The lights are on
It took me longer to play The Last of Us than most around the Game Informer offices, because I had a personal insistence on playing the game under the proper conditions.
Before the game released, I was discussing it outside of work and my expressed hesitance to play it. I’ve been a big Naughty Dog fan for quite some time. I have fond memories of Crash Bandicoot, the Jak & Daxter series is among my favorite games of the previous generation, and I enjoyed all three Uncharted games. I was confident I would appreciate The Last of Us based on the developer’s pedigree, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to play the game properly. I don’t mean that I would be holding the controller upside down, or facing away from the television. I was worried the conditions I would be afforded to experience the game – in a house with a child and limited play time – would distract from the tension and story that The Last of Us promised to deliver.
My favorite way to watch a movie is in a theater. It’s not because of the large screen, superior sound system, or the anxiety that envelopes me when people are quietly chatting during the previews and I fear they won’t stop their conversation when the movie begins. It’s my favorite way to watch a movie because it’s the most absorbing way to watch. Pausing the film for bathroom or food breaks is not an option. No one is talking (as long as everyone is acting like polite human beings), and the chairs are just uncomfortable enough where I don’t find myself drifting to sleep during the climax of the film – something that happens 100-percent of the time when I watch movies at home. I am even forced to turn off my phone. The theater is excellent at eliminating distractions and demanding your complete focus. It’s the equivalent of wearing horse blinders while watching TV, but without all the confused questioning from roommates or significant others.
I don’t mind playing most games with distractions. I take breaks frequently, pause games mid-cutscene to eat in fear of surprise quick-time events, and quickly turn games off the moment the baby wakes up from her naps. For The Last of Us, however, I didn’t want to play this way. Normally I might try to get in a nightly 30 minutes on a game, but for Joel and Ellie, I only played when I knew I could devote at least two hours to the game. I even opted out of playing in my living room with the larger TV in favor of a small darkened room where I could sit closer to smaller TV. It was much more intimate.
Playing this way meant I could only play about once a week, but it was worth it. After sitting in a dark room watching the credits roll in a silent house, with quiet snoring from a fast-asleep baby coming from the monitor and my phone switched to silent and placed face-down, I am confident that I made the right decision. Anything less would have felt like I wasn’t playing the game as Naughty Dog intended. In a dark room, it’s also much easier to hide the tears that might appear during a few key moments, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
I borrowed this game to a friend with a two year old, and he wouldn't play until his kid was fast asleep. His sessions with the game typically ran from midnight until about three A.M., although he said one time he started to notice the sun was coming up.
Awesome read. Game was fantastic and I, while not having the same child dilemma, finished it much like you. In a dark room, everything off, just me and The last few words uttered. I sat there speechless for a while then just said wow... Great feature. Loved it.
I completely agree with the article. Even just being married I find myself struggling to get through games becasue I want to be able to take the time and experience them properly. I now have a child on the way and I have no idea when I am going to have a chance to play all of the games that I love.
Wow that was an incredibly well written piece Kyle. I really really enjoyed it.
I feel you...I still haven't finished the game due to the fact we just bought a house, and my 5 year old son being attached to me at the hip. I've only been able to squeeze in about 8 hours with the game so far...and what sucks is that, while I remember mostly what has happened so far, the memories of the story prior to each play session are more fuzzy than I would like! Fantastic game though! I look forward to every session with this game!
I have the exact same problem. My children are older, and I prefer to play when they are either away or late at night when they are asleep, but it is not a game that my wife likes to watch so I am stuck with less time to play than 2 hours a week. I don't like the long wait in between, as I feel it breaks up the story and the experience too much, but I have no other choice. The Last Of Us is an excellent game and I look forward to being able to finally finish it sometime soon.
Being an empty-nester and older gives me pretty much unlimited time with games now. I do understand the situation though, so happy I don't have to deal with that aspect of life anymore.
great article...my fiance and i are getting married this year and plan on extending the family, so i'll probably be doing the same thing...
In the same boat here, and worse maybe, as it's my wife and two small children in a studio. Luckily, my wife is awesome and enjoys games, especially anything by Naughty Dog, even if she isn't playing it. Plus, zombies/infected scare her, so watching rather than playing was her choice. Anyway, we went at about 3 hours each night, and the final til sunrise, because those last few hours were just too much to not finish.
The only time I played this game is when I knew there'd be no distractions. I just closed the door to my room, turned off the lights, and played.