Four things we can learn from this video game about a devastating pandemic

The Last of Us is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Last of Us is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Exodis Ward, Contributor

With all this COVID-19 craziness going on, it seemed quite appropriate to play The Last of Us (TLOU) on my PS4 — an action-packed video game about the aftermath of cordyceps fungus pandemic that morphed humans into infected zombies. 

The game was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2013. In TLOU, the main character Joel takes on smuggler job to sneak Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of a militarized quarantine zone. The journey ends up taking them across the U.S.   

Though our pandemics are not nearly the same — ours is worse because it’s real — I found some simple truths that can be easily applied to our current situation.  

Without any spoilers, here are four lessons from The Last of Us that I think we can all use: 


Take only what you need 

There are moments when resources are everywhere. Most of theare found in “quiet” spaces of the game where there’s no combat or in rooms that require a shiv to open them. It’s a relief when the player is low on supplies but when there’s no space in the player’s inventory, it sucks.  

The premise of the game is surviving, not thriving. In TLOU, players don’t get the luxury of hoarding. It’s painful but valuable lesson. With all the panic surrounding COVID-19, people are hoarding toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers and other resources. Though sheltering-in-place sounds scary, it’s a good idea to take only what is needed. Movement in the community is restricted, but anyone who needs supplies can still go to stores and buy things. Shop in a way so you can go out less, but not hoard.  


Guns blazing is not always the best choice 

This game forced me to work on my stealth. Occasionally, players will find themselves in situations where there are many infected and not enough tools and the player can easily be overpowered. This passive approach can be the best choice because things can go from in-control to overwhelming in the blink of an eye. The same goes for interactions between people. The constant flow of information about coronavirus deaths, the many new cases and the lack of medical resources seem to have everyone on edge. When people act in a way you don’t understand, try thinking twice before jumping on the defense.  


Take time to stop and smell the roses 

One of my favorite parts of TLOU is the world building within it. Players get a sense of the timeline from the initial outbreak to the current time and everything in between. There’s a variety of journals, notes, audio recorders and other things that players can read to get other points of viewPlayers see the different struggles and it makes it all feel more real. There are optional dialogues between Joel and Ellie that help the player get a better sense of who they are too. All of this can be missed if the player rushes through the game. If players are going for a record, go for it, but if not, they should spend some time looking around. This period of time is the perfect time to check in on family and friends to see how they’re copingThis is also a good time to do some refocusing so when things go back to normal, the comeback will be strong. 


Adapt and overcome 

This is a constant theme throughout the game. No matter the amount of preparation, things can go wrong. Players get ambushed. They run out of materialsThere are levels where they find themselves with literally nothing to fight with. It can be terrifying, but players adapt. Instead of attacking an enemythey can throw a bottle to throw enemies off with the bottle’s scent. There’s been a bit of disruption of our daily schedules but it’s definitely not the end of the world. (I hope.) We need to distance ourselves from each other, so we work from home. Universities are going online. Though things are changing, we adapt and overcome.  


The playthrough reminded me of how bad things can get when governments can’t catch up to the spread of disease.

Editor’s note: A previous version mentioned the future release of “The Last of Us Part II” originally set for May 29, but Sony released a statement postponing the release indefinitely because “the global crisis is preventing us from providing the launch experience our players deserve.”

Exodis Ward may be reached at [email protected]