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August 6, 2013

A Creator's Responsibility

Video games?  We need to talk.

I think I know you pretty well by now.  I’ve been playing with you since before I could tie my shoes (God bless Velcro).  And I know what you’re planning to do.  See, we gamers have been lucky to get at least three games in rapid succession that have managed to blow away our expectations -- or if not blow away, then at least impress, or demand a bit of praise. Or the occasional backhanded compliment.  And the connective tissue, the common thread behind all three?  Young female companions.

I see that gleam in your eyes, video games.  And I’m telling you right now that you need to cut it the hell out.  Now.

Listen to me.  No, seriously, listen to me.  We’ve had a good thing going with these three games.  But I know that you’re eyeing these trends like a greedy coyote.  I know you’re looking at the numbers, and the praise, and the word of mouth, and planning on getting in on this Gold Rush (or Girl Rush, now that I think about it).  And I say, no.  No, DON’T do it.  If I have to bop you on the head with a rolled-up newspaper, I will.  Don’t make this a recurring trend, because not only will it diminish the effect and cheapen the end product, but I’ve got a pretty strong hunch that you’re going to screw up as often as -- or let’s face it, more than you’ll succeed.  So let me be the first to say…NO.  NO.  STOP IT.  NO.  THAT’S A BAD VIDEO GAMES.  NO.  BAD VIDEO GAMES.  NO TREAT FOR YOU.

Ahem.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk (tangentially) about The Last of Us.

If you’ve been checking out this blog at all in the last month or so, you’ve probably caught on to how I feel about that game.  Looking back over the posts, I’d argue that you could almost see a progression of thought from the first entry to the last -- from neutrality and cautiousness to confusion, to epiphany, to a downward spiral lined with weariness and ultimately disappointment.  (And to a lesser extent, rage.)  Honestly?  In spite of all those posts, I feel like there’s still more that I can say, and I’ve tossed around the idea of making another post to wrap things up.  I might, I might not.  We’ll see.

Now that I’ve put some much-needed distance between me and the game, I want to say -- or reiterate -- that TLoU isn’t necessarily a bad game.  It’s a CONFUSED game, yes, and it swan dives into the uncanny valley, but you could do a hell of a lot worse than that.  If nothing else, TLoU stands at a critical juncture for games -- and the perception of games -- at large.  If we shout from the rooftops “YES!  THIS!  THIS IS WHAT VIDEO GAMES SHOULD BE FROM NOW ON!” then we’re going to be in for a rough generation…as if we aren’t already.  What we should be saying is “Okay, yeah,  TLoU tried to be different, but failed to fully stand on its own and had plenty of flaws.  So next time, we can do better.”  And indeed, we can do better.  With the game itself.  With the storytelling.  With the mindset behind it.  With avoiding the uncanny valley.  You have no idea how jarring it is to knock over a gumball machine and have it land with all the force of a beach ball in a game --and medium -- that’s doing its damnedest to reach photorealism.

They've still got a ways to go.

There’s a lot that TLoU could have done to improve itself.  To be fair, I don’t have easy answers for all of the problems, and I don’t think everything I’d suggest would be automatically brilliant just because I’m offering up something different.  A lot of people have fawned over the game, and making changes would mean removing elements that appeal to and satisfy others.  So let’s not open too many cans of worms here.  That said, I do have one suggestion that might completely alter the game for the better. 

Ellie should have been the main character for the whole game.  Not just the main character; the player character. 

Let’s be real here.  Even if you’re the sort that likes Joel as a character, you have to admit that he’s been done AT LEAST once before in games.  And recently, in fact; you’d be forgiven for thinking that Joel is a bearded, Texan version of Booker DeWitt, thanks in no small part to having the same voice.  I’m utterly convinced that even if the game tries to make Joel look and act like the protagonist (for a given definition of protagonist, given his penchant for murder), Ellie in my eyes always has been and always will be THE main character…just as Elizabeth was in Bioshock Infinite…and even if TLoU would marginalize Ellie for the sake of Joel Grumpybuns.  That aside, Joel’s saga is a character arc that we’ve seen before, and even if it’s executed well it would pale in comparison to something that, while not 100% original, is significantly fresher.  And you could say the same about a lot of the gameplay elements as well, to the point where you could consider the next few paragraphs as a “what-if” imagining.

So here’s what I’m thinking: kill off Joel in the game’s opening hours.  Have the game start shortly before Ellie and Joel’s first meeting (since the game proper does that anyway), and let things proceed as both a way to establish the setting and act as the tutorial.  Give the player a taste of power -- the skill and savvy that Joel has picked up in his adventures, along with no shortage of equipment even at an early stage in the game.  And then, shortly after he meets Ellie, have him get killed in a skirmish.  THAT’S the big divergence point from the real game and my what-if game; in my version, Ellie spends just enough time with Joel to get her mission, and more importantly start learning how he does what he does through osmosis…but even with all his skills, he ends up biting it.  So now for a large percentage of the game -- barring the odd-comrade here and there -- Ellie has to go through the world alone in the hopes of presenting a potential cure for the outbreak hidden within her blood.  Or alternatively, have Tess and Joel abandon Ellie from the outset (remember, they don’t believe her at the start), and make them into the game’s final antagonists.  Joel especially; it’d be the perfect chance for Ellie to show she’s become the superior hunter.

Playing from Ellie’s perspective seems -- to me, at least -- a lot more impactful, and full of potential.  Imagine the possibilities here; Ellie knows what her final destination is, but she has no clue of how to get there.  She has to explore America one step at a time, taking in the sights and trying to piece together what the world was like before everything went to hell…even if she does come up with some out-there theories.  (I’d imagine that she’d end up keeping a journal of some sort, or if not that then commenting on what she finds in her travels.)  It would change the nature of TLoUs road trip, but it could work, and even change it for the better. 

Moreover, since Ellie’s alone out there, it could change the dynamics of combat.  Remember, this girl doesn’t have nearly as much experience or equipment as Joel -- and even in the late-game she’s got decidedly-fewer arms -- so the conflicts she faces won’t be met with the same callous acknowledgement of routine as Joel.  She’s allowed to be scared.  She’s allowed to show shock.  She’s allowed to tremble behind corners at the game’s start, and by game’s end have her motions mimic (or even surpass) Joel’s -- a sense that she’s overcome the ideal that drives her to evolve her efforts.  Weakness is a strength in its own right -- and being able to see and hear that for ourselves in our proxy would do wonders for changing our interaction with the game.

And indeed, the game would change.  For all the emphasis put on survival in TLoU, too much of it is focused solely on killing whatever’s standing in your way or rummaging around for gear that will help you kill more efficiently.  I find it baffling that it took hours -- literally hours -- of gameplay for Ellie to even mention that she was hungry.  So why not make that an element of the game?  It could work like Snake Eater, or to a lesser extent the survival mode of Dead Rising; you need to find food out there in the world to keep your stats, your combat ability, and even your perception of the world in equilibrium. 

And sleep could get thrown into the mix too, along with a day/night cycle; the time of day determines how you can (and should) proceed through an area, but more importantly you can sleep in-game to get extra bonuses, converse with allies, write in your journal, or just plain get a breather from combat…assuming you don’t get attacked during the middle of the night, of course.  It’d be something that rewards exploration and awareness of your surroundings, and create moment-to-moment events that others might not necessarily experience in their adventures.  Simply put, you take TLoU, sprinkle in a bit of Fallout (or Skyrim, if you prefer), add a pinch of Metal Gear Solid and Zelda, and mix thoroughly.  Now you’ve got yourself a tasty zombie cake.

To be fair, just because I’ve offered up an alternative doesn’t mean it’s automatically a BETTER alternative (especially since all I can do is type out a basic outline).  I can see some execution problems already; certain story elements would be lost and replaced by something potentially inferior.  What I’m prescribing would change the ways in drastic ways -- and end up taking on the same flaws that plague other games.  Additional survival mechanics could break the flow of the game.  Expanded exploration could make the rest of the game shallower, or if nothing else demand more resources from the developers.  A rebalance of Ellie’s tool and skill set would be a must, and end up frustrating players as a result.

But if there’s one problem above all others, it’s a simple one.  It’s an annoying one, but a viable problem all the same.  Ellie SHOULD have been the protagonist, but if she was, it would likely invite hell.

Controlling a solo Ellie transforms the game into something I would have expected to get in the first place.  Outside of temporarily running about with another partner character -- an issue I had throughout the game -- it offers moments of introspection.  Quiet.  Meditation.  And when the action starts up in earnest, it creates a different interplay between the player and the game than when it has two or more people going at it.  It creates a more knowable and recognizable pressure; it’s one thing to play the role of the protector, but it’s another thing entirely to have to protect yourself.  I’m frankly surprised -- and disappointed -- that Ellie ISN’T the player character; ignoring her role in the story, every time you open up the case for the game the first thing you see when you pull out the disk is Ellie’s face. Plus she’s standing in the foreground of the box art.  And just how many promotional materials put some focus on her, exactly?

But you know what?  I get it.  I totally get it.  I will argue until I’m blue in the face that TLoU would be better if Ellie had top billing and Joel was just an extra (if that), in that it could change the game’s dynamics in a way we don’t see all that often in games.  It could make for a game that’s a lot riskier in its content, intent, and presentation than the game we have now.  But it’s precisely because of those risks that TLoU is the game that it is today…and what leads into the thrust of this post. 

Ellie as the star of the game could make for a radical departure from convention -- but just because that might be a good thing doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the long run.  Setting aside the industry’s…issues with female characters and protagonists, there’s a tyrannosaurus in the room that makes me want to forget even proposing the idea: the portrayal of violence against childrenTLoU is a violent, grisly game, and while it won’t hesitate to show Ellie taking a lethal blow (a fact that I learned many, many times as I failed at certain sections of the game), it isn’t quite as violent as what can or has happened to Joel.  More to the point, what I’m prescribing isn’t just a sequence or two where Ellie’s in harm’s way; we’re talking about the entire game.  We’re talking about a game where a teenage girl would get punched, clubbed, shot, burned, blown up, and torn apart for a quick zombie-meal.  That would be a category five shitstorm.

And I know it would be a shitstorm, because it’s vaguely similar to one we’ve had in the past.  Remember the Tomb Raider reboot, and how everyone was worried that it would be nothing but torture porn?  Remember how the audience reeled when Conan O’Brien showed off the game to his audience, and the man himself jumped at the sight of seeing a spike run through Lara Croft’s head?  Now imagine everything in TLoU being done to a girl that’s not even old enough to drive, without filter, and without restraint.  Imagine everything being witnessed first-hand from Ellie’s perspective.  And of course, imagine how many people would raise a stink over making the player character a g-g-g-g-girl -- and not even an improbably buxom one, at that.

Joking on that last point aside (though one can’t help but debate), it’s obvious that there are issues that need sorting out with violence and gender dynamics -- in games, and arguably in fiction at large.  Are we at a point where we can make content in games more extreme, and genuinely explore certain ideas using certain elements?  Well…I think we can, if not now then at least soon.  The graphics are certainly there (though arguably they have been for more than a decade).  The resources are there.  The willpower is there.  The talent is there.  It’s just a matter of being eager enough to explore the possibilities.  Well, that, and being able to explore them skillfully.

But is it a good idea?

We all know that video games, as they are today, have their issues.  And plenty of us have made note of that; I’ve done so many times before.  But for now, this isn’t a post to point fingers at others and say “Look how silly they are!”  This is a post where I ask that we point fingers at ourselves…or if not ourselves, then certainly at me.  We are the next generation; we’re going to be the ones that develop games, or stage performances, or pen movies, or sing music.  By now I hope that the lot of you know it’s my dream -- and by and large my mission in life -- to become a writer of some renown.  An author.  Someone whose name is synonymous with tales of heroes and adventures.  We’re going to be the creators that change the world; the question is, how do we go about it?  Recklessly dive into topics and themes?  Restrain and censor ourselves, so as to avoid backlash from an audience or our own missteps?  Play it safe, and abandon our creative visions?  Rely on trends that distort the meaning and impact, but suit the people we aim to satisfy?  Forgo reason and empathy, and give the people what we want?  What do we owe them?  What do we owe ourselves? 

What is a creator’s responsibility -- and how do you even begin to bear it?

Since it’s the issue right now, let’s focus on this in the context of video games and violence.  The question of violence is getting asked more and more by the day, and someone’s going to have to offer a definitive answer on it soon -- not just in forum posts or statements ready for viewing in articles across the net, but where it really counts: in the games themselves.  In an age where quasi-realistic murder isn’t just possible, but a commonality, what are we supposed to do?  Offer up statements about the violence?  Accept it and move on?  Avoid it entirely?  There are plenty of options, to be sure…BUT those options, of course, all have their drawbacks.  More importantly, what option you choose could depend on the most important factor of all: you.

Like a lot of people, I don’t think every game has to be so keen on showing off HD stab-renderings.  (The mere existence of games like Rez, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and a host of others is proof enough of that.)  You can do a hell of a lot with a good story, and put plenty of personal touches that not only make the world you create good, but irresistible to anyone who happens upon it.  The two key goals of any creator are to make their work interesting and impactful (at the basest); if you can get those down, it doesn’t matter how exactly you do it.  If it were up to me, though, I would at least try not to go with excessive violence and the usual trends; a more stylized approach seems like the better option, and certainly one with more lighthearted fare.

…Is what I would like to say, but I know myself pretty well.  I know what I’ve worked on in the past, and what I plan to work on in the future.  On one hand, I’m a guy who’s doing his best to make over-the-top comedies with no shortages of psychic powers, superheroes, and wrestling -- and for months now I’ve been toying with the idea of a story that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Saturday morning cartoon block (to say nothing of game ideas that may never go anywhere, but still amuse me).  And on the other hand, I’ve got a story that features insanity as a plot point, widespread destruction and corruption of the planet, and one character that actually gets sliced in half.  Every time I think about my dream project -- something that I’d prefer to be the tale of hot-blooded heroes romping across a metal-infused new world -- I find ways to make it darker and darker.  Pretty much everything I touch turns into a nightmare world, where suffering and despair aren’t just expected, but damn near a requirement.  And keep in mind that one of my favorite games this year (if not generation) was Metal Gear Rising -- a game that let you do THIS:

This “creator’s responsibility” I’ve mouthed off about is something that I’ll have to wrangle with in the future…if not right now.  Given what I’ve learned and reasoned in the year that I’ve started blogging, if I don’t practice what I preach (and preach, and preach, and preach), then I’d be the biggest afro-headed hypocrite since Afro McHypocritterson strutted about Central Park in 1976.  How am I going to reconcile violence in my works?  What sort of statements can I make about the world, the past, the human condition?  Should I even try?  What’s the tone?  Is it right for me?  Is it right for others?  What do I owe others?  What do I owe myself?  So many questions need answering; what I wouldn’t give to just be free to write about the occasional power bomb…

But with that said, those are questions that I’m eager to answer.  Asking and answering questions can dramatically help one’s efforts when it comes to matters of creativity; it gives focus, along with a sort of road map for where to go in one’s pursuits.  There’s an argument to be made that if game developers asked themselves more questions more overtly, we wouldn’t have to worry about terms like “design by committee”  and “homogenization” being quite so rampant, but that’s neither here nor there.  There’s only so much we can do about the present, but the future is where we can -- and hopefully will --dominate and transform art as we know it.  Have a problem with excessive violence?  Then in the future, work to tone it down in your product.  Want more female protagonists?  Have them take the reins as soon as you’re able in your creation.  Want to say something different (or even anything at all)?  Great; that’s what your magnum opus will be for.  Whether you want a complete upheaval of creative norms or just want to make meaningful tweaks to the formula, you’re free to do whatever you want…that is, as long as you do it adroitly.  Because “adroitly” is a fantastic word.

How does the saying go?  “Be the change you wish to see in the world?”  Fair enough; if I have my way, I intend to.  I’ve done no shortage of saber-rattling against so-called “gritty” stories in the past, and it’s my sincere intent to fix that with what I put out in the future.  (Or very-near future, hopefully.)  It goes beyond liking funnier/more colorful/more idealistic stuff, even though that plays a part; in a way, it’s something that also plays a part in a creator’s responsibility.

See, I’ve always believed that on some level, it’s not the lessons we learn from our parents or teachers or friends that makes us who we are.  I’ve always believed that in a lot of ways, we learn the most from the stories we take in.  It’s one thing to have elders (or me) preach at you, but it’s another to sit down with your favorite tale -- written, filmed, or otherwise -- and subconsciously take in the ideas that it’s proposed.  Intentional or not, there’s something to be learned and felt from even the simplest of video games.  We feel it, learn it, accept it -- and somewhere down the line, we’re transformed by it.  That’s just a part of art’s nature; not something to be feared, but explored.  We have to figure out what to do, and how to do it.  If we can crack the code, then we can put out something worthy of praise, no matter what elements -- grisly or not -- we put in.  If we can’t…well, nothing will ever change, now will it?

Maybe that’s why I take video games -- the bad ones in particular -- so seriously, as if they’re an affront to my senses.  Maybe that’s why I take so many potshots at others, acting as if I’m in the right and they’re in the wrong.  Maybe I’m destined to make just as many mistakes, and worse ones, than they ever will.  Hard to say for sure.  But I guess the only way I’ll know for sure, and the only way I can do my part for others, is to give it a shot.  Ask myself questions.  Ask others questions.  Figure out what’s best for me, for others, and for the story at large.  I’ve been disappointed by games before, and will continue to be disappointed.  But I’ll be damned if I don’t give it my all and surpass those I’ve railed against.

That’s a responsibility I’m glad to take on.  And I hope it’s one you guys do, too.

Damn, I love that song.


  1. It's good that you pretty much shot down your own idea about Ellie being the protagonist of The Last of Us. Nevermind the reactions it would get, the ESRB would tag it with AO without hesitation, thus vetoing it from the following:

    a) Being stocked on the shelves of any notable game retailer, or any PC digital sellers.
    b) Being allowed to be sold on any current game console (AO is the only rating not allowed, though only in North America - let's not forget that this is a first-party Sony title, so it would make little sense for them to break their own rules)
    c) Being allowed to be advertised at most venues

    And that would make it a PC-exclusive title developed by a first-party Sony dev team without advertisement that cannot be sold in stores or put onto any site other than its own for sale. Thus:

    d) The game would sell poorly due to obscurity, or be cancelled by executives (because it would sell poorly and/or the game can't be sold on their own platforms)

    I have no doubt that part of the reason she wasn't the protagonist was the shitstorm it would have caused, but I'd wager they were more worried about the AO rating.

  2. Well, that's assuming that Sony would even let Naughty Dog make Ellie the protagonist from the get-go. They had to fight to get her on the blasted box art! I'd love to see The Last of Us focus on Ellie, seeing as how I had the most fun when playing as her, but with the industry in its current state? No way, no how. ...What IS the point of the AO rating anyhow? It was dumb when one year difference blocked some films from theaters, and it's dumb in this industry too!

  3. I figure it's because 18 is counted as adult as 17 is not, as per laws.

    I honestly think M should be adjusted down to 15 to be more in-line with other countries' rating systems.

    And yes, I agree that it's not likely that Sony would allow Ellie as the protagonist to begin with. I think we all know why.

  4. Sadly, some of the concerns you bring up (especially the point about a spike impaling Lara Croft's head) is a problem in most forms of media, not just video games. I had a chat with some of my friends about how female characters are treated in fiction in general. We brought up 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', and one of my friends mentioned a criticism that Joss Whedon is misogynistic for making his female characters get beat up or put in horrible situations (i.e. attempted rape) just for the sake of making them "empowered". ...And this is just a TV show.

    My inner optimist is peaking through here, but I think various parts of our modern society are starting to want to break away from or twist tropes that went unchallenged and unquestioned for hundreds of years. NOW people are throwing their fists over gender-exclusive beaten dead horse tropes and story devices (i.e. Men are the Disposable Sex; Damsel in Distress; Men Do, Women Are; Wouldn't Punch a Girl; etc.) The fact people are complaining about old cliches is a good thing. But actually applying these new wants and changes will take a LONG time. To this day, people still bitch about a woman or child getting punched, but then they don't blink when a man gets put in a grinder.

    There's a reason I hated the movie 'Oblivion'. Not once had I ever been so bored, I started analyzing how the story and characters should be rewritten to make it less boring, predictable, and SAFE. One thing I proposed was shooting Tom Cruise's character's secretly pregnant wife when they get captured. Why? Because she has done nothing to make the plot move on. Because she just is, just there to be the thing Tom Cruise wins at the end and have a kid with. Because later on in the film, she could have mattered if she sacrificed herself to save the world - as she wanted. BUT the writers declared that she had to live because she's pregnant and must give Tom Cruise a happily ever after.

    As for violence? Ideally, I think we should calm the hell down over what sex got hurt, how, and how old he/she is. Women, men, and children all get brutally mauled and slaughtered in real life every single day - sometimes for no reason. At least in fiction and video games, there is a chance to provide a reason and how meaningful it is to advance the plot or develop a character.

    But I'm just rambling.

    For video games, at the VERY LEAST I'd like some games that look and feel different. You saw my mental breakdown over how I f#$%ing hate the brown-haired, grizzly, strongly-built, caucasian, skilled gunman protagonist that might as well be its own stereotype by now. Give us different hair. Give us a personality that is not defined by cocky, confident, cool, heroic, and perfectly manly. Give us a different body shape. Give us a different race. Give us a different accent. Give us men who are around girls and happen to not hook up with one of them for [insert random reason here]. I don't care if the world blows up if a female playable character is used, at LEAST make varied, diverse MALE protagonists.

    ... Now that I think of it, the video game industry is by far the most immature field of the creative world. Either that, or this recent decade has been the most "safe" and conservative in a while, at least in the mainstream.

    ...I'm depressed again.

  5. Yeah, as I was writing this I started to realize that video games aren't the only place where there are problems. But for the sake of argument -- and making the post "manageable" -- I decided to hold off on making any additional comments.

    In any case, I'm in agreement with you. People are getting tired of the same old, same old. People want change. And that desire for change will, inevitably, bring about change. But we're a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG way away from some genuine change, and alternate venues to take besides the same old, same old. Bitching and moaning is a part of the (problematic) process, but if you've poked your head into the comments section or forum of any given gaming site, you might have noticed that actually having a conversation and sorting-out of certain issues tends to...er, not happen peaceably. (See: Dragon's Crown.) We're fighting each other when we should be talking with each other -- and if we keep it up, nobody wins.

    Safety is the last thing video games -- or any medium, really -- needs right now. How does the saying go? "Fortune favors the bold"? Somehow that ended up not being the case with games, but already there have been diminishing returns on what used to be surefire sellers. God of War: Ascension AND Gears of War: Judgment are part of the two biggest franchises on their respective consoles, and last I heard both of them failed to even break a million copies sold. That's not good news to devs and publishers, but it's at least sending a message. We're ready for something new...and a new Killzone isn't going to do it. But that aside...

    "There's a reason I hated the movie 'Oblivion'."

    Then you know what you must do. You have to do a post on it. Summon up all your courage, and face the movie that haunts you so...and lay it to rest with one final strike. It's the only way to know true happiness.

    ...Or you could just check out the Ace Attorney movie. DAT EVIDENCE THROW.


  6. Oh jeez, I didn't even think about the ESRB. Man, that would have caused a mess in its own right.

    Although...given how violent games can be (and are), I wonder if the barrier of entry (or lack thereof) isn't quite as high as it could be. I mean, in TLoU alone there are people getting their tissues torn up and splattered into a thousand pieces by shotgun blasts; I don't know about you, but that seems like something that'd be for adults only if you ask me.

    Then again, that is a pretty slippery slope. Start axing one bit of violence, and you might have to start axing it all. And what good would that do for the industry, or for us gamers at large? Violence has its uses, after all.

    ...Suddenly, I have no envy for those who willingly join up with the ESRB. Seems like a grisly job.

  7. This was a hilarious and wonderful read. Unfortunately, you're right, there's absolutely no way Ellie could be really shown in this light…but I think it would be an excellent idea to go with now that this series has somewhere to jump off from,

    it's a bit disappointing because pre-release, this game actually made Ellie out to be a memorable female protagonist, not the other way around.

    Still an excellent game, yeah?

  8. I have a lot of issues with the game -- a LOT -- but at the end of the day, I have to pay some respect to Naughty Dog for at least trying. I feel as if this game is going to be a turning point for a lot of people (and devs) -- a proving ground to establish what can be done, and what could be done in the future. TLoU is a shaky first step into tomorrow...but whether that's to new heights or off of a cliff remains to be seen.

    Even though I walked away from the game disappointed, I'll admit there's potential for another entry into the series (for better or worse). There's more that can be done with the central relationship, of course, but I can't shake the feeling that the devs could just as easily step backward into the zombie apocalypse and show how things got to be as bad as they did. Either that, or they'd take NO steps and just show the story from the perspective of a different set of survivors. Lots of possibilities, but not all of them might work very well.

    But that's enough ruminating. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for reading. Maybe next time, Ellie will get her due...somehow, someway...