Best of 2013: #4 - The Last of Us

Perhaps no other game in 2013 could be as easily pointed to by the mainstream as proof that games are art.


Perhaps no other game in 2013 could be as easily pointed to by the mainstream as proof that games are art. The Last of Us enraptured gamers with its cinematic presentation and remarkable performances from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. Somehow, Naughty Dog managed to one-up their Uncharted series, raising the bar for what narrative can be in games--with deep, nuanced characters positioned in challenging, morally gray situations.

There are so many moments that help cement TLOU's position as one of the year's best. However, none are as haunting or as lasting as the very last shot of the game. It's chilling not because of what is said, but what isn't. Surely, there could be no more doubts about the legitimacy of digital acting.

While The Last of Us will be celebrated for its presentation, it doesn't hurt that a genuinely interesting gameplay engine powers the experience. Naughty Dog masterfully does away with many modern gaming tropes. Finally, here's a game where the threat of a bullet is almost as effective as actually shooting. It's a game that's meant to be played in a particular way: scavenging for supplies, using resources wisely. It's a game that discourages the Hollywood-style run 'n gun action that embodies the Uncharted franchise.

Even the multiplayer managed to convince doubters. While limited in modes, Naughty Dog managed to capture the oppressive feeling of their world in an online setting. Remarkably, not only does The Last of Us aspire to be video game art, but it manages to be a great game in the process.

The Shacknews Best of 2013 Awards were determined by ballot voting across the entire Shacknews staff. Stay tuned all this week as we reveal all our winners.

Andrew Yoon was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
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    January 20, 2014 12:00 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Best of 2013: #4 - The Last of Us.

    Perhaps no other game in 2013 could be as easily pointed to by the mainstream as proof that games are art.

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      January 20, 2014 12:36 PM

      Please release this for PS4.

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      January 20, 2014 2:41 PM

      4th? really? I would say 2nd... So beside GTA5 being first (just guessing) Just can't really see this as 4th place game...

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        January 20, 2014 3:04 PM

        Gotta leave room for DOTA and TF2!

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        January 20, 2014 3:17 PM

        This seems low to me as well. I did a quick Top 10 on Facebook and had this at #2, behind Tomb Raider. I had GTA5 3rd. Not a knock on any of those games, either, as they all kicked ass. I just personally enjoyed the Tomb Raider SP campaign more than any other SP campaign I played last year. TLOU has been cleaning up GOTY awards left and right, though, so I doubt the devs are gonna take the bridge over it being listed 4th here.

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        January 20, 2014 7:24 PM

        I see a lot of love on this website for story intensive games. I know it's totally subjective, but 99.9% of stories in games I've played were largely forgettable. Only games that really go light on the story and focus more on symbolism resonate with me, like Shadow of the Colossus and Journey. And it's not really the story itself that grabs me, more so it's the way it's told.

        Things like character development usually just fall flat on their face in games, partially because they're broken by frequent predictable gunfights.

        That said I've yet to play this game so it could totally change how I feel about all that. I did get roped in to Half-Life 2's story.

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          January 21, 2014 3:22 AM

          Have you tried the Uncharted games? TLOU is very like that, but with a better, slightly more adult story more skilfully told.

          I think I know what you mean about Journey / Ico / Flower: the story is told through the play, rather than being cutscenes interrupted by gunfights. TLOU is more like Ico plus some cutscenes.

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      January 20, 2014 5:27 PM

      Can't believe there was ever an argument about games not being art. So frustratingly stupid.

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        January 20, 2014 7:12 PM

        I watched an interesting GDC lecture that made the case that they're not. It said that games can contain art, in the story, art direction, etc, but the game itself is not art.

        The argument basically boiled down to the example of chess. No one can argue that chess, which is ultimately just a set of rules, is art. It is design.

        Not saying I agree, but that was the most compelling argument I've seen from that viewpoint.

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        January 20, 2014 7:55 PM

        Why do games have to be art? I can't believe this argument still comes up. The industry is so insecure. Not all movies and books are art. Sometimes art isn't even art. Just because games like The Last of Us, Journey, and Braid are games doesn't mean they don't evoke thought and discussion. Make and play the games you want without worrying about rationalizing your interest in the medium.

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          January 21, 2014 4:42 AM

          "Not all movies"

          And there you go. Not all, but many.

          As humans we regard great works of art, regardless of medium, as cherished incredible things worthy of being remembered forever and seen by everyone. To say that all games are not art is to reduce the medium to nothing but something kids play to reach a high score.

          The industry has grown, videogames have now reached a point where they stand alongside literature and film as the medium a generation turns to for imaginative storytelling.

          Of course it doesn't actually matter either way, but it's nice to be placed on a podium and acknowledged by people other than your direct audience.

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      January 21, 2014 2:33 AM

      Andrew, are we earnestly invoking the "Are games art?" argument.


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      January 21, 2014 7:22 AM

      Wow this seems really low. This game was easily my GOTY - though I didn't really play much else! ;)

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