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Woke and Creatively Broke: The Last of Us 2 will be a train wreck

Micah Curtis
Micah Curtis

is a game and tech journalist from the US. Aside from writing for RT, he hosts the podcast Micah and The Hatman, and is an independent comic book writer. Follow Micah at @MindofMicahC

is a game and tech journalist from the US. Aside from writing for RT, he hosts the podcast Micah and The Hatman, and is an independent comic book writer. Follow Micah at @MindofMicahC

Woke and Creatively Broke: The Last of Us 2 will be a train wreck
Recently, leaks from the highly anticipated video game The Last of Us 2 have taken a lot of air out of the proverbial tires. The spoilers show a bland game that attempts to use a Rainbow flag to mask a generic plot.

Warning: This article will have zero regard for spoilers, and analyzes the creative issues with the game The Last of Us 2 based on the leaks. 

When a disgruntled employee of development house Naughty Dog had the entirety of its plot for the upcoming title The Last of Us 2 leaked onto 4chan, it couldn’t have been worse for them. Already suffering from PR problems after stories about their working conditions hit the internet, what was revealed in the plot for the upcoming game was nothing good. The outline reads as a generic revenge story, where the only real moments of shock come from the lead characters of the last game being murdered. Footage now pulled from the internet showed the character of Joel killed with a golf club, simultaneously pulling from Andrew Ryan’s death in Bioshock, and attempting to reduplicate the shock of Negan killing Glenn in The Walking Dead.

There are two main issues that come from the story as it is now outlined on the ResetEra message board. The first is that it takes a lot of beats from The Walking Dead’s plot points, especially with the “humans are the real monsters” and “cycle of revenge” ideas. Even so, those messages aren’t new to the zombie genre, which The Last of Us as a franchise falls into. “There is nothing new under the sun” of course, but from what we’re seeing of the plot, there’s nothing interesting here, either. It also doesn’t help that the exceptionally talented writer Amy Hennig (who wrote much of The Legacy of Kain and Uncharted games) was let go from the company during development. It is speculated that Hennig may have had disagreements with the direction Naughty Dog wanted to go.

What doesn’t really help Naughty Dog’s case is how they’ve focused on identity politics over actual quality storytelling. There have been warning signs for a long time. Creative director Neil Druckmann cited Anita Sarkeesian as an influence in his creative direction. Anita Sarkeesian is the head of Feminist Frequency (a non-profit that criticizes creative works for not being feminist enough), and has zero experience in creating fiction. It is rumored that the female designs in the game were made less feminine so as not to offend trans women. The main enemies of the game are apparently going to be one of the safest kind you could pick: a fundamentalist Christian cult. Generally speaking, the safest bad guys in fiction are demons, Nazis, and fundamentalists. Nobody likes fundies except for other fundies. What’s even worse is that people apparently don’t like the new character Abbie much either.

All of this comes across as a major train wreck. When your creative lead’s main concern is being properly feminist or being a “proper ally,” the product suffers. Especially when you say your game will be about hate.” The lesson of half of fiction is “hate is bad.” Star Wars created an entire philosophy in its universe where hate turns you monstrous. It’s not exciting. Everything about this project seems generic. The main enemies are the dullest thing imaginable without having them summon Satan and walk around in SS uniforms. The new protagonist is “trans safe” and exists to kill off the old ones, who people actually liked. This is turning into The Last Jedi of video games. 

Naughty Dog’s assurances seem pretty hollow. You can’t really do anything to make a narrative-driven game tantalizing to gamers when the narrative looks so poor. The best way to summarize the plot is to compare it to a treehouse with the LGBTQ+ flag draped over it. Naughty Dog is trying its best to assure people that what’s under that flag is great, but when you finally get past them and pull the flag down, the treehouse is likely rotten and termite-infested. The fact of the matter is that Neil Druckman was too busy worrying about not offending Woke Twitter and the trigger-happy games press, and not worrying enough about telling a good story that will make people want to buy his game.

Trying to make your art inoffensive is a fallacy. You cannot please everyone. You cannot tell a story that no one will be offended by. If you try, you end up with tasteless mush. Were I in Druckman’s shoes, I’d prepare a lengthy apology to Sony and to Amy Hennig, quit video games, and go give bad life advice in San Francisco. That would fit him better than making anything that has to do with entertainment. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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