I watched an interesting video on the development of The Last Guardian where the creator, Fumito Ueda states that video games allow people to feel empathy. The video clip made me think about his statement regarding empathy which I rarely feel because most video games are designed for boys. Even though I share some similar traits such as finding satisfaction in conquering and defeating my enemies, I have always felt a disconnection between the playable male character and myself. For instance, while I empathize with the character Yorda from ICO and want to escort her to a safe place, I never found the urgency to protect her. Well, that’s because I never saw gender as an indication of fragileness.
This got me thinking about why I enjoyed the Last Guardian more than Ico. It was a video game analysis of the Last Guardian by Game Overture that points out that the player was playing a supporting role which made a lot of sense since it’s Trico and not the boy that takes the spotlight in the game. As time goes on, we see the mystical, frightening but child-like creature becoming stronger and stronger whereas we see the boy becoming weaker and weaker as he takes on the subservient role.
As I mentioned in my non-spoiler review, I love this game and feel more deeply connected to it than Ico and Shadow of Colossus. I wonder why. Then I realized it has to do with my personality. While I’m quite capable of making quick decisions, I rather reserve my energy in the background problem-solving than take the spotlight in the frontline. Thus, playing as the “defenseless boy” in this game produces a familiar experience. If the theory about playing as a supporting character is correct, then the game is not about making the player feel like he or she is the Chosen One. There is nothing unique and special about the boy. He and the other Chosen Ones happens to be the unfortunate ones who are captured for human sacrifice. Well, depending on your worldview, I suppose it’s an honor. Dig a little bit deeper, this game is an allegory of the business side of game development exploiting children to keep a business running. How did I come to this conclusion? It is not until toward the end of this innocent, dream-like journey of great teamwork that comes to a dark twisted turn. It made me wonder why was I protecting the predator in the first place. The boy could have left the poor creature alone shackled up in a cave. Yet he decided to save him anyway. Was he trying to be a hero? No, he simply just has a good heart like most children. He didn’t even know that he is a sacrifice until later on.
He’s a good kid. That is why I find it so shocking when players complained about playing as the awkward boy. He moves funny. He waits on Trico to save him several times. As a result, it’s frustrating and the gameplay makes the player feels small; therefore, the game is not as impressive as its predecessors. The boy is not badass enough. He doesn’t take on giant colossus. Instead, he babysits a giant baby! Okay not quite (I’m assuming Trico is a kid because of his child-like behavior). But let’s get this straight, according to the creator’s interview, he was purposely designed to be independent, which makes sense to me. The story wouldn’t be as effective if it revolves around the defenseless boy (who I can’t recall even has a name which I can only speculate it was a modest decision on the creator’s part). In this game, players don’t get to be the hero of the day. Instead, he or she gets to witness a hero in action. I find the concept to be quite ingenious and refreshingly humbling.
So, I wonder what sort of person doesn’t like this game. Would it have made a difference if they were to play an all-powerful man-eating-fearing beast? Surely, the boy is braver than Trico on many occasions. Ironically, it’s his naiveness that makes him naturally more confident about finding his way home than Trico who seems lost inside his own home, which reminds me of a giant cage. Trico may be strong but he also needs guidance, which is why he is controlled by signals and waves from within the valley in the first place. Yet, he and his kind are not to be mistaken as dispensable slaves because the creatures do seem to be revered and respected as important residents of the valley based on the buildings’s architecture.
This made me ponder who are the real captives in the game. Is it Trico and his kind or the boy along with the other chosen ones? Some people say it’s the boy and some say it’s Trico. There is no clear answer because the creator wants the player to decide for themselves. As for me, the logical answer is both of them. They are the last guardians who put the sadistic cycle of the god-like entity Master of the Valley to an end, which the more I think about it–might not even be all that evil because we don’t know its full story. For all we know, it’s trying to maintain order and balance despite sacrificing children in the process.
Despite its grim plot, I find this game emotionally comforting. It’s a story about growth, loyalty, friendship, and ultimately what it means to be a leader. It’s all the little spices that make life worth fighting for. It’s nice to know that in this dog-eating world, there is compassion. A good friend will always try to catch you if you fall because life, as we know it, can be quite rough.
- Game Masters: Fumito Ueda Interview
- The Last Guardian | A New Perspective for Gaming by Game Overture
- The Last Guardian creator: ‘I can’t face playing my own game’
- Picture of Yorda in a cage: Team Ico Wiki
- All other pictures were taken from my playthrough