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  • Finding Hope Amongst The Chaos

    - Nicole Barelli

  • Usually, character traits are shaped by what we call Ghosts/Wounds, an event in their past that haunts them. In The Last of Us, Joel's Ghost is very clear as we play it in the prologue of the game. His daughter, Sarah, was murdered by a government soldier while she was in his arms, a place he thought was able to protect the little girl from any harm.

    In God of War, the Wound doesn't objectively appear on-screen, as it's a continuation of a long saga, but for those familiar with the franchise, it's also clear as crystal what's his Ghost - the killing of his daughter and wife by his own hands, a tragedy that impregnated in his very skin and haunted him for years to come, shaping an unstoppable rage that destroyed the world as he knew it.

    In addition to the Ghost, there's a change of behaviour, as explained in the book "The Negative Trait Thesaurus", written by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglist:

    "Wounds are often kept secret from others because embedded within them is The Lie - an untruth that the character believes about himself. Self-blame and feelings of shame are usually deeply embedded within the lie, generating fears that compel him to change his behaviour in order to keep from being hurt again."

    Joel believes that his daughter's death was his fault. Who wouldn't live thinking that could've done more in a situation like that? In the years that followed Sarah's murdered, he "closed himself", struggling to never care again about someone. Joel's hostility towards Ellie is clearly not because the job is dangerous or any other cheap excuse - it's because he's afraid of ending up caring for the young girl!

    Kratos suffers from both traumas - self-blame and shame. He's not proud of his greed that led to a desperate cry for help to the God of War. With Pandora and the power of Hope, the Spartan felt the crushing weight of guilt and the terrible consequences of his journey for revenge. Because of that, when he flees from Greece, he wishes to be alone. He doesn't want peace, ‘cause he believes that's not a thing for him; instead, he wants to prevent his anger from hurting anyone else.


    As painful as it can be, there needs to be change! And to that end, the two games feature partners as a narrative element that creates conflict, putting together two people who are intrinsically different from each other in terms of value. What does it mean?

    The Last of Us features Joel and Ellie. Our protagonist, as we discussed earlier, is a man that's simply "existing". His life is nothing but a daily struggle to survive. He is incapable of seeing the beauty in the chaotic world, distrustful of everything around him. When Ellie enters his life, she's the girl who has never been outside military camps or quarantine zones, she has never seen what's the world can show. She's a dreamer! That's why, for her, everything is amazing! She's there to offer new perspectives on how to look at life!

    "Everyone I have cared for has either died or left me. Everyone - fucking except for you! So don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    This gets to Joel. In one of the best scenes in the game, Ellie throw his Lie right in his face!

    For God of War, we have Atreus. Kratos and Atreus don't get along at all, the two of them being extremely different, especially considering the father was absent during most of his son's life. Despite more active in terms of Gameplay, Atreus and Ellie function for the narrative are very similar - to offer the person they're following new perspectives. Atreus do most of the talking for his father, and by not treating everyone as a potential enemy, widen his father's awareness that there's more to the world than pain and sorrow.

    However, as important as the partners are, their presence alone can't be enough to change the protagonist. To truly reach their needs, Joel and Kratos must face the Antagonist.


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