Broken Mimesis and Unlikely Fatherhood

As mentioned in the first post on The Last of Us, I am intrigued by the mimetic breaks within the game. These moments stop and continue gameplay simultaneously, allowing the player to learn but not necessarily play in the classical video game definition. As I continued to play the game, I realized that many of these breaks … Continue reading “Broken Mimesis and Unlikely Fatherhood”

As mentioned in the first post on The Last of Us, I am intrigued by the mimetic breaks within the game. These moments stop and continue gameplay simultaneously, allowing the player to learn but not necessarily play in the classical video game definition. As I continued to play the game, I realized that many of these breaks occur in moments of emotional intensity for the two main characters, Joel and Ellie.

In my opinion, these moments are tied to Joel’s unlikely fatherhood role in the game. The game’s prologue shows us his dark, fatherly past, that of losing a child. Everything after the prologue distances Joel from this past. On the surface of Joel’s new identity, he is the antithesis of a father. Placed in an apocalyptic world, he serves himself only: everything he does is an attempt to survive. His world has taught him to trust no one and to be self-reliant, not the marks of a stereotypical father figure. And yet, as tends to happen during the apocalypse, Joel is thrown into an entire new situation.

Once again, he must care for a young girl. She is not his biological daughter, but he must serve a paternal role to her. When mimesis breaks within gameplay for the first time between Joel and Ellie, the camera shows us her perspective looking up at Joel. While little is said between the two, this camera angle shift from Joel’s perspective to Ellie shows Joel as a powerful, essential figure in her game world. We see for one of the first times through Ellie; no longer are we in the perspective of strong, masculine Joel, but rather small, courageous Ellie.

Additionally, Ellie is the key to the game. You must get her to the Fireflies to win. You need Joel to do it, but she is essential to success in the game. Looking through her perspective, or breaking the mimetic flow of being Joel, forces us to feel while playing a video game. Just as the indie games we played in class cause thinking and questioning about real world issues, The Last of Us through these mimetic breaks causes empathy and emotions to enter a video game. You no longer don’t care about dying, even though you know you’ll return right back to the screen. Joel, and especially Ellie, have started to matter, because of broken mimesis.

When I play next, I want to keep in mind reader-response theory, because I think these empathetic, caring moments can tie directly into reader-response criticism. Just as texts affect readers and those reactions are legitimate responses, which can and should be analyzed, The Last of Us affects players differently than other video games. Those reactions are what’s special about the game compared to other zombie-apocalyptic games.

Watching the Last of Us

As the Last of Us begins, one does not play the game for a considerable period of time. We watch an apocalyptic tale unfold as a father loses his daughter, merely clicking a few buttons and running for a little. As a player, we are given time to settle into the world of the game rather … Continue reading “Watching the Last of Us”

As the Last of Us begins, one does not play the game for a considerable period of time. We watch an apocalyptic tale unfold as a father loses his daughter, merely clicking a few buttons and running for a little. As a player, we are given time to settle into the world of the game rather than being thrown into challenging gameplay. Due to this viewing rather than playing, we begin to empathize with the various characters more so than controlling them. Joel is a faithful father and relentless survivor, not the back of someone’s body that we control and kill with.

Throughout the beginning of the game, there are poignant moments that allow the player to pause and reflect. For instance, when Joel and Tess reach the roofs of the buildings, the camera pans to a view of a modern city, which has been destroyed. The two characters reminisce on what used to be. As a player, one knows nothing of this previous world besides the night 20 years prior to the majority of the gameplay. Yet, due to this break in gameplay, we get an insight to that prior world.

images
Joel and Ellie

Why does the The Last of Us make this choice and what impact does it have on the gameplay?

Firstly, it is a choice that most video games do not make. Games like Call of Duty and Halo only stop when the player pulls out into the menu or pauses. This choice therefore sets the game apart from other video games just by the fact this difference in relation to other games.

Secondly, when The Last of Us gives a panoramic view of the city, the game is still happening. While you aren’t clicking any buttons during these shots, you are gaining information and learning more about the characters. You are caring about the game more than you would if these shots did not occur during gameplay. Playing without clicking is a seemingly novel concept within games. This mode occurs in other places in the game when Joel does actions on his own without any input from the player.

As I continue to play this game, I want to further explore what these mimetic breaks mean for the game and the player. Does these breaks continue and evolve as the game continues or are they a tool used at the beginning of the game to introduce the player to Last of Us’s world?