“There are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those” – Eurogamer

“There are games that are just comfort food. This is not one of those” by Aoife Wilson for Eurogamer

Eurogamer was able to sit down with Neil Druckmann for an interview as a part of their preview coverage for The Last of Us Part II. It seems the big names in game coverage have had the game for at least two weeks, and based off how Aoife starts the article, it’s safe to assume they have beaten the game. Kind of interesting to think about when reading this interview.

The quote turned headline reminds me of the discussion about how Naughty Dog doesn’t use the word “fun” when talking about design in The Last of Us Part II back around E3 2018. I thought there were some salient points brought up in the interview and wanted to offer my two cents.

That’s the game on a high level, right? It’s the pursuit of justice to the ends of the earth. But when you go deeper it’s about tribalism, trauma, and how we often see ourselves as righteous and other people as wrong, and how we can – and this is a universal human thing – associate ourselves with a tribe. Often when there’s a conflict with another tribe, we dehumanize them, we make them less than us, so we can justify the things that we do in the pursuit of justice.

PlayStation vs Xbox: a small and inconsequential point of comparison. These brand loyalists come out in droves in comments and tweets. The hatred and vitriol they spew is frightening, disheartening, and pathetic all for a box of electronic components from a company.

Aoife – …Were you offering support to the staff when it comes to that portrayal of violence – was there emotional support going on in the studio? Because I think I feel like if you’re doing that over a period of time, it must have quite an effect on you having to see that all the time.

Neil – …Some people just have the complete separation. Like they’re crafting something, and they’re looking at the details of it. And they’re not like thinking about the greater context is like, how do I replicate the way light is reflecting off of this liquid surface – they have complete separation.

There’s other people that might be affected by it. And what we’ve done with this game for the team is to say, look, if there’s any content you feel uncomfortable working on with it for a short period of time, a prolonged period of time, there’s plenty to do in this game, right? There’s plenty of other things to work on that aren’t those things. Let’s give you the tasks and make you comfortable. At the end of the day we want people that are passionate about what you’re doing. That’s when they do their best work. If something ever makes them feel uncomfortable, or they’re not into it, they’re not going to do their best work. We want to craft the best game possible.

Encouraging to read, especially after the taste of violence Naughty Dog and Sony were willing to showcase at a public games show in Paris in 2017. This game is going to be gruesome. Looking back on the reports of PTSD surrounding Mortal Kombat 11, it’s a positive response to hear from a developer.

Neil talked about Naughty Dog’s response, or perceived lack thereof, to the leaks that happened in April.

There’s a lot of the feedback that came out, our take on it is, you don’t know. Right? There’s so many false things out there. We don’t want to go out there and correct anything because that would be spoiling the game in a way – by saying what it isn’t, we’re kind of saying what it is.

Their hands are completely tied. With the game being over a month away from when the leaks occurred, Naughty Dog just has to sit back and let the rumors and lies spread. They can and have reminded people about the importance of actually playing the game in context. This is what I said when discussing the leaks in Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era:

Even in the aftermath of the leak with all the reductive, half-baked summaries and the click-bait outrage videos, context to the story is crucial to remember. The backbone of the stories Naughty Dog tells is the power of the medium in which they tell them—video games. The best way to experience the story is the way it was intended.