In a post-apocalyptic America affected by the infestation of a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus, the human survivors have to defend themselves from cannibalistic creatures, that were once human beings infected by the plague.
These circumstances portray the world in which the action-adventure survival horror video game The Last of Us is based on. Developed by Naughty Dog in 2013, the game sees among its protagonists Ellie, a teenage girl immune to the plague, that helped by Joe, one of the survivors, will start a journey pursuing the hope to find a cure to the epidemy.
Inspired by the non-fiction book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (2007), that illustrates what would happen to the natural and artificial environment if humans suddenly disappear, the game is visually symbolised by post-apocalyptic surroundings where the use of natural lights emphasises the ruins of a civilised world.
The game’s settings bring the player into a mysterious nostalgic state that leads to a temporal and surreal world characterised by the subjugation of nature. Here infected plants take the advantage over urban elements, in a way in which nature almost revendicates what men for centuries have tried to abduct.
The concept of ruins steadily resonates in the lost world, where the places with which the characters interact act as a portal where ‘the past is both present in its residues and yet no longer accessible’ (Huyssen, 2006 p.7). The ostensibly designed architectural landscape unitedly follows the game’s narrative, plentiful of suspense and curiosity, where the player can almost perceive a feeling of alienation intensified by the collapsing desire to achieve the end of the game.
As Weisman writes in his book:
‘If we were to vanish tomorrow, the momentum of certain forces we’ve already set in motion will continue until centuries of gravity, chemistry, and entropy slow them to an equilibrium that may only partly resemble the one that existed before us.’ (2007 p.)
The overcoming of the natural world in the game clearly depicts Weisman’s theory. Moreover, the presence of ruins clearly casts us forward and backward in time, in a world where nature is the supreme dominant and human beings prey on each other.
Huyssen, A. (2006). Nostalgia for Ruins. 1st ed. Grey Room, p.7.
Weisman, A. (2007). The World Without Us. 1st ed. St. Martins Thomas Dunne Books.