The past couple of weeks, y’all.

I usually do Party Chats (irregularly) on Fridays but so much has gone down between games journalists and gamers the past two weeks that I wanted to make a post rounding up important links, if only as an explanation as to why I have been so, so unmotivated to write about games.

And man am I unmotivated to write about games. I haven’t even really played any games lately, to be honest. I’m no games journalist—I’m far too invested in writing about my feels to be comfortable labeling myself as anything more than a games writer (and does that sound like I write the scripts for games, or what? Games memoirist, maybe? PS. why is it always a plural “games” with this stuff?)—but a whole bunch of my IRL and internet friends are journalists, and in spite of it all, other people sometimes think of me as one. But I’m a gamer too, and through all of this I’m finding it hard to understand how and why those two things are somehow mutually exclusive.

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August Player 2 Virginia Roby examines The Last of Us’ Ellie as a damsel in distress, and discovers she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The damsel in distress plot is one of the oldest and longest running in video game history. The player takes control of a male avatar and goes on a journey to save a princess, saving the kingdom along the way. It’s a story that reduces women to objects—prizes for the male hero and trophies for the player. It has been decades since we first stepped into the shoes of Mario or Link in order to save Princess Peach or Princess Zelda, and all the countless games that followed of rescuing damsels have led us to one place: The Last of Us.

On the surface, The Last of Us seems familiar, especially on the heels of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Bioshock Infinite, both games that feature a father-daughter spin on the damsel concept, rather than a romantic one. We play (for the most part) as Joel, a bitter, jaded old man who survived the apocalypse, and outlived his daughter. Then we meet Ellie, a fourteen-year-old girl who is immune to the infection that destroyed human civilization as we know it. Joel has to get Ellie across the country to the last science lab in North America capable of studying her immunity, and hopefully, using it to make a cure.

We protect Ellie for the same reasons that we rescue Zelda—saving the girl means saving the world. But over the year that they spend together, and the hundreds of miles traveled, Joel and the player both come to love Ellie. We want to protect her because in the absolutely hellish craphole that the world becomes after the Cordyceps infection, Ellie still has hope. She is hope, in both a metaphorical and literal sense.

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August Player 2 Virginia Roby examines The Last of Us’ Ellie as a damsel in distress, and discovers she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The damsel in distress plot is one of the oldest and longest running in video game history. The player takes control of a male avatar and goes on a journey to save a princess, saving the kingdom along the way. It’s a story that reduces women to objects—prizes for the male hero and trophies for the player. It has been decades since we first stepped into the shoes of Mario or Link in order to save Princess Peach or Princess Zelda, and all the countless games that followed of rescuing damsels have led us to one place: The Last of Us.

On the surface, The Last of Us seems familiar, especially on the heels of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Bioshock Infinite, both games that feature a father-daughter spin on the damsel concept, rather than a romantic one. We play (for the most part) as Joel, a bitter, jaded old man who survived the apocalypse, and outlived his daughter. Then we meet Ellie, a fourteen-year-old girl who is immune to the infection that destroyed human civilization as we know it. Joel has to get Ellie across the country to the last science lab in North America capable of studying her immunity, and hopefully, using it to make a cure.

We protect Ellie for the same reasons that we rescue Zelda—saving the girl means saving the world. But over the year that they spend together, and the hundreds of miles traveled, Joel and the player both come to love Ellie. We want to protect her because in the absolutely hellish craphole that the world becomes after the Cordyceps infection, Ellie still has hope. She is hope, in both a metaphorical and literal sense.

Read More

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