The Last Of Us TV show is the worst thing to happen to video games in years

A reader is concerned that the success of The Last Of Us show on HBO will lead to copycat games that emphasise story over gameplay.

Like thousands of people around the world I have been watching The Last Of Us series on HBO and have been hugely impressed with the quality of the show, especially the dialogue and acting. Together with the excellent production values and cinematography its quality is beyond criticism and will clearly end up as one of the best of the year, if not decade. Unfortunately, I fear this will end up having terrible consequences for video games.

I’m sure right now Sony is scrambling to produce spin-off series so that we can finally learn the back story of third woman from the left in scene 15B and how it is that Joel came to own his favourite shirt, but that’s the least of the problems. The big issue, as I see it, is that this justifies, far more conclusively than before, Sony’s, and particularly Naughty Dog’s, emphasis on story over gameplay.

Considering what a good job Neil Druckmann has done with the TV show I am confused as to why he ever decided to be a games developer, considering he seems to have no interest in either traditional gameplay or interactive storytelling. The Last Of Us games are great storytelling experiences but they’re entirely linear and it’s already clear that the show is considerably better in terms of atmosphere, writing, and acting.

It’s not an even a situation similar to Hideo Kojima, where he’s obsessed by movies but also has some interesting ideas in terms of gameplay. Uncharted and The Last Of Us all play perfectly Well but there’s not an original idea in either of them and no attempt whatsoever to innovate in anything but how the story is presented.

What I fear will happen now is that whatever misgivings Sony might previously have had, about people complaining they were just following a formula with their sad dad third person adventures, the success of the show will convince them that they need even more of it. Not just because they’re successful as games but because they can then be turned into shows and movies as well.

If they create a more abstract game, that puts gameplay before story, that’s not going to be as easy to turn into a show, and certainly won’t lend itself to one like The Last Of Us. No, Sony will want to stick to the standard practice of all big businesses: repeat anything that’s successful as much as possible and as quickly possible, until it is no longer profitable.

It won’t just be Sony either. Every other major publisher, including Microsoft, will want a piece of the same pie, until we’re drowning in grim ‘n’ grounded third person dramas that are ripe for turning into a TV show. The level of interactivity in video games will decrease more and more, as the copycats try to replicate The Last Of Us’ success as closely as possible.

We’ve seen it happen a thousand times before, from battle royale to live service games and any popular genre or concept in the last five decades. It’s always depressing when the reaction to something new is to make it seem as old and hackneyed as possible, but even more so when the trend being copied is to make video games as least like a video game as possible.

My hope is that perhaps Druckmann will be so taken by his TV success that he’ll stay there and won’t return to games, but I’m sure there are more than enough people at Naughty Dog ready to take up his mantle, that that probably won’t make a difference anyway.

In a worst case scenario, we are heading for a future where story, not gameplay, is held up as the most important part of game. Where it’s suitability for being adapted into live action is more important than how it plays – indeed where it’s advantageous for the gameplay to be as uncomplicated as possible, to make the adaptation easier to organise.

The less interactive, in every sense, the more publishers will like it. And, of course, everything must be taken deathly serious, so that the inevitable TV show does not seem too video game-y. If you think I’m overacting then I hope you’re right but I think we all know enough of how publishers act to know that my concerns are very real.

By reader Ashton Marley

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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