Well… that was disappointing. Rather, I expected nothing and I’m still disappointed.
I should begin with a disclaimer. Firstly being that I haven’t played any of the Game Of The Year Nominations other than Animal Crossing. Second being that I never cared for award shows and view them as hack garbage ruled by money and no merit. Nevertheless, I will remain unbiased.
I thought Youtube was going to crash last night after the chat exploded in fury upon The Last Of Us Part 2 winning Game Of The Year. After it won the best direction over Final Fantasy 7 and Hades, I resigned in defeat. At this point, after taking more awards than it deserved, I had given up.
Here’s the problem with The Last Of Us Part 2 and why I and so many others hate it. Simply put, Part 2 is devoid of a soul. I was too nervous, scared, and broke to purchase the game. So I resigned myself to let’s plays of the early chapters. Safe to say I was crushed when watching the horror before me. I stopped and waited a few weeks to see what the internet had to say. I won’t bore you with the already well known details. So it’s safe to conclude I was pissed. Beyond pissed.
I love The Last Of Us. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played and I’ll never forget Ellie and Joel’s story. The Last Of Us wasn’t a zombie game, at least, when it came out it wasn’t a typical one. Nowadays, in a world overrun by stale zombie games and the mayhem of Left 4 Dead long behind us, I can no longer view TLOU as a “zombie game”. The Last Of Us is an emotional cross country journey that takes place during the end of the world. A father, scarred by the loss of his child, and a child living in a harsh loveless world, join together in unlikely ways.
Joel, once rather cold towards Ellie, and views himself as only her reluctant bodyguard, slowly connects to this lost child and begins to view her as just that, a child. Along the way, he begins to protect her not out of duty, but love. And Ellie, who was just going along with this journey to not die, and because she doesn’t have a choice as she is still only a child, is forced to grow up. She cannot have the normal life other girls before the end of the world had. She wishes she had what Joel’s late daughter had before her tragic death. As the journey continues she learns she does have choices and she’s stronger than she thinks she is. She realizes Joel’s feelings for her as his daughter and begins to view him as her father. When Joel is hurt, she cares for him. When Ellie is subject to death by scientists at the lab, Joel sacrifices the world to save her.
I still tear up at the giraffe scene. I remember the little moments like Ellie killing the rabbit so she and Joel can eat. Or the many sacrifices characters made to help Ellie and Joel carry on and live. What I don’t remember very well are the zombies. By design and threat, the zombies are some of the best in modern video games. They scared the piss out of me, big and small. Although I can recall my sweaty palms while invading the Clickers, and the sheer terror when facing the Bloaters and Rat King. The Infected takes a back seat in my mind when I remember how much I love The Last Of Us.
The Last Of Us Part 2 has none of that and I and many others are rightfully pissed. We hate this game because it is tourture porn. Every character has to unnecessarily suffer in a poorly written story that I have no words for. Ellie is reduced to an angry bitch, who gets stuck with another angry bitch named Abby, who kills Joel in a death just as pointless as Rick Grimes in the end of The Walking Dead comics.
If the story was written differently and was actually good I wouldn’t mind that description of the game. If the first game is about a man and a girl becoming father and daughter, the second game should’ve been about the unnecessity of revenge. Ellie’s anger and Joel’s worry and love showcased in the trailer should’ve been used to tell a story about how revenge is pointless and blind. That rage can hurt the ones we love most and ourselves in the process. Love is the rebuilder of the world and Ellie should’ve used that passionate fatherly love Joel had for her to become a stronger fighter, better leader, and peacemaker.
Instead, we got The Last Of Us Part 2. A game that took the humanity of the first and disregarded it. Part 2 is nothing but disrespectful to the fans of the first and the characters we love. Its tourte porn because it’s devoid of a heart. It’s tone deaf to the emotions and grief of the characters and player, only hearing rage as that’s all it wants to produce. And that’s what it got in return. Fans like me, who gave the first game a rare 10/10 for what I found to be masterful character development and storytelling, with great gameplay for brownie points. Are pissed because this game shouldn’t have existed if all it wanted to do was make each and every single last character suffer for nothing but to exist.
To recall a response from the “Name a character who suffered more than her” meme. I kind of view the writers of TLOU2 as AM from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. And the characters are their playthings, existing just to exist and suffer for being alive. Only, just like the supercomputer, the characters are also devoid of a heart.
Animal Crossing released at a perfect time. Long time players have attested to the game’s ability to strengthen mental health. Covid-19 has caused an even bigger conversion to poor mental wellness. Especially in the third world hell hole that is the U.S. and its barbaric lack of universal health care. During Covid-19, domestic violence was on the rise, people starved while wondering how they would make rent, those with mental disorders relapsed, and our safe spaces closed to the public for months.
As I write this article I have Animal Crossing running on my Switch right next to me. I’ve been going between writing, coffee, and preparing my island for Toy Day since 7AM this morning. During the past two stressful weeks of work, school, and worry, my mornings have become a time for me to destress before the busy day ahead. In other words, I, like many others, needed this game.
I’ve been playing Animal Crossing religiously since March 20th. In some ways, it’s a game that made me care again. I haven’t enjoyed my birthday at all in the past few years. Then I logged in on that day and I was having some of the most fun I’ve had on my birthday. I also haven’t enjoyed any holiday at all. Then Turkey Day came and I was suddenly feeling festive. I have a French friend who lives in Africa and we’ve been visiting each other and sending gifts from time to time. I put on a concert for another friend on his island. I haven’t seen him since lockdown and endlessly worry about his family because his mother is a nurse. Every family member got the virus and I’m worried they will again. Jeremy, if you’re reading this, give your mom a hug for me man.
Dear reader I’m sorry for getting emotional while writing this article. I can’t help it because Animal Crossing and TLOU 1&2 are emotional games for me. TLOU makes me depressed, but hopeful. TLOU2 infuriates me to no end. And Animal Crossing makes me happy and joyful. I’ve said this many times before, but you cannot be mad at anything that wants to make you happy. And that’s exactly what Animal Crossing did this year.
In a world where our mental health suffered greatly in a single year, Animal Crossing was there for us. This cute, friendly, happy life sim that from game one was meant to be played a little bit every day, was used more than ever this year. It’s funny how Covid forced us apart but we were given a game where one of its greatest features was its social aspects. We witnessed weddings and proposals. Birthday pirates and meeting out-of-state parents for the Easter. I felt a better connection through strangers while selling my items online through Reddit and Nookazon than I had from personal interaction all year.
That’s right. One of my memories of friendly interactions with strangers this year was reinviting a total stranger back to my island. The player wanted to speak to a villager I wasn’t fond of but they were buddies back in New Leaf. I then invited the player into my home and unloaded some additional items onto them free of charge. I haven’t seen that player again, but I hope that villager is still on their island.
If I and many others can have that kind of interaction though a video game, or a greater emotion or connection, then isn’t that enough in some ways? Isn’t a little bit of proof towards the goodness of humanity in a not so good year, enough? Because remember when you played Minecraft or League and made a friend? Or using Stardew Valley to help connect to a long distance partner? Are you able to recall those memories and smile?
Animal Crossing gives that and more. It’s the big, warm, cozy blanket I reach for when I need a mental health break in my day. A game that makes summer days brighter and rainy nights all the more soothing. I can spend an hour fishing with the friends I cannot see, and connect with an international community I’m proud to be a part of. A game where a friendly hello is right around the corner, where you can do no wrong if you treat others right. And you have an entire island to yourself to do what you please with!
This is the game whose previous entry helped with my insomnia during a time period where I was most depressed. I cried during its reveal from the memories of how much it helped me years ago. And it continues to do that for me and many others.
Even when I feel like I can’t. Animal Crossing makes me smile.
Doom should’ve won because it’s Doom.
Hades should’ve won because it’s an artistically beautiful game where dying is the best part.
Final Fantasy 7 should’ve won because it remade a beloved world, story, and characters for a new generation of hardware, never once scarfacing the old love fans had for the original.
And Ghost Of Tsushima should’ve won for being a beautifully presented and well made game with an engaging and dramatic storyline fans devoured.
The Last Of Us 2 shouldn’t have won anything other than best performance from that beautiful literal goddess Laura Bailey. The Last Of Us 2 didn’t deserve to win because it brought people together just to rip it apart. It is a disrespectful game and one of the most soulless pieces of “art” I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering.
The Last of Us 2 was also subject to numerous reports of almost volatile working conditions within Naughty Dog. 2020 has put the spotlight on numerous studios from unchecked sexual harassment to brutal crunch hours. With just a few months until its June release, it was reported that staff at Naughty Dog were working nonstop to get the game released, with someone being hospitalized from overworking to another worker almost getting crushed by a pipe due to late-night construction work when it was assumed no one was there. Naughty Dog’s reputation in the LA area is so bad in regards to crunch, it is almost impossible to hire seasoned game animators to finish off projects.
That studio just won “Best Direction”.
While other studios like Hades developer Supergiant make it a habit that developers get at least three weeks paid vacation a year. The Game Awards have inadvertently awarded and validated the work conditions and habits of the former.
Animal Crossing should’ve won because it contained the rare magic of bringing people together for the better. That magic is so rare that it can only be found many once a year at most. In 2016 it was undoubtedly Pokemon Go. In 2017 it was probably the Switch itself and Breath Of The Wild. In 2020, when we all had to be apart to save lives and stay healthy, it was Animal Crossing that brought us together.
I await your #FreeHongKong signs on your island.
Animal Crossing Lover, Visual Novel aficionado. Wants to cosplay your next favorite waifu. Indie snob. History Buff. All around geek. Will whore for doggo games