Esquire speaks to Professor David Hughes, who consulted on the original “The Last of Us” videogame.
At the beginning of the first episode of The Last Of Us, there’s a fictional 1968 TV broadcast in which an epidemiologist talks eerily about the likelihood of a fungus-driven pandemic.
“One [fungi] gene could mutate, any one of them could be capable of burrowing in our brains and taking control not of millions of us but billions of us; puppets with poisoned minds, permanently fixed on one unifying goal, to spread the infection to every last human alive by any means necessary. And there are no treatments for this, no preventatives, no cures, they don’t exist and it’s not even possible to make them. We lose.”
It sets a suitably ominous tone for the dystopian series, a relentlessly dangerous world in which humans are being infected by the cordyceps fungus, turning them into blood-thirsty zombies. Blood-thirsty zombies that can run. Fast.
Dr. Neumann could very well be based on the equally knowledgeable and straight-talking Professor David Hughes. The renowned entomologist and biologist specialises in the subject of parasites, especially the cordyceps variety that causes the ‘zombie ant’ phenomenon, in which fungus takes over ants’ bodies to spread their spores. The makers of the original The Last of Us videogame saw this phenomenon on a David Attenborough documentary and brought in Hughes, one of the world’s leading experts in this subject, to work with them on the launch of the title.
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