I Pulled The Trigger :: A Pastor Reviews Last of Us

What does it mean to be human?

It’s the once clever but now tired question of the zombie-killer drama. The wildly successful Walking Dead series has cashed in on this trope time and time again. At the genre’s best it asks us to ponder not only are the undead still human, but are the survivors? After doing everything and anything to survive– from robbing to murdering and in extreme cases resorting to cannibalism– The zombie drama asks:  What line is a line too far to cross? When do we go from being a human to being a monster?

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Oh Crap.

I was prepared to be bored before the game even started. How many cheap clichés could I expect? Has the government fallen apart? Check. Has society descended into anarchy? Check. Is survival as much about scrounging resources than fighting zombies? Check.

At first, Last of Us seemed as if it were going to be lost to the warehouse shelves of used Gamestop* games.  But then, surprisingly, Last of Us was about something more.Last of Us was about love.

And not a Hollywood, cheap, hedonistic love either.

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The story revolves around a jaded, hard man named Joel and a young girl that he finds himself stuck with named Ellie. In one of Last of Us’s more refreshing additions to the genre, the story takes place decades after the zombie outbreak, leaving Joel with haunting memories of the life which he once had. Elle, on the other hand, was born into the chaotic world that emerged after the outbreak. This gives the game an amazing ability to allow Ellie to make innocent, yet pointed criticisms of the world we live in.


[Ellie finds an old store’s supermodel poster.]

Ellie: That girl is so skinny. I thought you had plenty of food in your time.

Joel: We did. Some just chose to not eat it.

Ellie: Why the hell not?

Joel: For looks.

Ellie: Pssh. That’s stupid. **


Through out the game you watch Joel begin to love and care for another once again. Slowly, Joel begins to see Ellie as a daughter of sorts. He teaches her about how to survive in this dangerous world. He teaches her how to shoot a rifle, how to sneak past enemies, and how to keep herself fed.

But even in all of this, part of Joel hesitates. Joel’s had to do some dark things to survive and protect those he cares about. He’s fought soldiers and innocent alike, and he wants to protect Ellie from that monstrous life as much as he can.

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In a game full of death and humanity at it’s worst, the game creates a few beautifully moving moments as well. Every now and again Ellie catches view of vista and is spellbound. Joel, constant on survival would blow right past these moments, but the young girl causes him to pause and marvel at the awe around him.

Last of Us is a story about a monster becoming a man again. Joel, the do-anything to survive strongman softens with his time with Ellie. Ellie, throughout the story goes from a terrified child to a woman who can look out for herself and others she cares for. More than any game I’ve played before, the game made me care for the characters it introduced me to.

Near the end of the game, there’s a tense moment when Ellie’s life is once again threatened–but in a way much different than from zombies or scavengers. Rather, in a Christ-like moment, Ellie has a chance to lay down her life for the saving of many others. If she dies, others will live. During this scene, I controlled Joel–and I and Joel on my screen both are panicking to try to get to Ellie to save her. I rush past guards–killing some even–to get to her. And when I find her, she is unconscious and surrounded by several unarmed people. These people have captured Ellie, but offer no real threat to me. After countless zombies and armor-toting soldiers, this man is insignificant. I could have just pushed him out of the way.

But I pulled the trigger. I killed him.

I can’t tell you how many digital aliens, monsters, men, and women I’ve killed in my life. But that one bullet was one of the most violent acts I’ve ever committed. It’s stuck with me.

It’s just a game. Yet, I was the one driving. I was in “control”. And, like Joel, I had let my emotions for this young girl drive my judgement. Ellie was more important than all the people in this digital world. And I would not stand by and let them take her.

Had I become a monster? Or had this game brought out something human in me?

*Not a paid advertiser of Millennial Minister.

**Thanks to http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps3/652686-the-last-of-us/faqs/68485 for the game script.

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6 responses to “I Pulled The Trigger :: A Pastor Reviews Last of Us”

  1. expvreal27 says :

    Excellent review from a very interesting perspective! That scene and the optional action you can commit has stuck with me too. Same with the ending!

  2. Eric Dye says :

    #EPIC post. You should come write for ChurchMag sometime. 😉

  3. tyralun says :

    I just played the last of us for the first time. It was great for all the reasons you mentioned. I blew away those doctors at the end with only a moment’s hesitation. It was only after I had looked up the game and realised you could finish it without killing them that I had that same “awe” moment of “what did I do…?”

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