Naughty Dog Wants to Make (More) Interesting Female Characters

A promotional image for The Last of Us showing Joel, a white man with brown hair and a handgun, in the background, and Ellie, a white teen girl with a rifle on her back in the foreground. They are standing in a flooded city.

The box art for The Last of Us uses this image. Source:

Dave Cook at VG247 has an interesting interview up with developers from Naughty Dog as well as some of the voice and motion capture actors for their upcoming game, The Last of Us. It covers the recently-introduced character of Tess, and the entire last section is about “the gender problem” in the game industry. Ashley Johnson, who plays 14-year-old Ellie in the game, talks about how characters like Elena from Uncharted drew her to Naughty Dog. Creative director Neil Druckmann mentions that Naughty Dog was asked to move Ellie, one of the major characters, to the background of the box art for the game (which uses the image above), but “everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.”

One thing that is interesting to me about this story is that it seems like The Last of Us, with its emphasis on using quality writing and acting to create complex characters, is aiming to be a game that has more in common with gritty television dramas like The Walking Dead or Revolution than most video games (the VGA trailer, which features more dialogue than action, supports this theory). Non-traditional box art may help catch the attention of non-gamers who are interested in that kind of storytelling. (To be clear, marketing is probably not why Naughty Dog pushed back on the box art; they probably just felt strongly about Ellie and her importance to the game. I’m just theorizing about the effect it may have.) Regardless, it’s great that Naughty Dog was able to stick their guns on this one, and that creating interesting and realistic female characters is such a priority not just for Amy Hennig but for the entire studio.

The Last of Us: acting out at the end of the world — Dave Cook, VG247

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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9 Responses to Naughty Dog Wants to Make (More) Interesting Female Characters

  1. Llamaentity says:

    When I first read about this, I was hoping to see a post about it here on TBH. Very happy to see this being shared!

    I am pretty excited about this game ^.^

  2. Ari says:

    Well, this makes me go from “blah, not another post-apoc zombie game, please no” to quite interested in the story.

  3. Cuppycake says:

    I am really excited about this game. I just wanted to say that. :)

  4. Lima Zulu says:

    What bugs me is that there are two main characters, but you can only play one and the Wiki page makes it sound like there’s a noble hero and his feeble ward. Didn’t we already go down that road with RE4?

    • Alex says:

      What makes her sound like she’s “feeble”? The quote from Naughty Dog on the page describes her as “a brave young teenage girl who is wise beyond her years” and she’s carrying a gun on the box art.

      • Lima Zulu says:

        Seems I misread it, but I still dislike the way it reads as he’s defending a damsel soon to be in distress. ” Joel, a hardened black-marketeer within one of the quarantine zones, goes through an event which makes him promise an old friend that he will get a young girl, Ellie, away from the harsh regime.”

        I might be reading a bit too much into it, but I am kind of tired of TOUGH GUY PROTAGONIST all the time.

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