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  • June 2012
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Pittsburgh: Everyone’s Favorite Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In 1868, the journalist James Parton described Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid off.”

Fast forward a century, as well as a complete reinvention from a smoggy steel town to a revitalizing medical research center, and you know what people think of when they think of Pittsburgh?

The end of the world.

No, really. Over the last few decades, Pittsburgh has been the focal point of a number of different apocalyptic wastelands, each more dire than the last, and it seems that filmmakers and video game programmers have striven to see how far they can envision Pittsburgh’s urban enclaves of abandoned buildings into a hopeless, desolate place. Warning: the end of the world is not, as you can imagine, a pleasant place. The following clips might contain curse words or reasons to be scared of ever venturing into the tunnels.

For instance, thanks to George Romero and his 1978 movie Dawn of the Dead, the world bore witness to a world in which hordes of zombies, rapidly overtaking the living, surrounded a ragtag group of hapless survivors taking refuge in… Monroeville Mall.

Trust me. These people aren’t banging down the doors looking for a sale. They’re looking for your brains.

Another couple of decades later, and Pittsburghers who played Fallout 3 were treated to a dystopian Pittsburgh in which the rivers became irradiated by nuclear fallout, causing genetic mutations, social upheaval, and a grimy industrial slave trade.

Not long after, Pittsburgh and the Western PA area debuted as a place where dread and desolation reign, and where cannibals run amok as the setting for the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. You might even recognize a number of shots from the film from this stretch of abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Finally, enter Naughty Dog’s upcoming game for PS3, entitled The Last of Us. The Last of Us features a world in which the Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani fungus, which infects ants’ brains and forces them to climb up to places where it can shower its spores onto the rain forest floor, has somehow found its way into humans. Players play as a man who, along with a 14-year-old girl, must match brutality for brutality as they attempts to survive in a world turned upside-down.

If you’re in high school, you’ve probably spent a lot of time imagining how you’d survive a variety of different apocalypses, from natural to zombie alike. Well, if the last few years of entertainment are any indication, you’re going to have a lot of people doing the imagining for you.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

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