The Last of Us came out June, 2013, but because I’m a crooked, exploitative, underhand journalist scumbag, I got to play it a month early, and I remember being so, so excited. I texted my friends, called my family – I stopped men in the street who were carrying shopping and yelled at them: “It’s the best game you’ll ever play! It’s shitting quality out of its anus and ears!” For a few weeks, The Last of Us was *mine*. It was a precious stone that I’d unearthed from the gobshitey crust that is mainstream gaming. I loved it. I wanted to bang it.
Naturally, it became a success. A massive success. A too much of a success. It sold faster than a Tickle Me Elmo with a fucking Furby strapped to its head, and consequently the developers lost their minds. Soon we had The Last of Us DLC, The Last of Us Remastered, The Last of Us comics, The Last of Us t-shirts, The Last of Us movie. This genuine work of art was reduced to a commodity, faster than you could say “please, don’t – you’re ruining perhaps the single example of an intelligent, well-written mainstream videogame.” It won’t be long until we have The Last of Us lunchboxes and The Last of Us fucking pencil tops. The Last of Us anal beads? Where does it end?
Notions of decency aren’t enough to stop The Last of Us. If you’ve seen the news lately, you’ll know Naughty Dog has already unzipped its jeans and done a knackering big piss all over any standards of taste. The new expansion pack for the PS4 version of the game will include downloadable “special executions” for the multiplayer mode. They’re 99 cents each, and once purchased allow you to perform new, grisly finishing moves in the competitive online mode. Basically, you’re paying a dollar to be able to fucking blow some guy’s head off in a way that you couldn’t before. Games have long traded in violence, and more than any other media in history have honed the commodification of simulated murder. But fuck me. I never thought they’d distill it to the point where you’re literally paying for blood. At least in Call of Duty or whatever the balls there’s some narrative pretense; at least Postal has a sense of humour, and DOOM has some spectacle. Here, you just pay your money and get a straight-up violent new animation to watch. It’s the equivalent of The fucking Running Man – this is an express exchange of cash for violence.
How fucking stupid is that? How fucking…low. I’m not all prissy and shocked about it – games, especially mobile and browser games, have long been asking players to swap their petty cash for useless junk. But this is The Last of Us. This is the game that made me feel like there was some hope, like not everyone working a salaried job in the gaming industry was a fucking numbskull. And the violence in The Last of Us is supposed to be brutal and nasty and stomach churning – it’s supposed to be something you’re repelled by. The developers talked about it as a narrative device, as something integral to the characters and the tone, and that was so heartening, to hear game-makers engaging with what it means to have violence in their work. That was a turning point. And now they’ve shat it all down the veranda just to drip-dry a few dollars out of fuckwits.
It’s such a shame. The Last of Us was something beautiful. Now it’s deader than fucking…slap bracelets.