In a post-apocalyptic world, a father’s determination to save his teenage daughter is highlighted in the 2013 video game, “The Last of Us.” The multi-layered storyline has been adapted into a new HBO show — resonating with a different audience.
It’s become HBO’s second-most watched series premiere in more than a decade, something that Neil Druckmann, creator, writer, and executive producer of “The Last of Us,” both the series and the game, finds still hard to believe.
“I’m waiting for a piano to fall on me or something cause it just feels too good to be true,” Druckmann said.
The storyline in “The Last of Us” gives it an interactive element that Druckmann believes makes it different from other video games and has captured the attention of binge-watching fans from across the world.
“You could put a whole novel inside a game. You could put a whole movie inside a game,” said Druckmann.
Actress Merle Dandridge stars in the series and plays rebel group leader Marlene — the same role she voiced in the video game in 2013.
She said she never thought when she first signed up for the project that it would have such an impact years later.
Dandridge hopes that the television series helps encourage more people to explore the storytelling that can be found in some video games.
“I certainly think this will make people reconsider their opinions about video games. And this I think, is a great signal to the ether, to the zeitgeist, to let them know that some of the most wonderful storytelling is happening in video games,” she said.
Evan Skolnick wrote the book, “Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques” and spearheads the game-writing program at the University of Silicon Valley where the emphasis is on storytelling.
He said that while in almost all games the main attraction is the game playing, the storyline acts as a supporting role and can help with the overall success of the video game.
With about three billion players worldwide, video games are big business. Their popularity has caught the attention of Hollywood—where more games are being turned into movies and TV series.
Some movies like the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” franchise have found success. “Halo” — adapted from a military science fiction game of the same name — was last year’s most-watched show on Paramount+ – part of the same parent company as CBS News.
But other popular games like “Mortal Kombat” and “Assassin’s Creed” have failed to pick up popularity when transformed into major Hollywood developments.
Druckmann believes that turning a video game into a television series or movie requires an understanding of how different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses.
It is because of this Druckmann said that some elements of the game may need to be changed, but it is important to remain true to the original storyline to honor the loyal fan base that has carried the game for years.
“We’re trying to tell the same story that we had in the game. And sometimes we’ll deviate and go on these tangents, but we come back to the same message, the same soul of the game,” he said.