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The Positive Impact of The Last of Us

It’s been nearly 10 years since we first went on a journey across America with Joel and Ellie. Although I have played the game many times it’s always been funny to me how much of their journey is ingrained into my mind; everything from Joel and Ellie’s conversation about loss at the ranch to the tender giraffe scene towards the end of the story. It’s a game that stays with you and although it’s been 10 years, its impact is still as fresh as ever.

If you’ve played the game you’ll know what a ground-breaking piece of story-telling it is, and for people like myself it elicited an emotional response that I’d never had across any form of media. If you haven’t played it you’ll soon get the chance to, with the upcoming release of The Last of Us Part 1 on PS5 and I’ll tell you now, I’m very jealous of you getting to experience it for the first time.

For many this game was more than just a great piece of story-telling. It’s exploration of grief, love and healing stayed with people beyond the game’s running time. Even now ten years on there is a community full of people who not only love the world and characters that Naughty Dog created but have stated that the game has had a positive impact on both their personal development and their mental health, and that’s what I want to talk about.

In The Last of Us Part 2 Ellie has a beautiful tattoo going down her arm, and as I’m writing this I am looking at the very same tattoo on my ankle, as well as a firefly on the back of my shoulder. Although references to the game are on my skin I’ve never actually stopped and asked myself why The Last of Us has had such an impact on me.

It’s amazing how much my love for this game ties into my mental health. Back in 2013 I had crippling anxiety; we’re talking about panic attacks at school and sometimes not even being able to get out of bed. Looking back, this was a terrifying time for me and I think a lot of it stemmed from not feeling like I ever fitted in.

I bought The Last of Us during a rough patch in my life and it’s difficult to describe how much comfort the game brought me. Make no mistake, The Last of Us is a game about love and loss but to me it was also a game about healing. I remember thinking if two people can find a way to heal in a world that’s gone to hell, then why can’t I?

It also must be said how much the game influenced me as a writer. In creating characters with such depth and a world so wonderfully realised, Naughty Dog helped me find my purpose and unlocked a love of story-telling that has stayed with me ever since. Looking back, The Last of Us is the reason I studied screenwriting and the reason I got into the games industry.

These are just some of the ways The Last of Us has had a huge impact on my life, but I have also reached out to the vast and varied community of fans to unpack what the game means to them.

Ellie – Cosmic Hearts Founder & Twitch Streamer

“Ultimately The Last Of Us is about exploring how far you’d go for the people you care about, contrasted and combined with the brutality of human nature. Within these two extremes is a story about very broken, very flawed human beings, which I think we can all see a little of in ourselves, and it’s nice to be reminded every now and again that people aren’t perfect.

On top of this, everyone has someone they love, and everyone can empathise with the pain and grief of losing someone, whether it be through death, the end of a relationship, drifting away from a childhood friend.

Despite not being in a zombie apocalypse, we can still empathise with Joel’s motivations and while we might not agree with his behaviour, you are compelled to help him save someone that he cares about because you wouldn’t wish that on anyone. To see him make the decisions he does and soften and grow to care for this girl alongside us makes the ending so much more powerful, and reminds us that humanity is flawed.”


Rosie – Communications Officer and Community Manager at Safe in Our World

“I think TLOU was the same for a lot of people – you were able to watch a really complex and emotional story play out with so many different types of characters surfacing within it. We saw representation from the LGBTQIA+ community, which was few and far between within the narrative driven stories.

We saw characters go through very real trauma in this fictional world; the game wasn’t afraid to tackle these topics and challenge players emotionally.

The connections that these characters made in such a bleak time allowed me to remember that no matter how desperate the situation might be, there are still people that are rooting for you, and there is still hope.

I fell in love with this game during a time in my life where I wasn’t sure I could care about anything anymore, and that in itself is a testament to the world that was so carefully created by Naughty Dog.

Jake – Freelance Poster Artist & Illustrator (Naughty Dog, Sony, Gun Interactive)

The Last of Us has managed to resonate with countless fans as it explores the very human themes of love, loss and hate. Naughty Dog’s magnum opus has helped shape both my personal life and working career.

The journey of Joel and Ellie taught me video game maturity and the impact entertainment can give a user.

It became the catalyst which has brought me to interact with many like minded individuals. I’m happy to label friends, let alone drove my ambition to eventually work with the incredible people at Naughty Dog, Sony and PDSG Creative on the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection key/cover art. Without the experience of playing the original TLOU at release I would not be the person I am today nor be in the working position I am thankfully sitting in.

Riotbones – Freelance Illustrator (Lost in Cult, Filmmakers Without Cameras)

I’ve always been drawn to stories of people with complex and messy backgrounds and questionable, but difficult to make choices, and I think the setting of The Last of Us was pretty much the perfect sandbox for this to be explored

Loss, at the end of the day, is something we all inevitably have to grapple with because it’s so universal, and I appreciate the layers and the depth the game expresses by interrogating how we deal with loss and everything else that comes with it —life isn’t as simple, after all—and not a single game has really resonated with me in terms of the emotional weight and subsequent consequences of loss as much as The Last of Us did.

Nearly 10 years on, it’s moving to see how much of an impact The Last of Us has had, both in improving individuals mental health and their personal development. This is not only a testament to the impact that videogames can have on our wellbeing but also shows how they can truly change us. Now, with the release of The Last of Us Part 1, it offers a whole new generation the chance to discover this game and the journey that Joel and Ellie go on.

With that, I’m sure that 10 years from now a whole new generation will be talking about how the game changed and inspired them.


Ellie / Rosie / Jake / Riotbones


Harry Stainer

Prev. Marketing and Operations for Grads In Games, freelance writer, book person on Instagram & occasional scriptwriter