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  • Finding Hope Amongst The Chaos

    [10.11.18]
    - Nicole Barelli
  • Narrative is an increasingly important element in video games, and two modern games are highlighted because of their exceptional storytelling: The Last of Us (Naughty Dog) and God of War (Santa Monica). The two games share many similarities while existing as distinctive, singular games.

    Today, however, I'm here to discuss with you guys and girls one of the similarities shared by those great games - their Themes, and how they are an integral part of the characters' arc, expressing themselves through the beliefs of the main character, their partners and even their enemies; and, by that, seeing how going down into the darkest parts of humanity can grant us a glimpse into the light!

    This discussion was inspired by Lessons from the Screenplay video comparing the film Se7en and the TV show True Detective. If you haven't watched it yet, I highly recommend!

    The Ministry of Health adverts: below, there will be spoilers for both games! So, if you didn't play one or the two of them, proceed with caution!

    First of all, let's establish each stories' theme. Rarely a story will work with a single theme, however, every good story has a main theme that better resonates with the whole structure!

    THE THEMATIC PREMISE

    For the sake of simplicity and clearer understanding, let's put aside most complex terms and use theme in its humbler form - the thematic premise, as Blake Snyder calls it. In his book, "Save the Cat!" Snyder states that the theme must be declared, usually in the beginning, but that's not a rule. Somewhere during the storytelling journey, a character will say something that might sound trivial, but has a deeper meaning and impact to the whole story! In both God of War and The Last of Us, the main characters are responsible for stating the theme.

    "I struggled for a long time with survivin'. And you - no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

    This is the ending of The Last of Us, when Joel takes Ellie away from the Fireflies. And there's our theme: "No matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

    God of War does something similar, but not right in the ending:

    "We must be better."

    This simple line summarises what's God of War about!

    Notice how, for both The Last of Us and God of War, the Thematic Premise shapes the story, the world and characters. From Tess to Freya, the Theme found a way into the telling, each supportive character having an importance and a saying on the subject.

    THE BELIEFS OF THE PROTAGONIST

    At the "real" beginning of The Last of Us, we see an older and bitter Joel whose only concern is to survive. He has no sympathy for anyone except his close companion Tess, for whom, if you look closely, he still keeps a "safe emotional distance". Their relationship is more of allies than actual friends.

    Kratos is much like Joel, though he is even more extreme. The Ghost of Sparta exiled himself from the world, embracing a state of deeper apathy, a nihilist mindset against the whole world.

    "Close your heart to their desperation. Close your heart to their suffering. Do not allow yourself to feel for them,"

    Kratos says right after their journey begins. Both Joel and Kratos are cold towards the rest of humankind. But it goes beyond indifference, and the question we must ask to understand their beliefs is: why are they this way?

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