HBO’s The Last Of Us Features A More Realistic Joel

Part of why players adore The Last of Us is the protagonist you play: Joel. He is also, for a middle-aged man, very sprightly especially once you learn exactly how old he is. When Naughty Dog upgraded the PS3/PS4 game for the PS5, retitling it The Last of Us Part 1, it updated many of the game's assets including that of Joel's passport.

With the increase in graphical clarity eagle-eyed players spotted Joel's date of birth and worked out that he is 52 years old during the game's events. Joel however has no issues running around full pelt, climbing, swimming, and going toe to toe with the clickers. But as the title is being adapted for television, the showrunners have decided to alter how Joel is depicted in the show.

Speaking to the New Yorker, showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin revealed more including how a new zombie was invented since the script called for it, how they had to audition many, many actresses for the role of Ellie, among other new insights. Another was how the character of Joel had to be changed. As the publication writes: "In the game, Joel is near-superhuman".

But Mazin informed Druckmann that the TV show Joel needed to be less resilient. This more fragile Joel has been affected by the world he lives in and is dramatised in various ways. For example, Pedro Pascal's Joel is hard of hearing on one side due to a gunshot. His knees hurt when he stands. "I guess there's a tone where Tom Cruise can do anything," Mazin told the New Yorker. "But I like my middle-aged people middle-aged."

It underscores the difference between video games and TV/film. While having a more realistic Joel in a game would make it more life-like it could lead to frustration among players. Realism has to be curtailed because if Joel dies or falls over from just a single bullet, which is more likely to happen in real life, then that could turn into a punishing gameplay experience. No doubt this is what some players seek, with the harder difficulty modes, but for more life-like games there is a compromise to be had between realism and what's fun.

For the TV show, a more relatable and less superhuman Joel is important so that viewers can understand the world he and Ellie inhabit, one which is so much like ours but for a disastrous event that has turned the infected into runners and clickers. But even here the show's writers have decided to depict the infected far more empathetically than the games. Apparently, in both script and direction, viewers will have the chance to recognise that the infected possess their own kind of interiority.

There is a lot to look forward to and HBO has spent lavishly on the budget for the series. The Last of Us will premiere on January 15, 2023.

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