It’s been almost a year since I began my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. Then again, a lot of the work I put into this channel happened during the last year’s extended COVID-19 lockdowns. Hence, I can totally believe it’s been that long.
In that time, I’ve learned a great deal about the art, process, and particulars that go into making YouTube videos. I assumed it was a lot harder than successful YouTubers made it seemed. I was right on many levels. At the same time, I was somewhat relieved that the tools you need were readily available and learning to use them did not require going back to college.
I hope that those who have been following my channel since it began have seen an uptick in overall quality. Some of that uptick is largely due to hardware. If you listen to my first video, you’ll hear some fairly poor audio quality. That’s because I used a cheap USB microphone to record it. Compare that to my more recent videos and the difference should be clear. That’s the benefit of investing in a better mic.
One such improvement involves my recent foray into video game footage. If you’re subscribed to my channel, you’ve seen me posting screen recordings of me playing a video game called Marvel Strike Force. I’ve created an entire playlist from it. I’ve even had a little fun adding epic music in the background and doing large mash-ups of extended gameplay.
The problem is that I’m finding it more and more difficult to refine that content. Aside from just recording the gameplay and putting music behind it, I’ve been struggling to add much more to it. At one point, I wanted to do some audio commentary during the gameplay. I found that to be difficult because these screen recordings come from my iPhone and I can’t use my fancy new mic on that.
Since I use a PC and not a Mac, I can’t really take advantage of better hardware on my main computer where I do all my video editing. I’ve also taken up a lot of space with some of the footage I’ve recorded and that’s on a relatively new device. Clearly, if I’m going to keep providing this kind of content, I’ll need to find a better way. I’m considering a software like Blue Stacks.
However, I’d like to take things a bit further than the games I play on my iPad and iPhone. At some point, I want to start doing gameplay from my PS4 and, eventually, a PS5 whenever I get one. With games like “Resident Evil Village” and “Mass Effect: Legendary Edition” coming out, I want to be able to stream longer and more extensive gameplay.
I know there are established ways to do that. I’m just not sure what form it’ll ultimately take on my channel. Will I use this gameplay as a means of offering background footage while I offer commentary? Will I just leave it alone and just show the footage? Will I use the footage to mash it up into something more creative?
I don’t know yet and I’m certainly open to suggestions. For now, one of the most immediate solutions I can pursue is getting a large external hard drive that I can use to store footage from both my iPad and my PS4. Another is to simply upgrade my iPad so that the resolution is better.
It really depends on what I feel will make a better video, in the long run. I’ll still do plenty of videos breaking down my favorite TV shows, movies, and thought experiments. My channel is still young with less than 100 videos. I’m also still building my audience. I don’t know how big it’s going to get or if I’ll hit a limit, as I’ve done with my many other creative endeavors. Only time will tell.
Again, I’m open to suggestions and tips. If you have any, please feel free to share them. In the meantime, enjoy this footage of me beating Dark Dimension IV in Marvel Strike Force.
The following is a video for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s both a tribute and an exploration of Final Fantasy X, the first video game I played that was a genuinely emotional experience. Having played video games all my life, there aren’t many games that have had such a profound impact on me. This is one of them and I still feel the extent of that impact today.
In the time I’ve been playing games and following the industry, I’ve seen many games that were heavily hyped. I vividly remember how games like “No Man’s Sky” and “Spore” were supposed to revolutionize the industry. Most of the time, the game was a letdown, relative to said hype. A few managed to deliver. Franchises like Zelda and Grand Theft Auto keep finding a way.
However, I’ve yet to see a game garner as much hype as “Cyberpunk 2077.” I’ve also yet to see a game garner such a mixed reaction in conjunction with such a chaotic launch. Now granted, some of that might be due to the general chaos of 2020, but the story surrounding this game has been a special kind of messy.
The long and short of that story is this.
The game itself was announced was announced back in May 2012 by CD Projekt Red.
The game was originally slated for release in April 2020, but was delayed twice.
Once the game finally did come out, it was found to be glitchy and buggy. Some older gaming systems, like the Playstation 4, could not effectively run it and even robust gaming PC’s struggled to play it.
Due to the bugs and messy release, fans and critics alike were outraged. Some demanded refunds and Sony even removed the digital version of the game from its store.
Again, there’s a lot more to the story behind this game and how its release was handled, but those are the basics. I won’t get into the meaty details. Others more qualified than me have handled that far better and I’ll defer to them for more insight.
The reason I’m talking about “Cyberpunk 2077” has less to do with the game itself and more to do with the emerging trends behind it. This isn’t the first game to endure a messy, glitchy launch. It’s also not the first to invite massive backlash from fans and customers. I doubt it’ll be the last, either.
It all comes down to this.
Nobody should be surprised that a game as big, ambitious, and complex as “Cyberpunk 2077” had glitches at launch.
Nobody should be surprised when any game that runs on powerful, complex gaming systems aren’t perfect from the beginning.
Everyone should expect patches and fixes that come out years after a game comes out. They’re practically unavoidable.
I know that sounds like a broad generalization. It may even sound like I’m making excuses for game developers like CD Projekt Red. I promise that’s not the case. This is just me sharing my perspective and I feel it’s worth sharing in the current era of AAA gaming.
Like it or not, the gaming industry has evolved a lot since the days of Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and the first Playstation. It’s not just that the industry has become more consolidated and more impacted by games people play on their phones. That is also part of it, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the bigger picture here.
A game like “Tetris” or “Super Mario Bros” is much less complex than a game like “Grand Theft Auto V” or “Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.” I’m not just talking about the story or gameplay, either. These games require a lot more in terms of development, polishing, and refinement to go from the drawing board to a finished product.
The hardware is more powerful.
The mechanics are more complex.
The logistics are far greater.
You didn’t used to have to hire top quality voice acting talent on the level of Keanu Reeves to develop a game. You just had text boxes and sound effects. That’s all games like “Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and the first Pokémon games needed.
However, those games couldn’t come out now and be as successful. They were products of their time, limited by the hardware and software needed to develop them. It still took time and effort, but let’s not lose perspective here. The entire size of those games could comfortably fit on a $10 flash drive.
In essence, a game like “Cyberpunk 2077” is to “Super Mario Brothers” what a Saturn V rocket is to a standard wheel. It has far more moving parts, far more complexities, and far more investment needed in order to make work.
When you have something that complex, things aren’t always going to go smoothly. Patches and tweaks will be necessary. It’s just a matter of extent. Even top-rated games like “Grand Theft Auto V” needed a few patches to make work. Other games like “Destiny 2” required so many patches that the game was basically overhauled.
In both cases, the games were better because of this. Even if it wasn’t perfect on launch, it created the foundation from which a truly awesome experience could emerge. That’s the best way to approach games like “Cyberpunk 2077.” Regardless of what the release date says, assume that’s just the beginning and not the end.
At the same time, some games are so mired by their launch that nobody notices or appreciates it when the game is ultimately fixed. That’s what happened to “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” a game that was also plagued by a glitchy and messy launch. However, several patches helped fix many of the issues. Now, I can confirm that the game in its most updated form is a genuinely solid gaming experience.
Unfortunately, fans gave up on that game, and many like it, too quickly. I feel like others didn’t even give it a chance because they listened to those who made such a big deal about the glitches at launch. It would be like people avoiding cars for the rest of their lives because the first few crashed or didn’t run well enough.
For this reason, I’ve gotten into the habit of not buying any AAA game at launch. Unless it’s a remaster, I always wait at least three to four months before I consider investing in it. That usually affords enough time to work out the kinks and get the necessary patches in place for the game to realize its full potential.
Sometimes, it’s still a letdown. Games like “Anthem” have never really taken hold, no matter how many patches and tweaks they get.
For the most part, though, there’s a benefit to waiting until months after launch. The hardest part is not letting negative reviews from people bemoaning the early glitches color your opinion of the game. That’s what helped me enjoy “Mass Effect: Andromeda.” I never would’ve gotten that experience had I read all the complaints about the earlier version of the game.
Sometimes, you need to exercise a little patience to get the gaming experience you seek. That’s not easy these days, especially as the gaming industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar entertainment behemoth. I remember just how visceral some of the reactions were when “Cyberpunk 2077.” Now, some of those same people are whining about the game appearing to have been rushed.
It’s the kind of hypocrisy that makes you want to punch your computer screen.
On top of that, game development these days is subject to significant strain among developers. It’s what fuels a less-than-pleasant aspect of the industry called crunch. When a company is eager to get a product to the market or to meet a deadline, it’ll lean heavily on its workers. Many times, those workers will suffer as a result.
It’s a distressing part of the industry, but one I doubt will go away anytime soon. As long as there’s demand for AAA games on par with “Cyberpunk 2077,” we’re going to endure things like this. Games are going to be launched with bugs. Game developers are going to be overworked to death to meet a deadline rather than risk angering the consumer base.
Until these trends and dynamics change, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, I’m still going to be patient with “Cyberpunk 2077.” I don’t think I’ll get it until several months have gone by, complete with patches, and I have a new Playstation 5 to play it on.
For that reason, “Destroy All Humans,” a colorful remaster from an equally colorful video game from the mid-2000s, might be the most precious reprieve you can get for under $50 these days. In a year when pools are closed, concerts are cancelled, and movie theaters are going bankrupt, this is the kind of game we need right now. It’s so seriously unserious that it works better now than it did in the mid-2000s.
The premise is as absurd as it is fun. You play an alien named Crypto-137, a member of the highly advanced Furon race. You’re sent to Earth in 1959 after your predecessor, Crypto-136, dies on a mission and is captured by the United States Government. You’re job is to infiltrate Earth, study the humans, gather DNA, and eventually take the whole planet over.
This is not a story about humanity rising to the challenge and triumphing over an overwhelmingly advanced opponent.
In fact, humanity in “Destroy All Humans” are so cartoonishly ignorant and childlike that they hardly seem worth conquering at times. Being able to infiltrate, manipulate, and destroy them with advanced alien technology isn’t that great a challenge, logistically speaking.
That doesn’t stop the game from being wildly fun. You’re not a hero or a villain. You’re not part of some complex, convoluted story that requires deep introspection on right, wrong, and everything in between. “Destroy All Humans” is basically the perfect antidote to those still fuming over “The Last of Us Part 2.”
You’re part of an alien race. Conquering Earth and subduing humanity is just a necessary effort for the good of the Furon race. Along the way, you do encounter humans who are more challenging than others, namely the Men In Black rip-off group, Majestic. They provide much of the game’s puzzles and challenges. However, most other characters are ignorant caricatures that rip off every 1950s tropes.
On top of that, there’s plenty of crude humor and innuendo. Yes, that includes anal probes and cow shit at times. “Destroy All Humans” is not a game that tries to redefine its humor for 2020 sensibilities. It sticks to the basics and makes them work. You’ll laugh. You’ll be disgusted. You’ll even be offended a few times, but only to the extent that you’re part of a species as dumb as humans.
At the same time, you’ll have loads of fun.
That’s what makes this game worth playing. It’s just fun at its most pure and crude. You zap things with blasters. You levitate things with your mind. You use anal probes as weapons. You lay waste to towns and cities in a giant UFO. There is a story along the way, but it’s a simple story that only serves to motivate the mayhem.
That’s what made the game worth playing when it first came out. Now, this remastered version has provided some updated graphic and improved controls. If you already played the game when it came out on the Playstation 2, you won’t see anything you haven’t seen before. It’s just in glorious HD with a much better color pallet.
If you’ve never played “Destroy All Humans” and are in need of something to pass the time for the rest of this miserable summer, then you’re in luck. This game is pure, unserious entertainment for a franchise that’s ripe for rebirth. I highly recommend it and if you can stomach the use of anal probes, you’ll enjoy this.
No go forth, stir-crazy gamers of the world. Go forth and destroy all humans!
How do you follow up a masterpiece? Whether it’s a painting, a TV show, a movie, or a video game, how can you improve on what many see as the best of the best? It’s a relevant question and one the “Terminator” franchise has failed to answer for 20 years.
Now, “The Last of Us” is facing that same issue. Years ago, I cited this game as an incredible achievement in terms of storytelling and characterization. Like so many others, I eagerly awaited the release of the sequel. I wanted to see the next step in Joel and Ellie’s journey.
Then, the infamous leaks came out that spoiled large parts of the game. After that, my enthusiasm for the game quickly diminished.
Now, “The Last of Us II” has finally come out. Enough time has also passed to confirm how accurate these leaks are. In that sense, there’s some good news and bad news. The good news is, the leaks weren’t as disappointing as implied. The bad news is, they’re still pretty goddamn disappointing.
It’s akin to being run over by a Prius instead of a fully loaded dump truck.
The reasons for that disappointment are many. I haven’t bought the game. I actually canceled my pre-order after the leaks came out. I still intended to buy the game if the leaks were debunked, but that didn’t happen. I only confirmed them through both a friend and through a few Twitch streams.
I won’t get into the details of the spoilers. I’ll just note that they present a very bleak, very depressing resolution to this story that got us so emotionally invested in the first game. For a game company with as great a track record as Naughty Dog, that’s quite a downgrade. To appreciate just how bad it is, imagine if this was how the “Logan” movie played out.
In the first 20 minutes of the movie, some random character that nobody has ever heard of, let alone cared about, brutally kills Logan in front of Laura. Then, for the rest of the movie, it attempts to make us sympathize with this character who killed Logan. On top of that, when Laura gets a chance to avenge her fallen father, she opts not to for reasons that don’t make sense. She just lets this person go, offering no closure or catharsis.
Those who have played the game can probably fill in the blanks. Again, I don’t want to detail too many spoilers. I’ll just say that there’s a character named Abby in the game and she might very well go down in history as the most hated video game character of all time. It’s not just what she does that makes her deplorable. It’s how the game tries to make players care about her.
To some extent, I get the intention. The premise of the game actually has a novel concept. It attempts to send a message that violence and hatred is a brutal cycle. The more you pursue it, the more it perpetuates. In pursuing that path, you don’t know just how many people you hurt, destroy, or ruin. That’s a good message and a great premise, but this game just fails at every possible turn to make it fit the story.
It shows in how fans have reacted to it. As of this writing, the Metacritic score from users is in incredibly low. It stands in stark contrast to the critical reception of the game, which is always quite telling, as certain movies in recent years have shown. A recent Forbes article attempts to explain it away, using bigotry and bots.
However, I don’t think that’s accurate. I think that’s just making excuses for a story that clearly didn’t work with the audience. Now, even the creators behind the game are starting to attack that audience, which is a problem. I know I’m not a successful author or creator. The chances of me ever getting that success are very slim. However, I know enough to understand how idiotic it is to attack your audience/consumers.
It leaves me genuinely concerned about the larger impact of this game. It also has me concerned about what this will do to an industry that is already laden with controversies and negative hashtags. I’m already bracing for plenty of rants, excuses, and whining from every side. At this point, it’s inevitable. I also seriously doubt that “The Last of Us,” as a franchise, may have just destroyed its future.
People have mixed, but intense opinions on spoilers. I know people who will get downright violent if you threaten to spoil something to them. I also know people who just roll their eyes and brush them off, as though they’re no big deal. It’s one of those issues where there’s very little middle ground.
In the age of the internet and social media, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. Some movies, video games, and TV shows can be completely spoiled in a single tweet. There are unmoderated anonymous boards like 4chan where every detail can be spoiled, alongside posts of trolls determined to make ordinary people gouge their eyes out.
Personally, I prefer to read spoilers before I see a movie, buy a game, or get invested in a show. When I saw “Dark Phoenix” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I read spoilers beforehand. They actually made me more excited to see those movies because I liked what I read.
Sometimes, I make exceptions. I avoided spoilers for both “Avengers: Endgame” and “Breaking Bad.” In those cases, I really wanted to feel the impact when I saw how the story played out the first time. While I doubt reading spoilers would’ve made me enjoy both stories any less, there was an element of impact that I couldn’t have gotten otherwise.
I think a lot of people make exceptions when it comes to spoilers, but sometimes they have an impact that goes beyond spoiling a surprise. That’s what happened recently with “The Last of Us Part 2,” one of the most anticipated video games of the past decade. As someone who played the first “The Last of Us” and praised iton multiple occasions, I was among those brimming with excitement.
Then, an employee at the developer, Naughty Dog, leaked the entire story. Out of respect for those who still don’t want to be spoiled, I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just cite the report by Den of Geek, who also made a concerted effort to avoid such details.
The Last of Us Part 2‘s story has been leaked. Various clips that showcase nearly the entirety of the game’s story have made their way online. Naughty Dog has recently confirmed the leak via a tweet that asks fans to not spoil the game for others and to avoid spoilers if possible.
The extent of this leak is massive. Not only do these leaked clips include nearly every major cutscene from The Last of Us Part 2, but it seems that fans have also gotten their hands on a leaked level list that details the story structure of the sequel.
Now, I’m going to be careful with my words here because I don’t want to spoil this game for those who don’t want to be spoiled. Even though the leaks have spread on nearly every platform, I don’t want to compound the issue. The primary reason I’m bringing this issue up with “The Last of Us Part 2” is because this whole situation with spoilers has some important insights that are worth mentioning.
The biggest insight, thus far, is just how much these spoilers effect the perception of the game. Before the leaks came out, “The Last of Us Part 2” was by far one of the most anticipated games of the year. Naughty Dog’s reputation was very polished and there weren’t many people saying bad things about them.
That situation has been completely reversed.
While it’s hard to gauge every reaction, I’ve seen a fairly consistent pattern. Almost everyone, including those who were very excited about this game, are incredibly disappointed by this. It’s not just that the story was spoiled. The details of that story have rubbed everyone the wrong way.
Without getting into specifics, they effectively undermine some of the most important aspects of the first game. The journey the players took in “The Last of Us“ was a deeply emotional experience. Even if you’d read the spoilers ahead of time, there’s a lot of appeal to that experience. I knew the basic of the game long before I played it. It still had a profound impact on me by the time I got to the end of the game.
With “The Last of Us Part 2,” that impact is effectively undercut. The journey that we took in the first game doesn’t matter as much in this game. Everything that made you fall in love with these characters and their struggles is either ignored or overshadowed by something else. For anyone who loved the first game, where’s the appeal in that?
There are also some “political” overtones to the story that have rubbed people the wrong way. I put “political” in quotes because in the world of video games, “political” is usually just code for “political or ideological leanings that I don’t agree.” I’ve never cared much for that. In general, I try to avoid it, but it has become an unfortunate trend in video games, thanks to scandals that have only gotten more absurd with time.
The only aspect of “politics” that I resent in video games, and media in general, is how it tends to hallow out a story. If the point of a story is to just score certain points with certain ideologies, then it renders the story bland and predictable. When done poorly, it becomes outright propaganda.
Based on these spoilers, I won’t say that “The Last of Us Part 2” reeks or propaganda, but the ideological themes are not exactly subtle. While those themes don’t bother me personally, I’ve seen enough internet outrage mobs to know the reaction it’ll incur. That reaction will only obscure any legitimate criticism of the game and its story.
I had not pre-ordered this game, but I was planning to once a new release date was finalized. Now, I’ve no desire to play this game anytime soon. I’ll still follow reviews and feedback. If parts of these leaks prove to be inaccurate, I’ll gladly change my tune. To date, however, nobody at Naughty Dog has denied them. That’s often a sign that they’re real.
To some extent, I’m grateful. I’d much rather learn about this before I dropped over $60 on a game that was only going to disappoint me. During these times, nobody can afford to waste that kind of money. I’ll wait until others play the game to see how the full story plays out. Maybe it’ll work out in the end, but I’m not very hopeful.
It’s a disappointing turn for something that I was genuinely excited about. It also darkens the prospect of this franchise becoming a how on HBO. It’ll be interesting to see how these leaks and the reactions to them effect the sales of the game. If it’s as bad as some dread, then the emotional journey that this franchise took us on could come to an abrupt and tragic end.
In this age of fake news, baseless rumors, and 4chan leaks, it’s easy to be cynical. Even when you see news or rumors that seem genuinely good, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Sometimes, you feel like you live in a world where no news or rumors could possibly be that good. Therefore, it must be wrong or fake.
Then, every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that genuine good can still happen in this crazy world. Even if it seems rare, that doesn’t make it any less awesome. That’s how I felt when news broke yesterday that HBO, fresh off the heels of turning “Watchmen” into an incredible TV series, announced that it was making a show based on the video game, “The Last of Us.”
To those who haven’t played this game or aren’t familiar with the story, it’s hard to appreciate why this news is so incredible. I’ve written about this game and its two titular characters, Ellie and Joel, before. However, the impact of this game goes beyond that. This is one of those rare games that isn’t just a game. It’s a narrative experience that hits you in ways you don’t expect.
On the surface, the primary experience is that of a post-apocalyptic survival horror game that just happens to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past 20 years. What makes it so special is how it evokes so many emotions along the way. I knew when I bought the game that it was heavy on drama. I braced myself, thinking I could handle it, especially after seeing “Logan.” It still wasn’t enough.
I’m not the only one who had that experience either. Many others have shared their experience with this game. It really is an emotional roller coaster in all the right ways. The idea that HBO is going to take that experience and build a show around it is just too amazing for words.
At the moment, there aren’t many details, other than the fact that Craig Mazin, who produced “Chernobyl,” is working with the game’s creator, Neil Druckmann. However, given how hard HBO has been working to fill the void left by “Game of Thrones,” I’m encouraged that they have that much more incentive make this show as incredible as the game.
I’ll definitely be following news about this announcement closely, moving forward. In the meantime, for those who don’t play video games and need proof that this game will make an awesome show, I offer you this.
Greetings and to all the fellow fans of “Mass Effect” out there, Happy N7 Day! To those who don’t follow video games or space operas, N7 Day is the annual celebration that fans of this incredible franchise and story use to celebrate this amazing world that we love.
This series will always be near and dear to my heart in many ways. It didn’t just tell an incredible story that spanned the galaxy. It crafted wonderful, compelling characters that included beautiful, endearing romances. While the game gives you many romantic options to pursue, the one that will always resonate with me is Garrus and female Shepard. Their love helps make the galaxy worth saving.
In celebration of this year’s N7 Day, I’d like to commemorate it by highlighting my favorite romance between Earth’s greatest defender and her badass Turian sharpshooter. If you need convincing that their love is special, please see check out this video complication. I hope it convinces you as much as it did for me. Enjoy!
In the current state of popular culture, one of the most emotionally-charged words is “diversity.” It gets thrown around like a nuclear hot potato. Anyone who holds it too long gets burned and anyone who doesn’t hold it long enough gets attacked. Whether it’s the handling of female characters or representation of minorities, diversity is one of those buzzwords that creates the wrong kind of buzz.
Beyond just being an excellent game with amazing characters, it also provides a case study in how diversity can be done effectively. It doesn’t have to be forced. It doesn’t have to be preachy. It doesn’t even have to have a larger agenda. It can just be a bonus on top of a well-made product.
The character in question this time is Ellie, the co-protagonist to Joel in the first game and the main protagonist in the upcoming sequel. Her story is every bit as rich and compelling as Joel’s. Her history, her personality, and even the way she complements the gameplay helps make her distinct. She’s a major reason why this game is so enjoyable and why it sold so well.
She achieved all this as both a female and an LGBT character. It sounds like one of those combinations that has to be forced, but that’s not the case with Ellie. In fact, anyone who plays the entire story of the first game wouldn’t even know about Ellie’s sexuality because it was only revealed through a DLC , or downloadable content.
Even within that content, though, Ellie’s sexual orientation was not a big part of the story it told. It effectively filled in a time gap within the main game while also exploring more of Ellie’s backstory, but at no point did it make her sexuality a bigger issue than it needed to be. You could’ve removed that detail entirely and the story would still work, but it wouldn’t be quite as memorable.
More recently, during a preview of “The Last of Us Part II” at E3 2018, Ellie’s status as a homosexual woman was reaffirmed. Again, it wasn’t critical to making the moment work. The fact she’s attracted to other women doesn’t take anything away from the emotional weight of the scene. It does help enhance it, though.
Therein lies the key. What makes Ellie a great character has nothing to do with her sexuality. It’s not a defining aspect of her persona, nor should it be. It defines her no more than Joel’s heterosexuality defines him. It doesn’t have to be thrown in someone’s face as this huge, all-encompassing feature. It’s just a small part of a much greater whole that is Ellie.
There’s no effort to make her this LGBT icon, which has a tendency obscure a character when forced. Her status as LGBT isn’t belabored, either. She’s not important to the overall narrative in “The Last of Us” because she’s female and gay. She’s important because of factors independent of those traits.
That importance grows throughout the story, but not because of her gender or her sexuality. It’s what she does that helps establish her as an important character and a compelling one, at that. Her story complements Joel’s and the various other characters she encounters.
In the process, she also demonstrates a unique personality. She’s tough and stubborn, but she’s also impulsive and temperamental. Many of those qualities are entirely gender-neutral. Some stand out more because she’s a woman and that’s okay because a girl acting girly isn’t a big deal, which tends to get lost with other female characters.
It may seem so obvious, but the fact that diversity in media is such an issue shows just how difficult it is to pursue. Ellie succeeds because the diversity she represents is never primary to her character. It’s not even secondary, either. That’s not to say her gender and her sexuality are ignored, but it’s never elevated beyond a certain point.
Before any of those diversity-related issues come up, “The Last of Us” works to establish who Ellie is and why she’s important. That process of establishing a good, compelling character without her gender or sexuality being the focal point does a lot to get you to care about her story. It’s a process that can’t be rushed and the game does a masterful job in that respect.
The person Ellie is when you first encounter her early in the game is not the same person by the end. She’s someone who undergoes a lot of growth, encountering more than a few setbacks along the way. There are times she’s easy to root for. There are times when she comes off as an arrogant brat. Before you ever find out about her sexuality, you learn about her as a person.
By the time her sexuality finally comes up, Ellie is already so much more than the gender she’s attracted to. She’s a survivor, a fighter, and someone who has seen everyone she’s ever cared about die or leave her until Joel comes along. She also has a vital part to play in the ongoing apocalypse the world around her faces. All of this, once again, is not dependent on her gender or her sexuality.
I know I keep belaboring that, but it’s worth belaboring because that aspect of character development keeps getting glossed over. Other efforts at diverse characters often rush to the diversity without establishing why anyone should care about them. It’s why all-female remakes rarely resonate. It also leads to characters whose diversity is so blatant that it’s hard to take them seriously.
That’s not to say Ellie is a perfect example of diversity done right. She has her flaws, as does Joel. There are times when she’s too tough for her own good. She has a tendency to push peoples’ buttons for the wrong reasons. She also has questionable tastes in jokes. Even proponents of diversity can find flaws in her.
Despite those flaws, there are many lessons that characters like Ellie and games like “The Last of Us” can teach when it comes to doing diversity and LGBT representation right. The most important can be boiled down to four basic components:
Don’t try and force diversity just to fill a quota
Develop the character before developing the diversity
Don’t make their status as a woman or LGBT their most defining trait
Have the character complement their supporting cast, regardless of their diversity status
There are probably many more lessons that I’m not qualified to teach, but I think characters like Ellie do plenty by just being memorable and endearing. She’s a great character within a great story. That wouldn’t change if she were straight, but her being a lesbian does help her stand out, albeit for all the right reasons.
It’s also worth noting that Ellie’s story is still ongoing. “The Last of Us Part II” is set to come out in 2019 and the next part of her story promises to get pretty dark. Whether she maintains the complexity and appeal of her current character remains to be seen, but she has a strong foundation to build on, which is key for any character, regardless of their sexual preferences.
Whether we like it or not, there’s a lot of animosity between both sides, there more diversity in future media because the world is a diverse place. It’s just a matter of going about it in a meaningful, compelling way. Ellie is an example of how an LGBT character can work and when done right, it works pretty damn well.