Why I still play video games

Video games are getting flashier, faster, shinier. It has gotten to the point that many of these games make me nauseous—literally. I honestly do not care very much for many of these new games… the same way I do not particularly care for many of the big-budget Hollywood productions.

However, somehow, big budget studios still manage to produce astounding games. Last of Us is one such game. If you haven’t played this game, you are missing out. It is worth buying a PlayStation 3 just to own the game.

What is amazing about it? Sure, the graphics and sounds are superb. The gameplay is well tuned. But it is not very different from many other big-budget productions. Yes, it is expensive to create a good-looking game… but given enough money, it is not difficult.

What is amazing about Last of Us is the “story”. We care and even love the characters. Without spoiling the game… I can tell you that it is about an older man and a young girl. By the time you finish the game, you will know and remember these characters. They matter.

There is no right and wrong, no black and white. Some people are truly evil, others just try to do the right thing. Are our characters good or bad? The old man (Joel) is involved in shaddy businesses such as drug dealing. The two characters are outsiders with no clear moral code except that they belong to a tribe, their tribe.

Like all post-apocalyptic stories, the game forces us to view our own society critically. Sometimes, writers waste the opportunity by using the background decay as a mere image… but, in this game, it becomes a powerful tool to tell stories. It is a story about individuals versus civilization. How much should individuals sacrifice for the greater good? The game has its own answer and it may not be what you expect.

Yes, the game reminds me of The Walking Dead that was turned into an excellent TV shows and a decent video game. Except that the Last of Us was built from the ground up as a video game.

In any case, this game is why I will keep on trying out new big-budget games, even if most of them are all about being a mindless macho killing machine stuck in an accelerated universe.

Note: You can buy a PlayStation 3 with Last of Us for less than $300. It is a bargain.

Update: I played through Last of us again on a PlayStation 4 in May 2016 and the game was a blast once more. Well worth the price of a PlayStation 4.

Daniel Lemire, "Why I still play video games," in Daniel Lemire's blog, May 20, 2014.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “Why I still play video games”

  1. Thanx for the recommendation. I bought it on playstation store for 13$ and so far, I am hooked. I like the gameflow where every scene flows into the next and you can’t really stop playing because there is always something more to do. Great story so far, great immersive graphics and a great bang for the buck.

    On a personnal note, I would recommend the Mass Effect series which left me in awe at the end of the last game. My all time best along with Deus Ex: human revolution. Bioware improved and fixed the gameplay throughout the series. The bonus missions (which you have to buy) are really worth it. A timeless masterpiece with awesome score, graphics, cinematics, deep characters, personnalized gameplay and an epic storyline comparable to the Dune series, nothing less.

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