In 2013, the game developer company Naughty Dog released the highly anticipatory game titled The Last of Us. This game, which Sony published, follows two main characters trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where humans turn into cannibalistic plants. The Last of Us was “able to tell a cliché ‘zombie apocalypse’ plot and transform it into something that has never been done before” (Hara). By 2013, the apocalypse plot was boring and overused; television, movie, and video game lovers had seen how a zombie movie ends. The thought of yet another one was disappointing. That was until The Last of Us came out, and players quickly changed their minds. The of Us video game allowed players to be transported into this post-apocalyptic world while connecting with its characters. This game rose so high in popularity and quickly that even in the PlayStation community, it was considered the only best game of the 2010s. But what exactly makes this game so incredible?
One of the reasons is that many video games, like Uncharted and The Witcher, include a main character that has everything: power, extreme intelligence, or money. However, in The Last of Us, the main characters, Joel and Ellie, are relatable and are just trying to survive. Hara writes, “The Last of Us portrayed realistic humans that have complex personalities,” and players are thus able to connect to those characters.
In addition, this game has a movie aspect where the characters go through many terrible things, and it affects their soul as well. Instead of players selecting a random character with no name or backstory, there is actual character development, especially with Joel. Joel, at first, seemed like “a hardworking man just trying to make ends meet” (O’Gorman). After twenty years, he is a hard-boiled and reserved man, that is, until he meets Ellie, who slowly coaxes him out of his shell. This character development belongs in a movie or television show because of how thought out it is. Viewers are not just trying to kill the zombies without knowing who their avatar is. Instead, players will connect to the characters and want to put all their effort into the game.
This was also a brilliant marketing technique because once players become attached to the characters, they will want to continue playing the game—no matter how many versions come out or whatever format.
To many who play video games, this game is nothing new; however, for the rest of the United States, attention towards the game came when HBO announced they were making a television series out of it. In 2022, HBO started developing and filming The Last of Us show, and the first episode was on January 15, 2023, which amassed millions of viewers. Hailu stated, “after achieving record-breaking viewership with both Episode 1 and Episode 2 and scoring an early renewal for a second season the series has already reached new heights with 6.4 million viewers having tuned into the third installment Sunday.” The series has been entered as HBO’s second-most viewed series premiere in over a decade, coming in just behind House of the Dragon; in addition, instead of views dropping after each episode, they keep climbing. “The Last of Us Episode 3’s 6.4 million viewers represent a 12% percent increase from last week’s 5.7 million, which itself was a 22% percent improvement on the first episode’s 4.7 million” (Hailu). This is an outstanding achievement and shows how impactful the show is becoming. With only five episodes out, The Last of Us will go down in television history as one of the most prolific shows ever.
Of course, one cannot credit just the plot for this viewership but also the main character, Joel, who is played by well-known and loved Pedro Pascal. This Chilean actor first came to stardom when he appeared in the fourth season of Game of Thrones, a role that ended with his character’s brutal and wrongful death. Pascal then went on to star in Narcos, The Mandalorian, and Triple Frontier, all of which are trendy franchises. Pascal has cemented his role in Hollywood, and starring in The Last of Us, is just the cherry on top.
What makes him the sweetest man in Hollywood is that he is an actor who loves his fans, going so far as to repost fan edits on his Instagram. Appreciating and loving the people who support you is a positive character trait. The fact that Pascal has starred in many shows and movies but remains humble is a testament to his character.
It is not just Pascal who has stolen hearts, but also Bella Ramsey, who plays opposite Pascal as Ellie. Ramsey also made her debut role in Game of Thrones by playing Lyanna Mormont in season six. This fierce young noblewoman stood up for what she wanted, and fans fell in love with her. The roles of Ellie and Lyanna are very different, and Ramsey's ability to portray these characters is evidence of the start of a significant acting career.
When one combines all of these factors, it is no wonder why The Last of Us television show is becoming so popular! Despite many more people watching the front rather than playing the game, it is essential to give credit where credit is due and not to forget the show's roots. The videogame set everything up, including the character development that happens, making the screenwriters’ job much more manageable. Adaptations are becoming increasingly popular in today’s world, like Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies, and this adaptation defiantly does the original game justice.
It will be interesting to see how the next ten years play out regarding this show—will the first season be the best? Will views decrease? There is only one way to know and that is to keep watching The Last of Us.
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