Our cultural fascination with violence is endless. When it comes to meeting it up close in various media forms, its reception is also very dependent on the lens of the gazer – are you bringing your critical, introspective brain to the party, or are you watching for bloodlust?
I enjoyed this piece from Dylan Walker over at Trylon Cinema's Perisphere Blog. They were showing the Dirty Dozen earlier this month, and... why not put out some commentary on this. It includes worthy comparisons to The Last of Us (both the game and the TV series), but this line of thinking should be applied to all major forms of violent media -- particularly those brought in as sacrificial lambs in the news media or as "inspiration" from violent offenders here in America.
Adding to creators' rightful defense of violence as a means of storytelling and, in The Last of Us Part 2 game in particular, a twisting of the concept of revenge through a player's agency, Dylan notes:
I wholeheartedly agree with messages that are anti-war and anti-revenge. I also don’t agree with censorship and believe Aldrich and Druckmann aren’t responsible for consumers misinterpreting their intended messages. Furthermore, I think the human desire to test ourselves with exposure to violence is natural, especially when we are so surrounded by violence every day; so I’m not going to report myself or anyone else who consumes violent media.
I've changed my mind significantly over the decades from watching film as a literal process or as entertainment vs watching as a critic and admirer of the medium. The violent and ostentatious films seen at a much younger age vs fully developed adult (you realize "oh, this film is actually a condemnation of this kind of thinking"), typically stack up as lessons in both empathy and critical thinking. I'm thinking of Pulp Fiction and Fight Club as two great examples here. Seeing them (albeit probably at too young an age), and revisiting in later years, totally changed my mind about what those were actually about.
This kind of obsession with violence is interesting – we condemn it, but we are also fascinated with it. (The popularity of the horror genre... same thing.) So we should continue to look the violent-leaning outputs of any medium as expressions of its creator(s) to allow for a meaningful reaction worthy of critical thought, and/or an influence on agency in the case of a game experience that continues to itch our curiosity here, but also keeps us in check on over-indulgence and intentional reflection.