Although gamers saw plenty of amazing game releases in 2013, including "GTA V" and "Bioshock Infinite," Naughty Dog's apocalyptic epic "The Last of Us" was by far one of the most successful. Critically acclaimed for its heart-rending storyline, engaging characters, memorable scenes, and thought-provoking ending, "The Last of Us" has won a record number of awards, garnered interest in a sequel, and even landed a movie deal.
"The Last of Us" was released on June 14, 2013 amid rave reviews. Most video game review websites and magazines gave it full scores, and anticipation ran high.
It sold 1.4 million copies in its first week, and 3.4 million within three weeks. This made it the fastest selling PS3 game ever at the time. As of March 14, it has sold over 6 million copies, according to GameInformer.
When it comes to awards, "The Last of Us" cleaned up like none other. It won ten out of the thirteen categories it was nominated for on IGN, including best overall game. The IGN staff praised the game's accomplishments while they defended their choice.
"'The Last of Us' may very well be a once-in-a-generation sort of experience," said Colin Moriarty, IGN senior editor.
"Few experiences in life have touched me the way 'The Last of Us' did," said Greg Miller, IGN executive editor.
"'The Last of Us' was one of the most thought-provoking and emotionally fulfilling experiences I played all year," said Tal Blevins, editorial director at IGN.
"The Last of Us" also took home five awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. It won Best Game, Best Action/Adventure Game, Best Story, Best Audio Achievement and Best Performer for Ashley Johnson, the voice of the character Ellie.
The bar at the event even created a cocktail in its honor, made with ingredients they considered likely to be left behind after an apocalypse, and served in a metal can.
According to Gotyblog, a website that tracks and tallies Game of the Year awards from various organizations, "The Last of Us" won 246 individual Game of the Year awards. This is a record setting number, surpassing "Red Dead Redemption's" 2010 score of 211. Other games that have won this distinction in the past decade include "Bioshock," "Fallout 3" and "Half Life 2."
Not to diminish Naughty Dog's accomplishments, but it is interesting to note that ten years ago, when "Half Life 2" earned the most awards, Gotyblog only registered a total of 55 valid Game of the Year Competitions. They have a strict set of guidelines pertaining to what they will recognize, including the professionalism of an organization. This year there were a total 525 recognized competitions.
This is interesting on a couple of levels. First, it shows that gaming has become such a massive industry in the past ten years that the number of organizations that review the products has increased tenfold.
Secondly, it shows that a large number of respectable, traditional organizations are coming to recognize video games as a valid medium of artistic expression. Names that show up on the 2013 list of GOTY awards that did not show up ten years ago include The New Yorker, CNN, The Guardian, Forbes and BAFTA.
Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about a potential sequel for "The Last of Us." Naughty Dog has admitted that they are considering the possibility, and examining potential storylines. However, they have made it clear that storytelling will take precedence over profit, and a sequel will not be made for the sole purpose of capitalizing on the successes of the first.
Neil Druckmann, creative director for "The Last of Us," responded to a reddit 50/50 AMA (Ask Me Anything) question saying "If you're asking about a sequel ... right now I'd say it's 50/50." But even though he wasn't committing to a sequel, he did tease some other big news. "I miss them [Joel and Ellie] dearly. I'd love to see them again-maybe in a different medium? We'll see."
Sure enough, a couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures and Screen Gems are going to be co-producing a movie based on "The Last of Us." Druckmann, who is also writing the script, announced at the BAFTA awards that the plot of the movie will follow that of the game.
This will not be the first time Screen Gems oversaw a video game to movie transition. Screen Gems is also responsible for the movie adaptations of the Resident Evil series.
Naughty Dog Co-President, Evan Wells, said that since the game came out, they have been approached by numerous studios who wanted to make a film out of the game. But after Screen Gems President Clint Culpepper spoke to Wells and Druckmann, Wells called the partnership between Ghost House and Screen Gems a "perfect fit"
Despite the relatively recent announcement, discussions have sprung up all over the internet about the question of who would be cast in the lead roles.
The fact that Ellen Page is more than ten years too old to play Ellie has been widely lamented, although Chloe Grace Moretz, the foul-mouthed super-girl from "Kick-Ass," is a popular suggestion. Options for Joel range from Josh Brolin to Viggo Mortensen to Liam Neeson.
With the possibility of a sequel and certainty of a movie adaptation, fans of the universally acclaimed "The Last of Us" still have a lot to look forward to.
By David Thornton