We took a brief look into the characters of “The Last of Us,” and now it’s time for us to jump into its world and see it with our own eyes. As we talked about earlier, “The Last of Us” came out in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and was later remastered for the PlayStation 4 and is, to this day, considered one of the best narratives told via video games. Developed by Naughty Dog, the game won multiple awards for its presentation in terms of its visuals and how well the performances fit the narrative and story, of course. While the game is not open-world, it does come packed with a ton of lore and world-building that make its world and environments come alive. The stories of how people have been surviving in this apocalypse to the factions that roam the wilds. Everything here has a meaning and purpose behind it and is crafted with tons of attention, love, and care.
In anticipation of the TV series coming out on January 15th, 2023, almost a decade after the game came out, we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit the game and compare some of its aspects to the TV show, once it comes out. We wish to see and understand how truly HBO has adapted the elements, the world and the characters from the game when turning towards live-action. We are huge fans of the announced cast already, and from all the pre-release material they have shown us, it definitely looks like this won’t just be taking inspiration from the game but will be following it hand in hand. We have already covered the characters, as previously mentioned, so you can check that out if you are interested. Now, let’s take a brief look at the world of “The Last Of Us.”
The World Of ‘The Last Of Us’
America, the year is 2013. Everything is as it’s supposed to be. Life is normal and busy. Streets are crowded, people are going about their lives, nothing out of the ordinary, but all of that changed at a moment’s notice. Panic started spreading; people were screaming and running for their lives. The military tries to contain the situation, but it only gets worse. Factories and gas stations are blowing up, stores are being robbed, and there are accidents on the streets. Murphy’s law struck with a vengeance, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. What happened, though?
A virus traveled from South America and spread rapidly, infecting more and more people in its wake. Hospitals were crowded with doctors, unaware of what this was or what it was doing to its hosts. They called it the Cordyceps fungal virus, which spread across its victims in four stages and only attached itself to live hosts. Stage one begins two days after getting infected, taking over the part of your mind responsible for rational thought, leaving you feral, making you aggressive and incapable of reasoning. Stage two begins two weeks after being infected, altering your sight and growing fungal tentacles over your head. Stage three, on the other hand, shows signs after a year of being infected and scars the victim’s face, turning them completely blind and rendering their ability to communicate useless, leaving with only making weird, clicking noises. Finally, stage four, a rare case, shows signs after being infected by the virus for over a decade of growing hardened fungal shells all over the victim’s body with tentacles coming out of them that release spores that can infect others if the victim is killed. Worse than turning into a zombie and nightmare fuel, no? Well, Cordyceps is very real, is called “Ophiocordyceps genera,” and happens to insects. That’s where Naughty Dog got their inspiration from and gave it to humans. But don’t worry, it doesn’t spread to humans in real life that we know of, like it did in the game. The infected got the name “clickers” on account of the clicking noises they made and were to be avoided at all costs as if they bite a living host, aka you, it’ll infect you, and you’ll be joining them soon. This virus spread rapidly across the world, infecting nearly 60% of its population and ravaging society as we know it. We are unaware of what happened to the rest of the world, as they never talked about it, but judging by how bad a shape America is in, we can safely assume that the rest of the world is doing no better.
Soon after the virus started spreading rapidly, the world entered into panic mode, using anything and everything they could to put a stop to this, with all their efforts rendered futile. The World Health Organization (WHO) tried to develop a vaccine and failed, upon which the United States government disbanded and gave the power to the people, aka turned into a civilian government. Not long after that, cities were imposed with martial law, one by one, as the survivors of the epidemic were placed inside different quarantine zones across cities to keep them safe as Homeland Security and the military turned the United States into a police state. The virus ran its course, and nature took over, as things took a turn for the worse for over twenty years, and that’s when we get to see the world in the year 2033 when everything has crumbled down with no signs of life going back to normal insights. The quarantine zones are policed by the military with an iron fist as ration cards are distributed among people based on what they contribute to the settlement. Because of that, smugglers and black marketeers are popular inside these walls. The rules inside the walls are strict and to be followed, as the military imposes a totalitarian rule, and anyone who refuses to follow the rules is punished and sometimes even killed without a second thought. Safety comes at a high price in this world. The military also patrols the area near the settlements to clear it of any clickers or infected and checks people who pass by for infections and, if they are infected, executes them.
At some point during these 20 years, a paramilitary group was formed, and they called themselves “Fireflies.” A group of people tired of the totalitarian rule the military brings and sharing the mentality of returning a rational and democratic government back to the United States. The fireflies often fight and kill military personnel to spark a rebellion among people and are wanted by the military. Anyone and everyone who is found harboring a member of the fireflies is executed on the spot, so these rebels usually keep their heads down and only strike at opportune moments. “Whenever you are lost in the dark, look for the light.” “We are fireflies” is their mantra, and this group tries its best to bring order and maintain balance despite being somewhat zealots in their own rights and ideologies. The fireflies and the military are always at odds if that weren’t obvious, and the war between these two factions is the most trendy piece of news or the hottest topic you can find in this world.
Outside the walls, you will come across other survivors who are best avoided. Hunters, scavengers, and even cannibals won’t hesitate to torture, rape, or kill you and take your belongings in the name of survival. The wilds are truly wild, and it’s a sad reality that some humans are bigger monsters than the actual monsters. The clickers and bloaters and so on, on the other hand, are mostly found and they thrive in enclosed areas like sewers and inside the buildings. They can be found in open areas as well; don’t get me wrong, but tight, closed spaces are where they linger and have “nests,” so to speak, so it’s in your best interest to stay far, far away from these places. The cities and countryside have also seen drastic alterations over the decades, with nature taking over pretty much everywhere, ruined and destroyed buildings, no power or running water, rusted cars on the streets, and crashed planes in the countryside, among other things. Desolation as far as the eye can see in a ravaged and lifeless land. There are safe havens here as well, though—groups of survivors who grew tired of the military and departed the quarantine zones to make their own settlements, where they live peacefully. Almost everyone you come across, if you dare roam these lands alone, should be avoided, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t friendly folk out there who’d help you out of a jam or trade stuff with you, or even give you refuge in their safehouses/ settlements if you need. Everyone has their reservations and ways of surviving, but despite most becoming inhuman, humanity isn’t completely lost.
The world “The Last Of Us” presents to us is dark, sad, gritty, and very eye-opening. The things we take for granted, like coffee or hot showers, are a luxury rarely found. The winters get extremely cold, with no heat to keep you warm. People have become monsters in the name of survival, turning on each other and doing horrible, unspeakable things to each other for the tiniest of things. Death is everywhere, and taking a life is not much of a moral decision but fun for some. The world showcased here is a horrifying reflection of what humans will do to each other if a time like this comes to pass. Especially looking at it after the COVID-19 pandemic we survived gives me a whole new perspective. If things got out of hand for us, would we have become monsters like the ones shown here? Hope never dies, no matter how grim the situation gets, a human being’s ability to never lose hope is what makes them human in the first place, and that hope, though dwindling, is still present in the world of “The Last Of Us” and despite the atrocities that mankind has seen and done to survive in the world of this game, that lingering hope is what makes this grimdark post-apocalyptic world worth clinging onto/fighting for, bearable and oddly enough, human.