To measure the place of video games in the pop-culture zeitgeist, consider that Generation Z is more familiar with Fortnite than "Friends." The medium’s cultural reach is now at its peak, driven by the critical and commercial acclaim being heaped on the HBO TV hit "The Last of Us."

The show, which tracks the journey of an emotionally scarred father and his surrogate daughter across a post-pandemic, zombie-blighted United States, began life as a game on Sony’s PlayStation 3 a decade ago. The faithful adaptation has made the story both a cross-generation success and water-cooler conversation — must-see TV in an era where few programs rise above the noise. It marks a year in which gaming has ascended to the level of the culturally unavoidable, a shift that will have major ramifications on where television and movie executives look for the next big thing.

Adaptations of games to both the small and big screens have a notoriously patchy history. For every success, such as the unlikely 2020 box-office hit "Sonic the Hedgehog," there are multiple failures. Netflix’s adaptation of Capcom’s Resident Evil bombed last year, while attempts to make movie franchises of the likes of Activision Blizzard’s Warcraft or Ubisoft Entertainment’s Assassin’s Creed have all flopped.