Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Joel has had a pretty rough life, both before and after the cordyceps plague. When we begin the game, we find him as single parent, working long, long hours to support his young daughter. She obviously appreciates him, even though he can’t spend as much time with her as he’d like, but he still comes home every day tired and overwhelmed.
Then all hell breaks loose.
If you haven’t played the game, stop reading here, and go play it. I don’t want to ruin the most engaging and emotional opening sequence I’ve ever seen in a game.
Okay then, so Joel’s daughter dies, and his life gets thrown into hell as the world around him goes the same way. Skip ahead a few years, and Joel is a very different person from who he was before. He’s done terrible things, played both sides of the coin, and is currently employed as a smuggler, doing what he needs to get by. He’s obviously a very brutal, brusque person, and is hesitant to help anyone.
Then he meets Ellie.
The change is not instantaneous, but Joel begins to find himself genuinely caring for someone again. He still does brutal, horrific things, but he does them for a cause: to protect the girl he has been charged with, regardless of the cost. The job soon goes beyond the pay, and into the realm of fatherly protection. Joel has found a new daughter again. Not to replace the one he had before, but perhaps to help him find himself again.
In the beginning of the story, Joel espouses a “sacrifice the few to save the many,” mentality, using it to explain why the soldiers act the way they do. He doesn’t know Ellie’s purpose when he accepts the job from the Fireflies, he just goes along with it for the money. By the end of our time with the pair, though, he has performed a complete 180, killing an entire lab of people and possible dooming all of humanity, just to save one person; Ellie.
Now, the moral implications of this could go either way. On one hand, we’re conflicted, because Joel’s actions could very well have doomed the entire human race. On the other hand, watching Joel be reborn, in a sense, from the deep despair and desperation that surrounded him following his daughter’s death, is truly rewarding and beautiful.
In the end, perhaps the lesson we can take from Joel is that of remembering ourselves, even in our dark times. Chances are, you’ve been in a dark place before. Perhaps not as dark as Joel’s, perhaps darker. You need to recognize that you are in a bad way, when this happens, but you also have to realize that if you’ve hit rock bottom, you have nowhere to go but up.
People constantly change and evolve in their outlook on life, and their approach to things. Never think that where you are is where you will always be. Never think that if something is difficult now, it will always be that way. Find something to latch onto within yourself, and use it to pull yourself back up again. Take a deep breath, remember who you are, who you want to be, and where you want to go, and then try to do something about it.
If you find your Ellie, fantastic! Never let go of people that make your life better, but make sure they’re not the only thing you’re living for, either. Attaching yourself to a single person or group of people can warp your world view, and lead to poor decision making, and worse situations, perhaps undoing everything you’ve done to better yourself. Pull yourself out of the darkness for your own sake, just make sure to let other people help, if they offer it.
That’s it for today, and the end of our time with Joel. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! We’ll see you again on Sunday, with our weekly fitness update. Don’t forget, our ongoing Teespring campaign is still running! We’re at 9 shirts reserved, which is awesome, but we need to hit our goal of 35 by July 22nd, or the order doesn’t go through! Help support the blog, and get some awesome swag in the process! Tell your friends!
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Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace