The Last of Us 2

Spoilers for The Last of Us

Aside from my deep interest in movies and comics, I also complete the geek trifecta with my interest in gaming. I can’t say I’m an avid gamer at the moment since television and reading have taken up more of my free time at the moment. I have an Xbox One but currently only have Arkham Knight and Halo 5, both of which I have been addicted to at one point or another.


Halo was my main reason for selecting an xbox 360 years ago, and then upgrading to the Xbox One. I loved the storyline and all of the science fiction elements. My attachment to Halo might also be due to the fact that it was one of the first “seventh generation (post 2005)” video games I ever played. Since getting my xbox I haven’t had the opportunity to play too many playstation exclusives, but I did come across The Last of Us while I was visiting a friend a few years ago.


The Last of Us takes place in a world where a mutated Cordyceps fungus attacked humans, turning them into cannibalistic hosts.


The game’s opening follows Joel as he tries to flee Austin with his brother and daughter, Sarah. Sarah is fatally shot by a soldier, before the game cuts to twenty years later.


Most of humanity is now residing in walled quarantine zones and numerous groups of bandits reside across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Joel and his friend Tess, now work as black market smugglers. The crux of the game revolves around their assignment to transport, a young girl, Ellie, across post-apocalyptic America. Their mission is to get Ellie to the fireflies, a rebel group aiming to disband the quarantine zones. Joel and Tess later discover that Ellie is immune to the fungus and is being escorted to the fireflies so that they can try to develop a cure.

Joel and Ellie bond over the course of the story, and they eventually reach the firefly hide out. It is at this point that Marlene, leader of the fireflies, tells Joel that Ellie has to be killed in order for the cure to be developed. The virus grows all over the brain and Ellie’s brain must be examined in order to create the cure. Joel kills Marlene and the fireflies at the base before taking an unconscious Ellie back to his brother’s hideout. When Ellie awakes, he lies and tells her that the Fireflies stopped looking for a cure.


My friend told me about the heart-breaking opening and insisted that I check the game out. After playing for an hour, I made plans to buy the game, only to be told that it was a playstation exclusive. I tried not to take it personal and caught up on the rest of the game through walkthroughs. It may seem weird to write about a game if I haven’t played through the entire thing, but I think that makes it even more important for me to write about this. As a gamer, I have never felt so attached to a story that I wasn’t playing myself.  I rarely watch walkthroughs, unless I am stuck on a certain level and am seeking help. For The Last of Us I watched the walkthroughs so I could follow the story. It was my only option, aside from purchasing a playstation. Sadly, my money needs to be saved for things like a new place and a car, so I can’t justify that decision.

One of the things that stood out most about the series was the caliber of acting, especially from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. I enjoyed Baker as the Joker in Arkham Origins and I am amazed that he, like many voice actors, can play two characters with radically different voices and personalities so well. Johnson is the heart of the story in many ways and the greatest treat of the walkthroughs was watching Ellie and Joel’s relationship develop into a true father-daughter bond.

I always hate it when people argue that voice acting isn’t real acting, and then place voice actors on the bottom of a hierarchy. Games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V are some of the best arguments for voice acting as an art form. Both games utilize motion capture, meaning that the voice actors actually perform the physical movements of their characters. This is becoming increasingly common as technology improves and it also means that the only difference between some voice actors, and “real actors” is that you don’t see the voice actors on screen.


Ashley Johnson in a motion capture suit

All of this is to say, that I deeply enjoyed The Last of Us. Today, the announcement of The Last of Us: Part II is reverberating all over the internet. Like any good trailer, the announcement trailer doesn’t give away too much. Firstly, the graphics are amazing and leave me excited to think about how photo-realistic video games will be in another ten years. Yes, I’ll probably still be playing video games by then.

Ellie’s growth makes it clear that this sequel takes place years after the original. I couldn’t help but notice that she looks more like Tess now. The house she is sitting in is marked by a firefly logo, and we know that she wants to kill “them” all. I’ve been told that I am Canada’s Sherlock, so I believe Ellie is now determined to kill all of the fireflies. Obviously Ellie must have found out the truth about Joel’s escape from them by this point. Perhaps the new Firefly leader was able to find them and launched an attack on their home. If an attack was carried out and Ellie lost someone close to her because of it, it would explain her anger at the Fireflies. It doesn’t make as much sense for her to want to kill them all only because she found out that they originally intended to kill her. Joel doesn’t seem as fired up as she does, either because he realizes how dangerous it is or because he didn’t lose anyone else due to the fireflies. His brother, Tommy, could still be alive then. Perhaps Ellie lost someone that Joel wasn’t as close to, such as a new friend. The trailer did leave me with the feeling that Joel will die in this game. He came close last time, and his luck may run out if he accompanies Ellie on her mission.

Although I don’t have a playstation I am still excited for this game. I am somewhat wary of a sequel, since I felt like the first game ended on a perfect note. I am just hoping that the sequel lives up to the first. We have Baker and Johnson back, and the same creative team. I am sure that they don’t want to bring down the original either, since it took this long for the announcement of a sequel. I will find a way to play this one as well, and I am sure that I am not alone.

Heteronormativity and The Last of Us

In my previous post, I reflected on how Hollywood has conditioned us to view certain things as normal, and others as unnatural. The normal things include whiteness, masculinity and heterosexuality. When I wrote the previous post I indicated that one article is not enough to discuss all the issues tied to Hollywood and minority representation. I wrote my master’s paper on colour-blind racism and Hollywood but I could easily write a dissertation on this larger topic. For that reason I am thinking of including a weekly segment that looks at a specific example of a minority (racial, religious, sexual) being viewed as unwelcome or alien.

Tonight’s example is one I came across a while ago, but that still sticks with me. The Last of Us is a video game that focuses on a pair of survivors (Joel and Ellie) in a post-apocalyptic American landscape swarmed with bandits and zombies (humans infected with the cordyceps fungus). An expansion pack for the game, The Last of Us: Left Behind, focuses on Ellie and reveals more of her past.

This past included a friend named Riley, who died from the fungus. Prior to Ellie’s death, she kisses Riley. This kiss is captured on a YouTube upload of the expansion pack. After watching the second part of the video I scrolled through the comments, only to be greeted by numerous comments saying that Ellie isn’t necessarily lesbian. It was just a kiss, she could still be straight.

I had to ask, “Wait, so for the people saying “a kiss doesn’t make her lesbian”, if she kissed a guy would you say “a kiss doesn’t make her straight”?”

This is something that any reader must seriously consider. If Ellie kissed a guy, and people vehemently argued that she could “still be lesbian”, those people would be seen as idiots. Where is there proof? What are they basing this on? Why are they so eager for the character to be lesbian? We have been conditioned to think of homosexuality as a “lifestyle”, a “choice” or a “phase”. I can’t blame Hollywood completely for this but I think that Hollywood can definitely help to cement these views when homosexual characters are not developed well. The worst offender for me was The Kids Are All Right, where Julianne Moore’s character cheats on her wife with a man- we all know she was just biding time with the woman and waiting for a man to come along.