A Kiss Has Been One Of The Stars Of 2018

A Kiss Has Been One Of The Stars Of 2018

One of the nicest things to come out of this year’s E3 so far has been the kiss that starts (and ends) the new Last of Us 2 trailer. In fact I’m going to go so far as to say it’s the best video game kiss I’ve ever seen.

If you’ll join me in looking back at the recent history of video game smooching, you may remember how terrible Dragon Age was at it. BioWare’s other big series, Mass Effect, wasn’t any better.

Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted games made some decent progress, and as Stephen pointed out a few years back, Assassin’s Creed could at one point be regarded as the premiere lip-locking blockbuster video game series.

They all suffered the same Achilles Heel, though, in that there have been limits to the believability of animation in video games. Making it look like a dude can slide over a car and fire a gun is (relatively) easy, because those are huge sweeping movements of the human body.

But kissing is delicate. It’s a slow, soft and gentle process, where the most important movements are tiny, and subtle. Throw in the fact that most important kiss scenes are zoomed right in on the character’s faces and you’ve got another problem: animating those faces, something games have been traditionally poor at.

The end result of most video game kisses, then, is not an immersive look at two people in love, but a short sequence where two mailboxes clang against each other for a few seconds.

With all that in mind, watch this kiss again, uninterrupted by ultraviolence courtesy of this combined video put together by Dorkly’s Tristan Cooper:

Video by Tristan Cooper

Look how their lips actually touch in multiple places. How Ellie’s nose bends once it makes contact. How there are tiny little plucking and slurping noises. I swear you can even see Ellie’s cheeks turn red at the end.

They’re all tiny, almost imperceptible details in isolation, but they all add up to represent one hell of a kiss. There are no mailboxes here. This is two people locking lips in a very real way, and it helps get some very physical emotions across that we don’t encounter in video games very often.

It’s easy to say, well, technology has just got better, but a kiss like this isn’t just the result of advances in motion capture and animation. Those advances have been made in this case expressly for scenes like this, and wouldn’t have come about without Naughty Dog expressly wanting to pull off a scene as captivating as this.

As video games get bigger, louder and more expensive in their never-ending pursuit towards “realism”, it’s worth remembering that not every improvement we see has to be about resolution, or lighting, or explosive effect. Sometimes the most important touches in a video game can be the most delicate ones.


  • This article isn’t what I was expecting and that’s a good thing. Kissing in games is definitely a bit awkward when it’s done poorly, facial animation and rigging has come a long way.

  • Awesome detail in the animation. Uncanny valley comes to mind. I wonder how many months it took to get this done so well.

    • They don’t all with motion capture.

      Which is all fun and games till take 324.

      • I was thinking the exact same thing. Lucky it wasn’t directed by Weinstein.

        “I’ll need you two to make out again. For the 324th time. That wasn’t quite what I was after…”

    • Because you’re a prescient computer from another dimension that did the unimaginable and guessed that a top tier game with lesbians would have an article written about it.

      • And this will be the first article of many many many many about the same topic on here too

        And look out if you have a different opinion on it though 😛

        • a different opinion? like – “the kissing animation is as bad or worse than previously seen in other games”?
          yeah.. i imagine you should “look out”, cause you’d largely be wrong.

          Or maybe you just didn’t read the article at all and in 2018 you’re seriously still shit scared of same sex displays of affection.

          • Well it is, for instance, you have some people who think it is entirely rationally and logical that there are an infinite amount of genders. Then you have others who think that it is entirely rational and logical that there are only 2.

          • Ah, very clever. By using the palpably ridiculous hyperbole of “infinite”, you introduce the idea that one of the positions is inherently and objectively illogical and take your side without straight out saying it to avoid criticism. Well played; I see a successful career writing propaganda for political institutions in your future.

          • @pylgrim the Australia sex survey in 2016 recognised 33 genders, Facebook recognises 71, New York City recognises 31…. Couldn’t find a definite answer, but replace “infinite” with whatever number you believe to be true, doesn’t change my statement.

            And yes, there are people out there that believe there are an infinite amount of genders, just like there are people who think it is entirely rational and logical that the earth is flat, or the Australia doesn’t exist, or that they have been abducted by aliens or that they have been possessed….

            Good try there though. ????

          • One thing I am curious about with people who don’t identify as a certain gender is, what are there basing their identity on.

            I mean in my opinion there is really no such thing as a typical male or female when you factor in different cultures social constructs even religion from around the world there really isn’t one way to identify as male or female.

            You don’t need to be masculine to identify as male and you don’t need to be feminine to identify as female. You can be any type of female/male you want to be without conforming to any sort of self imposed idea of what gender has to be.

            I think some of it comes down to trying to be unique felling like they don’t want to be put in a box but in reality they have created the box themselves.

          • And yes, there are people out there that believe there are an infinite amount of genders, just like there are people who think it is entirely rational and logical that the earth is flat

            You are right, of course. There are also people who believe that Hitler was right or that the Confederate states were the unsung heroes and real good guys of the American civil war. But obviously, showcasing outlier, exaggerated opinions from extreme positions is a well-known propaganda tactic to present the whole side as ridiculous and wrong.

            Truly, if you’re not ghostwriting fearmongering speeches for conservative politicians, you have missed your call in life.

          • @pylgrim you’re more concerned with attacking me with your pathetic diatribe that you’ve missed the entire point. Well done on wanting so hard to show everyone your bigotry.

            As an aside, how many genders do you believe to exist? I gave you 4 examples from four different groups that give four different numbers. So obviously they must fit into your propaganda tactics if the number you have in your head is different to theirs.

          • Sorry? How am I “attacking” you? All I’ve done is praise your cleverness and talent at doing something.

            Moreover, how am I a bigot? By calling out bigotry? That’s also very clever, I must say. You get to be a bigot first, then make the rule that criticising your bigotry is bigotry in itself, against you; thus, in order not to be a bigot (compounded with being a hypocrite), I must let you get away with your bigotry. Brilliant!

            But to answer your question: I don’t know. I am not an expert, nor queer myself. We’re in the early days of figuring out that it is ok to let folks define who they are based on the complex and unique relationship between their psyche and bodies. So who knows what’s the number? Who cares? If an innocent person requests from me basic decency and acceptance of what they call their identity, that’s something in my power to give. It takes out literally nothing from me.

          • @pylgrim sure thing 😉

            You made the presumption of my stance on gender due to my use of two different ends of the gender spectrum. You also admit, yourself, that you don’t know the “magic number”, if you will. So therefore, my statement of “infinite” stands, because at this time, it is impossible to measure or calculate.

            As for being a bigot, the very definition is someone that is intolerant of of those holding different opinions. You fit that definition to a T.

            Like it’s not hard. Plus, once again. You missed the original point anyway. *Shrug*

          • “Infinite” is a blatantly ridiculous adjective to use here and please don’t try to convince me that you were genuinely allowing the possibility. There aren’t (or ever will be) infinite humans. You were using the word disingenuously to paint the possibility of “many genders” as ridiculous, especially in contrast with the other possibility you offer, that of the obvious 2 ones. So, to an uninformed onlooker being given the choice of 2 or infinite, there’s only one reasonable option.

            There you go, you made me explain your own insidious and manipulative argument to you. Feel free to chalk it as a win. Also, I apologise if pointing it out is “intolerant”. How dare I? You are entitled to your own intolerant opinions, to band together with the like-minded to lobby governments and influence society (as you lot have done so far) to keep basic rights away from other folk. But people criticising you for it? Now /that’s/ discrimination! Will your suffering ever end?

            Now, what’s this alleged point of yours that I keep missing? Speaking about missing points: you entirely missed the point of my previous reply which was to show that the whole idea is to move away from this futile “numbers” discussion to focus on the necessity for compassion and kindness. But see, I’m willing to re-articulate it for you, as opposed to holding it against you as a mysterious thing that fool ol’ me cannot see.

          • @pylgrim oh dear… Fine.. how about this.

            For some people, there being a God is totally logical and rational. For others, there being no God is totally logical and rational.

            My point being, that rationality and therefore logic is subjective.

            It’s literally the first point I made, what was so difficult to understand?

            So please, tell me again what it is I’m “actually” saying? Because clearly, I have no idea what I mean.

          • Fine. I guess I have pushed the conversation away from your initial point of rationality being subjective; apologies. My point still remains: when in a discussion regarding the rationality of two or more positions, you use language to paint one of the positions as blatantly ridiculous, you are taking sides and hoping that it will manipulate the listener into agreeing.

            But I’ll allow, then, that it was not your intention, just carelessness with words. Is that it? Or do you believe that there are only 2 genders and any notions of one, two or several extra ones is absurd? (Note that if that’s what you truly believe, I won’t criticise you for it: you’re entitled to think this way. My criticism is not aimed at your beliefs or opinions but at the perceived manipulative argumentation.)

          • @pylgrim my aim was highlighting two opposite ends of the spectrum, because as I already stated, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive number with different groups acknowledging different amounts. That’s why I originally said to you, the you could place whatever number you believe to be true in place of infinity.

            I believe there to be two. But then can I ask, if that wasn’t the case, and I believed there to be X amount and still used the example I originally used, would that change what I was saying?

          • It would not change your point if, as you say, you were just genuinely saying “infinite” as a random amount to express uncertainty. The problem with hyperbolic words like that is that colours your intentions, even if you were not aiming for that. You can thank all the people who use hyperbole as manipulative language to undermine an argument without outright presenting reasonable counterarguments.

            Better words to express what you were trying to say are “undetermined” or “unknown”.

  • That’s astonishing. It’s mind-blowing where we’re at with computer animation, in games. Naughty Dog are really pushing the envelope, as always.

  • Yeah, honestly, all of the animation work from this trailer blew me away from a technical perspective, it looks insanely well polished

    • The contextual animations when Ellie is fighting are phenomenal. The part where she picks up and throws a bottle while running was just… wow.

  • Well this article went in a different direction than i assumed it was going.
    Now im feeling all sad because i miss kissing. Thanks kotaku. THANKS. *runs away crying*

  • Well you did say it yourself the technology that naughty dog invented just for this scene, it better be the best fucking kiss ever.

    As in the other cases the kissing/love scenes were more of a part of a whole game and probably had a hell of a lot less work put into it, this is more of a game built around a relationship and emotions so the interactions between the player and live interest have to be top notch.

    • The backbone of the game is violence. It’s the common tongue of videogames. No amount of gushing over how beautiful a mechanical, stilted kiss that will be surpassed within a year or two is going to change the nature of the game in which it’s housed.

      It’s some neat tech that is undermined by the big red arrow plunged into some bloke’s neck.

      • I get what you are saying but I think advances made in respect to expressing emotions and the behaviours that are associated with them (like kissing, in this case) can build context and contrast to the violence. Yes a core mechanic of the game is inflicting violence, but no longer are you only plunging an arrow into a pixellated bloke’s neck. More than they ever could, developers can now communicate the context of the violence, the emotional effect that it has and provide other moments of human interaction beyond (and contrasting with) violence.

        • The tree is how this one game contextualises intimacy and emotion against a core mechanic of violence; the forest is that violence is the dominant mechanism by which players interact with game worlds.

          AAA videogames that don’t communicate through violence are exceptional. The sports genre aside, if you want your immensely expensive game to sell then it had better fit the template of violence. So long as videogames refuse to surpass this hurdle, they’re going to have a hell of a time gaining any kind of narrative legitimacy.

          We had the same message that developers can communicate the emotional effect of violence in countless games and not once has it stood with substance.

          • Oh I definitely agree that violence has been a crutch for video games since.. well, forever. I think that’s maybe because violence can be visually communicated relatively crudely – you can do it with very basic graphics and simple gameplay. Emotion on the other hand is a very different thing. It can be communicated through text or dialogue, which has been the vehicle for emotional content in games, but graphically games are only just getting to the point where emotions can be conveyed convincingly. Combine that with an increased demand for strong narratives with more nuanced themes, and I think we will see a move away from violence being the default gear for games quite soon. Some of the most interesting games of recent years (to me) have not used violence as a crutch: Firewatch, Oxenfree, Night in the Woods, Kentucky Route Zero, To The Moon, VA-11 Hall-A. Obviously these are a few cherry picked exceptions to the rule at the moment.

  • Technically, yes, its one of the best-animated kisses in existence. However, I felt really awkward watching it. More so than any other kiss in a game or movie or TV show. It’s almost too interment. Like, I felt like I had just stumbled into something very private, and for them to be able to to get that aspect of the whole thing down is another thing entirely. Might have even taken it to far. lol

  • You’re right, the kiss is amazing – the way their skin seems to actually compress against each other is far beyond anything I’ve seen done in a game engine. And a lot like the fight that comprised the rest of the trailer I have to wonder how much of it was staged / precalculated and how much was just the engine physics, collision, et al working to make that all happen. In other words, if you altered the scene so that the character models were a foot apart, would their skin be shown to deform in the same way?

  • This is incredibly animated, and rewatching it there’s hundreds of tiny details I missed. The way these characters move, they really seem alive. So excited for when this game finally comes out!

  • If Ellie is the only person with immunity, it’s a shame she cant propagate this genetic immunity through natural evolution by having off-springs for the next generation.

  • Rumour is Disney’s XD cable channel that were airing E3 in conjunction with IGN decided not to show the kiss in their coverage and cut it out of the broadcast.

      • From what I saw of the broadcast no. It was Ellie and the other girl just standing there and then it went to a ad break. So they yes did cut the violence out.

  • Interestingly they incorporated the “slurping” noises into the transition of the dude getting his throat stabbed, I thought that was a pretty cool touch. A few people on the stream commented “enough of the kiss noises!” Then saw the next scene… “Oh…”

  • man this feels forced and contrived. Somethings, games don’t need to be injected with.

  • Developers have been showing off Soft Body physic collision since Unreal 3.5 but it’s seldom ever used to proper effect, this bodes well for the end of peoples hands clipping through their forearms and the cross their arms.

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