Flicks With Nicki – The Last of UsNicki Salcedo. Photo by Fox Gradin.
We’ve come a long way since “Pong,” the first video game I ever played. Two sticks and one pixelated circle bounced between them. There was no story, simply action.
Games have evolved since then to replicate sports, driving, and fighting. Video games today contain grand adventures of horror, space, and even the apocalypse. My favorite will always be the “Legend of Zelda,” a fantasy epic. The stories within the games are complex now. Complex enough to be translated into movies and TV shows.
“The Last of Us” will be compared to “The Walking Dead” as a tale of survival in a world with many monsters. Joel (Pedro Pascal) is a capable man. He is a military vet and construction worker. Twenty years after the world comes to an end, he meets Ellie (Bella Ramsey) a teenager with a secret and a reason to be saved. The end of the world means martial law, smugglers, blurred lines between good and evil. The obvious evil is the mass fungal infection that sparked a global pandemic. The subtle evil is a quiet old lady and a kid shuffling through the woods. Or maybe the silent evil is our willingness to drive past a stranded family and kill to survive.
Years ago, I talked to a friend who works at Naughty Dog, the game developer behind “The Last of Us.” As a writer, I was curious about the story within the video games. He estimated that the average video game has 10–12 hours of scripted content. That’s a lot of story.
For those of you who play the game, you know how the story will end. The question now will be, how far will they stray from the source material and create a new story outside the gaming world? Do viewers want to see the game come to life? Or something more?
Pedro Pascal is incredibly compelling as Joel. He is weather-beaten and damaged before the world comes to an end. His daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) almost has a computer-generated look about her. I don’t know whether this is intentional or not, but she was mesmerizing. When her eyes fill with tears, I wonder if she is real. So blurry are the lines between game reality and live-action reality.
We get a glimpse of the infected, but they are not as pervasive as zombies. Yet. Joel aligns himself with a strong cast of characters who will help and betray him. Ellie is his second chance at fatherhood. Imagine traveling across the country. On foot. With a teenager. They don’t make the apocalypse seem fun, but it is. It sparks our imagination.
We will always ask ourselves questions. Do we want to survive? What choices and sacrifices will we make? Is it even worth living if living is hell? That’s a lot to process from a video game. We’ll see if the series evolves like an infected monster, but I hope it will make us think of life in a new way.
“The Last of Us” video game is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Stress level is high. Sadness abounds. Still, I tied my laces and readied myself for the journey. The end of the world is my favorite thing. Too bad it happens so often.
Grade B. When HBOMax is ready, I have a backstory drafted for “Pong.”
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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