Column: How The Last of Us is changing the game


Photo credit: Paulina DePaulo

This image is an illustration of the fungus Cordyceps as depicted in “The Last of Us”. The new HBO show is an adaptation of the 2013 Playstation game, and stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

By Paulina DePaulo, Columnist

I’ve always said that video games make terrible TV show adaptations. The loss of interactivity and connection with the viewer often leaves a dull, lifeless shell of a story. There’s a reason why there’s only been a few notable adaptations, and very few have attempted to recreate the exact visual and narrative experience of the original game. “Arcane has been my only exception to this trend, and I’d even argue that it doesn’t fit into this category at all. 

That is, until I started watching “The Last of Us

The Last of Us is a zombie apocalypse, narrative-driven video game initially released in 2013 for Playstation 3. The story revolves around the fungus Cordyceps, which is widely known in real life for infecting small insects with a “zombie-like disease.” In the game, the fungus has adapted to survive within humans, causing the entire population to become savage, infected beings. 

The story follows Joel, a callous father mourning the loss of his late daughter Sarah, who died in the crossfire of the initial outbreak. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie, a young orphan immune to the disease, across the country in hopes of developing a cure. The two embark on a long and treacherous adventure, fighting off infected (their word for “zombie”) and creating a lasting bond along the way. 

The first season of the TV show adaptation is currently airing, with HBO releasing the first episode on Jan. 19. The show is a nearly shot-for-shot recreation of the video game, with Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian) as Joel and Bella Ramsey (“Game of Thrones) as Ellie. 

While it’s been on my list for the longest time, the game hasn’t been released for PC quite yet, so I went into the pilot completely blind. To say I was blown away is an understatement. 

The show is a perfect blend of suspenseful action and heartfelt emotional touch, leaving you both on the edge of your seat and breaking down in tears. The characters are strong and well-developed, pandering to the “reluctant dad and ambitious daughter” trope that’s been loved by so many players. It’s a perfectly crafted series, even without the added context of the game. 

While the show stays true to the majority of the game’s elements and narrative, there have been some major changes. For example, in the game the Cordyceps fungus can be transmitted through spores in the air, forcing the characters to wear gas masks for the majority of the time. However, in attempts to make the show more digestible and realistic, the fungus is transmitted through deadly tendrils instead, which grow around their environment. The set year is also changed from 2013 to 2023.

The changes made in the TV adaptation only add to the masterful storyline and emotion, as it maintains the nostalgia of the 2013 Playstation game that so many gamers love while expanding it into something wonderfully mainstream. 

The original game’s expansive story elements and compelling characters translate beautifully onscreen, and I can proudly say that it has forever changed both my mind on video game adaptations and the entertainment industry at large.