TIME magazine called on war photographer Ashley Gilberston to use The Last of Us Remastered‘s Photo Mode to record his experiences within the game. Gilbertson’s time with The Last of Us lead to some interesting questions about violence and capturing the fidelity of human emotions in games.
Gilbertson aimed to capture the best picture from each scene of the game, but quickly grew overwhelmed by the game’s liberal shows of violence. He said of the experience, “When I covered real war, I did so with a camera, not a gun. At home, I’d play for 30 minutes before noticing I had knots in my stomach, that my vision blurred, and then eventually, that I had simply crashed out.”
After finishing the project with a co-worker with video game experience, Gilbertson observed that the photos were lacking a human element. He said, “None of the game’s characters show distress, and that to me was bizarre – it’s a post apocalyptic scenario, with a few remaining humans fighting for the survival of their race!” Gilbertson reflected that the characters resembled the zombies they were fighting against, helping to normalize the graphic nature of the game.
It’s interesting to get this sort of perspective from a person unfamiliar with video games, who also has experience in real wartime situations. Gilbertson’s project suggest that video games, still very much a young artistic medium, have some maturing to do. Thought needs to be put into the way we handle violence in games. How do we balance gameplay mechanics while trying to tell a human story?
You can read the rest of Gilbertson’s thoughts and check out the entire photo series here.