Last of Us creators explain the game-changing Cordyceps mushroom zombie

You’ve probably noticed that the mushroom in HBO’s Our Last only works a little differently than in games — especially in the way Cordyceps based on the real-life fungus of the same name, which spreads between people. The spores are out and the fungal network is inside.

Spores in the game serve the atmosphere of the game: With the right lighting, you can see spores spilling out from cracked doors, a warning of the danger lurking within. . It’s the signal that the characters, usually Joel, must wear a mask to prevent infection, although Ellie’s immunity means she will only need to wear a mask to blend in. But there’s no way the respirator could work in the show. You can’t hide the main characters’ faces behind bulky masks; this is not Palestiniansafterall.

“Program [is] a more realistic approach to the story and the world,” Our Last writer and creator Neil Druckmann told Polygon. “If we wanted to handle it realistically and have the spores nearby, the characters would always wear respirators. Then we lose so much, and perhaps the most important part of the journey is what’s going on inside their eyes, in their soul, in their person. For that logistical reason, we were like, Let’s find another vector.”

Druckmann and vectors Our Last‘ the writers have chosen is the mushroom network. It’s a concept based on the actual science of fungi: We see fungi as they burrow through the soil. The pieces we see are the fruit bodies of the whole organism, the rest hidden beneath the surface of the Earth. That part is called myceliumfilaments that propagate underground and connect fungi and plants into a “mycelia network,” a natural network that is not unlike the internet — some fungi experts call it “forest network.” Trees, fungi, and other plants use these networks to transport water and other nutrients and to “communicate” in different ways, often spanning miles.

The fungal networks, made up of brightly colored tendrils, work in a similar way in Our Last on HBO, but instead of transmitting information about where nutrients are needed, it alerts the infected network to a potential host: humans. Individually infected people join the “web” when spikes develop into a hole in their body, usually a bite mark. (In episode 2, we see a more unconventional method of spread: An infected body leans on Tess to kiss, tendrils grow from his mouth into hers.) The fungus spreads quickly and takes over. assumes every function except the urge to spread.

“[We wanted] to feel like these things are connected. They can attack us in large numbers,” Druckmann said. “But as with the way they pass it from person to person, it becomes a really disturbing thing, like, Oh, this is delicious. We have to use this.”

The shift from spores to tentacles and fungal networks adds another layer of stress to the way pathogens behave. Simply keeping quiet and sneaking around isn’t enough anymore — one wrong move can mean triggering a web of monsters that move in mass and know your exact location.

It was a good change – in video games, the spores themselves are not dangerous. You can’t choose when to wear a respirator or when to take it off; The developers have made that decision for you and the players will be on the ride in that sense. Take off the gas mask, and the game won’t change much. It was just something that happened: put on the respirator and then took off the respirator.

There’s also the consideration of framing the show around an airborne pandemic, such as the game website Kotaku wrote after the first episode aired. Our Last could be a close follow-up to that and is likely why the concept of spores has been replaced by fungal networks. After all, there is still the same sense of mystery with the tentacles, but with the increased tension in communication between infected people. Mushrooms have a world map that is invisible to anyone else; Their only goal is to spread the fungus.


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