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.
As a fellow dad-gamer, I can totally relate. My penchant for coop game experiences has forced me to play games almost exclusively during the late night. Intense single player experiences (annual ME playthrough) are also reserved for the nocturnal slot.
this is so my world... saves money though, games last a longer time than in those wild all night, anytime days.
yay subtitles... err... yay, grandparents wanting weekend time and skipping the honey-do list!!
I used to be on the opposite end of that. Every night after I went to bed, my dad would play Hitman for a short time that. Now I kick his ass every weekend on Gears of War Judgment. Funny how that works.
It's a good point Kyle. I have a 1 and 4 year old so am limited to playing after bed time. Sometimes all I have is maybe 30 minutes of energy left at that point after a long day. It also helps to not leave long gaps in between plays for Last of Us. I ended up beating it in 13 hours, probably done in 5 sittings.
As a father, I absolutely LOVED this game, it's pacing, emotion and character development really left me thinking for days after its ending, like a good movie.
I played most of this game in the wee hours of the morning with absolutely no distractions. I understand the dilemma.
I don't have kids but I do work and go to college full-time. So weekends were the only times I played. 2hrs a week.
Really great article Kyle, I agree this game has left such an impact on all the gamers who have played it, including myself. I've been gaming for 25+ years (yea I'm 60) and this has to be the best all around games I have played, story (no. 1) graphics and controls all excellent. Looking forward to the upcoming dlc and hope for a sequel. I'm on my second go round, playing normal mode this time.
This was a really great article. I have a one year old and it has greatly changed the way I play video games and what genres I gravitate towards. Gaming is usually related to evenings past 9pm or chunks of time during the weekend here and there. And taking care of a baby on top of a normal 9-5 job I found myself usually choosing sleep over an hour of gaming simply for the fact that I felt I was too tired to properly enjoy the experience and give it my full attention.
I find myself finding more joy in games like Trials Evolution and pre-ordering Forza 5 due to their ability to be experienced in bursts of time. You definitely appreciate gaming news too! Reading an article is a convenient way to get my fix and stay up to date. Perhaps more mobile device support like what the next gen is advertising will make picking up the tablet without taking over the Pixar cartoon on the TV a great option. I am especially eager to work on Project Spark creations on my tablet during these times. The moral of the story is, yes, gaming habits will change for 90% of you BUT it is still a great time and you will find new joys in gaming specifically due to these changes.
I totally understand you. Although in my case it's not because I have a child but because we have only one decent TV and it's in the most used room of the house -.- So between college and that I could only play every now and them during the night with headphones. It's the first time I've played like that and I got to say I really enjoyed it. I would have preferred a couch instead of a wooden chair but I guess I can't have everything :P
So true. I played this game free from all distractions as well and am glad I did.