I have heard so many people bitching about modern gaming. They say that it’s all just interactive movies. I vehemently disagree with that assertion. However, I will say that the cues that games have taken from movies have almost all been for the best. Granted, the insane cutscenes of Metal Gear Solid 4 were more than a little much. But the thing that gets me is just how far gaming has come in terms of using subtle details to tell stories. This is something that the newest and final entry in the Uncharted franchise did SO well, and I am in love with it because of that.
Of course, only a studio like Naughty Dog could have pulled this off. I don’t know what writers they have doing the dialogue for those games, but I demand that those people get paid their worth in gold. Because they deserve it. That’s not to say that all the team isn’t amazing. But the thing that truly gets to me is the way that they handle dialogue. And as the tech has gotten better, the performances have gotten better to.
I remember that final moment in their previous game, The Last of Us. I’ve talked about this scene extensively. Ellie finally reveals how she got infected, and how it started a chain reaction of people in her life dying and her blaming herself for all of it. That weight she carried has shaped her as a character. In that final moment, she demands that Joel tell her the truth about what happened with the Fireflies. He lies right to her face, and we get to see that last look. Where she is accepting his lie and moving forward. It’s all done through subtle facial animations and us looking her right in the eye for those couple of seconds. That was awesome. However, the step up in visual fidelity took the cake for story-telling that can be done using not a single word.
When Nate and Elena learn the truth of the ultimate fate of the Founders of Libertalia, (this isn’t a spoiler, by the way. The name of where the game was headed was in the promotional material), and you hear Nate talking about it with such reverence for the history and such sadness for how pointless the whole affair was and how sad he is to see what happened to these great people, you cut away from him talking and see Elena just looking at him. The look on her face says it all. She realizes that he is someone who can never be satisfied with life as a typical person. You can see gears working in her head as she realizes that this man and his love of history is everything. That’s something that will never die. And if he tries to live a normal life, this cycle of deception and lies will repeat itself. All of that is without her saying a single word. By the time she does speak, the audience has learned so much about her character, and what she’s thinking. This could only be done with the visuals of the current generation.
I honestly say that if people are complaining about this sort of thing and how games have become this way, then I genuinely don’t know what to tell them. I love this level of visual fidelity. I like that games have now reached a point where things can be said without a line of dialogue using just a character’s facial expressions. If you ask me, I would love it if games could take a few more cues from the more subtle aspects of film. Like how David Fincher is able to use empty space to signify things like an absent husband or an empty life. We have reached a point in gaming and story-telling that the visuals of a game can be used to set up a narrative in a greater way than we ever could have before.
I cannot wait to see what Naughty Dog has in store for us next. A lot of people are talking about an Easter egg in this game that shows a poster of a woman who is pregnant, has red hair, holding a gun, and the front of it has the font that was used for The Last of Us. A lot of people were stoked, thinking that it’s Ellie’s continued story. Yeah, not really. For starters, Ellie wouldn’t need to wear the gas mask. She is immune to the infection and the spores that come along with it. I have a theory of my own – it’s her mother. I believe that this next game is a prequel where we get to learn Ellie’s story. If you read the letter that Ellie has from her mother when you are playing her for a time, you learn that her mother had something important to tell her about who she is and her birth. I get the feeling that the girl’s immunity was no accident. Now we’ll get to learn the truth. So exciting! It’s a very cool time to game.
Until next time, a quote,
“These are some of history’s greatest pirates, and they all perished in an instant. At this very table.” – Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End