The Last of Us 2 and Why “Personal Politics” Belong in Video Games

Neil Druckmann has responded to a plea to refrain from inserting his “personal politics” into The Last of Us 2, saying “no can do” and that “writers work off of their views of the world.”

The Naughty Dog creative director stepped in to assert that The Last of Us 2 would not exclude his own political views which, considering the very political nature of the original game, no one in their right mind was expecting would happen. However, in a now-deleted tweet, one fan of the first game sent a message to Druckmann, writing: “TLoU is my favorite game of all time. Please try to keep your personal politics out of Part 2. Thank you very much.”

Druckmann responded with the following:

The Last of Us may have only been released in 2013, but a lot has changed in the gaming community since then. Over the past few years, a great number of people have turned against the inclusion of progressive politics and increased representation in the medium, leading to ongoing controversies surrounding developers whose viewpoints don’t align with gamers who believe that creators should pander to their beliefs. We’ve seen games such as Gone Home be vilified for the crime of being a lesbian romance story, while recently the game Virginia was met with a disproportionate amount of criticism due to its confrontation of racism.

This brings us to the guy who requested Druckmann keep his personal politics out of The Last of Us 2. For a long time now we’ve seen those sharing this individual’s criticisms use the term “politics” interchangeably with “politics I specifically don’t agree with,” or “increased representation of women and/or minorities.” We’ve seen endless bleating about developers or publishers “forcing politics into their games” in order to “suck up to liberals,” rubbishing the notion that companies and creators alike are becoming more inclusive as society progresses in favor of pegging the blame on so-called “Social Justice Warriors.” We’ve seen games discussed as though they should be little more than a product rather than an extension of their creators’ beliefs and personalities, with these ludicrous complaints spilling out into forms of entertainment, too, as we learned from the reaction to the latest Gorillaz track.

It’s unusual to see someone championing the removal of politics in games so explicitly confirming that what they actually want is to see fewer women, minorities and sexual orientations that don’t align with their own, but the guy who made the absurd plea to Neil Druckmann went ahead and did just that:

If you’re wondering who “Nadine” is, she’s a character in Uncharted 4 who is both black and a woman. That’s literally the only connection I can make between her and this guy’s clearly off-kilter view on what constitutes as “politics.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t just one rando on Twitter championing the bizarre viewpoint that politics shouldn’t be included in games. It seems that every time a video game sees its creators wearing their own political inclinations on their sleeves, a slew of perennially outraged hand-wringers pop up to explain why this isn’t okay and that “they just want to play video games,” as if the inclusion of politics somehow makes it impossible for them to do so.

We’ve seen the likes of Battlefield 1 being criticized for featuring a black soldier on its front cover, despite the game featuring the historically accurate, largely African American regiment the Harlem Hellfighters in one of its chapters. We’ve seen Baldur’s Gate expansion Siege of Dragonspear being criticized for being a “bastardization of a classic game world” as a result of including a trans NPC. Despite politics featuring heavily in every military FPS, it’s clear that those aren’t the kind of politics that are being referenced when these complaints are made — politics being included in games is completely fine, it seems, until it starts conflicting with the views held by anti-progressives.

As I detailed in my post regarding the new Gorillaz track, rather than these individuals simply criticizing the politics of certain video games, we’re seeing more and more people asserting that progressive politics shouldn’t be included in these games in the first place; if these people have their way then eventually the entire medium will consist of one game, featuring a white guy holding a gun walking down an endless gray corridor while an anime woman with disproportionate breasts complains about feminism in their background. Video games should be more than vehicles for consumers’ entertainment — they should be a reflection of the people who created them.