The Last of Us – The Television Series?

Most people would agree that The Last of Us features writing, characterization, and cinematic elements on par with any quality movie or television show. The youtube user Grant Voegtle has created a project here that showcases these elements perhaps even better than the game itself does: a “cinematic playthrough” of The Last of US which splices together both game cutscenes with HUD-less gameplay to create a seamless viewing experience so that, in Grant’s words, “non-gamers, or people who are otherwise unable to play the game for any number of reasons, can enjoy watching the game play out as much as players enjoyed playing through it.”

As someone who has played The Last of Us all the way through, I thought the most interesting parts of the cinematic playthrough were the editing tricks and liberties the creator could use in order to better fit the game into a different medium. (Spoilers ahead!) In particular, during the climatic scene at the end of Episode 6, as Ellie fights in the burning building and Joel makes his way to rescue her, the creator quickly shifts between Ellie’s and Joel’s perspective, giving the confrontation an entirely different feel as the viewer is taken from character to character in a way the game is unable to pull off without. In other situations, the creator is able to introduce a new area by splicing shots of the environments together, taking away the focus (temporarily) from the characters on-screen, and giving players and viewers alike new perspectives on the game world that the characters inhabit.

This project also raises a few questions – if The Last of Us could be so easily turned into a viewing experience, did it really need to be a video game? Indeed, I think most criticisms of the game stem not as much from its narrative as its gameplay experience. Could this story have been as effectively told in a different medium? I’m curious as to how the impact and experience of the narrative would differ from those who have only played The Last of Us versus those who have only seen this cinematic version. How much does gameplay contribute to narrative, if at all? I would argue, for example, that playing as Joel and helping him, as the player, to commit his extreme acts of violence colors one’s opinion of Joel in a way that simply viewing them would not.

On a final note, the upcoming The Last of Us movie will be a fascinating test case for video game-based movie or television shows. I think most people would acknowledge that making movies out of paper-thin narrative gaming experiences like Doom or Prince of Persia were endeavors that were bound to fail, whilst making a movie out of an already well-written and engaging narrative experience like The Last of Us need not necessarily fall into the same traps. It will curious to see if The Last of Us’s narrative experience is lessened in its transition to the big screen.

3 thoughts on “The Last of Us – The Television Series?

  1. I wanted to let you know that I chose this as one of my favorite blog posts of the semester. I like this post because I thoroughly enjoyed watching the cinematic movie of the cut scenes of “The Last of Us”. I think making this into a movie would be a great idea because the story is one of the best I’ve every heard before. Thank you for letting me know about the possibility of it becoming a movie.

  2. I chose this as one of my favorite posts this semester because it’s essentially what I’m studying. I love exploring the idea of telling stories across mediums, so to see that someone created what is basically a television show out of The Last of Us makes me really excited. The discussion for adapting The Last of Us then comes to whether film or television would be the best medium for it and how the story would be affected in either one. Thinking about that with other games is great and really allows for the possibility to expand in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like the moment that you mention where it shifts from Ellie and Joel’s perspectives at the end of Episode 6. Things like that are really exciting and interesting to think about. Thank you for posting this!

  3. I’m very excited for the movie adaptation of The Last of Us. The entire prospect of turning games into films truly excites me, despite the poor examples of Prince of Persia and Hitman. In my opinion, The Last of Us makes for a better viewing experience than playing experience. I watched some gameplay videos on YouTube while trying to play (not simultaneously but in breaks from my own gameplay) and I enjoyed that more than playing. But that probably comes more from the fact that I was struggling in the game and struggling is not fun for me. Plus, the story was much more interesting but I was taking too long getting through play to get through the story.

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