5 Reasons Why Joel is the Most Realistic Game Character Ever

"I struggled for a long time with survivin'. And you
No matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

[Note: Massive spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.]

        No one wants to emotionally connect with a fake person. Sometimes it's comforting to see the flaws of characters so we can feel better about our own. Not to say that superhuman or perfect characters are any less relatable...and even so, relatability isn't the only thing necessary to make a good character. Joel from The Last of Us, however, is a realistic character (in my opinion, perhaps ever) and here are five reasons why.

1. He has a Past

        It’s one to thing to have backstory, and another to have had an actual life—a child, a wife, an education, a dream—before the events of the game. Granted, we do get what you would call backstory (a specific event that really defines a character) in the first ten minutes of the game. 
        But along with that, bits and pieces of Joel's life are revealed throughout the entire play-through. 

Joel holding his dead daughter, Sarah.
        When Joel and Ellie are searching for the Fireflies at a University in Eastern Colorado, Ellie asks Joel if he ever went to college. "How about you?" she asks. "What'd you wanna be?" to which Joel replies, very grudgingly, "a singer." Sadly, he doesn't sing when Ellie asks (I mean c'mon, who wasn't begging Joel to sing right along with her?), but that little piece of information is enough to make us forget that Joel isn't a real person. By giving him hopes he can no longer pursue, he becomes all the more human. 
        And there are so many more things to learn: he got married young, used to be a hunter himself, and once, even got dragged into watching a romantic werewolf movie with Sarah. They may or may not be important, but just by existing these little facts help us connect with Joel on a deeper level. Sure, we may be getting these details just because Joel is old, though that itself just further intensifies the realism. There's also Joel's totally rad beard to appreciate.

2. He Doesn’t Know What he Wants

        One could argue that there are a lot of things Joel wants. Yet, when those things start to contradict themselves, it's easy to see that really, even he doesn't know. Initially, he accepts the offer to smuggle Ellie out in exchange for weapons he wanted from Robert. When that operation proves to be a failure, Joel is quick to turn his heel and state that he'd rather give up then continue. 
        Similarly, when he first meets Ellie he keeps asking her why she's so important to the Firefliesto the point where his suspicion starts sounding like concern. Then, given the first chance, he decides to leave Ellie in the hands of his brother! Talk about temperamental.

Maybe if I walk backwards in the opposite direction...???
         In the end, Joel's afraid of losing someone that matters again. Although he wants to protect her, he doesn't trust himself. Ellie’s goal is always to help the Fireflies, but when Joel finds out that the only way the Fireflies can try to procure a vaccine involves killing her, he decides it's better to slaughter all the Fireflies instead. Screw the cure for mankind, he isn't gonna let his baby girl go, not this time.
        Okay, I'll relent and say he doesn't know what he wants...until the very end of the game, where he realizes he'd rather die than lose Ellie. 

3. He’s Irrational

        Joel is not a rational thinker. He likes to believe that he lives resourcefully and cautiously, when in reality he falls to his emotions every chance he gets. 
       When they find the Fireflies dead on their way to hand off Ellie, Joel is furious at Tess for even suggesting they continue. In fact, one could say that he becomes defensive towards their way of living. "We're shitty people Joel." Tess says. "It's been that way for a long time." But Joel thinks differently (or at least, tries to make himself believe so).

"No, we are survivors... It is over, Tess!"
        This is all but one example. Joel almost pushes his brother, Tommy, into a fight that is probably completely unnecessary. As the game progresses and his protectiveness for Ellie grows, he starts taking more risks and resorting to violence, in cases where it might even be advantageous not to. Hell, he tortures and murders two guys to find Ellie's location, with no evidence that they actually know anything (I mean, they do end up knowing where she is, but that's beside the point here). Even when Ellie confronts him about her losing people she loves, he goes, "I sure as hell ain't your father," after he's done literally everything a father would do. Well, thanks for clearing that up, Joel.
        All-in-all, Joel is not your typical, level-minded zombie-apocalypse protagonist. He's almost the douchebag who keeps messing it up for everyone else and needs to be punched in the face. Er, almost.

4. He’s Imperfect

        Call it game mechanics or call it good writing, but he is far from perfect. Starting from the small things like weapon sway or recoil, or the fact that the game makes you bandage his wound to heal—*cough* although it's always on his arm *cough*to the bigger things, like staying unconscious for weeks after a severe injury, the game is always reminding the player that Joel is not superhuman. He mumbles in his sleep and screws up fighting, he makes wrong judgement calls. In fact, it's a problem in judgement (deciding to take a shady road instead of backtracking) that leads to him and Ellie being ambushed by hunters. Without all those mistakes, the game wouldn't be fun.
        And without those mistakes, Joel wouldn't be this amazingly realistic.

How did he even get this far anyway?
5. He’s Selfish

        This, I think, is what makes The Last of Us such a memorable video game. Joel does not fight for what is best for mankind. By the end of the game, he puts Ellie before everything else. He'll make sure she's not in danger, and not even because he cares about her so much (although that;s definitely a huge part), but because he needs her. It's his second chance, and while he may argue that Ellie needs him, he wouldn't let her sacrifice herself even if she specifically stated that she wanted to. 
        Maybe you don't think that's selfish. Caring for others isn't selfish. But it's absolutely refreshing to see a character do something for himself for a change, rather than what others deem "right." Marlene cares for Ellie, too, but she finds it on her shoulders to give the go ahead for a fatal surgery if it means it may produce a vaccine. That's very selfless of her, sure, but in all honestly, many would find that hard to do. Joel is a long-awaited character that people can respect and admire, not because he'll do anything for humanity, but because he'll do anything for Ellie. And if that doesn't make you go awww and want to curl up in some blankets and cry and then play the game all over again, then I present to you, Joel and Ellie looking at the sunset together:

Can't get realer than this.

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  1. Thanks for your sharing. can actually be attached to games. Like the Game Mod MARVEL Strike Force on TechCrue.com



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