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The Last of Us Part II Trailer Further Divides Gamers and Game Journalists

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Woman hangs by noose. Knife threatens womb. Arm broken via hammer. Arrows pierce face. Legs strangle woman. Hammer splits skull — a gush of cerebral fluids, eyes roll back. And, of course, a hoard of fungi-face zombies.

Happy Halloween, fuck-O’s.
❤ Love, The Last of Us

Everyone’s in agreement: The second teaser trailerWATCH THE FIRST TEASER TRAILER HERE: for The Last of Us Part II released at Paris Games Week is violent. Yet, reactions have split from there: Gamers watched the vid and simply wanted more *Ellie Ellie Joel shooty shooty kill YAAAA!* whereas game journalists took their increasingly anti-gamer high road: e.g., video game violence is bad, mmkay?

At least that seems to be the popular headline in today’s TLoU:2 news coverage, with some game journalists flat out accusing Naughty Dog for gratuitous gore. See, for instance, this excerpt from Polygon‘s “Stop using extreme violence to sell your game,” written by Julia Alexander:

A trailer is a pitch to its audience of what to expect from the full game. In the past, Naughty Dog’s trailers have captured a particular mood or suggested a compelling relationship. But here, the promise is almost exclusively gore.

And in another article, Paste MagazineHost to Holly Green’s pontification on Cuphead‘s difficulty in “The Physical Glass Ceiling: When The Git Gud Mentality Turns Ableist”.‘s “When the Violence Gets Too Real: The Last of Us Part II Trailer,” Garrett Martin lamented the trailer’s graphical fidelity to human-v-human barbarity:

Its impact, whether negative or positive in your eyes, is greater than it would be in the past due to today’s technology. Watching it makes me miss the days when designers had to be a little more abstract or artful with their violence.

Similar allegations were held against the first Last of Us, following the game’s 2013 E3 stage demo, in which lead characters Joel and Ellie shoot, bludgeon, and stab post-apocalyptic hunters in an abandoned cityscape. Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann defended the game’s violence as purposeful: “Everything has to feel grounded in reality.” Ultimately, Druckmann qualified this statement in TLoU by leveraging video game violence to create an immersive, convincing post-apocalypse while simultaneously complicating and advancing the traditional norms of the paragon protagonist through Joel’s game-ending decision.

Yet, if there’s one key shift from The Last of Us  to the Last of Us: Part II trailer — one that might explain the recent TLoU outrage — it’s the sequel’s transition from testosterone- to estrogen-heavy fighting. This is tough territory for game developers to tread post-GamerGate. In heavily simplified terms, the post-GamerGate feminist wants bold, ass-kicking lead females but not their asses kicked back — or their arms hammered, skulls bashed, and necks hung, as evidenced by the recent TLoU condemnations. (Even if it’s another female committing the cruelty.) And to err too far towards the Beyoncé church of every single lady kicks every man’s ass every single time risks losing the aforementioned attachment to reality.

However, again, most gamers see the sexual turn in TLoU:2 largely as a non-issue, demonstrated by the top comments on Julia Alexander’s Polygon article:

Top Polygon comments on "Stop using extreme violence to sell your game"
via Polygon

Ellie, a fan favorite, kicked ass in The Last of Us, came out as a lesbian in the Left Behind DLC, and (arguably) generates more hype than JoelEllie or Joel voteGameFaqs forum: “Which character did you enjoy more?” (Source: link) towards the sequel’s release.

Naughty Dog has a successful track record of bold, convincing, violent, lead females. Gamers love bold, convincing, violent, lead females. Why game journalists, and the media at large, continue to dismiss such nuanced characterization for its adult themes can only be answered defensively and cynically.

To the critics denouncing the use of extreme violence in The Last of Us, Jim Ryan, President of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, has a response:

The Last of Us obviously is a game made by adults to be played by adults. I should never prejudge this but it will probably be rated ’18’, I think it’s fair to say. And there’s that market for those people who like that sort of game. Adults who like that sort of game.

By process of elimination, whom does that leave?


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