The Last Guardian and the Fruits of Patience

The Last Guardian illustrates the value of patience in a medium that often encourages immediate gratification.

Written by Joey Thurmond / Published on February 3, 2017

Trico is not your friend—the game opens with the creature roaring in your face. It’s wounded, chained, and starving. There’s no obligation to free the creature, but since you can’t escape the pit you’re both confined to, why not help? Despite being knocked unconscious twice from the beast’s kicking, you eventually remove the spears stuck in its body and its metal leash. Though it shows hostility, you feed it barrels filled with an energizing, blue liquid.

"The Last Guardian confronts us with our own self-centeredness . . . to give rather than merely take."
When all’s said and done, Trico stands up and shakes away the cumbersome armor. After the ruckus, feathers fly and gently rock back-and-forth in the air, and then it stares into your character’s eyes. It’s hard to convey how, but they seem to say, “Thank you.”

This is how The Last Guardian’s introduction establishes a rapport between you and Trico. While the story is linear, your individual experience can be profoundly unique with the animal, which is somewhat dependent on your reception of the game’s implied message to attain the fruits of practicing patience.

Trico is unruly and unpredictable. Since The Last Guardian is a videogame, we assume Trico is designed to carry out your commands and go where you desire. Trico, however, feels much less scripted—it can refuse your demands and hesitate to offer help on a platforming or puzzle challenge. It’s not like D-Dog in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or Chocobos in Final Fantasy XV, which immediately respond to your requests.

A rare AI companion like Trico throws a wrench in our accustomed expectations—it’s intentionally irrational. In an interview with Edge’s Ben Maxwell, creative director Fumito Ueda said, “This creature isn’t like the cute pets that exist in other games, or an ally that’s really useful. The role of the creature is ambiguous; that’s something we wanted to express in the game, and it doesn’t always do what you ask it to do. That’s one of the themes of The Last Guardian” (66).

Ueda invites players to think about how they treat Trico. Is this creature a pet that you console, feed, and give attention to? Or is it a companion that exists to do what you say without a hitch? Do you roll your eyes at it or cater to the creature’s meanderings and fears? Just as “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8), Trico is a test of our capacity to live in such a way toward others.

The late Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins describes impatience as “a strong sense of annoyance at the (usually) unintentional faults and failures of others.” He believes this arises out of “our own attitude of insisting that others around us conform to our expectations” (116-118)—this is a natural outlook we unfairly attribute to Trico. We desire video games with flawless AI, and while it should perform specific functions if intended to do so. Trico’s designed limitations should give us pause about our irritability.

Depending on how it’s treated, Trico seems to adjust its behavior. It’s more uncooperative if you don’t alleviate its hunger with optional barrels or pull spears from its body. Should you do these things, it grows to predict required actions and be more affectionate. This change is antithetical to its revealed nature, making your bond more precious since your virtues and actions displace the beast’s instincts and savagery.

My relationship with Trico reminded me of the curious nature of redemption that C.S. Lewis outlined in The Problem of Pain, “Now it will be seen that, in so far as the tame animal has a real self or personality, it owes this entirely to its master. If a good sheepdog seems ‘almost human’ that is because a good shepherd has made it so” (143). In that sense, The Last Guardian confronts us with our own self-centeredness and challenges us to endure, build trust with Trico, and give rather than merely take. In doing so, our patience not only grows, but also is reflected through Trico in labors of love.

About the Author:

Joey Thurmond writes for Push Square. He has a bachelor's degree in Game and Interactive Media Design and is currently a graduate student studying English. You can discover his exploits in video game journalism by following him at @DrJoeystein or visiting his website at www.drjoeystein.com.

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    I enjoyed the reflection. Thank you.