Spoilers for the first couple hours of The Last of Us Part II ahead
The internet’s a lot like the human body. There’s the brain, heart, and muscles that provide a service, like your search engines and social medias and all that. Extrapolating this analogy out to its natural endpoint, there always has to be an arsehole and recently it seems like a very small segment of the gaming community - we’ll call them hardcore gamers (feel free to read that from now on in a dismissive tone because I sure am) - are applying for this particular position.
Now, we’re going to do a little experiment, if you’ll indulge me… well it’s my blog so I’m doing it anyway. Now, I want you to take a deep breath and focus on this next sentence very carefully…
In The Last of Us Part II, Joel - the main protagonist from the last game - is beaten to death by the main antagonist, Abby.
How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel like sending death threats to the voice actor for the character? Does it make you want to hurl death threats, anti-Semitism and transphobia at the creative director? Because the hardcore gamers sure did. Here are some ‘choice cuts’ that I found with very little effort. I’ve also kept them exactly as they’re shown.
Lefty SJW gamer here. This game is an overlong, mishandled self-indulgent chore. Killing off Joel was a **** insult and the switch in the narrative was completely mishandled. Robbed the game of any sense of momentum. Absolutely hated my experience with it. An empty, cynical game in an empty, hopeless year. Fuck you, Neil.
Thanks Naughty Dog for destroying my favourite game and characters with your sjw crap. Wtf have you done to Joel and Ellie… youve gone from a heros journey of redemption, family and love to this dribble. Shame on you…
This is an absolute abomination. They butchered the story and it is clear character assassination, Joel is nothing like he was in the first game, makes a very stupid and out of character mistake that real Joel would never do. They went for shock value... so many disgusting scenes. The graphics are downgraded compared what they originally showed and the gameplay is still mediocre, this product has nothing to offer.
We’re all upset. Not because of trans/lesbian/whatever the fuck in the game, but because this awesome character was taken away from us far too soon. Say hi to Sarah for us. #JusticeForJoel
Those last two really puts everything into perspective. You can like or loathe a character all you want but at the end of the day, that’s all they are. There’s no “real Joel”. You know who is real? Laura Bailey, the voice actress for the character of Abby. The hardcore gamers deemed her to be a monster because her character killed Joel, a character they say they like. Never mind that Joel wasn’t even close to a hero in the first game and his narrative arc was never going to end with anything other than him six feet under. Never mind that Bailey was just doing her job and didn’t personally bludgeon Joel to death.
The fact that in 2020 we have people over the age of ten that clearly can’t distinguish between video games and reality is just disappointing. Just read some of the messages shown off in this Forbes article and tell me you can’t feel a small piece of your soul die with every word.
Laura Bailey didn’t deserve death threats. Neil Druckmann didn’t deserve death threats.
NO ONE DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR DOING THEIR JOB.
You can criticise. You can criticise the game itself for being too long (which it is) or the developer Naughty Dog for their handling of the backlash, for their use of crunch during the development of the game, hell you can even criticise their handling of criticism -- best shown through their dogpile on Jason Schreier after he tried to rightly shed some light on the crunch Naughty Dog regularly puts their staff through. Polygon writer Patricia Hernandez has written an incredible article on just how toxic any discourse about this game becomes, which you can read here.
This situation isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a particularly bad one but it’s not a singular event. In 2016 it was No Man’s Sky and developer Hello Games, and while they did under-deliver on their promises, that doesn’t mean they deserved death threats.
Just in case you hardcore gamers didn’t get it the first time,
NO ONE DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR DOING THEIR JOB.
This sort of stuff, as Hernandez points out in her article, is incredibly frustrating as it takes focus away from the issues in the game industry that matter. Instead of people finding out that Naughty Dog put enormous pressure on its workers with crunch or scrutinising the way games marketing can be used to over-promise or over hype a game, we end up being reminded yet again that some people hate even having to consider stepping outside their miniscule comfort zone.
Scrolling through the Metacritic user reviews for this game - at time of writing - there are 63,255 negative reviews, mostly filled with the same absolute drivel shown above. This is a common tactic employed when hardcore gamers decide they don’t like something about the game like the fact it includes women, non-white characters or LGBTQI+ characters. This has become such a common practice that Metacritic are implementing a 36 hour wait period on user reviews.
The sad thing is this should never have gone as far as it has. It should have never gotten to this point. Now if the type of person that sent a death threat to Bailey or Druckmann or anyone is still reading then let me make it really clear what I’m trying to say with this post.
Death threats are never an acceptable answer to you not liking a game or not liking that a character you like was killed.
Video games are not real life. The game industry is filled with more important and larger issues than this petty bullshit - from crunch and aggressive monetisation to the waning importance of game criticism and games journalism. That’s not even mentioning companies handing out golden parachutes to mental and physical abusers when in any just world they would have them thrown out into the street.
These issues aren’t going away anytime soon and the more time we spend on this nonsense, the longer companies will keep getting away with these practices that we should have called them out on years ago. That was our fault but that was then and this is now.
This is the time to stand up and hold these companies accountable for their actions and we need everyone’s help.
So please, help us.
That was a more serious post than most of my other stuff so if you're looking for lighter stuff just click the Writer's Scrawl tab up the top of the screen.
If any of the content or subject matter in this blog or any of the links has you troubled or if you need some help be sure to contact your countries mental health services.