The Last of Us Part II has undeniably become one of the most controversial games of this console generation, but creative director Neil Druckmann and lead actor Troy Baker have outlined why the community backlash isn’t the most important thing.
The follow up to Naughty Dog’s 2013 hit that introduced us to Joel and Ellie may not have been what die-hard fans expected. Set years later, the storyline breaks from convention and mostly sets out on its own path, establishing plenty of new characters along the way.
While this unexpected structure led to exceptional sales and an immense critical reception, a vocal minority in the community were less than satisfied. Many players lashed out at not just the game itself, but those involved in making it too.
Now, a few weeks removed from the spotlight, Druckmann has responded to the backlash in a July 15 chat with Baker. In light of Laura Bailey’s “rough aftermath” to the project, the two discussed how they dealt with hateful comments.
Given the structure of the narrative in Part II, “it transcends just being a game and it becomes a platform for discourse,” Baker acknowledged. “I knew people would be upset,” Druckmann said. “There’s going to be people that loved the first game, that aren’t going to like this game, I know that.”
Despite how divisive the narrative was, however, they both addressed “how f***ed up” some of the backlash has been. “Some of the discourse is so tribal. You’re either here or you’re there. But the conversation is so much more nuanced.”
From death threats to hurtful imagery and plenty more, developers and actors across the board received a ton of hate for their work on Part II. “There’s so much that I was not prepared for,” Druckmann said.
“The reaction to the making of this game, to how this game has been received, it’s been a huge learning growth for me. At the end of the day, to all our critics, we listen to that stuff and we digest it, but you’re way less important,”
While certain complaints are taken onboard, much of the hatred is filtered out by devs, Druckmann added. “Some of you are not important at all when you shout or threaten…it’s laughable. We send it to each other as jokes some of the time.”
Not all of the feedback can be taken lightly though. Druckmann acknowledged how some extreme backlash crossed a line. Plenty of threats have even been “sent to authorities and that’s not something to be joked about.”
Ultimately, he said, the most important thing to Druckmann is the response from those that actually spent time building the game.
“Reviews are cool, but nothing comes close to hearing [Baker], or Laura, or any member of the team that has sent me an email to say that this is the best game I’ve ever worked on,” he said.
Druckmann & Baker address backlash at 1:16:25 in the video below:
“F*** the haters,” he said. Developers have come to him and expressed how they’ve never been prouder working on anything else in their lives. For Druckmann, that’s the feedback that matters most.
Whether you loved or despised the sequel, hundreds of talented developers dedicated years of their lives to crafting the experience. The least anyone can do is respect the effort that went into the game, especially considering the impact it’s already had for gaming in 2020, for better or worse.