Sony's press conference came and went last night, filled with pregnant pauses. None of those silences gave birth to any news about The Last Guardian, making it five years of barely suppressed longing. High time, then, for me to think about where I'm going to put this game in my heart, whenever it comes out. Do I still have room?
It's been a wild few days for those pining away for The Last Guardian. First came reports that the game had been cancelled, followed by a sharp debunking by Sony leadership. And, then, last night came and went without so much as a mention of the game once known as Project Trico. Sony reassured people that the game was coming but showed no sign of it. Cruel, business-as-usual or somewhere in between?
The notional attachment I've had to Last Guardian hinges heavily on the game I want it to be. Having watched the extant footage for the game when it first came out, I dreamed of TLG as a tears-at-the-ready experience. It felt nearly impossible not to preload the emotions that the game would seemingly pull out of me. Wonder? Check. Dread? Ready to go. Anger? Already percolating. But those feelings have sat in a queue for a long time and a weird thing happened: other, newer games unexpectedly starting hitting those notes more often.
Part of my longing for The Last Guardian comes from the time period when it was revealed. (Of course, the Team Ico pedigree had a lot to do with it, too.) When Sony confirmed the game's existence in 2009, the video game landscape looked different. By-the-numbers racers, shooters and action-adventure games dominated and indie game development — the risk-taking experimentalism that characterises the best small-team titles — wasn't as firmly established as it is now. So, the desire to see a game that would draw from a broader emotional palette was stronger, at least for me.
But, since then, other games have come out and fulfilled the component wishes I had for Team Ico's long-brewing PlayStation game. I wanted Last Guardian to be a tender fable about friendship and how people treat each other. I wanted beautiful, painterly art direction and controls that would be refreshing in their simplicity. I wanted games I could point non-gamers to as proof that the medium could reflect on human relations. I got Papo & Yo, Bastion, Telltale's The Walking Dead, Flower, Journey and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Games that felt like they were made by people, not companies. As I touched each of these games, the pangs I had for Last Guardian got less sharp.
Because these other games mine the same emotional territory I expect the Last Guardian to explore, the weight of my expectations on Fumito Ueda's next game won't be quite as heavy. In fact, I'll probably appreciate it more as a part of a cohort of games that feel like they're coming from an existential place. I still want The Last Guardian and all the cuteness and sweep that it promised. But I don't feel like I need it for the same reasons I used to.