Naughty Dog's vision of a post-apocalyptic future filled with the worst of humanity stands out in a sea of AAA games yearning for mass market appeal. You know this is going to be something different when the prologue hits you like a sledgehammer, and the rest of the experience makes you question the very facets of what makes us human beings. The Last of Us trains you to respect every bullet you scavenge and every health kit you make out of various bits and bobs you find in an abandoned house. Take the time to inspect your surroundings, and you'll notice the developers telling you the story of a beaten and broken America in the tiniest of details. From a movie poster of a film that will never premiere to the diary of a young boy whose parents argue about what to do next, this title is a bleak and dark take on common themes that many thought were played out until Ellie and Joel walked onto the scene. The Last of Us also makes us question if games have to be about "fun" and escapism, as each encounter feels just brutal and deadly enough to warrant a sigh of relief upon completion. This is a game that's meant to be played and endured, and, in a way, that's what makes it so special.
Who are you working for? You've probably been in a situation in which you've had to deny someone something because it's your job. In retail, government, secretarial, and many other jobs, we're tasked with being a gatekeeper of sorts, and yet how many of us stop and wonder if we're doing the most good, being just, acting in the name of humanity? Papers, Please forces us to consider who we're really working for, and that's only one of its many lessons. It's also an excellent lesson in video game design, narrative, and the union of the two. Papers, Please perfectly simulates the feeling of being oppressed by something larger than you, and for many of us, that isn't a government, but a corporation. This is an exercise in empathy not just for others, but for ourselves: through it, we learn to give ourselves a little moral slack.