'I Just Took the One with the Best Story'

Alex Barasch detailing the origins of HBO’s The Last of Us for The New Yorker:

When Druckmann expressed confidence that the show “will be the best, most authentic game adaptation,” Mazin said, “That’s not the highest bar in the world.” He went on, “I cheated—I just took the one with the best story. Like, I love Assassin’s Creed. But when they announced that they were gonna make it as a movie I was, like, I don’t know how! Because the joy of it is the gameplay. The story is impenetrable.”

The other day, a close friend of mine sent me a rumor that an animated Legend of Zelda movie is in development by Illumination, the studio responsible for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. animated film. My quick rely was something to the effect of pure agency not translating to film. I.e. Link has (almost) always been a silent protagonist. Unless they give him a voice, I don’t understand how the movie is compelling. The world, characters, and music of Zelda are charming and iconic, but refined puzzle solving and discovery — agency — are what makes Zelda games great.

Furthermore, agency is what makes games special. Somewhat shamefully, I only recently came to understand this thanks to C. Thi Nguyen’s book/thesis ”Games: Agency as Art”. After decades of playing video games in wonder, asking myself why these things and this industry captivate me so, telling myself that they are the evolution of story and immersion, truthfully it comes down to agency — I get to play a part in a universe whether it’s a pre-determined story on rails or a completely open world that I get to explore on my own.

As for The Last of Us, the game itself created such a fervor because there was an incredibly compelling story spliced into the game. But if memory serves, the story beats and gameplay felt very siloed from one another — the latter feeling repetitive and much weaker between the two. Brendon Bigley of the Into the Aether podcast put it best on Mastodon:

cards on the table: i’ve never been a huge fan of the first Last of Us. i found it more impressive than good, if that makes sense. my feeling was always that it used the language of cinema in its storytelling so much the game itself fell by the wayside — i spent all of my time playing wishing i was just watching.

point being: the hbo show is GOOD SHIT baybee