How the Last of Us Part I Deals with Nostalgia

The Last of Us Part II released to the public friday June 19th. It’s finally here. However, It’s a 15-20 hour game so in in lieu of a review, this week I’ll break down a theme from Part I. I don’t see it covered very much – Nostalgia. Much of the game deals with a longing for the past, the “good old days” before the cordyceps outbreak. Everyone, from the two main warring factions to the characters themselves, are motivated almost entirely by this desire to return to what once was. This common desire eventually becomes the core conflict of the climax of the story, witnessed during the final level of the game.

During this final level, we make our way through the Firefly encampment. The Fireflies are a faction, led by Marlene, a friend of Ellie’s mother, who is also entirely motivated by nostalgia. See, Ellie is immune to the cordyceps invasion, and the Fireflies plan on reverse-engineering her immune system to develop a cure even if it means killing her. They’re so focused on the minute possibility they can return the to the past that they’re ending a life. They’re making the argument that the “needs of the many” – the lives of those in the future – “outweigh the needs of the few” – Joel and Ellie. However, what they’re really arguing for is a return to the status quo of the old world, instead of learning to live and thrive in the new one. The Fireflies even wage a war against FEDRA, one of the factions of the game that maintain quarantine zones, even though the preservation of humanity is a goal both share.

Joel, our player character, is completely motivated by this desire to return to the past. He avoids connecting with Ellie as much as he can. Ellie reminds Joel of his late daughter, Sarah, who was killed during the outbreak. If he allows himself to care for Ellie, history could repeat himself and he would be hurt again – and he would lose another daughter. But familiarity breeds affection, and without Joel’s say so, he grows fond of the teenager. He gradually stops avoiding his past to grow beyond it – sort of. He basically adopts her to be his surrogate daughter and cares for her deeply. She doesn’t replace Sarah, so much as becomes his chance to change the past. Therefore his history dictates his future- he protects Ellie to make up for failing to protect Sarah, regardless of what Ellie actually wanted to do, sacrifice herself for the good of mankind.

Joel and the fireflies are both unable to move on from the past, and for both, Ellie is their one hope for their future to resemble their past. This is our final conflict, which leads to the decimation of the Fireflies at the hands of the player, and Joel. So unable are they to learn and grow that the life of one girl leads to the deaths of two dozen Fireflies.

This game covers so much more than just nostalgia, however. Everything from loss, to parenthood, to survival is here, all wrapped up in a post-apocalyptic bow. This game is an absolute must play.

Comment below and tell me what else is great about the game!

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