Last night, Sony and Naughty Dog, the Sony game dev company, produced what has to be one of the most amazing things I have seen in a while. It was called The Last of Us: One Night Live. The essential premise of the presentation was an impromptu showing of a selection of The Last of Us scenes on the stage, along with selections of the soundtrack performed by the original artists. It can be viewed here.
With little time to prepare, there were some obvious flubs with mics still being on, props misplaced, actors breaking down, and periodic interruptions with commentary by Neil Druckmann, one of the directors of the game. However, the performance chose the best, most heartfelt scenes in the game, allowing for all of the major feels of the game to be relived in full. Occasionally, points came during the performance which brought back specific memories of the first time experiencing the story, drawing the same emotions as before and bringing a tear to the eyes of viewers, myself included. They even performed the alternate ending to the game, which you can see here! Overall, it was amazing.
This post isn’t just to write about the wonderful amazingness that is The Last of Us, which I can talk about for days. Instead, I want to analyze an amazing development Neil and his team created. That is the showing of a video game not only as a form of interactive entertainment, but also as a piece of art. I am of a firm belief that a video game itself is art, the amount of hours that goes into designing locations, characters, story, and interactions creates a wonderful environment and place to become lost in, similar to a novel or story. Please note that I only intend for this title to be on games such as The Last of Us, Thomas Was Alone, Fez, and other games with a great story, evolved characters, and many layers, not cookie cutter games such as Call of Duty, although they too have their own beauty. Never before have video games been viewed in the light of a performance art. I feel as though there has been a lack of respect for the part acting plays in the creation of a game and the ability for the actors to advance the story line further than any player interaction within the game itself.
This performance changed all of this for me. It illustrated the versatility and importance of the actors’ role in the creation of a masterpiece. The transference of key scenes from the MoCap studio to the live stage perhaps created a sense of emotion and objective that becomes lost in the creation of animated characters. It allowed for the art of a video game to be brought to the masses, those who don’t play games, those without the proper console for the game, and those who believe that games are a waste of their time. The performance broke the stigma that games are solely about killing as many people as you can, much as the original game itself was, often putting the player in situations where they can avoid killing and solve the various levels through stealth rather than violence. It presented the prowess of good storytelling in games by showing that all of the action and fluff in a game that keeps the player entertained can be removed and the story still hold its power and emotion. It created an environment for the actors to showcase their individual talents without having a post-production team alter their MoCap to fit their needs. It allowed for the viewer to appreciate the artistry behind the music and showed them how the music creates the mood for the game and the power behind the notes. Finally, it showed the versatility of the actors to successfully relive the moments that stretched themselves as artists and brought the power of the stage to gamers and showed them that games are not just fun, they are art.
In the works is a The Last of Us movie, being produced by Sony. I am extremely excited for this as it will allow for the artistry behind the game be brought to a larger general audience. The performance last night truly was the first of its kind, hopefully it is not the last. I look forward to seeing other game creators follow this lead and help to bring the artistry behind games to a larger audience through film and, in some cases like last night, to the stage where the games and scenes can truly be brought to life.