The Last of Us II and the Avignon Quintet

I am about to turn sixty-nine years old. I started playing video games with coin-op Pong in the early seventies. Since then I have owned every major home video game system, played all of the big-studio games, and completed hundreds of smaller games. Last night while I slept, my PS4 downloaded my pre-order of The Last of Us II. This morning, a few hours after it became available, I turned on my PS4 and started the story.

The Last of Us II is a sequel to The Last of Us, a zombie shooter with a heavy emphasis on stealth. That is my cup of tea. I am not overly concerned with zombies, but I like shooters. I like it when my shooters are peppered with environmental puzzles and have a heavy stealth element. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy others. Last year’s Control, was magnificent. Since finishing it, my video game itch has remained unscratched and I rest high hopes on The Last of Us II, largely because I enjoyed The Last of Us a lot.

I feel a little guilty about playing, writing about, and thinking about video games. Two tabs over on Google docs, where I am writing this review, I have a partially completed review of Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet. Reading the minor works of Durrell is hoity-toity intellectual — shooting zombies, not so much. I don’t read the lesser-known works of Durrell because I want to be better educated or more well-rounded. I am too old for that sort of thing. I do it because I love to sit in a chair and experience his prose. 

The novels I write are detective novels. The investigator is a lawyer, not a detective, but the novels use the detective novel formula.  A couple of my fans — and a couple is really all there are — have opined that my books are genre-busting, but that is not because I object to the formula, but rather because I am incapable of applying it correctly. My novels are not designed to teach, or address social issues, or make the reader a better person for having read them. They are written to entertain. 

I play video games, and listen to music, and read books, and even cook because that is how I entertain myself. Each art form has its own charms, but beginning a new big-studio video game is a pleasure different from anything else. There is the question: Will I be drawn in? If so, I will have from twelve to forty hours of delight or even obsession while I drive toward is completion. Unlike music or movies, a major video game is a long-form sort of artistic endeavor. The anticipation combined with dread I feel at the start of one is similar to how I feel in the first chapter of a long novel — or set of novels, such as the Avignon Quintet.  I don’t know yet whether The Last of Us II will suck me in, but it is a possibility.

Maybe my detective novels and the video games I play are not meant to lead us to a better society, but they do take place in society — or in video games, some sort of society — and thus they raise and reflect social issues. In The Last of Us II, I am currently killing zombies — or “infected” as they are called — in the character of a young gay woman traveling with her female partner. This differs significantly from the muscle-bound zombie killers I have played many times in the past. Women in video games are no longer scantily clad buxom fodder for adolescent wet dreams. I like the change, but don’t give it a lot of thought. I am there to kill zombies and solve puzzles. I don’t much care who carries the digital shotgun.

Being in the middle of both of them, I don’t know whether I will end up liking either of them. Both have garnered a fair number of bad reviews, as well as good ones. If I finish either, I will let you know what I think.

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