Conference paper Open Access

Bodies in Form: Motricity Across Mediums in The Last of Us and The Last of Us: American Dreams

Stein, Eric

In his Phenomenology of Perception (2012), Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes bodily existence through the concept of “motricity” (100). The body exists for itself as a “dynamic” posture, a “situational spatiality,” a suite of possibilities that is always already disclosed as the “third term” in the perspectival structure of the world (102, original emphasis). If we apply this concept of the body to the animated bodies we see in contemporary video games—specifically, the bodies of player-characters—we discover video games to be uniquely recursive systems that thematize motricity as a matter of game design. If the body is our “means of insertion” into our “surroundings” and, therefore, the concrete means of disclosure of the world in which we live (106), then the design of animated bodies sees this “means” made explicit as an instrument of play. The “motor project” (113) of the game itself feeds back into the “strange signifying machine” that is my body (114), disclosing the “several ways for the body to be a body” and thus the “several ways for consciousness to be consciousness” (125)—which is to say, the several ways in which I find myself involved in the “movement of existence” (139). To this end, this paper analyzes the character animation (and illustration) in Naughty Dog’s acclaimed The Last of Us (2013), and its prequel graphic novel, The Last of Us: American Dreams (2013), paying special attention to the “original intentionality” of motricity as it is presented in both works, the originary reference that “haunt[s]” every interpretation of the world of The Last of Us that we might offer (139, 140).

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