Games are by nature unrealistic, impractical, and occasionally hokey. It’s why we play them, but they can also be brilliant, deep, engaging pieces of, what some might contest, art – the same qualities we attribute to film, an accepted art form. It’s the same reason we watch films. We like to escape, have fun and engross ourselves in a world outside our own.
What makes games different is we get to be the characters and live in their worlds. Games have taken entertainment to levels of immersion unlike anything else. At this time games are still, by many, not considered an art form, but Naughty Dog hopes to change all that and plan on doing it in the most unlikely of ways.
While not a zombie game in the traditional sense, as noted by creative director Neil Druckmann in an earlier interview, developer Naughty Dog wants to take that same general idea, apply their own kind of polish and make it more than what we’d expect with The Last of Us. While not much has been released so far in respects to how that will be accomplished, Druckmann dished with USA Today about the project’s inspiration and how it might differ from other games.
Druckmann talked about an idea for a graphic novel starring a father daughter team, involving zombies, that was batted around in 2008 – but it wasn’t until he and the game’s director, Bruce Straley, watched the documentary series Planet Earth that they saw the opportunity to make it bigger. The cordyceps fungus is a parasitic organism that infects ants – effectively taking over their brains and results in protruding fungal growths from their heads. There are several variants of the fungus that can target different species. Straley says, “We instantly thought ‘humans’.” An idea seen in The Last of Us announcement trailer that premiered at the 2011 Spike TV Video Game Awards.
Taking something from the real world and applying it to a fictional scenario would provide a sense of realism that many games lack, especially those in survival horror genre. While most gamers easily dismiss half-baked origin stories, touches of realism can make a story feel more intimate and intern much scarier and mature. A goal that Naughty Dog is hoping to achieve with this title and something that might add appeal for non-gamers.
Because of the extra attention desired on the project, Naughty Dog split into two teams. One working on Uncharted 3 while the other focused completely on the development of The Last of Us. Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells explains, “We felt if we didn’t expand the roles for people, we could potentially lose them, because they really wanted to be challenged. We didn’t want to lose that talent.”
The Last of Us hopes to move games into a new era and to elevate them to a higher stratum, possibly placing them on par with hit films. Naughty Dog’s other co-president Christophe Balestra elaborates, “We want to redefine what our medium is even called. ‘Video game’ is not an accurate name anymore. It is not necessarily a game with rules and a winner and a loser. It’s an experience.” Our vote is to call it “Immersive Interactive Entertainment” or “IIE” – just saying.
Naughty Dog is being pretty ambitious with this new project and while details are slim, the company has yet to disappoint fans and critics with their games – many of which indeed feel more rewarding than most feature films. If any company were to redefine gaming, Naughty Dog is likely to be it.
Will Naughty Dog be able to change how we define gaming? Did you ever expect this much would be coming from this title?
The Last of Us is expected to be released for the PS3 sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.
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Source: USA Today