The Last of Us Changed My Life


I didn’t realize that June 14 of 2013 was going to be the day my life began to change. This was the day the now beloved and world-renowned video game The Last of Us was released.

I was only 12-years-old when The Last of Us came out and I didn’t know what to expect from it. Naughty Dog, the studio behind this masterpiece, had a track record of creating fun and bombastic action-adventure games, something that The Last of Us drew inspiration from, but it was a definitive departure from what they had previously created in the space of gaming.

Before I get into the details of the story, it’s vital to discuss what was going on in my life at the time. For starters, I was a pre-teen, going to school and coming home always excited to play games. That was my routine for the most part. I didn’t stray away from it and video games offered me a form of escape. An escape that helped me through the darkest times in my life.

So, what did I go through?

Not having a father led to a slew of issues causing dysfunction within my family. The lack of his presence didn’t do me any favors because it was something I needed as a child. I needed guidance, and a father figure to learn from, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Luckily, I had such wonderful grandparents to lean on that took the responsibility of practically raising me alleviating a lot of stress off my deaf mother which limited her parenting abilities.

The more I began to understand my situation, depression started to creep in with flooding emotions throughout my day to day. I never knew how to deal with them, and it only escalated from there resulting in sleepless nights, and a severe lack of motivation.

I was on the deep end and needed something to get me out of it. So, I turned to therapy. And when that didn’t work, I relied heavily on video games.

My escape would turn into an addiction. All I wanted to do was play video games because it was one of the very few things that would bring me joy. It started to become an unhealthy outlet for me to lose myself in slowly breaking the depression down little by little.

With that said, the story on a surface level is centered around two characters traversing a post-apocalyptic United States. At the beginning of the game, Joel loses his daughter, Sarah, on the night of the zombie outbreak which brought me to tears.

Twenty years pass and we meet a character named Ellie through the leader of a militia group named the Fireflies who Joel must then smuggle across the country to their headquarters at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. The leader, Marlene asks him to do this favor and in return, he gets the supplies he needs. Joel agrees, albeit hesitant at first, and it led him to build a relationship with Ellie that was unexpected.

On this journey, there is a bite mark is found on Ellie, which later proves that she’s the cure for humanity. With this revelation, Joel has trouble wrapping his mind around it all, it just sounds too good to be true but in time, he realizes that she hasn’t turned into a zombie even after having been bitten for weeks.

This trust further develops as the cross-country trek continues and many players like myself began to see parallels in their relationship with Joel and his late daughter.

Ellie slowly but surely started to remind Joel of his daughter. He began to take care of her as if she was Sarah and expressed his love for her which allowed Joel to rebuild a piece of himself that he once lost.

Unfortunately, with Ellie being the cure, he knew why Marlene wanted her to be smuggled across the country, but that would mean that she had to be sacrificed to save humanity. Joel didn’t want to lose her like he lost Sarah. Without hesitation, he decides to commit the most selfish act I’d ever seen.

Upon arrival at Saint Mary’s Hospital, he murders every single Firefly member and the remaining surgeons capable of creating a cure.

Then he lies to Ellie about it all, claiming that they’ve stopped looking for a cure due to others being immune just like her and that it hasn’t led to anything promising. Joel took the one thing that would make Ellie’s life matter away from her, which is something I believe many fathers, let alone any parent would have done at the moment.

By that point, Joel and Ellie’s relationship made me realize what it means to have a father figure and what that could have been like. I was able to recognize that as a child, I longed for a relationship like theirs and chased after it to no avail.

Upon completion of the game, my perspective changed, and I no longer felt that overwhelming sadness about my situation. The Last of Us made me realize that I’d want to have a daughter someday. With a child, I’ll be able to provide what my father couldn’t in my childhood.

At first, this was surprising to say the least, but I realized what matters most is what I do going forward and how I can be a better father in the future.

The Last of Us taught me to live in the moment and not dwell on my uncontrollable past. Like Joel, I’ll be able to rebuild that piece of myself in my future days and that is what I look forward to the most.