I posted this on my website quite a long time ago and I though I'd share it with you guys. It's about a presentation I made about TLOU and its philosophy at my University. It's pretty insightful. I'd like to know what you think about the reactions.
Well, well, well. It's 26/11/2013 and I just came back home from the University. What better to do than study? I say write my feelings about the presentation I just gave on The Last of Us...and then study. So what is this about?Once upon a time I showed to my professor of the 'Philosophy-Ethics' course, a short video I made from clips of The Last of Us (TLOU). I meant only to share the world of TLOU but then he said: "How about you make a video of the game and present it to the class, analyzing it with the theories we've learned so far? And then we can have a conversation on the whole thing"
I said: "Well, why not sir?" but inside of me I was saying "HELL YEEEEAAAH!!!!!". This was going to be soooo cool. And so I started working on the video which wasn't at all hard since I knew the editing program and the game inside out. The hard part was to make a miniature of the game. There was so much I wanted to show, but in the end I fitted the necessary parts in only 45 minutes. Yeah 45 minutes is not much for an 18 hour game. It showed many dilemmas, the deaths, the gore, the world, the story and of course the ending. It was really good. You can find it here actually. After the video was done, I started working on my presentation - what I was going to say, point out, how to state my opinion, what questions to ask, what to analyze and how, etc etc. The picture above is the start of my presentation (I kept the same feeling/theme of TLOU so I had a simplistic presentation with a Firefly logo in the corner). Then before the actual day of the presentation I printed two images-wallpapers of TLOU and plasticized them. Also, because I like holistic experiences, I found the soundtrack of the main menu of the game, which is peaceful, sad and atmospheric and decided to use it before the start of the presentation to create a mood.
So today was the day. I blue-tacked the wallpapers on either side of the sheet on the wall, launched the first page of the presentation and put the soundtrack to quietly play in the background. It was something like this. (Unfortunately that's the only footage I have. That's before the start of the presentation, before the students arrived and also before I dimmed the lights. And unfortunately the music can't be heard in the video... Best.Video.Ever!)
Then my whole presentation began. I talked a few minutes about what they were going to see, what is it about, some background story of the characters and then we started the video. After that I continued analyzing what we saw, talking about Utilitarianism, Ethical Egoism, the Kantian Imperative and Ethical Intuitionism and how we can see all of these theories unfold in the game. At the end I let them talk and express their opinions.
It was AMAZING! Sarah's death at the beginning was showed in less than 5 minutes and GOD the reactions! I could see/hear people holding back tears at that sad and intense moment. Less than 5 minutes and they weren't even playing. Well done Naughty Dog. The were also very shocked and flinched at every fighting moment because of the brutality and intensity. There was also a point which made me think "this is so powerful" but at the same time "how weak are you?". At the scene where Ellie kills David there was so much disgust and shock in the air that two particular girls got up and left. That moment shows the powerful feeling of real brutality in such a world. Of course my own personal thought about these two girls, the "how weak are you?", is me judging a (probably) normal reaction, which maybe I shouldn't. But come on, haven't they ever seen a 14 year-old girl kill a guy with a machete by cutting his face open about 10 times? What no?...oh... Another great moment was the part where Sam reveals his bite and then when Henry kills him and then himself. The tension of that moment, the vanity and the unfairness of a little boy dying, was shown in the reaction of the students. Many more moments made them awkward but they kept watching non-stop, their eyes glued on the screen, and that says something since students usually take their phone out because they' re bored. What was kind of peculiar was the ending scene. No reactions whatsoever. As if their breaths were taken away! But really, I think their brain was working, processing. Even when the story ended, they were still left in that surgery room with the dilemma Joel never faced. "What is he doing? Should he do that? Is that...right?" And then the video ended and I asked: "Who disagrees with what Joel did?". Three-four people raised their hand, along with the professor. "Who agrees with what Joel did?". Double, triple hands in the air. Most hands where in the air! There were also some others who didn't know what to choose.
In 45 minutes, this journey made them change their minds on dilemmas like these. Why do I say 'changed their minds'? Because at the time we studied Utilitarianism nearly everybody agreed on the theme "Sacrifice the few-save the many". And now...aren't they supporting otherwise? Yes they are. Everybody wanted to talk about the ending and not everything before it, even though there were interesting dilemmas too. Of course I knew that, that's why I prepared my presentation centered around it. It just stirs you. It is the opposite of what we expect. It is the opposite of what we've learned to expect. All heroes at the end of movies, games, books save the world. Why didn't Joel? But they didn't care why, the why only drew them to think about the ending. The thing they cared about was the truth. The ending showed them the truth and analyzing it made them grasp it, understand it and unfold reality. Because the truth is that we aren't heroes, we are everyday people like Joel and we want to analyze the ending so much because we can't believe that this is who we are. Maybe this is far-fetched? Maybe it's my opinion? But it's one way to see why people all around the world talk about the ending more than anything else.
So we've talked about it and more people than before agreed with Joel. And they gave reasons. One girl displayed the reason I made the video 45 minutes and not 10. Why I showed Joel and Ellie's journey. She said: "If she showed us only the ending or asked us would you kill one girl to save humanity, I would say yes. But then after this, after I saw what they've been through I just can't say that anymore." That's true. That's why I hate philosophical questions, the ones that usually philosophers ask, because they are shallow and 1/1000000 of the entire story. We only express our opinion about a sentence, consisting of 15 words and a question mark, and if we're "ethical" then we are right. What about the history of that person we are deciding about? What about their life, their character? Where is the respect, empathy, understanding and consideration of what they do and who they are? We don't care we just have to decide if a sentence is right or wrong. Ridiculous. I'm glad that the students finally realized that.
Lastly, it was incredible to see how many people agreed with Joel. They didn't play the game, they didn't have the time to emotionally connect with the characters, their mind was into the stereotypical, hollywood template of the hero saving the world. Yet, it seems this didn't matter. They could see. What is it that people say: "Step into others people's shoes" - that's when you understand them and that's when you should be allowed to judge.
This presentation was a great chance for me to show the game and its theme. But I didn't want to do this because of how cool it is. It's because it's a kind of game that you can talk about and should show to other people to make them critically think. Use their brains, change their opinions, dig deeper. It's chances like these that make these kind of games great. That I can use it in a classroom says a lot. Again, well done Naughty Dog! This is one worthwhile story and more people need to know about it.