I don’t want to play The Last of Us again

Reflecting on video games with a found family

I’m tired, y’all

I’ve played a lot of The Last of Us in my life. The first one was incredibly formative for me, and became the reason I work in games now. My hyperfixation with it took over my life for a good year, and in that time I ended up playing it seven or eight times, starting it over again after I finished it. My love for TLOU is what brought me across the country to live in Los Angeles, and eventually landed me a job at Naughty Dog doing QA for The Last of Us Part II, which I platinumed about a half dozen times while I worked there.

The series has continued to be at the forefront of the games industry nearly a decade after its beginnings, for better and for worse. The first game is one of the best examples of interactive storytelling we have, and certainly my favorite, and I have to assume that its continued relevance has led many new players to experience its story for the first time — that I’m thankful for. Even so, it’s not ideal to have too much of a good thing, which is something the games industry knows well.

If you haven’t heard the news about the newly released The Last of Us Part I (a title I begrudgingly use for the original game only because it’s the official name of this version), you might be living under a rock. In case you’ve decided to go all Patrick Star on us, I’ll quickly break it down — Naughty Dog released a new version of The Last of Us that was “rebuilt from the ground up” for the PS5, which includes enhanced graphics, gameplay, and quality of life changes. It’s also the first time the series is available on PC.

At this point, sharing the fact that I don’t want to play the game again as its rereleased Part I version feels pretty stale. All of our timelines are flooded with takes, both hot and cold, about TLOU, and here I am adding to the heaping pile. In all honesty, it’s because I’m so close to it, I can’t help myself.

When all of the controversy surrounding Part II hit, I was already eating, sleeping, and breathing the game for over six months, having endless discussions about it not only as a fan, but as someone who poured their heart and soul into helping refine it. About a year ago, I finally reached a point where I don’t feel like I can engage with it at all anymore — I’ve simply talked myself out.

Here’s your remake, bro! from gaming

Part of the exhaustion, which I know others are feeling as well, is that we can’t escape it. Between the new rerelease and the upcoming HBO adaptation, it’s impossible to avoid the conversations surrounding the series in the games space. Naughty Dog doesn’t seem to want us to forget.

We’ve seen other instances of studios wheeling out old favorites for the sheer fact that it’ll still sell (looking at you, Bethesda and Rockstar), and now, because TLOU has barely left the public consciousness for going on a decade, everyone feels some type of way about it. Whether that reaction is to roll your eyes or defend the games to your grave or anything in between, I understand it all.

I am so biased about this topic in so many ways. Every detail of the original is really important to me — every frame is burned into my brain. It sounds silly, but even the slightest change of a camera angle or color grading feels sacrilegious to me.

After being disillusioned by the games industry (something pretty much every developer goes through at some point, unfortunately), the first Last of Us game remains sacred to me in a way I can’t really explain, and in a way that might not even be justified, but my love for it is something I’m stubborn about protecting.

What I’m left with is a kind of apathy towards the rerelease, which is better than the alternative of being bitter about it, I guess. At the end of the day, I hope it means that more people can enjoy the story that means so much to me, but I just can’t touch it.

Someday I’ll be able to play TLOU again, and I really look forward to that day. But you can bet your ass it’s going to be the PS4 version.

Noelle Warner