The Last Of Us Part II: how Naughty Dog made a masterpiece by Sam White for GQ
UPDATE 12:05 PM: GQ has changed the headline from “The Last Of Us Part II: how Neil Druckmann made a masterpiece,” replacing Neil’s name with Naughty Dog. I agree with the correction since hundreds of people made this game. I have updated my headline to reflect their correction.
Sam White has spent the last two years behind-the-scenes with Neil Druckmann, Halley Gross, and Naughty Dog while they made The Last of Us Part II. Sam got to tell the side of this story that I could not with my history of the game’s development and Naughty Dog as a whole.
Sam told a side I wanted to tell.
Sam’s feature offers insight into the minds of the team. It is an emotional look at the past two years of development. There are tons of good quotes. I’ll leave most of my favorites at the end of this article. One in particular though, captured the spirit and inspiration behind Chasing the Stick.
Part II uses interactivity to create a story not possible in TV, books or film and something not explored in this way in video games. You are Ellie and you’ll commit acts you feel repulsed by. Throughout the course of the story you’ll begin to question some characters you loved and begin to empathise with characters you hated. But therein lies the point. Druckmann hopes he’s found a way of communicating what he felt – a young boy, traumatised in front of his TV; a grown man reflecting on his past – to players in their living rooms, all through the buttons on your PlayStation controller.
Video games have powerful potential due to their interactive nature.
Thank you Sam for telling the side of the story I could not. I hope I can tell a similar story someday.
…no, we’re gonna double down and we’re gonna expose what this ending means. To take some of the things that people hold sacred and just… dismantle it.”
Technology, DIY and blind faith – that, I learn, is video game development. To make a game like this, Naughty Dog has spent the past four years on and off Sony’s performance capture stage. The Godfather Part II was shot in eight months; Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, one of the most expensive productions in Netflix’s history, shot in 108 days.
Gross eventually gave up deleting the abuse she was receiving on Instagram. They have competitions to see who’s getting the worse flak. He usually wins. As for the other developers, the mood at the studio was low. One team member described the situation to me as “a nightmare”. Another told me it was like getting repeatedly punched. As the online abuse intensified, one of the game’s actors received death threats against their family. Druckmann’s confidence, he tells me, was “shot”.
“As you start wrapping things up, creatively there are fewer and fewer responsibilities and my mind can’t help but think about the next thing,” he says. “So, yeah, the next thing could be a Part III, the next thing could be some new IP.” Ultimately, the best idea wins.