In the world of mainstream gaming, for a blockbuster game like The Last Of Us Part II, the first iteration of which sold more than 17 million copies, to include numerous queer characters without dramatisation is nothing short of groundbreaking.
While many indie games have paved the way for good and non-tokenistic LGBT+ inclusion, this is a first for such an established game.
In The Last Of Us Part II, the main character Ellie is a lesbian and two of the biggest supporting characters are queer: Dina, a bisexual woman, and Lev, a transgender teenage boy.
Bo Ruberg, author of The Queer Games Avant-Garde, says that The Last of Us Part II’s queer representation is “absolutely a good thing”, and notes how “LGBTQ players are feeling excited and empowered by the presence of these characters in such a prominent game.
“The fact that certain gamers are opposing the game including LGBTQ characters just shows how important this kind of queer representation is. It’s shaking up what close-minded, toxic people think video games should look like – which helps us see how much we need this change.”
The opposition Ruberg refers to is the ban of the game for the Middle East most likely due to its LGBT+ content.
Naughty Dog also faced backlash from fans over story decisions and the exploration of LGBT+ issues, with claims that the studio is “sacrificing the story to win diversity points”.
In response to this claim, Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann told gameindustry.biz:
“That’s not how we work,” he said. “Everything is in service of the story. Getting better diversity gives us better story, gives us fresher perspectives on conflict. And I hope once they play the game, they’ll realise it.”
He adds: “If you somehow have a problem with that, well, then that sucks, but the story’s gonna win for us. It’s ironic or maybe sad — I think the people [who] will benefit the most from this kind of story are the ones that are yelling the loudest right now, but I hope there’s enough in the game to draw them in and just normalise stuff that is normal.
“It is part of our society and it is part of owning up to an interesting nuanced character [in Ellie].”
The Last of Us is being developed into an upcoming HBO show which has promised that Ellie’s sexuality won’t be erased from the story.
With such seamless inclusion of LGBT+ identity and issues, The Last of Us Part II has broken barriers which will hopefully lead the way for other game development studios around the globe.
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