When ‘The Last of Us’ revolutionized the world of video games

The news about the filming of the series The Last of Us on HBO Max, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, and which is scheduled to premiere in January 2023, has reminded me why it was so difficult to disconnect from the original video game on which the series is based. For the first time, a video game managed to create an immersive experience and a deep connection with the players.

Trailer of the new HBO series The Last of Us.

Written by Neil Druckmann and set in a post-apocalyptic world, it presents an epic and terrifying story: a fungus has infected a large part of humans, turning them into zombie-like monsters.

The Last of UsThe origin

The video game puts us in the shoes of Joel, a survivor of the infection who must accompany Ellie, a young woman immune to the fungus, on her dangerous journey across the United States in search of a cure to save humanity. But the road will not be easy, since they will have to face the population infected by the fungus and other survivors, organized in armed communities and willing to fight for the scarce resources available.

The Last of Us It is a third person game. That is, the player’s eyes are external to the character, they follow him but allow greater visibility of the surroundings. Our avatar, Joel, can use firearms, create makeshift tools out of items he finds around him, and move freely around the stage to avoid encounters with enemies. He can also engage them directly or tactically. The game in this aspect is an attractive combination of survival, combat, stealth and exploration.

Joel, in a screenshot from the game.
Naughty Dog

The argument drinks from different sources, including the actual outbreak of the fungus Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis, which infects insects and can cause them to behave erratically and aggressively. Naughty Dog, the game’s developer, looked for inspiration and references in post-apocalyptic stories like the novel Roadby Cormac McCarthy, or the film 28 days laterby Danny Boyle. He also drinks from the works of the fathers of zombie, infected and undead literature and cinema Richard Matheson (I’m legend) and George A. Romero (The night of the Living Dead).

beyond the game

Through its story and its mechanics, the game presents a captivating narrative that causes an emotional effect on players unknown until then in the medium. The characters are human and detailed, not only in the technological, visual and auditory aspect, but mainly in the psychological one.

Above an outstanding technique that pushed the technological possibilities of the Playstation 3 console to the limit, The Last Of Us addresses issues such as the decline of civilization, the importance of the family, the creation of relationships, hopelessness… All these concepts were closely linked to the global financial crisis that began in 2008, five years before its launch, and how traumatic it had been. result for generation millennial.

In this sense, sociologists such as Michèle Lamont point out that societies, especially neoliberal ones, find comfort in post-apocalyptic narratives in politically and economically tumultuous moments.

The title also explores deep themes such as the fragility of human life, the need to help the weakest, hope in difficult times or sacrifice. The player must make decisions that directly affect the development of the story and the relationships established between the characters. These decisions often revolve around the ethic of survival: kill other survivors to protect Ellie or save them in the hope of building a better future.

A teenager holds a shotgun while looking at the camera.
Game screenshot The Last of Us where the character of Ellie is seen.
Playstation / Naughty Dog

Ultimately the game argues that in a world devastated by disaster, the laws and morals of society are invalid and survival becomes the only priority. However, the script also suggests that the cost of this survival is the loss of humanity and the ability to trust and connect with others. Exploring themes of morality, sacrifice, and the value of life, the title forces players to consider their own ethical beliefs.

Are video games an artistic manifestation?

Another important aspect in the development of the game has to do with the relationship established between Joel and Ellie. Their bond is portrayed as a father-daughter relationship that grows from initial mistrust to a deep sense of loyalty and devotion to each other. Both are forced to depend on each other for survival as they navigate the dangerous world around them. Their relationship shows the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Thus, it is considered that The Last of Us it is the cornerstone of the maturity of the video game as a medium. Its release spurred conversation about whether gaming is becoming an immersive cinematic experience or whether unique lynchpins of gaming are actually exporting new storytelling elements into film and other arts.

From this point of view, videogames are creating new tools to tell stories that interact with the rest of the arts, maintaining a constant dialogue and merging with each other.

Its commercial success, with more than 8.15 million copies sold, has demonstrated the potential for complex and mature storytelling in video games and has sparked the development of similar titles.

It is a matter of opinion whether or not video games can be considered an art form. Some argue that the interactive nature of video games and the use of images, sound, and narration make them a unique artistic medium. Others believe that video games are primarily a form of entertainment and do not possess the same artistic qualities as traditional art forms.

The Last of Us gives compelling reasons to support the theory that video games can be considered art in themselves.

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