Widely regarded by critics and fans as one of the best games ever produced for the Sony Playstation, The Last of Us is remarkable for offering players a narratively rich experience within the parameters of cultural and gaming genres that often prioritize frenetic violence by straight white male heroes. The Last of Us is also a milestone among mainstream, big-budget (AAA) games because its development team self-consciously intervened in videogames’ historical exclusion of women and girls by creating complex and agentive female characters. The game’s co-protagonist, Ellie, is a teenage girl who is revealed to be queer in The Last of Us: Left Behind (DLC, 2014) and The Last of Us II (2020). Yet The Last of Us also centers Joel, Ellie’s fatherly protector.
How is patriarchy, the rule of the father, encoded in rule-based systems like videogames? How does patriarchal rule become an algorithmic rule and vice-versa? These questions are at the heart of this book, the first comprehensive scholarly analysis of the zombie apocalypse/ action-adventure/ third-person shooter videogame The Last of Us (2013). On the one hand, the book is a close, extended study of The Last of Us and its themes, genres, procedures, and gameplay. On the other hand, the book is a post-GamerGate reflection on the political and ethical possibilities of progressive play in algorithmic mass culture, of which videogames are now the dominant form.