I had kind of a lazy weekend and have a big day planned for tomorrow, so tonight's blog might be kind of short and contain indiscriminate moments of gibberish, especially whenever I stop to think about tomorrow. In order to take my mind off it, and because I love playing video games, I've been playing The Last of Us. And even when I'm not playing, I'm thinking about it...such an amazing game.

(By the way, this is spoiler free, but I do talk about game play a little bit)

There is an element found in The Last of Us, a very small element for sure, but it's there. It's something many will have disregarded or perhaps not even noticed. It doesn't really have anything to do with the story or the game play, at least not really. Yet, despite being so insignificant...so irrelevant...I can't help but appreciate the impact it has on helping to set the tone of the game. At least for me.

If you haven't played the game or heard anybody else talking about it, well then I'm sorry. For it is truly a remarkable game. The tone is bleak. And not just any sort of bleak...perhaps the bleakest game you'll ever play. Truth be told, I haven't finished the game yet, so I'm holding out hope for a happy ending, even though I have a gnawing feeling I'll get anything but. Up until the point where I am currently at, nothing good has really happened. Well, unless you consider barely surviving something good. I guess that's better than death. But truly, the game keeps punching you and kicking you and beating you down scene after scene, leaving you feeling abandoned and wondering if the pain and suffering will ever be worth it.

To help portray the sense of hopelessness you feel pretty much through the entire game, the developers rely on a few different techniques. There are scripted events where bad things happen; then there are the extremely brutal death enactments you are forced to watch when you don't survive the latest encounter with the bad guys (I don't know about you but I try really hard keeping Joel and Ellie alive so I don't have to watch those very often); of course there is the fact ammunition and supplies are scarce...scarce doesn't even begin to describe the direness of the situation.

It reminds me of this scene from the Road Warrior...

So, this little element contributing to the tone of the game...the bleakness and the hopelessness...sort of has to do with your efforts scrounging for the scarce ammunition and supplies.

In The Last of Us, and other games of course, but perhaps more prevalent in The Last of Us, you can search for supplies in all sorts of places. This is often indicated with a green triangle symbol indicating you can open desk drawers, file cabinets, metal lockers and all kinds of other storage locations. You might find useful material in any of these places. Keyword = might.

I say might, because more times than not, whenever you search a desk drawer, file cabinet, metal locker or other storage location, you find...


Yes, nothing.

And why would you expect to find something. I mean, this is a post-apocalyptic time, where other survivors have very likely ransacked every square inch, looking for something useful - ammo, medicine, food, or materials to craft into useable items.

It's this little element I can't help but feel really helps immerse you into the desolate world of The Last of Us.

In so many instances, whether I'm fleeing the infected or evading the bandits, I'm out of ammo (as in zero rounds for any of my weapons and I'm resorting to picking up bricks and bottles); I'm out of health (as in one little shred of a health bar left and I can't patch myself up)...and I'm out of luck (as in every desk drawer, file cabinet, and metal locker turns up nothing).

The developers could've easily left this element out - if there is nothing to find, then don't have the symbol appear. Yet, by having the symbols appear, especially in these tense moments where I desperately need ammo or health...I can't help but feel just a glimmer of hope I'll find something useful; a shred of optimism it will be exactly what I need...

And then...I feel the hopelessness again...when I find nothing, which is usually what I find.

It's a small element, but a brilliant one.

Like I previously mentioned, other games have used this. If I'm not mistaken, all of the Bioshock games used it. But unless you're completely out of ammo or supplies and unless you're in a seemingly hopeless situation, this fact would otherwise go unnoticed and matter little.

But in The Last of Us, when your random search turns up nothing, time and time again...it truly makes you feel like you are among the last of us.

Good Games and Happy Hunting.