Robyn was coming up against a problem that video games are still dealing with today: Can the medium support stories and characters in the same way that a film or a novel does? And is that even what the medium should do in its advanced iteration? “I wanted people to really empathize with these characters that we were creating, and I wanted that to push the story forward. And I realized, no, that’s not what’s going to compel them forward in this. It’s just going to be the environment, you know?” The Millers had set out to make a world where the environment, in all its meticulously rendered detail, was the main character, but this left Robyn unsatisfied. “I still don’t think that’s quite as powerful as what you feel with another [character]. The environment is like the other main character in this, and that’s good, that’s great … ” he trailed off for a moment. “But the characters that we were creating were kind of just like every other video game.”
And then there’s a huge discussion after that — as there always is on good Reddit articles — where people are saying, ‘Yeah, why don’t people make these games? Why can’t we just explore? Why do we always have to shoot things?' So, maybe the time is right again to try that. That's exciting. I still think there's plenty of room for something really cool in this genre out there. And I don't think we've done it yet.”
McDonald, like Boston’s coaches, has been taken aback by Bogaerts’ openness to instruction.
“Not everybody is willing to learn,” said McDonald. “This is the big leagues, and a lot of times when guys get here, there’s the thought that you know everything. You’ve made it, and you don’t need any help; now you just need to go play. Unfortunately for most of us, that’s not the case. The key is, when you get there, you’ve got to work harder. Now you have to figure out, ‘I got here and I’m pretty good. How can I get better? How can I be better than the other guys I’m playing with and against?’
“You have to be willing to learn, and it impresses me how much he wants to get better. Even though he’s really good, he doesn’t make you feel that way. He wants to learn from everybody. He wants to figure out ways to always take his game to the next level. He doesn’t want to leave here.”
On a narrative level, The Last of Us is about survival, but this is not what makes the game such a model of subtlety. Most contemporary video games are about survival, however facilely. What makes The Last of Us subtle is how rigorously its mechanics and rule set express and emphasize the horror and tedium of survival. One of the things you find yourself doing a lot in The Last of Us is finding ladders, which are used to ascend to higher ground. Another thing you find yourself doing a lot is searching for rags and rubbing alcohol to craft med kits. Another thing you do is wander into abandoned houses and rifle through drawers and cupboards in the hopes of finding scissors and masking tape, which you can use to make a shiv. And don’t forget about the planks of wood, which are awesome to bridge gaps between buildings. And hey, look over there! A brick. The point is, The Last of Us makes you search and scrape for depressingly common objects, which you put to depressingly common use. It doesn’t bother to dress up, make “interesting,” or in any way glamorize this aspect of the game, or cater at all to what the majority of its audience will want to do, which is feel powerful and heroic. It’s pretty hard to feel powerful while carrying a ladder. It’s pretty hard to feel heroic while sneaking up on an enemy and savagely beating him to death with a brick. Indeed, the depiction of melee violence in The Last of Us is as upsetting as anything I’ve played. Significantly, this kind of violence is almost always one’s last resort.