As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a video game watcher. One game I really enjoyed watching was The Last of Us, which is set during a zombie apocalypse and follows Ellie, a young girl with a life-changing gift, and Joel, Ellie’s complicated, closed off escort. Although Ellie is amazing and has an interesting backstory, I think Joel is much more underrated.
The start of the game is with Joel at the very beginning of the zombie apocalypse taking over. It shows him with his daughter, trying to escape to safety, where things don’t go as desired and he loses his daughter.
Years later, the world is practically devastated by the infection, with only sectors of areas saved, but suffering, of zombies. Gangs have taken over and will kill for supplies, and an underground group, the Fireflies, are searching for a cure, which they have found in Ellie. Joel gets assigned to escort Ellie across the country to the Fireflies facility.
So, first thing about Joel I got attached to is the fact we know why he is pretty stubborn and very closed off to everyone. He is not open to joking and playing around, is very serious, and just wants to survive. And then we watch as he is given almost a reincarnation of his daughter back, and it’s conflicting with his intentions. From a character development stand point, it is utterly fascinating.
Throughout the game, you see Joel and Ellie bond, and help each other survive against zombies, gangs, and cannibals. Joel gets injured and Ellie works to keep him alive. He starts to soften and we see him as more of a human and less of survival machine.
But the most interesting point is when Joel has to make a decision. After travelling across the entire country on foot for the most part, getting Ellie to the Fireflies facility, and realizing what would happen to Ellie if he let’s the Fireflies get the cure from her, he has to choose whether to save Ellie, but sacrifice the world to infection, or save the world, but sacrifice Ellie. It makes Joel the most human ever, and the choice that is made makes us as viewers and players think about our own choices, and how selfish we might actually be. For a video game, this is a deeply psychological moment for a character to have.
Who is your most underrated video game character? Let me know with a comment.