“The Last of Us is a series that deserves much better...”
November 14, 2017 12:49 PM   Subscribe

The Last of Us 2 Trailer Controversy Explained [Game Rant] “One of the nice surprises at Sony’s Paris Games Week press conference was a new trailer for The Last of Us: Part 2. While many fans were excited to see more footage of the highly anticipated game, others were outraged at the extreme level of violence shown in the trailer. Over the past couple of weeks, numerous outlets have stepped forward decrying the trailer for its brutality, but some fans may still not quite understand why there’s so much controversy.” [YouTube][Teaser Trailer]

• When the Violence Gets Too Real: That Last of Us Part II Trailer [Paste Magazine]
“Naughty Dog obviously finds it important to portray the horrible state of this fictional apocalypse as starkly and plainly as possible. That’s their right, as creators. And with the popularity of extremely grim and violent TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, perhaps the tiresome violence in this The Last of Us Part II trailer won’t dissuade too many from playing the game. What does the trailer gain from showing us every second of Yara’s attack, though? Or by lingering on the hammer stuck in her attacker’s head, blood oozing out of the side? Would this presumably pivotal moment in Yara’s story have been less powerful for the player if the camera focused elsewhere when the hammer caved in her arm? Would we have felt less compassion for Yara if we hadn’t seen the terror and pain on her face as that hammer came down again and again? Sometimes just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. ”
• The Last of Us Part 2 and Why Video Game Violence Shouldn’t Be Associated with Maturity [Game Revolution]
“The Last of Us Part 2's trailer isn't evidence of the game's depth nor its maturity. Taken out of the context of its story, the scene is little more than a voyeuristic camera pointed at viscera; it's a Live Leak video of someone getting hit by a train, or a blurry Rotten.com photo passed around a college a decade ago. No one is sitting watching that scene thinking about its atmosphere, its characterisation, or the glimpses it offers of the sequel's story — if they are, it's clearly not Naughty Dog's intent. They're thinking about the brutality of the girl's elbow being pummelled, or the young woman hanging from a noose with a knife caressed along her abdomen. This isn't a "mature" trailer, but rather one that's selling sadism for shock value.”
• The Last of Us Part 2's Trailer Misses the Point [IGN]
“It’s safe to say that everybody already knows it’s a brutally violent game, and that’s fine, but the trailer presents it as nothing more than that, which only sells the franchise short. It seems like the marketing team either thought this trailer would whet the appetites of bloodthirsty fans, or they released it to generate controversy. Either way, I’d argue that The Last of Us is a series that deserves much better than fitting into the commonly held public misconception that video games are just violent for the sake of violence, and this trailer only feeds into the mainstream media's narrative. There are so many more powerful things they could’ve shown us, like a glimpse of Joel and Ellie, and some insight into how their relationship has changed. Or, if Naughty Dog wants to introduce the new characters from this trailer, how about giving them roles other than punching bag and/or hammer-target?”
• Stop using extreme violence to sell your game [Polygon]
“The victims of the vicious assault, two women, are unnamed. It’s not clear why we’re watching two people be tortured, but we’re asked to take in the extreme violence under the assumption that we’ll be rewarded with more information for doing so. That information never comes, however, and all we’re left with is residual nausea. A trailer is a pitch to its audience of what to expect from the full game. In the past, Naughty Dog’s trailers have captured a particular mood or suggested a compelling relationship. But here, the promise is almost exclusively gore. There's an argument to be made that the trailer raises an enticing question — Why are these women being attacked? — but that mystery is both too familiar and too broad. Without any context, the trailer fails to introduce (or even really tease) the story players will embark on. That is its problem.”
• Sony Exec Defends That Very Violent The Last Of Us 2 Trailer [Gamespot]
“Now, PlayStation executive Jim Ryan has responded to criticisms, saying in a new interview with The Telegraph that The Last of Us Part II "obviously is a game made by adults to be played by adults." "I should never prejudge this but it will probably be rated 18, I think it's fair to say," Ryan explained. "And there's that market for those people who like that sort of game. Adults who like that sort of game. And I think we cater for that..." Ryan went on to say that Sony's role as a platform-holder is to give developers a platform to showcase their games--whatever they might be. Sony does have a job to do what it can to ensure content is age-appropriate, he acknowledged. "I thought The Last of Us Part II was a great way to end the show and I feel very good about it," he said.”
• Don’t be afraid of The Last Of Us Part II’s violence [AV Club]
“This criticism is wrong-footed for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is a single scene from a video game that isn’t out yet, and so surmising what is or isn’t “representative” is literally impossible. Its first trailer showed the first game’s protagonists idly playing guitar in a verdant, overgrown ruin, illustrating that the series’ capacity for tenderness remained intact; the Paris scene depicted a hellish display of cruelty between cult-like survivors, showing that the series’ capacity for bleak encounters at the end of the world also remained intact. If you were a fan of the first game’s startling and literary vision of life in an environmentally ravaged future, well, that’s two boxes checked. This short-sightedness works backward, too: An almost identical hand-wringing occurred upon the release of the first game’s trailer in 2013, which showed the gruff male lead strangling, burning, executing, and braining people, all with help from his adolescent friend.”
• The Last of Us Part 2 Violence Will Guarantee Success and Not Just Because of Controversy [Gamers Bliss]
“Any sort of controversy draws more attention to the subjects. There is no doubt that the violence controversy of The Last of Us Part 2 will sell more copies. Controversy isn’t the sole reason the game is going fly off of the shelve. Violence will almost guarantee success for this game because there is a clear picture painted by the development team. People love getting lost in a different world; it’s the foundation of good entertainment. The Last of Us Part 2 already has its sights set on taking people into a narrative that provokes emotion. Whether the emotion is positive or negative, all good stories must provide a release of emotion to sell a wide audience. The Last of Us Part 2 violence is a topic of conversation because of its extremity. But this isn’t the first time a popular form of entertainment broke headlines due to violence. The Last of Us Part 2 is a game that relies on emotions associated with violence, beauty, and more for success.”
posted by Fizz (44 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The editorial decision to make the graphic depiction of the brutalization of three different women the entirety of the trailer tells me all I need to know about which audience they've chosen to market their game to.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:59 PM on November 14, 2017 [54 favorites]

For real. I don't want to dive in, engage, or even think about a game that puts this kind of violence against women as their splashy debut imagery. It should give everyone pause.
posted by agregoli at 1:10 PM on November 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

The first game is so full of the most generic, unexamined dad-pain. I'm sure that's a big part of its success, but also earned a hard pass from me. Actual dadhood has made me leery of anything like that.

That and the sort of HBO "mature content" shorthands that hopefully TV at least is getting beyond in spots.
posted by selfnoise at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

yeah that trailer was really bad. but the original game (and the first trailer) were so, so good, that hopefully this trailer was just an idiot idea to increase sales that wont reflect on the final game. (although it's hard for me to imagine the sales wouldnt be astronomical in any event, so why they thought they needed to take this aproach is... not clear.)
posted by wibari at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

but also earned a hard pass from me. Actual dadhood has made me leery of anything like that

Exactly... I tried to get into it... Got about 15 minutes in and "noped" right out ...
posted by jkaczor at 1:28 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I didn't play the first game but I watched a full playthrough on YT, which had two memorable character-protagonists, and this trailer showed neither of them, nor any of the memorable baddies, and so could have effectively been for any game on earth. It didn't even have the memorable Santaolalla score. So that leaves me wondering: who the fuck are these people and why the fuck should I care about what they are doing to each other and what is happening to them, and what even game is this, and who gives a shit?

The teaser from, what, a year or so ago showed the two primary characters, dad-analogue and daughter-analogue (Mork and Mindy? I don't remember), so where are they? This trailer is not only OTT, it is pointless and boring and doesn't make me think The Last of Us at all, it might as well be for Left 4 Dead. What's it meant to be telling us? Women can be tough and awful as well?
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:47 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I couldn't watch the whole trailer. What were they thinking?
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Violence and brutality is why I stopped playing games long ago. This, to me, just seems like the natural escalation of what's been more and more acceptable up to now.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2017

I couldn't watch the whole trailer. What were they thinking?

posted by Beholder at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Violence in video games is getting a little ridiculous in my opinion. I loved GTA3, that was a violent game but it had a huge streak of parody throughout which made the violence more palatable. However by the time that GTA4 hit the shelves my tastes had changed and the violence, constant swearing and complete lack of humor made me throw in the towel and I stopped playing the series. However GTA-V took it to a new level, it has an entire section where the player must torture "the bad guys" (complete with choice of implements and fairly graphic depictions) yet despite this it remains one of the top selling games of all time.

Last of Us 2 seems to just be following this general trend towards ultraviolence, which more and more seems to be acceptable in our entertainment... I'm not sure what that means in the greater picture, but as the father of a soon to be teenager, I am a little worried...
posted by Vindaloo at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

What were they thinking?

Nobody thinks about anything anymore. From the top-down, it is about maximizing revenue, "any publicity is good publicity", turning people into products, ignoring everything but greedy self-interest to get ahead.

It's dark, cool, violent and edgy - they were "thinking" that gamer masses will scarf it up like a dog with vomit...

Hell - we currently live in a world where apparently people think that having Nazi's as the "bad guys" in the latest Wolfenstein (like it had ever been different) is the same as oppressing a minority... That Nazi's have a valid opinion and should be heard alongside everybody else.
posted by jkaczor at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I absolutely loved the first game, and I was previously happy to say I'll love everything Naughty Dog will ever do, but oh my god. Why would I want to play a game with hate as its central theme? After everything that's happening in the world today? Who is this even for?

I want a decent sequel to the first game very badly. So that means I'll definitely be pouring over reviews when this thing is out, to judge just how much additional violence against women I can handle in my life. Thanks Naughty Dog.
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Like erratic meatsack I loved the first game (and the DLC) so much, and I couldn't even watch all of this particular trailer. Ugh.

The first trailer was much better.

I knew Naughty Dog had said 'hate' was the theme and focus of the sequel, but I guess I was hoping that darkness would still be lightened with all the little things that I loved about the first game, which was dark and brutal but also was a story about hope and love in a fucked-up world, with two characters I found fascinating (and Ellie in particular, who I just love).

Hoping this trailer isn't representative of the story they're telling in TLOU2.
posted by blithers at 2:50 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's controversial? Seemed pretty normal to me, though I haven't played the first game so I don't know if part of the issue is that it's tonally wrong. But how do people get fired up over this when every other action game/shooter is awash in gore? (I'm leaving aside the violence against women angle as that doesn't seem to be the cause of the controversy, which is itself a sad commentary).
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:52 PM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

What were they thinking?

They were probably thinking that it would generate outrage (check), which in turn would mobilize a certain segment of society into buying the game just to stick it to the snowflakes or whatever. We shall see, but, unfortunately, that’ll likely prove to be a pretty effective strategy. It’s been a proven promotion model since Mortal Kombat, a quarter-century ago.

Honestly, at this point, I’m a bit suspicious of writers who still take the bait and push exactly the narrative the publishers obviously want to be pushed. A more effectual response than outrage (which is certainly warranted, but, you know, not exactly productive viz-à-viz actually steering people away from the game), would be an unimpressed eyeroll decrying another lame attempt at outrage marketing. Just like, a big old, “Nice try, loser.”
posted by Sys Rq at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm more surprised at all the praise the first game is getting here than I am at the violence of this trailer. I got the "last of us" edition of the ps4 because I was very excited to play that game, and - it was not at all like all the breathless reviews led me to believe. Scene after scene of sneaking around zombies punctuated by sudden eruptions of gory violence, combined with bland characterization that relied way too heavily on cultural tropes (viz selfnoise's "dad-pain") - I feel like I'm being That Guy here, but my expectations for a sequel were not high to begin with.

And as pointed out by schoolgirl report, Vindaloo, etc., this kind of thing is really not out of place at all in modern video games, so the reason it's noteworthy seems to be because of who it's coming from. From looking at Naughty Dog's catalog (e.g. Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Spyro the Dragon), this does seem a little out of character for them. But as I recall, the most recent uncharted game involves a heckuva lot of murderation as well. I suspect it's because violence is the lowest effort/reward way for a game studio to engineer that "release of emotion" referred to in the Gamer's Bliss article. And once your customers have had a taste of the good stuff, you have to keep upping the dose.
posted by dbx at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

All the uncharted games involve so much murder. Cutscene-Drake is presented as loveable rogue who occasionally has to make a Hard Choice and meanwhile gameplay-Drake is a casual mass murderer.
posted by Pyry at 3:28 PM on November 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

Not that I play a heap of games these days, but I've pretty much given up on single player games. The gameplay parts can never hope to match the complexity of playing with and against actual people in multiplayer, and the story parts of even games considered to have great stories are pretty poor compared to books, TV or movies.
posted by markr at 3:37 PM on November 14, 2017

I think everything comes down to every game studio wanting the Sixth Sense level twist. Then they want to combine that with the ethical dilemma of Arrested Development in its funniest moments (stealing from blind lawyer to do the right thing by their father). Lastly they need the hardened hero right out of Taken. But - since every studio is putting this build wrapped up in their graphics amd gameplay engine - it is the same seemingly empty game - especially when the premise is the hollowed emotions of post-apocalyptic survival.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:38 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cutscene-Drake is presented as loveable rogue who occasionally has to make a Hard Choice and meanwhile gameplay-Drake is a casual mass murderer.

The rebooted Tomb Raider (2013) also has Lara Croft make a similar "Hard Choice", where she's faced with the horror of shooting someone who is assaulting her. It is a very emotional cut-scene where she's confronting her humanity and her ability to exact this kind of violence, and then 4 minutes later she's using the newly acquired gun to shoot another no-name NPC in the head.
posted by Fizz at 3:46 PM on November 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

This trailer was very disappointing to me, primarily because they are being obtuse about the role of narrative violence, such that it makes me worry about the project. The first game was brutal, but I didn't feel as if the tone was off or inappropriate. Somehow they used the oppressive world to deepen bonds between people and make the stakes high enough that your emotional investment was also very high. I don't like violence that much, but it absolutely worked, and there wasn't a moment for me that I thought was inappropriate.

I don't know what this preview was, and I'm having a hard time seeing it as coming from the same place as the first game, where there is an emotional intelligence that underlies a presentation that walks a fine line regarding how much of the story to show without subjecting you to horror just for the sake of horror itself eliciting a response. The act of trying to justify all of this without understanding the essential nature of a broader narrative context — even in a preview — makes me worry that something is getting lost. I sort of feel like the preview expects us to understand that there will be a narrative that makes us care, but it's a really empty sell at this point.

As an example (spoilers), there is one scene where Joel was injured very badly in the first game, and when you experience it, it hits you like a ton of bricks. But it doesn't elicit the same response that this preview does. It doesn't feel gratuitous, although exceptionally tragic and devastating, and it is sandwiched between events that interweave it with a developing relationship between Joel and Ellie. If I had seen that moment out of context, I imagine it would have seemed horribly graphic and over the top. I suspect that's why this preview doesn't work for (all) people that loved the first game. It's not grounded in the same way that made anything that happened in the first one seem like it was valuable.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:06 PM on November 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I really loved The Last of Us and the Left Behind DLC. I was pretty disappointed by this second trailer. I can handle zombie violence but this was just too much. I loved the ending of the first one and would have been happy without a sequel to be honest.
posted by SarahElizaP at 4:26 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the Last of Us trailer, I was OK with everything but the arm breaking. That was unnecessarily graphic. I think it's the level of realism in the graphics that makes it worse, because I have no problem with the various ways a body can be destroyed in Borderlands, but that series has cartoonish violence, not like this. If it was, I'd probably want a switch to turn down the level of gore, some sort of menu option.
posted by Beholder at 4:58 PM on November 14, 2017

I think the graphic violence served a thematic purpose. Contrast the depiction of the hammer torture with other movie depictions of torture/violence that either pan away to leave the impact to the viewer's imagination (Psycho, Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back) or play up the melodrama with Madonna techno (Die Another Day). Focusing on the practical physical anatomical aspects of the act normalizes the violence and highlights the casual, studied depravity of the perpetrators. Panning away or using a stylistic depiction would make the scene more abstract and dramatized, which seems inconsistent with the series tone. The torture also helps introduce a new theme for the series - the brutality of religious fundamentalism.

To me, the most shocking, senseless violence of the trailer was when the archer left the woman to hang without a second thought. What horror and privation has the archer experienced that leave him so unconcerned to let a woman who, at the very least helped save his friend, hang to death? I wondered what "one of them" means? Are they introducing racial conflict as well?
posted by Hume at 6:00 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I didn't play the first game but I watched a full playthrough on YT, which had two memorable character-protagonists, and this trailer showed neither of them

I'm pretty sure (a slightly older, battered) Ellie was one of the characters in this trailer.
posted by Paladin1138 at 8:04 PM on November 14, 2017

I really don't understand the negative reaction to the trailer. I loved Last of Us and the tone of that title was brutally dark and fatalistic. It spared no one's feelings. They were living in a hellscape, and one layer to the story was that you were made to understand, as the game went on, just how horrible everyone's lives had become in the intervening years since Joel lost his daughter. An incidental to playing the game is that you become aware of how the main characters have become so dehumanized.

In the context of the story I don't see what is objectionable to the trailer. Maybe this is a blind spot of mine? I would love to understand better everyone's objections.
posted by mikemacman at 8:47 PM on November 14, 2017

I'd encourage those who gave up on the first game to give it another go. The initial chapter seems like cheap dadpain, but that's just the beginning of Joel's story. Ellie's is given equal weight as things progress, and the relationship they develop is complex and forms the core of a deeply satisfying narrative about grief, guilt and the burden of love. Also sneaky murder. One of my favorite video game stories of all time.

This teaser. Enh. Nothing in it put me off TLoU2 but it had nothing that made me want to play it either. I don't think it was for fans of the first game. I'm not discouraged, yet.
posted by xthlc at 9:23 PM on November 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm fine with pointed violence in any media but I grow weary of the use of violence as the main attraction for marketing campaigns. I would have little interest in the upcoming Punisher series on Netflix if the trailer was nothing but "Guy in armor painted with a skull tortures and shoots people." The thing that attracts me to any story is contrast and a sense of change with narrative momentum, not "look how realistically we can animate bone breaking with hammers."

tl;dr: I don't care if these scenes are in the game but I question the marketing team's decision to highlight only those scenes for a media blitz.
posted by xyzzy at 9:44 PM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Man, how old are we? Someone referenced Rotten.com in this thread. I had a very dark period where I trawled Stileproject.com for the darkest shit. Kids of the 80’s were reared on Horror films. An when the energy I see in this thread reaches critical mass, we get another moment like when Tipper Gore introduced the Explicit content stickers for CDs, the ones you kind of had to see on a CD if you were gonna buy it, when you were young.
This is for that audience. Late teens, early twenties, thrillseekers, rule breakers. And geriatrics like me that love a shock to the system, to feel alive.
So stop being my mom, mom. Get out of my rooooooom!
posted by svenni at 9:46 PM on November 14, 2017

I generally like violent games. I played the heck out of Sleeping Dogs. I've beaten Saints Row 2-4 and Gat out of Hell. I count Mass Effect 1 as one of my favourite games.

Then about 3 years ago, new games started to get too much for me. I mean, horror games have always been to much for me, but I generally don't like horror anyway. But I remember sitting with my girlfriend watching the Bethesda announcements, the year Fallout 4, Doom and Dishonoured 2 were announced. The Dishonoured 2 trailer, with the bloatfly that comes out of someone? Yeah, that is way too gory for me. Then comes Doom, which was also a bit too much. So I'm wondering if this dedication to realistic gore in modern games is going to lock me out of the hobby at some point, or at least relegate me to RPGs and Strategy/Tactics games?
posted by Canageek at 11:07 PM on November 14, 2017

In the context of the story I don't see what is objectionable to the trailer. Maybe this is a blind spot of mine? I would love to understand better everyone's objections.

The context is the key; without it the trailer's aspects are coded very differently for different viewers.

With experience in these kinds of games and some associated pop culture properties, you watch this for the first time and see...
- ok, this is some Walking Dead type post-collapse environment, cool
- someone's been captured, let's see - oh she looks like Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2, tough lady soldier type - she's probably gonna kick all their asses then, not to worry if she takes a beating beforehand, comes with the territory
- ok, yeah the hanging people and the weird pseudo-scripture, 'apostates', the captors are definitely the evil badguys that's totally evil badguy stuff - some kind of cult or whatever
- oh man! breaking someone's arms with a hammer to 'clip their wings' and keeping them from escaping? yeah this is totally gonna be one of those escape the extremist cult and take them down (satisfying! fuck those guys!) while also fighting zombies, since it's a Last of Us game (where are the zombies, show 'em, already?)
- oop! bad guys taken out by arrows, sweet! definitely a 'resistance' plot (arrows vs guns, the arrows are always the good guys) probably with limited resources, so this won't be an infinite-ammo-laser-bazooka game. Good, that's what I liked about Last of Us, that keeps the stakes high and tension real
- oh, arrow-guy resembles broken arm girl. Related? Family story? Intriguing new element, since the real genius of the last game was the family-relationship stuff, with the emotional connections between characters.
- I know that noise! Here come the zombies! Yay, fight! Aw, it cuts off there.
Man, the graphics for the first game were great, but these were next-level. I dig that in these games, the graphics are so good now, that with a good game story plot, it's like you're playing a movie. Totally gonna buy this one.

BUT if your context is just based on discussions of the terrible current political/social climate, and you don't play these games or consume this type of media, it's just straight up...
- Opening scene, kidnapping by two men. Violence against women. Typical.
- Geezus, people lynched in the trees! Is this the kind of imagery sickos are making our kids watch?
- Oh, now they're torturing the woman, great. Why do people find this entertaining?
- Aaand another woman about to get tortur..OMIGOD! Why do they show that! I can't watch this anymore, I'm gonna barf.
What's with all this violence, especially the violence against women? Do people have so much hatred that watching this in vivid detail, no participating in this as a GAME, is fun for them? This brings you pleasure?!

The meaning, or lack of it, is all in the coding and the context.

AND...as a raised-on-80's-horror kid, I get it. We'd be watching the umpteenth pretty-teenagers-go-to-the-woods-and-get-murdered movie, munching popcorn and squeeing in mixed fright and delight, and Mom would walk in and either Tsk-tsk, or get quietly concerned about all the violence and what it was doing to us, or shriek and pull the plug on that satanist pornography and drag us to church the next day. And it was an impossible task to try to explain that it was for fun! Mom, we're not like, modelling our behaviour on this, but...y'know when you're a certain age, it's kinda cathartic to watch the bully jock get chainsawed in half.
We know it's not real, any more than you wanted any cats or mice to get actually hurt when you watched Tom & Jerry at our age. In fact, the violence is so over the top that that's kind of the point - seeing someone cut their hand on broken glass is real and scary and we feel empathy. Yikes!
But when someone already coded as a jerk takes a flaregun shot in the mouth, and their head lights up like a jack o'lantern then explodes in a pile of goo? It's...funny? Exciting? Me and my friends all make that part haha, part eew and part wow, and that's a really primal noise of enjoyment, y'know?

I know it was weird for Moms to hear their kids gleefully praising that the head explosions were so much better in Part IV than the amputations in Part III, and it spawned a bunch of paranoia like the PMRC and playing records backwards for satanic messages, etc. etc. But we kids turned out alright, for the most part. It was all just Halloween.
posted by bartleby at 11:22 PM on November 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

And yes, these types of games aren't for everyone, regardless of age group. And yes, sometimes we age out of them.
(And sometimes we dip back into them, if all the recommendations and praise I've been seeing lately for how satisfying it is to give some video Nazis the old shotgun-in-each-hand treatment in the latest Wolfenstein installment are to be believed.)

But that's what ratings (M for Blood and Gore vs. M for Violence, Sexual References, etc) and Let's Play videos on YouTube and friends who play games are for. "Did you read or watch The Road? Do you think you'd enjoy playing it, as a kind of choose your own adventure? Because that's what Last of Us is, but with zombies thrown in. But be warned, you WILL cry - the story is that good. (and maybe pee yourself in fright a couple times)."

OH! And for this franchise specifically, and for what playing these games is like, I have a recommendation for people who don't know much about it. If you have 80 minutes or so, broken into 20 minute segments, the folks over at REACT did a playthrough of the first game, with six different teens (boys and girls) of varying stripes. You'll get to watch the whole game played through in splitscreen, while watching the players talk to themselves about it as they go.
An interesting watch, both for how these gory-story games are written, and how players experience them.
posted by bartleby at 11:53 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think you have a point Bartleby that people that play these modern AAA games do treat the content at one reserve (or more) & the comparison with horror films is apt.

Speaking personally, I know that the first Tomb Raider reboot was when the whole 'murder sim' vs 'personal redemption story' aspect was thrown into sharp relief as being completely implausible & although I finished that game I had absolutely no desire to pick up the sequel. AAA games seem to have got stuck in a horrific rut where the only thing they know how to sell is the power fantasy of killing a never ending stream of nameless mooks, so they do that with ever more fidelity. (The last Bioshock film was another case in point.)

But perhaps part of leaving these games behind is simply that I’ve aged out of such power fantasies - I’ve played out the genre & can see the manipulator behind the curtain at every turn, feeding me a never ending supply of men (it’s usually men) marked for death because they are 'bad' in some ill defined yet absolutist fashion.
posted by pharm at 1:02 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

pharm, your point comes up a lot, and pointedly with older/experienced gamers, or even young 'uns who have already played their share of the big AAA franchise games like Uncharted, (new) Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, FarCry, etc.
I've started to refer to it as 'murdergrind'. 15 levels of action-packed excitement/puzzles/exploration, interspersed with 15+ levels of 'go here, kill all the generic faceless doodz in the base to collect 100XP, level up, proceed to next base'.
You can only do it for so long before it becomes a distasteful chore, and that window shortens as you grow up and have other things to do, or even if you've simply put in the time on that same game mechanic in previous installments of that franchise already. I'd say it's behind why so few AAA games ever get that 100% Complete achievement, or do so only many months later in a 'home with the flu, bored, guess I'll finally go back and clear the whole map' deal.
But what to do about it? Break these long games up into separate 'chapters' that play through in more manageable chunks? Maybe. But I'd really like to see a whole new game mechanic besides cuddly platformer or pew-pew power fantasy.
posted by bartleby at 2:43 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

'murdergrind' is a great phrase. I'm half inching that one. I'm definitely feeling the appeal of that type of game abating in recent years. Two of my favourite recently played games have been Torment: Tides of Numenera, where you can avoid almost all combat (maybe all?) throughout the entire game, and Gone Home, which has no conflict at all. I've found that the appeal of out and out combat 'simulators' is waning, and i'm only attracted to those in which i can compete cooperatively with my friends.

I didn't play The Last of Us (wrong console) but did effectively watch the movie of it on YouTube. I really enjoyed it, but this trailer is bizarre. I've no idea if there's been a change of leadership at Naughty Dog, but the artistic direction of this trailer seems a long way from the original game.

I couldn't finish watching, and I didn't want to. Considering i sat through almost 3 hours of cutscenes of the original that says something about how off the mark this is.
posted by trif at 5:51 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed The Last of Us, because I liked the characters and the relationship that they developed. I admit that at this point I am fully desensitized to violence, so that didn't really bother me. This trailer just felt like a very poor way to sell their game. It is context-less violence. A trailer should make you interested in gameplay or plot or something but this instead just grosses people out.
posted by graventy at 7:32 AM on November 15, 2017

Put me in the column of people who aren't so much bothered by the specific content as they are by the idea that Naughty Dog chose to market their product with what would seem like, out of the context of the game, nothing but torture porn.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]

I think that's the most succinct way of putting it that I've heard, Halloween Jack.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree Halloween Jack.

What I like most about video games - I play a lot more than I probably should, let's be honest - is the idea of living in a world over which I have some sort of control, and some level of autonomy. Ultimately every game is murdergind (yes, great phrase) and fetch quests, even something as superficially complex as Witcher 3, but I still get to decide what to fetch first, or how the murders are performed.

(The murder-engines these days are very richly-detailed to the extent I'm surprised they aren't a plugin like Havok or Speedtree or PhysX. Why code up a special murder-engine when you can just get one off the shelf?)

But I want the game because I want the world. I don't really care about the people in it, or what they do to one another, or what they want. I want to find a nice little glade in Skyrim, or an abandoned hut where I can say to myself "Hey, if I was a real person in this world, this would be a great fixer-upper. Feels cosy as hell." Games aren't movies, which live or die on the backs of their characters - they are environments. A game trailer showing a bunch of awful characters doing awful things to one another, for stupid reasons? Well, that's just a movie. Show me the world I can expect to inhabit, and the things I can do in it. Not black nothingness.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:53 PM on November 15, 2017

Mod note: A few comments deleted. Yes, the whiny feminists have finally ruined everything, even graphic torture of women seems to be disapproved of these days.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Still not as horrifying as That Dragon Cancer.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 8:34 PM on November 15, 2017

I really, really tried to like the first game, but found the mechanics & save system needlessly offputting. I wanted the story, but progressing was much harder than I expected, even on easy, and I routinely play games on "hard".

So I ended up bailing and never finishing. I'd completely forgotten about my frustration and disappointment with it until this trailer came out. I watched it cold, and was really kinda horrified. I mean, WTF?

Needless to say, this isn't the marketing campaign that will get me to revisit the LOU world.
posted by uberchet at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2017

Coming a bit late to this. I played the original game and while I can see in terms of game play and storytelling how people would feel the game is "great" or "ground breaking". Personally I found the first game, which I called the Strangling Game, depressing. And not in a "making me question humanity's choices" way but in a "wallowing in human failure" way. I certainly wasn't "shocked" by any of it. Relentlessly grim, willing to be realistically violent but unwilling to be emotionally realistic, relying on tired tropes to convey emotion. I don't know... I just found it unpleasant and facile. In terms of actual play, maybe it was the level at which I was playing but I found that the game really funneled me in to killing NPCs on a very visceral & personal level and I found I spent most of my time strangling humans rather than fungoid zombies. Maybe that's the point? After finishing that game I didn't play another for a long time after. In fact it made me question whether I was simply too old to play this style of game anymore.

So... watching this trailer makes me glad I didn't get a PS4 and happy I got a Switch instead. There's enough grim hateful things in the world I don't need to experience it in my escapism as well.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:51 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm fine with pointed violence in any media but I grow weary of the use of violence as the main attraction for marketing campaigns

My understanding is that this is one trailer out of a series? There was a previous trailer, there will be other trailers, it's not yet possible to decide what the "main attraction" of this campaign will be.

15 levels of action-packed excitement/puzzles/exploration, interspersed with 15+ levels of 'go here, kill all the generic faceless doodz in the base to collect 100XP, level up, proceed to next base'.

There's definitely a point I passed where I went from being a "can I skip the cutscenes?" guy to being more of a "can I skip this repetitive action?" guy. I still usually don't mind the 'action' parts but I've put a number games aside after they've forced me through obscure or tedious or just plain buggy gameplay in order to unlock the next part of the story. Funnily enough Last of Us was one of those after I spent 10 minutes trying to jump from a large trash container onto a fire escape.
posted by robertc at 11:01 AM on November 17, 2017

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