I just finished The Last of Us, and I offer it as proof of my long-held assertion that video games can be capital-A-Art. To any who doubt it, I will henceforth simply say ecce pathos and hand them the controller.

Like all good art, the game is driven by its characters. The protagonists, Ellie and Joel, are the two most compelling characters I’ve found in video games. In the span of a few hours, the player is introduced to these two rich, multi-dimensional characters well enough to know them intimately and to truly identify with their motivations. The plot then proceeds to strings these two characters up between two poles: the monstrosity of infection and the monstrosity of self-serving human nature.

In a way, The Last of Us serves better as a protracted ethics thought experiment than anything else. Ellie and Joeal are not just walked through a few scenes of moral ambiguity, but are pitched headlong into a morally ambiguous world, and let to play out their fate in the absence of any clear good at all. The choices they make are the often difficult, but wholly necessary conclusions of their well-explored personalities and the positions they find themselves in. The resulting grim calculus is portrayed aptly and unflinchingly. At no point do their actions feel untrue to their characters, even when those actions feel deeply uncomfortable.

The gameplay itself is also excellent, but almost entirely beside the point. The characters in The Last of Us, as in all good fiction, are the focus, much to the game’s benefit. The dialog is tight and feels completely natural. The voice acting and mo-cap are both top-notch, making the characters to feel not just well-articulated, but fully human.

I highly recommend the game, not just to gamers, but to all fans of narrative fiction.