kill a child you’ve played to completely manipulate your emotions through game play and just child exploitation (it’s a zombie apocalypse)—there’s artistry. The game has the illusion of control (so far). You move around the house, looking for dad when the world starts burning. You look out the car windows at that world burning, then there’s a running sequence where Dad takes over. They’re a good rural white Southern family. The kid’s a tweenage girl, Southern twang but a punk rock t-shirt. Dad’s Gerard Butler. There’s no mom, maybe ever, because it another great detail there’s this lingering shot of the kid’s snapshots on her wall. It’s great. And it’s functional. And it’s a creative art.

But it’s not why I had the thought about this game being obvious proof Ebert was wrong, it was when the opening sequence you couldn’t control was better directed than probably sixty percent of television shows in 2019. Maybe forty percent of decent shows. But… it’s well-directed. It’s impressive. Though the game’s kind of slow so far. Dead kids’ll do that.

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